If you’re able to work right now, the chances are that you’re doing so not in an office with an ergonomic chair, but in a corner of your living room or at the kitchen table, with a backdrop of laundry, household clutter and the sound of your neighbours doing virtual zumba.
Working from home and tuning out distractions – or coping without colleagues there for company – can take a bit of practice. So it’s perfect timing for the fairy godmother of tidying, Marie Kondo, to return with a new book on work life.
In the midst of global chaos, even seeing Marie over Zoom feels soothing: speaking to me from her home in Los Angeles (an interpreter is also on the call), she looks every inch the zen guru, with immaculate hair, a neat yellow cardigan and a background of trees visible through her window. ‘I’m hanging in there,’ she says, with a twinkly smile.
The new book, Joy At Work, was written in collaboration with the organisational psychologist Scott Sonenshein. Her chapters focus on tidying your space and thinking about what – to revive her famous catchphrase – ‘sparks joy’ in your work; Scott’s concentrate on organising your digital life to make it more efficient. All of this contributes to the deeper purpose of the book, Marie explains: ‘The goal is really to get you thinking about what the career is that will spark the most joy for you. How do you want to work?’
Just knowing where everything is can be a big factor in your overall efficiency
That may be too big a question to grapple with at a time like this. But getting your new workspace into shape can provide much-needed solace, she says. ‘I definitely believe so – just knowing where everything is can be a big factor in your overall efficiency, and taking the time to care about what comes into view when you’re working from your desk can really calm your mind.’
If you’re trying to carve out a new routine, she recommends a ritual to demarcate work time from leisure. As we talk, she produces a crystal and a tuning fork, tings them together and waves the fork around, eyes closed as the sound resonates. ‘Even for one minute, I close my eyes, listen and meditate, and it helps me bring myself into focus before work,’ she explains.
Watching her on my laptop, surrounded by muddled papers, forgotten mugs and piles of books, I’m not sure I can carry off this level of serenity. ‘Would it have to be a tuning fork?’ I ask uncertainly, and Marie laughs. ‘No! It can be anything you want. It could be a fragrance or a specific incense that you burn before you start working. Just closing your eyes for a minute can have an effect as well.’
Marie believes that tidying up is also, unsurprisingly, crucial. ‘Try tidying in the Konmari method, by category – so you dedicate one day to sorting out your books, another day for documents, and another day for stationery and so forth. Once you have everything that you want to keep in your workspace, make sure you designate a spot for it.’
Finally, there’s the fun bit: ‘Add a “spark joy” item,’ she recommends. ‘You’re working from home, so you can control your environment. Whatever items uplift you and brighten your mood are fine – family photos, flowers, or anything that helps you relax.’
Adding a personal touch could make our home workspaces better than the office. ‘Let your heart be the guide,’ says Marie, before signing off with a polite bow of thanks, on her way to spread more tidying joy.
‘Joy At Work: Organising Your Professional Life,’ by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein (£16.99, Hachette) is out now