Minimalism is in, and with it comes a new wave of Tidy Living. From yoga crazes to social media detoxing, everyone is clamouring to declutter, reorganise, and re-centre, in more ways than one.
Enter the KonMari method: a universal tidying technique that promises minimal clutter and maximal joy. It’s simple: the tidier your environment, the happier and more thankful you’ll be.
While the method itself is popularly associated with living spaces, it’s no different with workspaces: attractive, clean, and tidy offices make for employees who are more focused and productive and less stressed and inefficient.
Let’s be honest, though. Between all those back-to-back meetings and deadline scrambles, it’s more likely that you can barely see your workspace under piles of campaign reports, presentation handouts, marketing collaterals, and handwritten notes.
But don’t panic. The KonMari method actually has a predecessor when applied to the office: the 5S techniques of sorting, streamlining, sanitising, standardising and sustaining.
Marry the two, and you’ll have a virtual vacuum cleaner capable of transforming your workspace from its current hurricane-swept condition into a practically brand-new, sleek and breathable environment: perfect for maximal productivity and minimal resource waste.
Before you even begin the tidying process, it’s crucial to preface your revamp efforts by deciding exactly what kind of workspace you want to have at the end of the day.
Tidying up isn’t just about being neat and orderly, it’s an exercise in re-aligning yourself and your physical space with your goals and values on a personal and organisational level.
Your ideal workspace is one that is tailored to your specific needs and priorities. If you’re a graphic designer, you’d most likely aim for a workspace that fosters creativity, whereas if you’re a project manager, you’d need a workspace that optimises efficiency.
It’s also worth thinking about how you can get your working environment to reflect the company culture as well. Google’s workspaces, for instance, famously promote “casual collision” and collaboration between employees.
It sounds simple enough: of course you should start tidying by picking which items you’re going to keep, and which items you’re going to throw away.
When you’re dealing with mountains of papers, files, and books, though, you’re going to need to be more systematic about deciding, so you don’t end up spending more time tidying than you should.
The KonMari method recommends starting with books, then moving on to papers before dealing with miscellaneous items (office supplies and stress balls, for example), and finally sentimental items (like that sweet birthday card your colleagues all wrote in for you).
Within each category, it might still be difficult to decide if you still need something or not. When in doubt, go back to your vision of your ideal workspace.
Two practical pro-tips for sorting:
Time to organise: once you know what you’re going to keep, put everything back systematically and in an orderly fashion, so that everything you need is easy to find, and easy to return after it’s been used.
In a haphazard office, valuable time is wasted just trying to find certain items because they were just left lying around, then shifted out of the way again and again.
Eliminate those unnecessary treasure hunts by following the KonMari dictate–you should be able to see everything on your desk so it’s easily accessible when you need to use it.
Two pro-tips for streamlining:
To finish off your the tidying portion of the office revamp, wipe down your desks, sweep the floors, clean your computer screens, sanitise your keyboards, polish your awards… you get the idea.
Get scrubbing so that everything is gleaming, shining and in tip-top condition. Nothing like coming to work at a desk so clean you can see your face in it.
While you’re at it, take the time to inspect your equipment and office supplies: is everything working as it should be? What needs to be replaced or upgraded?
Now that everything’s spick and span, it should stay that way. Easier said than done: the productivity gains of the KonMari method can easily be undone if there isn’t a standard or benchmark to be followed.
You don’t want to end up spending hours tidying things up only to have everything revert back to its original hurricane-swept condition after a few days or weeks.
Set clear, realistic guidelines and indicators for yourself and for everyone to adhere to when it comes to workplace tidiness, and make sure that everyone knows about them and is on the same page.
If you or your company have a legitimate need for more security, you might want to consider implementing a clean desk policy, which makes it compulsory for desks to be cleared at the end of each day.
Standards, policies, and indicators are redundant if no one is actually keeping to them. The crowning glory of your office tidying efforts should be to ensure that those standards you just set aren’t just there for decoration.
Importantly, senior management needs to lead the way and set the precedent for sustaining office tidiness. If higher-ups aren’t keeping to The Tidy Life, there’s little motivation for anyone else.
Think about practicing random checks on employees’ desks for tidiness, or communicate continuously about the need to sustain the achieved tidiness.
Alternatively, handing out 5S awards for employees who successfully sustain their workspace tidiness also simultaneously boosts morale and motivation while encouraging long-term 5S implementation.