This is Marie Kondo’s genius hack for starting the work day and you can do it too

If you have been working remotely at home for two months now and still haven’t been able to be productive, you may need to reconsider your workspace. Studies have shown that people are more productive and can work for longer when working in a clutter-free workspace compared to an untidy one.

Don’t despair if your workspace is hindering you from getting your work done. Tidying expert Marie Kondo told Ladders her tips and tricks for tidying your home office (including what she puts on her desk), how to tidy the workplace once we return to the office, and her rituals for switching gears into a productive mindset every morning.

Marie Kondo on how to tidy your home office

You should start tidying your workspace by category instead of location. The KonMari Method has four main categories: clothes, books, paper, komono (miscellaneous items) and sentimental items.

“When tidying a workspace, you can skip clothes and go straight to books!” Kondo said. “Then, for each category, choose what to keep based on whether or not it sparks joy – and give it a designated home.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Kondo’s “spark joy” idea, it is a tidying tool that Kondo invented. When Kondo tidies with others, she asks them to go through their personal belongings one by one to see if the item sparks joy within them. If the item does spark joy, they should find a place for it and keep it. If it does not, they should give it away.

Once you have separated items into their different categories, it should be quick and painless to organize your workspace each day.

“Clutter has nothing to do with what or how much you own – it’s the failure to put things back where they belong,” Kondo said.

You should return items to their designated homes when they are not in use, which will help you create a space that is free of distractions and allow you to focus on the work that matters most.

“The more stuff we have around us, the more overloaded our brains become,” Kondo said. “This makes it harder for us to recognize, experience and savor the things that bring us joy.”

The amount of time that each of us is spending at home right now is unprecedented for the majority of people. Depending on if your company decides to continue remote work after the health crisis subsides, you may never have this much time to tidy your home again. This time away from social activity also allows many people to reflect on their lives, giving them the time to consider which aspects of their days are most important to them.

“While we all spend more time at home, it’s important that our space supports us,” Kondo said. “Tidying can help you get in touch with what you really want, show you what you need to change and help you to find more joy in your environment.”

Marie Kondo on how to start your day while working remotely

For many people, a difficulty of working remotely is that the space you eat, sleep, and relax is now the same space that you do work. Kondo says that it is important to help yourself switch mindsets when you are beginning work.

When it comes to work, ritual is very important. Kondo recommends creating an action for yourself that will mark the start of your workday. Whether it be watering your plant or grabbing your cup of coffee from the office kitchen, you should find an action that brings you joy and signifies the beginning of the workday.

“I strike a tuning fork and diffuse essential oils to signal to my body that I’m switching gears,” Kondo said.

Marie Kondo on tidying when we get back to work

When you are finally allowed in your office space again, it will be the perfect time to tidy your workspace. While there are many awful downsides to this global pandemic, time at home has also been a much-needed reset for many people. A reset in the office could be what many employees need as well.

The first obvious step once you return to the office will be to disinfect and wipe down your workspace – it may have collected some dust while you have been away. After the initial cleaning, you can move on to tidying.

When tidying your workspace in the office, it’s important to create an environment that will help you focus, in addition to one that will bring you a sense of joy. Kondo recommends adding one item to your workspace that sparks joy when you look at it.

On her desk, Kondo always keeps a crystal or small vase of fresh flowers.

Marie Kondo on what employers should do when the company returns to the office

When you return to the office, your company might look or operate differently than before the team began working completely remotely. Maybe your team has cut out a few meetings, or maybe they have added extra ones in. Whatever the case is, you should revaluate these decisions when returning to the office.

“Things like meetings, tasks and decision making can take up a lot of mental bandwidth,” Kondo said.

Kondo has spent a lot of time thinking about tidying at work, even beyond the physical and into the abstract like how to tidy time and responsibilities. In her book “Joy at Work”, Kondo and coauthor Scott Sonenshein present research and explain how employers and employees can overcome workplace “mess” and achieve a tidier physical and mental workplace.

Kondo gave Ladders a sneak peak at the book by explaining how to tidy decisions. Take a look at the five steps of tidying decisions:

  1. Start by organizing your decisions into three categories: low-stakes, medium-stakes and high-stakes.
  2. Low-stakes decisions can be automated. “President Obama famously only wore gray or blue suits to cut down on the number of decisions he had to make in a day,” Kondo said.
  3. Sort through medium-stakes and high-stakes decisions.
  4. Isolate decisions that are critical for the work that you do and prioritize those as much as possible.
  5. Automate or delegate decisions that are less critical to the work that you do.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.