Marie Kondo

Kondo Your Career: Tidying Up Your Work Life (it could be magic!)

By Kristen Harris

A few years ago Marie Kondo wrote a little book about the “life-changing magic” of tidying up your home, which gained popularity and spiraled into a Netflix series. Now it seems like everyone I know is “tidying up”.

The word “Kondo” has even morphed into a verb. Friends of mine have said ”...last week I Kondoed my kitchen…” or “I spent all week Kondoing…” In fact, just last night I Kondoed my tee shirt drawer (she was right, they’re easier to find when folded into little squares).

Why are people obsessed with decluttering? I believe it’s because we crave a sense of control over our lives. With news, information, entertainment, and work bombarding us from every direction 24/7, we want to feel like we can control some part of our life. Even if it’s just the tee shirt drawer.

So I started thinking, can you Kondo your career? Does this concept of tidying up apply to work as well as home? Yes, and not just by cleaning off your desk.

Marie Kondo’s method emphasizes keeping only items that speak to you or, in her terms, “spark joy”. This is the same for work and career–we only want you to hold onto things that bring happiness. Let’s be honest, it’s called work for a reason; not every moment is going to be sunshine and roses. But I truly believe that everyone can find happiness in their work and, if that’s not the case, then it’s time to find work that can make you happy.

Just as she suggests tackling your home objects by category, we encourage you to look at your work life and career in the same way. Start with self-exploration, then experiences, resume, work samples and, finally, relationships.

Self-exploration is first and critical because if you don’t know what you want and need, it will be impossible to clear through the rest. Collecting and reflecting on experiences helps you gather information to edit and update your resume. Next, gather, edit and organize work samples that support your resume and the type of opportunities you’re interested in. Finally, review, edit and maybe increase your relationships to match your wants and needs.

When helping someone declutter their home, Kondo has them gather everything from one category, literally making a huge pile of all of those items (e.g. clothing or kitchen tools). Use this same concept when tackling one of these career categories. For example, to begin tidying up your work samples, start by making a big pile of everything you have (literally or electronically).

Then consider each piece and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If yes, put it in the “keep” pile; if no, then thank it for the role it played in your life and let it go. You really only want the best of everything in your life, and that includes your best work, best experiences, best relationships, etc. I know, this process all sounds a little woo-woo but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know what brings us happiness. There is a mindful, introspective component to this clearing method that allows us to keep the best and release the rest.

Once you’ve narrowed down to what you’re keeping, then find the best method for organizing and storing. This could mean creating a dream board, re-designing your resume, building a new portfolio website, re-organizing the folders where you store work samples, or connecting with all of your contacts through LinkedIn. Whatever the method, you need an attractive and easily accessible way to store these items or information.

Taking time to clear through materials, experiences, goals, samples, and relationships that are no longer serving you can bring more happiness (maybe even life-changing magic) to your career!