Tidy the Home Office

Are you working from home all the time or a few days a week?

The pandemic radically altered the way we approach work. Many people no longer commute and instead work from a home office. This can be a great arrangement since it cuts out commutes and coworker distractions. However, setting up a home office to make it a welcoming productive space can be tricky. Is there a way to do it well?

Marie Kondo, creator of the KonMari Method, recently offered advice on her blog about how to tidy the home office space. She first explains that you should set an intention for how you want the home office to look and feel. Next is her signature move, discarding!

Go through your desk drawers and toss out old receipts, corral loose change, and recycle catalogs or other paper items that are no longer needed. When it comes to more sentimental items, such as photos or notes from friends and relatives, express gratitude for these belongings and their significance and then let go—Marie sends off such items using salt

Read the rest of her advice for your home office on the KonMari web site.

Think Like a Chef!

Have you ever had a day when new information, emails, and calls were flying at you in record speed? The nature of knowledge work is that we move between times of quiet and reflection to periods of rapid action. It is in those hectic times that we can easily fall behind and get flustered. So to master those busy periods it is helpful to consider another profession that works on rapid deadlines and continuous input: Chefs!

In a recent blog post, Tiago Forte examined the work environment that chefs create in their kitchens to handle the daily dinner orders. It is called mise-en-place. Tiago describes it this way.

Mise-en-place is about bringing together all the tools a chef needs in close proximity, prepped for immediate use, so that they can just execute – quickly, consistently, and sustainably.

Observing the way that chefs work to handle the flow of orders, Tiago highlights six principles that he believes can be applied to knowledge work. The first is sequence. As Tiago describes:

In a kitchen, sequence is everything.

The biochemical realities of food demand it: the meat can’t go onto the chopping block if it’s frozen; the pasta won’t absorb the sauce unless it’s been cooked; the garlic can’t be added until it’s been chopped.

In knowledge work, the importance of sequence isn’t always so clear. Does it really matter whether you send that email or write up that report first? It often feels like we should be doing everything immediately and all at once.

But consider that we can never do more than one thing at a time. The flow of time is linear, which means at some point, even our most complex thinking and planning has to get distilled down to a simple, linear to-do list: what comes first, what comes next, and what comes after that.

Once we realize the importance of sequence, it becomes apparent that not all moments are created equal: the first tasks matter much more than the later ones. In a kitchen, the few seconds it takes to start heating up a pan or start defrosting the chicken will have the biggest impact on the overall timeline, because these steps can’t be accelerated. They take as much time as they take.

Discover the other five principles by reading Tiago’s post.

Happy Mother’s Day – Now Clean Up Your Bedroom!

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, there are lots of ways to show appreciation for everything our mothers do. Flowers are nice. Chocolates are sweet. A prepared meal hits the spot. However, one thing your mother might really appreciate is if you take the time to tidy up your room! (BTW, May 10 is National Clean Up Your Room Day!)

Thankfully, the KonMari Method provides an easy solution to tackle that project. In an article on the Linen & Homes web site, Marie Kondo lists eight tips to keep your bedroom clean and organized. For example, Tip #5 states one should organize belongings by category.

When it comes to organizing, we have a tendency to store the same item in different places. So it’s more effective to start with categories than it is to start organizing by room. For the purpose of organizing in your bedroom, you can at least start with clothes then when the time comes, branch out to books, before going to the sentimental items like photos and letters. She even gets more granular with her process, suggesting to start with all your shirts before your pants, your pants before your socks, and so on.

To help you along the article links to a KonMari checklist that covers every possible thing you might own.

Cleaning your room will not only make your mother proud, but give you a peaceful place to rest your head after a busy day. Check out the other tips in the article.

Spring Clean Your Komono

Spring has traditionally been a time to clear out our closets and drawers of the things that no longer serve us. However, tidying up can be psychologically challenging not only due to the sheer amount of spaces where things are stored but also the psychological weight of our belongings. Many items we possess carry sentimental value that makes them hard to part with even when they no longer have any practical use.

Marie Kondo understood this problem which is why she created the KonMari Method. Through a simple process the Method helps people tackle their home cleaning through a five stage system. Recently on her web site she spent time providing tips on how to tackle the broadest category of items, komono.

We all have them: spaces and drawers where komono (miscellaneous things) live. These are the places where items sit idle because they haven’t found a true home. Designate a day to tackle your komono, give your objects final destinations and take back control. Remember, it is key to tidy by category – not location. 

Marie goes on to share what I consider the most important tip to cleaning any space which is to empty it out first. This aligns with Newton’s First Law of Motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. By getting the komono items moving it is just as easy to throw out or properly place an item as it is to put it back in it s initial spot. Marie advises:

Taking everything out of your komono hot spots and laying it out provides a fresh view of all the contents. You may find something that was once missing or something you forgot you owned. It is an opportunity for re-acquainting yourself with the objects that live with you and recognizing those that spark joy and those that don’t. Once those drawers or storage spaces are completely empty, take a moment to tend to them. Clean well with a soft cloth, replace drawer liners or add air fresheners if you’d like.

Read the rest of Marie Kondo’s tips on tackling komono on her web site.

Have Less to Do

Our society values more. We are constantly pushed in our careers to gain more responsibility. Commercials continually encourage us to buy more stuff. Having more to do than can be ever be done is seen as a sign of success. However, having more is only good up to a point. After that, having more is actually an impediment to happy and productive life.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founders of Basecamp, wrote about this in their book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. They set out to make their company the opposite of how most technology companies operate. No 60-80 hour weeks; no endless meetings; no pressure to perform every day. One of their fundamental operating principles is that having less to do is better than more. As they wrote on page 172-3 of their book:

Management scholar Peter Drucker nailed it decades ago when he said, “There is thing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all!” Bam!

At Basecamp we’ve become ruthless about eliminating either work that doesn’t need to be done or work we don’t want to do.

I have recently appreciated that eliminating extra items from my work life is the best way to become productive. Just as it is easier to juggle one ball instead of ten, having only a few top projects is easier to manage than dozens of low value projects. I often think back to a conversation with Pat Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. When I asked him for advice on being a Library Director, one thing he shared was, “Focus only on what the Director can do.” By that he meant don’t get caught up doing work that other people could perform. Do only the things that are your own responsibility, then delegate or eliminate everything else.

To that end, how can you find ways to purge your workload? After all, the less you have to do, the better you will do what you are doing.

The Ninety Minute Self Help Book Challenge

Below is the opening of a new article that can be found on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Last month I highlighted a strategy by Darius Foroux. He claimed a reader could get just about everything useful out of a self help book in only ninety minutes.  To explore his technique I tested it out on Joy at Work by Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein.  Here’s what I found.

Step One in Foroux’s method was to pick the book wisely.  I choose Joy at Work. It is a follow-up to Marie Kondo’s best selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up which focused on the home. My family had fun applying the Konmari principles to our house last summer, so I was curious to see how the philosophy could be transferred to the workplace. Given that I am a firm believer in GTD, I was also interested in learning how her techniques complimented and contrasted David Allen’s classic approach to getting things done. 

Learn what happened in Steps Two, Three and Four by reading the rest of the article at the Efficient Librarian web site.

Minimalism ≠ Tidying Up

Here is a question: is tidying up your home simply about getting rid of all your unneeded belongings so that you can live with as little as possible? This approach to living is defined as minimalism.

Marie Kondo is often asked if her approach to tidying up is simply a form of minimalism. On her blog, Marie recently explained the difference between her KonMari Method and minimalism.

“Many people have equated my tidying method with minimalism, but it’s quite different. Minimalism advocates living with less; the KonMari Method™ encourages living among items you truly cherish.

The first step in my tidying method is to imagine your ideal lifestyle. For some, this vision might be to surround yourself with the bare essentials; for others, it could mean living in a home teeming with beloved art, books, collections and heirlooms.

“Joy is personal. Each individual’s ideal life – and space – will look different from the next. If minimalism is a lifestyle that sparks joy for someone, I encourage that; in the same way, if someone has determined that many items in their life spark joy, that’s okay, too!”

Marie Kondo

Read the rest of the post on the KonMari web site.

Tidying for Guests

mariekondoWith stores now selling Christmas decorations in the middle of summer, I don’t need to remind you that the holiday season is upon us.  Aside from shopping for gifts, the holidays also bring guests to our door.  And since these friends may not visit often, many a host wants to make a good impression.

In the spirit of the season, Marie Kondo has provided on her blog some quick tips to ensure that your house is looking its best for invited (or uninvited) guests.  For example, she suggests the following:

Do a “Joy Check”

We become so accustomed to living in our space that it is difficult to see it objectively. Start by walking through the front door as if you were a guest. Move through each room, looking at it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you’ve stuffed things in a closet or piled items you’re feeling unsure about. Take this opportunity to ask yourself if these things really spark joy. If they don’t, thank them and let them go.

Explore the rest of her quick tidy tips on the Konmari web site.

10 Minute Tidy Up

If you studied science in high school, you may be familiar with the “Second Law of Thermodynamics”.  It states in a nutshell that “entropy increases.”  In layman’s terms it means that all systems move towards a state of disorder.  You don’t have to be a scientist to see how this plays out in life.  Just take a moment to look around and see how quickly personal and work spaces becomes cluttered.  It is amazing how quickly our spaces become disorganized, and equally demoralizing to consider the hours it will take to restore them.

claire-tompkinsIt need not come to this state.  To keep our spaces clean and orderly on an ongoing basis, a simple approach works best.  One method is the 10 minute tidy up, suggested by Claire Tompkins, aka the Clutter Coach, in her book 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized.  She describes the technique on page 11:

“Just as it is better to wipe up a spill right away, the ten-minute tidy up will keep your space organized with much less effort than spending half of a Saturday on it.  If you do this daily, ten minutes should be plenty.”

She suggests tidying up at transition times, such as before leaving the house or immediately after dinner.  If you are interested in trying it out, she suggests making a list of three spots to tidy today before bed.

Small actions can reverse the weight of entropy in your home.  Why not try a 10 minute tidy today!