5 Decluttering Lessons That Will Help Your Business


Today, I finished an 8-day process that has changed my life. That was the promise, and it worked. Marie Kondo wrote a book called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and I followed her method, The Konmari Method, to the letter.

“Tidying Up” is not what this book is about. I’m not sure if the translation from the original Japanese is to blame for this, or it’s my personal definition, but to me, tidying is a fast and easy task that involves dusting, and strategic cramming of things behind closed closet doors.

You haven’t lived until you’ve held every single cleaning product you own in your hand, determining if it brings about feelings of joy.

What Kondo (or Konmari, as she’s called) is advocating is getting rid of every single thing you own that does not “spark joy.”  That’s right, either you get a joy feeling from your iron, or out it goes. You haven’t lived until you’ve held every single cleaning product you own in your hand, determining if it brings about feelings of joy.

I live in a small duplex with no basement or garage, I’m not a terribly messy person, and my husband and I are not into “stuff.” My three-year-old son already has just a fraction of the toys and clothes most kids have, so I expected I wouldn’t have much to get rid of.

I was wrong.

8 days of Konmari-ing resulted in:

  • 3 truckloads of donations to Goodwill
  • 4 city garbage barrels & two city recycling barrels full of discarded items
  • 200 books, about half of my collection, donated
  • 7 garbage bags of clothing items and shoes, donated
  • A full bag of expired medication, hair products, soap products, and makeup, discarded
  • $65 dollars in small change discovered
  • More than THREE HUNDRED joyless, broken pens discarded. (I’m a writer. Occupational hazard?)
  • Four old iPhones recycled
  • 8 pounds of paper, shredded

Before I did this, my husband and I felt cramped and crowded in our 1200-square-foot home. Now there is more than enough room to live.

More importantly, I love every single thing in my home. As Konmari predicts, the psychic energy it takes to navigate around useless items you don’t need, don’t like  and don’t want immediately starts to flow in more important directions when those things are gone.

Her book is a fascinating read, and full of insights that helped not only my clutter, but my consulting business. I believe the principles could apply to any business.


Make Decisions Better

Being decisive has never been my problem. In fact, I struggle to avoid rushing into a decision too quickly before I’ve considered my options. Sometimes, though, the criteria on which I base my decisions is muddy.

My most natural way is emotional: I don’t think I’ve ever said “no” when a cashier asks me to donate $2 to whatever. I feel so sympathetic to the cause I always say yes. Even when I don’t know anything about the charity. They could be using 15% of my donations to fund the boss’s Twizzlers addiction. I still give money.

When I was a reporter, I only ever had one simplistic goal: get the story right, and get it first. I therefore only had one criterion when faced with a decision: which choice helps me be right and first? Do that.

In most jobs, there are multiple desired outcomes, sometimes even competing outcomes. Like most entrepreneurs, I’m now building new decision-making muscles that reflect my operations goals, my financial goals, my clients’ goals and my personal life goals. I have to get clear on the criteria for each decision, then gather information and act swiftly, or my business suffers. There is no room for dithering.

Konmari insists your “tidying marathon” begin with clothing, then move to books, papers, miscellaneous and finally sentimental items. There is only one criterion for choosing what stays and what goes: does the item bring you joy?

Her rationale for this order of tidying is that making decisions about your clothing is easy. By the time you advance all the way to mementos, which most people have a harder time throwing out, you have honed the skill of good decision making. You also intimately understand her sole criterion of “what sparks joy?”  Similarly, you need to exercise your decision-making muscles early and often as an entrepreneur, so you can be ready for decisive action on large important matters as they arise.

Know the Rules Before you Break Them

Sticking to the book’s order of clothes, books, paper, miscellaneous and then mementos is harder than it seems. Think about it, you likely have clothes and books and especially paper all over your house.

Konmari insists you gather all items of a specific category, from wherever you store them, pile them all up together and go through them one at a time.

This is a lot more work than organizing your bedroom closet, then your kids rooms’, then your front closet, and so forth. Kondo says, however, the end results are more successful when you see all of an item in one place.

This was true for me. For example, I had 30 coats. (!) However, I never felt like I had that many, because they were squirrelled away in closets throughout my house. When piled in front of me, I had to face the fact that I had far more than I needed, wanted or could ever wear, especially now that I don’t stand outside in the cold on television for a living. (That’s how someone amasses 30 coats, by the way.)

I would not have discovered this if I hadn’t followed LCMTU’s advice exactly as Konmari laid it out.

When you aren’t expert-level at something, it makes sense to follow the rules to maximize the expertise of others, even if those rules seem strange or arbitrary.

Be Grateful

For many years I worked as a union employee for one of Canada’s largest companies, with no direct reports and very little personal autonomy. Far less than the average worker. I couldn’t even change my hairstyle without permission.
Although I’m a wildly optimistic, unconventional, slightly contrarian free thinker, I found myself developing the work mindset that tends to pervade this type of organization. I was suspicious and skeptical of new ideas management tried to roll out, and frustrated that my own ideas and those of my colleagues were clearly unwanted.

In order to be successful today in my client-based business, I basically need the opposite of this mindset. Openness is my ally.

I go into all kinds of businesses with all kinds of cultures and usually work directly with the CEO or other top-level executives. These people are always far more experienced in the business world in general than I am, and certainly more experienced at what it is that they do.

This means no matter how strange or unorthodox or even impossible their ideas sound, it’s my job to embrace these ideas and help them achieve their goals. While I often share my knowledge of best practices and I always come armed with ideas, this isn’t necessarily what my clients are looking for. It’s my job to make their plans come to life, not the other way around.

This is the kind of openness you’ll need to follow Marie Kondo’s advice. Throughout the book, Konmari anthropomorphizes inanimate objects. We need to fold our socks a certain way, because they “need a rest.” We should hug and thank our dearest belongings.

Admittedly, this thinking was familiar to me because as a child I thought everything in the world had feelings. I forced myself to wear clothes I hated, so my sweaters wouldn’t be sad. I spent a lifetime training myself out of this way of thinking, because, you know, people tend to think you’re bonkers when you talk to your shoes.

So when I read a book instructs me to consider the feelings of my wallet, it requires some suspension of disbelief.

This is a great mindset for all entrepreneurs. Go along. See how an idea plays out before you judge it to be weird or –the greatest business sin of all– a waste of time.

By thanking my tchotchkes that did not bring me joy, I was able to send them off to a new life in a way I had never been able to do, simply by arguing with myself rationally that I didn’t need them anymore.

Gratitude and Your Business

The fundamental tenet of LCMTU is not downsizing, not organizing, but gratitude.

Konmari predicts that if you sift out all extraneous possessions leaving only what you love, you will be transformed. You will be surrounded only by what sparks joy in your heart, and that will naturally foster grateful living.

Gratitude is my strongest personal value. Every morning when my feet hit the floor, I make a conscious decision to send out a thank you for the day ahead. I end my day by writing five things that I’m grateful for in a small notebook I keep beside my bed.

When it was time to decide the company values for Create That Communications, it was only natural that one be gratitude. In your first year in business, you make a lot of mistakes (or at least I did). Staying focused on being grateful for what is going well has kept me centred and positive in the face of adversity.

Similarly, when I look around my physical space post-tidy, it’s much easier to see how much I have to be grateful for. That mindset-shift alone makes my tidying efforts worthwhile.