marie kondo

Could Marie Kondo have the solution to making your business more efficient?

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you want to have more focus, more time and more clarity about your business? The KonMari method could be the answer. KonMari is the decluttering method created by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizational expert whose Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo has become a surprise hit.

Kondo is the author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While her book and television show focus on how to clear the clutter from your home, the KonMari Method can work wonders for your business, too.

Much decluttering advice focuses on organizing your possessions, but Kondo’s method is meant to get rid of what you don’t like and don’t use so that you’re surrounded only with objects you love and use. At first glance, KonMari is about getting your house in order. However, practitioners say the tactic also helps get their mental house in order by streamlining their lives and reducing stress and chaos.

Marie Kondo’s Six Steps

There are six basic principles of the KonMari method.

  1. Be committed

It’s important to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to KonMari. Kondo recommends completing the whole process over a weekend or consecutive series of days. That’s not always realistic for a business; however, you can commit to finishing the project. Kondo advises decluttering each category completely before you stop so you maintain your momentum. For instance, you could plan for one weekend to focus on files and documents so you can everything done in one fell swoop. If the whole company is going to be involved, you can treat the process like an offsite planning meeting and block out time to do it.

  1. Imagine your ideal life before you start.

Don’t lift a finger until you take some time to think about what you want your business and life to look like when the process is finished. What do you hope to gain by decluttering? Perhaps you want your business to be more successful, more efficient, more fun for you to run, or a happier place for employees. The Marie Kondo method emphasizes being mindful, introspective and forward-looking. By identifying your goals, you’ll be better able to focus when you start decluttering.

  1. Tidy by category, not location.

Most of us organize and declutter based on location—for example, cleaning out your desk or a file cabinet. Instead, KonMari asks you to declutter each category at once.  At home, this means piling all your clothing on the bed—whether you normally keep in in the hall closet, the bedroom closet, the garage or what have you. For a business, it could mean going through all your office equipment first, then all your paper documents, etc.

  1. Discard before you re-organize.

In the middle of decluttering, you may get inspired to set up a new organizational system. However, you should wait until the whole decluttering process is done to organize what’s left.

  1. Start with the easiest category.

Begin decluttering with a category that’s easy for you to make decisions about. For example, at home Kondo says to declutter clothes first and sentimental items (the hardest to let go of) last. Decide what’s easiest for you to start with (such as paper documents) before you tackle more challenging areas such as business processes. This will get you used to the method, let you move faster and give you a sense of accomplishment.

  1. Keep what sparks joy.

To declutter, KonMari instructs, hold each item in your hands and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” Don’t overthink it—you’ll know what your first instinct is. Not everything in the average office will spark joy (for instance, your stapler or file folders). For such items, ask yourself whether the item is necessary to help you accomplish a task. Even if it’s necessary, don’t keep more than you need. If your drawer is crammed with file folders, keep those that spark joy, like the colorful ones, and get rid of those that don’t, like the old, worn-out brown ones.

You may be surprised to find some seemingly innocuous items spark negative feelings. If this happens, ask yourself what’s really going on. Perhaps the item reminds you of something you hate doing in your business, a client you dislike or a worry you don’t want to face.

You may also find a necessary item (like a software app) doesn’t spark joy. That could be because it’s hard to use or not as functional as it should be. If so, get rid of it and find a replacement that will bring more joy (and functionality).

Beyond Organization

You can use KonMari for a physical decluttering, such as cleaning out your file cabinets and receipts. But you can also use it on a much deeper level. Ask yourself these questions:

What sparks joy in your business? When you’re passionate about an aspect of your business, customers can tell–and they’ll value that authenticity. If there’s a certain product, service or focus in your business that brings great joy, consider devoting more energy there.

Be wary of things that spark joy but don’t add value. For example, you might enjoy alphabetizing files, but that’s probably not the best use of your time. It could be best to let go of this task and delegate it to an employee. And if you find tasks that don’t spark joy, definitely delegate them to employees or outsource them to a freelancer.

Suppose you find a major aspect of your business doesn’t spark joy? When a small business grows, it can sometimes take a shape you never intended. You might have added a new product or opened a new location because it seemed like the right thing to do—not because your heart was really in it. This is when it’s time to do some soul-searching.

Don’t forget to consider what sparks joy for your customers. Do customer surveys to learn what your customers like and dislike about your business. Note what products or services sell the best, where on your website customers spend the most time, and what social media posts they engage with. Giving customers more of what brings them joy will make your customers happier—and your business more successful.

Office desk working space stock photo from Tirachard Kumtanom/Shutterstock