What Business Leaders Can Learn From Marie Kondo

By Madison Taylor
March 5, 2019
stacks of binders filled with papers all marked up

If you watch Netflix at all, you’ve doubtless seen Marie Kondo’s show Tidying Up in your suggestions. Maybe you’ve even binge-watched it, captivated by her calm and composure. But Kondo’s message isn’t just about folding your t-shirts into pyramids — it’s something much more universal. Here’s what you, as a business leader, should take away from Kondo’s show.

Keep Your Message Clear And Simple

Throughout the show, Kondo asks homeowners who have solicited her help whether each item “sparks joy.” It comes up over and over, whether she’s in an average middle-income suburban home or the office of one of Ellen Degeneres’ writers. Her message is ubiquitous, easily understood, and universally applicable.

Even better, the simplicity of Marie Kondo’s message makes it surprisingly layered and meaningful. “Joy” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the way that Kondo focuses on that single motivation aligns everyone on the show in a unified goal.

Get Rid Of Clutter

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical clutter in your home or office, mental clutter from being stretched too thin, or virtual clutter from taking on too much in your personal life. Clutter slows you down, distracts you, and saps your energy.

Do you have too many piles of paper on your desk? Do you have too many bookmarks in your bookmarks folder? Is your business subscribed to too many software utilities? Clutter builds slowly but surely, and you might find yourself in over your head without realizing it.

That’s why Kondo makes people pile all their clothing — from every drawer, hook, and closet — in one place before sorting it. Lots of people don’t realize how much they’ve accumulated until they really get a good look at it. Do an informal audit of your business on your own time — call it spring cleaning! — and really think about whether you need everything you’re currently holding on to, or if it’s just taking up space.

Focus On One Thing At A Time

When Kondo sets a family with a particular task before leaving for the week, she doesn’t tell them to clean up the whole house — that would be daunting and overwhelming. Instead, she has them start small. Just sort, fold, and put away your clothes, for example. Don’t work on anything else just yet.

The same applies to business. Granted, you’ll often have many irons in the fire, employees to keep track of, and facets of your business to think about. But interrupting one task to check your email for the nth time that day or wander around the office catching up with people is not helping you get anything done faster.

Make Room For Important Things

Another of Kondo’s major lessons for homeowners is that if you don’t have a specific place to put something, it’ll become clutter. That’s true in business, too. It’s easy to set things aside, not budgeting specific slots on your calendar to take care of certain customers, goals, or tasks.

But if you don’t map out the important needs of your business, they’ll fall through the cracks. Every goal needs someone to push it forward. Every report needs a source and an audience. If you lose track of the connections between the objective and what you need to make them happen, performance will slow.

Spark Joy

In the end, the goal when tidying up your business is the same as the goal when you tidy up your home: to spark joy. On Kondo’s show, that’s the difference between a house and a home, between domestic strife and marital bliss, or between feeling overwhelmed and feeling in control.

In business, the goal is the same — a renewed sense of purpose, satisfaction, and drive. The more streamlined you can be, the better.