Marie Kondo, the megastar of the Netflix series “Tidying Up,” based on her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, gained international fame by helping people de-clutter their homes. Now she’s applying her organizing skills to the workplace in her new book, Joy at Work, coauthored with Texas-based organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein. Neither could have predicted that they’d be releasing this book in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, when millions of people have begun working from their homes, so their sound advice is even more timely.
Appreciate Each Other
Two weeks ago, Sonenshein packed up his office at Rice University and prepared to teach classes from home. In the midst of figuring out the logistics, he says one sentiment came through vividly: gratitude. “In a meeting with twenty-five people, we were all there to figure out how to teach classes online. We were there to support each other,” he says. “Given the situation the world is facing, it reminds us to appreciate what we already have, and that includes our colleagues. We can bring out the good in each other by appreciating each other.”
And Say So, Often
In today’s time of “social distancing,” video chats and phone calls can become a new and comforting norm. “As often as possible, seek out ways in which you can express gratitude or simply check-in with a coworker that allows you to hear and see the other person,” Kondo said in an email. “It can be hard to convey or understand someone’s tone when relying solely on written communication. Video calls, video messages, or audio notes bring an element of human warmth to communication that can sometimes get lost digitally.”
Separate Work and Home
“If your home has unexpectedly become your office, you may not have a dedicated workspace,” Kondo says. “In that case, identify the items that are crucial to getting your work done, and designate a clear spot for them—a box or portable carrier will do.” Putting necessary items in a box means they can be removed at the end of the day, so a kitchen table can go back to being a kitchen table.
Make It Easy—and Pleasant—for Yourself
Keep a dedicated office space simple, but add personal and meaningful touches—photos, artwork, or a plant. “Move all unrelated items off of your workspace and add one thing that sparks joy when you look at it,” Kondo says. She usually keeps a small vase of fresh flowers at her desk. The book also contains plenty of other brass-tacks practical tips for clearing clutter and simplifying work processes—only keep a favorite pen or pencil or two; delete extra apps on your phone; tidy up before or after work hours; and automate any low-stakes decisions like ordering copy paper.
Watch the Clock
Try to stick to a schedule, adds Sonenshein. “Figure out when you will work. Setting clear hours will help keep your sanity,” he says. “And take a break. Get up and stretch. Go for a short walk. The mind is still working, even when you’re not directly thinking about work.”
Find the Joy
But before chucking everything in your home office (or closet or bedroom or anywhere else you’re inspired to tidy with more time at home), figure out what a joyful space means to you. “Have an honest conversation with yourself about what joy at work means,” Sonenshein says. “There’s not one answer here, but you kind of want to know in an abstract way, what are you putting all of this work toward?”
Kondo’s approach is sometimes classified as minimalist-focused or bare bones. There’s wiggle room, she shares. “For some, the vision of an ideal space might be to surround yourself with the bare essentials,” she says. “For others, it could mean living in a home teeming with beloved art, books, collections, and heirlooms. Joy is personal.”
Joy at Work is available for pre-order.