Marie Kondo for Leaders: The Benefits of "Tidying Up" at Work

Written by vChief

February 6, 2019

With the rising popularity of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her new Netflix show featuring the same theme, nonprofits like Goodwill have seen dramatic increases in donations of goods. I loved her book, and was inspired to tackle my closet and kitchen clutter. The concepts of her KonMari method can also be applied to how leaders approach their work.

Spark Joy: Big Picture

One of the major concepts of the KonMari method is becoming mindful of what sparks joy in your life. Start by visualizing the work and life you want to have. What does that look like in terms of how you’re spending your time, what you value, which projects make you the most alive?


Sarah Young, founder of Zing Collaborative, has a great post on finding your passion. Here are some questions she challenges readers to consider in the workplace: 

  • When do you feel engaged and energized?

  • What are the projects you feel excited to work on?

  • Which types of conversations energize you?

  • And, on the flip side, when do you feel that you’re drained or depleted?

  • Which projects or tasks do you dread tackling? 

Ensuring your priorities are in line with your schedule, that your days are spent doing work that matters to you, that your values are being applied in every task you do, are the keys to finding joy in your leadership role.


If you haven’t heard it before, you’re probably at least aware of it on some level: clutter stagnates productivity. Working in an unorganized environment with piles of paper everywhere, old coffee cups, and random paper clips lying around will overwhelm your senses and prohibit you from being your sharpest self.

It’s time to get serious with yourself about what you’re actually using on your desk. Clean out those coffee cups and donate all but one to Goodwill, decide how many office supplies you really use in your daily work, and pare down to one single basket for high-priority papers. Having a clear space in front of you to work will help you have a clear mind to come up with new ideas.

The Other Desktop
You might not think it matters much how many files are on your computer but it does. Just like your physical desktop, having a cluttered, disorganized workspace on your computer is going to overwhelm you every time you log on.

First off, stop saving files to your desktop. Figure out a system of organization that works for you in regards to folders. Reach out to someone who is an expert at this so they can help you build a system that you can maintain. Along with that process, purge any unnecessary files (if you haven’t opened it in six months, what are the chances you ever will again?).

Next, get strict on what notifications you allow and how many emails hit your inbox. Unsubscribe from mailing lists, newsletters, and any other emails that aren’t serving your work time. Turn off notifications for email and social media–all they do is pop up and disrupt your think time. Opt to schedule certain times of the day to check these instead.

Calendar Review
Take a look back at your calendar for the past month. Think about which of the activities, meetings, and appointments sparked joy. Do the same with your to-do lists. Be aware of the things that did not spark joy, and spend some time thinking about why:

You may not be able to get rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy,” but you’ll likely be able to find more joy in your day if you’re focused where you need to be.

Tidying Up Your Team
Now, before you think I’ve gone into total KonMari overdrive, the intention here is not to start purging people who don’t spark your joy. Inevitably, everyone has team members who make them crazy sometimes. Most workplaces have a diverse group of people with differing personalities, work styles, and ideas, which is a beautiful thing for an organization from a big picture angle.

What’s essential here is to think about whether your team members are all in the right roles and are meeting the right expectations. Look at job descriptions and performance reviews and decide if there is proper alignment. If a team member isn’t meeting the right expectations, evaluate whether they need more direction, coaching and professional development, or whether they simply aren’t the right fit within your organization. While these conversations can be tricky and are nothing like donating a used sweater to charity, having a well-oiled, high-performing team can team can bring your organization to new heights.

Giving Gratitude
The KonMari method places high importance in expressing gratitude for the items you are giving away. Be sure to do the same with the changes you’re making for yourself and within your organization. You will become more mindful of both your personal growth and your organization’s growth over time and the steps you’ve taken to get there.

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