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Marie Kondo

Exclusive: Marie Kondo's Advice for People, Like Steve Jobs, Who Swear by Messy Desks

The pop culture icon also shares tips for tidying your work space, the worst and best advice she ever received and her favorite app.
Exclusive: Marie Kondo's Advice for People, Like Steve Jobs, Who Swear by Messy Desks
Image credit: Netflix
Entrepreneur Staff
News Director
6 min read

Marie Kondo's transformation from a solo entrepreneur into a pop culture icon has been cemented.

The tidying expert and founder of KonMari Media has turned her name into a verb and captured the hearts of people across the world. Kondo's moment started in 2014 when her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was translated into English after becoming a hit in her native Japan. Earlier this year, Kondo fever reached an all-time high with the debut of her Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.

Kondo, in an email to Entrepreneur, said it wasn't her intention to become a global force.

"Instead," she said, "I focused on what I’m good at and on meeting the needs and demands of my community."

Anyone who's read her book or watched her show would expect this response -- Kondo is only the messenger that helps people tidy their homes and, often, get their lives back on track.

Related: Organization Guru Marie Kondo's Netflix Show Transforms People's Homes and Their Lives. Learn Her Simple Method to Increase Joy and Decrease Clutter.

In a Q&A, Kondo shares tips for tidying your work space, the worst and best advice she ever received and her favorite app.

How do you apply the KonMari Method to workplaces?

The first step in the KonMari Method is to imagine your ideal lifestyle, and you can adapt the question to, “What is your ideal work style?”

There are five categories in the KonMari Method -- clothing, books, papers, komono and sentimental items -- and although clothing is not applicable in the workplace, you should still work through the rest of the categories in this order.

The important question to ask when going through your items is: Does this spark joy? If you feel like “joy” doesn’t resonate, adapt the question and ask yourself if this item will move you toward the direction you want to go in your career.

For people who consider themselves disorganized, what's your advice for them to tidy their desks and keep it that way?

Designate a spot for each and every item on your desk -- even tiny things like paper clips or memo pads need a home to return to! By doing this, you create a structure within your work space. One final tip: Include a file for pending documents that need to be attended to!

A few famous entrepreneurs -- such as Steve Jobs -- kept their desks messy because they said it spurred creativity. How can someone balance this mentality with tidiness?

You must understand what you personally need to stir creativity in yourself. Start by tidying your desk entirely -- just once! -- and see how you feel with a tidied desk. If you don’t feel comfortable, perhaps you require a slightly less structured desk. The goal is to find what works for you and your creativity.

Related: Your Office Isn't Big Enough for Clutter and Productivity

What's your advice for people who want to create an ideal work space in their home?

First, tidy your entire home so you can create an area within your home that can function as you work space. This will help the process go much more smoothly. Then when creating the work space, consider what you want that space to look like and how you’d like to work in it.

What’s a strategy to keep focused? 

When I’m trying to focus on my writing, I like to begin with a very organized desk. I also greet my home before beginning, which helps me keep focused. It functions as a meditation, in a way.

What inspires you? 

I am always inspired by the stories of people who have finished tidying. This confirms the inherent power of tidying!

What’s the best advice you ever took? What's the worst piece of advice you ever got? 

The worst advice I ever received was from a superior at a company I worked for: “Don’t be happy.” He thought that if you were happy, you’d become complacent and lose your ambition. He believed that if you wanted to be someone who contributed to society, you couldn’t be happy or satisfied with your situation. I became careless about my personal happiness in my daily life. Later on, however, I realized that it really starts with you -- you have to take care of yourself first before you can meaningfully contribute to others.

Some of the best advice I ever took was from my grandmother, “Cherish the parts in your life that cannot necessarily be seen by other people.” Her drawers were always neatly organized, and she lived her life with care and mindfulness. Little did my grandmother know, this advice would help lead me into my future calling -- and it’s what I’m sharing with the world now through KonMari!

What’s a productivity tip you swear by? 

Tidying!

Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?  

One of the apps I use -- that might surprise you -- is the Japanese version of MoonReader by Horosco. I believe in an ebb and flow to life, and the effect of the stars on the turning of the world. This moon phase calendar lets me know if the day is better suited to relaxing or focusing, and I try to plan my activities accordingly. It has roots in feng shui and Eastern teachings.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

Work-life balance means to me to always have an awareness of your state.

Related: How This Alcohol Industry Newcomer Created a Japanese Whiskey Brand for the U.S.

How do you prevent burnout?

Create an environment that allows you to sleep better. Wear your ultimate pair of pajamas, purify the air in your bedroom with crystals or by diffusing some essential oils, remove any blue light a few hours before bedtime -- anything that will help you get a good night’s rest.

What are you learning now? Why is that important?

I am learning more about cooking. As I get busier and busier, I realize how important it is to maintain your physical well-being. I’m also very interested in the benefits of fermented foods such as amazake, a Japanese fermented rice drink.

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