Career & Jobs

Marie Kondo On How Tidying Up Brings More Joy And Success In 2021

Marie Kondo believes if you tidy your work and personal space, you can transform your life. The secret, she says, is to discover what sparks joy for you and to give these things a home. So who is this wise young woman with so much knowledge? She is a Japanese organizing consultant, author and TV show host. Her four books on organizing have sold millions of copies worldwide. Perhaps her best known title is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a New York Times bestseller, followed by a successful Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. Her tidying up book for on the job, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, was released in 2020.

Kondo’s ideas on tidying up have been so well received that she just announced a collaboration between her brand KonMari and The Container Store, where they’re introducing a collection of sustainable and high-quality items that will help people with storage solutions. The upcoming collaboration introduces a collection of sustainable and high-quality items to help people with their storage solutions. From drawer organizers to elegant hangers and handwoven baskets, Kondo said this collection was designed to hold your cherished items and elevate your everyday routine. It is Kondo’s hope that you can maintain a tidy space at home and at your workstation and kick start a joyful new year.

I sat down with Kondo and her interpreter, and she told me she has been interested in organizing since childhood. She explained how as a young girl she stayed in the classroom to tidy up bookshelves while her schoolmates played outside.

Bryan Robinson: Marie, you mentioned that since you were a young girl you’ve been tidying up. Do you know how that came about?

Marie Kondo: My philosophy comes from my own background. I’ve been obsessed with tidying up since five years of age. I grew up in a household where my mother was a homemaker. When she did household chores, she did them with so much joy and savoring the process. I think that triggered my interest in the idea that household chores can be really fun. I would read the home lifestyle magazines she had and cooked, cleaned and sewed and discovered I was good at these tasks. The cleaning process was the one chore that seemed to never improve. No matter how much we cleaned, it always reverted back to a state of chaos. I honed that over the years, and that’s what I teach and write in my books.

Robinson: I recognize that when I organize and de-clutter, I feel calmer, more in control and more secure. Do you believe there is a psychological parallel between tidying up and how it makes people feel?

Kondo: The relationship between tidying up and psychology comes down to the idea of sparking joy through the process of surrounding yourself only with the items that spark joy in your life. Repeating and honing this brings you closer to what your true values are as a human being, and you identify what you like, what kind of values you have and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. It’s almost like looking into a mirror in a weird way. I often liken the process of tidying up to understanding yourself better. It often goes into the mind of the person. I think the tidying process helps assert people’s identity. Once you’ve tidied up and you’re surrounded by the items only you like, you’ve come closer to your ideal lifestyle, and it helps you gain the confidence of being worthy of this lifestyle. The way you value certain items is a large part in how that relates to the psychology of asserting one’s identity.

Robinson: How would we apply this philosophy to someone’s work space?

Kondo: I believe you can apply the same philosophy to your work environment and even beyond that to the types of jobs and projects you take on. By tidying your work space and creating this environment, it starts to translate into which job tasks spark joy in your daily routine. The tidying process not only organizes your physical space but the mind as well. It helps clear the mind in such a way that you can look at the current tasks you have on your to-do list and identify which ones spark joy and which are more important. You might come to realize that the meetings or conferences aren’t as meaningful as you thought and help you come face-to-face with what matters.

Robinson: Would you say there’s a connection between tidying up and the joy you talk about in terms of job productivity and career success?

Kondo: It depends on how people define success. A lot of traditional images of success is to make money or become famous. But the tidying up process in the context of a working environment gives people the opportunity to think about what their own version of success might be. And once you understand this, it will show the way towards how you might attain the success you seek.

Robinson: If you could give only one piece of advice around your philosophy, what would it be?

Kondo: Start by tidying your own environment, going through the process and organizing your surroundings translates to other aspects of your life, and it’ll provide a lot of answers. It comes back to the idea of sparking joy. Going through the process of organizing your physical space enables you to hone in to your own sensitivity of what sparks joy, not just your physical space, but with respect to your own values, understanding what your soul really wants and what kind of lifestyle you’re after. It helps calm your state of mind just knowing that, and it gives you the opportunity to come face-to-face with yourself.

Robinson: So what would be the disadvantage of someone who has a messy, disorganized cluttered workspace?

Kondo: In my book what we’ve discovered through research is that a very cluttered work space causes more stress with people, and it tends to lower an employee’s evaluation in the eyes of their peers or bosses. It gives off an image that they can’t handle work tasks as well as a colleague who is much more organized. But going back to what I said previously, you have to do what makes you feel good, create an environment in which you can thrive. And knowing what that looks like for yourself is one of the most important aspects because one person might thrive in a cluttered environment. As long as that person knows what feels good for them, regardless of what people might say, they know they’re optimizing their own creativity or productivity.

Robinson: Can people get too organized or too tidied up so that it works against them?

Kondo: There have been cases where some of my clients have experienced this. They think their ideal version of what their space might be is this uber, minimalist super white clean surroundings and having achieved that they realize it’s very uncomfortable. So, they start to decorate their space with more personalized items. By going through that experience you start to understand where you fall on the spectrum or if your ideal really is your ideal.

Robinson: In our country we have something called mindfulness meditation that has become popular. One of the things that facilitates meditation and helps us go within is to have a sense of place. Some people might have an altar or personal items they bring that helps them focus and deepen their meditation. Do you have anything to say about that based on your writings and philosophy?

Kondo: Meditation offers a good opportunity to reflect back into our own minds. In doing so, certain items present can help guide that process. What’s important is to set aside the time to reflect back to see what your mind and heart want. People are really busy nowadays, bombarded by many tasks. In spite of that, there has been an increased demand for the tools to guide you through meditation. I myself partake in meditation as well. I find the tidying process very meditative and calming. It gives me this moment in daily life where I have quiet time to just be. In the case of tidying up, you get a little bit of productivity and progress done and also the satisfaction of meditating and reflecting.

Robinson: Any parting advice you want to give people around the work and writing you’ve done?

Kondo: Now that we’ve gone into the new year, we’ve put 2020 behind us, but it’s been challenging in many ways. And because of the challenges that were presented to us, I think there is a lot of inevitable changes for how we balance work and life and how we live in certain spaces. I also view it as an opportunity to reflect and take this time when we can’t travel to look at what’s in our surroundings, organize and tidy up. And understand what values you have as an individual that provides a fulfilling lifestyle. It’s a good opportunity to better understand yourself and what your values are and who you are as a person.

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