Clean Up Your Act

By Robert Goldman

March 7, 2019 5 min read

It's all Marie Kondo's fault.

Her popular Netflix series based on her best-selling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" has America tidying up with such fervor that homes across America are empty and city dumps are overflowing. And now, the "KonMari Method" is leaving home and going to work.

Or so I learned from "The Benefits of 'Tidying Up' Your Work Life — Marie Kondo-Style," a recent Alyse Kalish post on The Muse.

Kalish quotes a "gold-level certified KonMari Consultant," Tricia Fidler, who explains how to transplant the decluttering craze from your home to your office.

"Just like when you go into your closet and ask yourself, 'Does this blazer still represent me? Do I want to carry it forward in my life?'" And you should use this same process at work: "When you go through your desk drawers, office bookshelf, or even your inbox, you don't just clean up."

Instead, you ask yourself deep, probing KonMari questions such as, "Does this spark joy?"

Of course, the blazer decision applies at home and on the job. Does the peppy, preppy J.Crew wardrobe you bought when you were first entering the workforce, optimistic and full of hope, still spark the same joy now that you are depressed, defeated and wishing you could wear shrouds?

I didn't think so.

The first step in putting the KonMari process to work at work is to greet your desk and thank it for its service. As Kalish explains, "Your desk has done a lot for you."

It's true. Your desk has given you a place to store the sacred items that highlight your career, such as the tuna sandwich you've kept in your bottom left desk drawer since that day in 2006 when you realized you were never going to be promoted, you were never going to be fired, and you were stuck in your miserable job for life.

Your desk has also provided a place to hide under when your manager decides it's time to stroll through your department, looking for employees to terrorize.

Still, seeing your desk every morning doesn't spark joy, so away it must go. You can contact the facilities department, but they are busy and crabby. It's much easier to put an ad on Craigslist and let the buyer cart it away. You may also want to sweeten the deal by throwing in a few other office objects that aren't sparking much joy these days, such as your computer, telephone and the shock collar your supervisor put on you to get your attention.

While items that don't spark joy are bad, "items in our desk that spark negative feelings" are far worse.

Yes, that framed photo of the CEO that hangs on your wall will just have to go.

It isn't just physical items that must survive the KonMari process. (That's right, I'm looking at you, stapler.) Virtual items such as emails must also face the firing squad. This will take some time if you have 10,000 unread emails and your goal is "Inbox: 0."

The advice is to schedule 15 minutes a day to selectively delete, but since that 15 minutes is going to cut in on your nap time, I recommend pressing the button for "delete all."

Yes, you'll delete all the panicked emails from your co-workers who need the work you promised them months earlier, not to mention those surprise emails from relatives who face jail sentences in foreign countries and need you to immediately send money to a Nigerian email. But you will feel decluttered and free.

If there are items you need to keep, follow the Marie Kondo rule of "pairing like with like."

You are advised that "pens should go with pencils and other writing utensils," while "cough drops and tissues should go with other first-aid items." This is not only efficient, but kind. As you know, when left alone, cough drops tend to get lonely.

For items that you must keep, the advice is to "store them in a pleasing way — whether that's using fun file folders, cute boxes or funky containers." I love this idea. An especially fun and funky way to store items is to bring an empty steel barrel into your office and use it to store and burn all your papers. Use your desk chair for kindling. As the fire alarms start ringing, everyone will know you have successfully decluttered your office and are experiencing constant joy.

At least until your boss decides to declutter you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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