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Does your home office spark joy?

by Rachel Smith
18 January 2019

I stumbled onto Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix one evening after the toddler was in bed and I was working on the couch. I kept half an eye on the TV like I so often do, but before the episode was over, my laptop was abandoned. When I was still up at 1am filling garbage bags with things I no longer wanted and folding my tracky-dack collection into square stand-up-on-their-own envelopes, I knew I had it bad. Bedroom done, of course my next question had to be: does my home office spark joy? My answer: there’s a reason I like working in libraries so much.)

illustration of a tidy desk and home office

Here is a list of stuff I found in my office that has been bogging me down for years but largely ignored because I was too lazy to figure out what to do with it:

  1. A Foolscap folder box full of printed out emails, PR info and other stuff from when I was an advice columnist (I think the last time I looked at it was in 2013)
  2. A bag full of X-rays I hadn’t looked at in at least 5 years but for some reason thought ‘I might need someday’
  3. A massive box of Rachel’s List notepads we had printed for an event that were leftovers
  4. A blue IKEA bag full of gift bags, gift-wrap, gift tags, saved gift paper, Christmas cards from last year, lists of people to send Christmas cards to and envelopes
  5. Books I had to read in my uni course and never have again
  6. Three referrals from my GP I’d never followed up on that were so out of date it was shameful
  7. A massive cardboard box of story notes, transcripts and draft print-outs from the past two years

And more. So much more.

Here’s the thing: my house LOOKS neat and tidy. But crammed into its nooks and crannies are things I know I no longer need, but don’t have the time or inclination to sort out. But who really needs a bank statement from 2009? Or ALL your story notes from 2016?

I have a theory that all those bits and pieces jammed away under my desk or behind it or into a drawer or somewhere else, add a layer of mental ‘clutter’ to my brain. It’s time for them to go. So I’ve started Konmari-ing the home office.

Marie Kondo’s home office rules are:

  1. Decide what you want from the space. For me, I want clean, clear spaces that make it easy for me to write without distraction. I’d maybe like a few bright and colourful knickknacks and photos but that’s pretty much it.
  2. Divide your possessions into groups. So things like papers, books and miscellaneous things then sentimental things. So you pick up all the books in your home office and put them into one spot. You pick up all the stuff on your desk and around it – things you’ve been sent, branded pens from that networking event, lanyards from a movie review 10 years ago, photos… you get the drill.
  3. Work through each pile systematically. Select each thing and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Does it make you feel good, does it contribute to how you work? For those items with zero joy for you, put them in a pile to discard, and don’t forget to give them a little pat and thank them for serving you. (This bit feels dumb, I have to admit and I have struggled with doing it, but I think the reason behind it is a kind of closure: you feel ok about letting that thing go and it’s easier to do. NB: It never feels good saying goodbye to books. There was something of a social media ruckus this week about Kondo saying you should only keep about 30 books. But that’s actually how many books SHE keeps. If you want to keep all your books, that’s totally cool, says the diminutive tidying guru.)
  4. Bag up your discarded items and let them go. That means sell your not-s0-joyful items on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, give to friends, donate to Vinnies or repurpose in another way. This is the most guilt-ridden step because you can’t help wondering what happens to all the stuff that you’re turfing. And all the stuff everyone else is turfing after Kon-Mari-ing their houses. Kondo doesn’t really touch on this though, and she should.

I want to add a rule to this list:

4. Change your buying habits. This is a no-brainer if you live in a small house like me; you’re literally forced to assess what you’re bringing in, but I’ve realised I still accumulate a lot of junk, toys, books from little street libraries, etc. So this year I want to become better at NOT doing that so much. Just bringing in what I need, making do with what I have, and hoping my new clear spaces translate to more mental clarity and creativity.

Are you Kondo-ing like mad at the moment? How’s it going at your place?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

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