Since releasing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up more than a decade ago, Marie Kondo has touched the lives of millions around the globe. Through her unique KonMari Method™ — which encourages keeping only those things that speak to the heart, while discarding items that no longer spark joy — the New York Times bestselling author and Emmy-nominated TV star has transformed the way that people think about their belongings.
Of course, this doesn’t only apply to items in the home. In 2019, Marie partnered with Rakuten to take on a completely new role: Rakuten’s first-ever Joy Ambassador. In this role, Marie has put into practice some of the wisdom outlined in her newest book, Joy at Work, which combines her groundbreaking organizational philosophy with some of the latest research on workplace productivity.
Following trials at Rakuten’s regional headquarters in the U.S. in late 2020, Marie recently kicked off a new program for Rakuten employees in Japan, entitled “Cleaning and Tidying Up with KonMari.” The initiative combines Rakuten’s own well-known cleaning traditions with the KonMari Method™ to bring about transformations in Rakuten’s many offices across the country.
Each Monday, thousands of Rakuten employees gather for a company-wide morning meeting called Asakai, after which they take time out of their day to clean their own workspaces. Last month, Marie joined Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani at Asakai to officially launch her new workplace tidying program in the first of nine weekly sessions featuring content from KonMari consultants.
To give employees a taste of what’s to come, Kondo took the opportunity to share a few key insights into the how and why of keeping a tidy workspace.
The how: A festival of tidying
Marie began by highlighting an important difference between “cleaning” and “tidying”: “Cleaning is the act of confronting dirt, while tidying is the act of confronting yourself, introspecting.”
The difference is one of personal responsibility.
“With tidying, the responsibility lies on your shoulders. The objects that populate your space are all things that you have brought in, things that you decide where to put,” she explained. “With cleaning, on the other hand, the subject is dust and dirt ― something that comes in without your doing.”
“If you really make the effort, your mentality will change, your habits will change, and this can transform your life dramatically.”Marie Kondo, New York Times bestselling author, Emmy-nominated TV star and Rakuten’s first-ever Joy Ambassador
Unlike the more regular act of cleaning, tidying is something that should happen in one go: “I like to call it a ‘tidying festival.’ You have to achieve your tidying mission within a concentrated time and get it done so that you don’t have to go back and tidy up repeatedly.”
With this important distinction out of the way, Marie outlined two concrete steps for holding your own tidying festival.
- Visualization: “How do you want to work? What kind of environment do you want it to be? Treat it as a mental exercise, imagining the details. An abstract idea like ‘I want to work in a clean environment’ won’t cut it. Picture exactly how you want it to be different when you have finished tidying.”
- Categorization: “Tidy by category, not by location. This is really important,” she stressed. “Your workspace might be full of papers, documents, electronics, all sorts of small items. You need to go through all of these as different categories.”
For example, stationery. “If you decide to tidy your pens, you need to find all of the pens in your environment and collect them in one spot. This way you can recognize the volume you have in that category. Then you can go through the process of taking each in your hands, one by one, and deciding if it sparks joy or serves purpose in your work.”
“Tidying is about more than just moving and getting rid of things. It’s a transformation of how you work, how you lead your life, how you’re handling the things in your life right now.”Marie Kondo
This method harks back to a well-known tenet from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in which Marie advises readers to consider each item in their house and decide whether it sparks joy.
“It’s the same in your workplace,” she revealed. “The things that ‘spark joy’ should be the things that help you achieve your dreams and ambitions. You need to make sure that all of the things in your environment are helping you focus and be positive about your objectives.”
The why: Keeping a tidy brain
“Tidying is about more than just moving and getting rid of things. It’s a transformation of how you work, how you lead your life, how you’re handling the things in your life right now,” she explained.
Marie stressed that the impact tidying can have is not to be underestimated.
“If you really make the effort, your mentality will change, your habits will change, and this can transform your life dramatically.”
She also encouraged Rakuten employees to be mindful of their own mental state as they took on these tasks.
“While tidying your environment, I’d like you to experience the reality of tidying up, and realize how it impacts your mental state,” she urged. “Your mind will become calmer, your head will be quieter, you can make quicker decisions, you can be more focused, you can hear your inner voice more easily.”
Rakuten: A long history of being clean and tidy
Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani has long practiced his own philosophy of keeping a clean work environment, literally getting down on his hands and knees following Asakai each Monday morning — and encouraging employees to do the same — to start the work week in a sparkling office space. Mikitani believes this is a crucial step in fostering a sense of responsibility.
“When an organization becomes too large, people can lose their sense of ownership,” he explained. “You stop taking accountability, taking initiative. You stop caring about elements of the business outside of your own direct responsibility.”
“We’re able to take on really ambitious challenges because of this collective effort, because of these actions that we regularly take together.”Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group
It’s this collective effort that enables companies like Rakuten to truly function as a team.
“We’re able to take on really ambitious challenges because of this collective effort, because of these actions that we regularly take together,” Mikitani revealed. “This is particularly important now that many of us are working from home. It makes it that much harder to foster a sense of belonging when you aren’t physically sharing space every day, so it’s more important than ever that we spend this time together.”
Marie is returning to Netflix this summer with her brand new show, “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo.” Learn more here.