The KonMari Method for Project Management

The KonMari Method for Project Management

You’ve “KonMari’d” your home. But what about work and all of the physical and virtual clutter that’s slowing down your projects?

Like many others, you may have been caught in the initial rush of enthusiasm for organizing and minimizing brought on by professional organizer Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Who didn’t want to ruthlessly go category by category throughout their home and keep only that which sparks joy? Gone are the old T-shirts, the outdated books, and all of the komono (miscellaneous) items cluttering up a junk drawer.

Except then you go to work. And, as a project manager or someone who helps oversee a team, you’re wondering how your home life is sparkling but your work life is still, well… a bit of a hot mess.

Can the principles of KonMari, first introduced in Kondo’s New York Times bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, be applied to project management and your office?

You bet, says Amanda Jefferson, one of the world’s first certified KonMari consultants. Jefferson, based outside of Philadelphia, trained with Kondo and her team and says she “channels her passion for helping others by creating homes and offices that are efficient and joyful.”

If you’ve heard a lot about KonMari but are worried you’re just supposed to throw away all of your possessions, don’t worry, Jefferson said. It’s not about getting rid of things. “It’s about being deliberate and mindful about choosing what you want to keep in your life,” she said.

So how do you take Kondo’s signature “spark joy” philosophy of deliberate de-cluttering and apply it to work?

Start with your desk

“The papers and items strewn about our offices are often just a sign of delayed decision-making,” Jefferson said.

The clutter means you’re constantly reprocessing information. Does that sound like the best method for creativity and productivity?

Instead, Jefferson said you can make a team bonding activity out of doing a KonMari session. Go category by category and reset the whole office and personal spaces. While KonMari includes going through clothes, you can still do books, papers, komono, and then mementos/keepsakes. (Who isn’t guilty of having a desk filled with a few too many photo frames or old artwork from your kids that you don’t even take time to appreciate?)

Kondo swears by this category-by-category method, so don’t cheat and just randomly grab stuff to consider. “Let me share with you the secret of success. Start by discarding,” she wrote in Life-Changing Magic. “Then organize your space, thoroughly, completely, in one go. If you adopt this approach—the KonMari Method— you’ll never revert to clutter again.”

Jefferson says doing this process as a group has benefits.

“Get out the office shredder, schedule a donation pick-up and order some lunch. It’s a great team builder and an immediate productivity boost,” she said.

Sparking joy may seem strange in an office, so think of it this way: Joy might be something that helps you get a job done, which in turns brings you joy. A stapler you use all the time, then, can bring joy. A dusty filing cabinet no one uses would not.

Don’t forget your digital clutter

“Digital information comes at us today with such intensity and speed,” Jefferson said.

Unless you keep Inbox Zero, your email account probably looks like you’re hoarding for the digital apocalypse. And every office has a person who’s desktop looks like a file folder zoo.

Take the time needed to get this under control and think about what you truly need to keep. What could you consolidate into one folder? What needs to stay handy for reference, and what haven’t you really looked at for months (or years!)?

“It’s essential to do the work of getting clear on priorities and tasks so that you can stay on top of what’s most important and respond and react to what’s essential,” Jefferson said.

She partners with Satterfield and Company, which offers an online courses called Workflow Mastery, which “teaches you essential tools for staying on top of it all.”

Great, your desk and inbox are clutter free. How about projects?

“Big projects are a great opportunity for people on the team to stretch and to learn what energizes them and what depletes them,” Jefferson said.

She encourages project managers to take the “spark joy” concept to help team members better tune in to which aspects of a project really excite them. Help your team be mindful of which aspect they truly want to dive into, rather than blindly pushing through project after project.

“This a great way to identify growth opportunities and career trajectories,” she said.

Sure, there are some projects you just have to do because that’s the job. KonMari’s principles help there, too.

“Pay attention to what energizes and depletes you in your work. Being aware of what sparks joy can help you better shape your career path into a career that fulfills and excites you,” Jefferson said. “Take frequent breaks doing things that spark joy. We weren’t designed to plug away at a desk all day long. Take a walk. Get a coffee. Do some stretches. Watch a TED talk. These breaks actually help us to be more productive.”

Project management can be hectic. How do you keep up your new KonMari approach?

The last thing you want after taking limited hours at work to implement this new approach is to backslide.

Jefferson recommends a 20/20/20 approach.

  • 20 minutes resetting from the day prior, such as filing reports and online documents and adding to your to-do list.
  • 20 minutes prepping for the day ahead, such as checking your calendar, locating meeting agendas and related documents, and getting email drafts ready.
  • 20 minutes for connection, such as grabbing a coffee or talking with teammates.

“A KonMari devotee will likely have a clutter-free environment, be able to easily find things and will have a good system for processing papers,” Jefferson said.


Amanda Jefferson can be found at and on Instagram at @indigo_organizing.


Blog by Andrew Shaw

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