Working from home has completely changed our living spaces. Whether we’ve spent time hunting for the most comfortable chairs, daydreaming about Louis Vuitton’s compact secretary desk, or scrounging for any work table that won’t take up too much square footage, we have all made adjustments—some having a less than ideal impact on our home’s design. Marie Kondo, the patron saint of minimizing the stress of interiors, is here to help, though.
Just as many of us were settling into our newfound home offices in April of 2020, Kondo’s most recent book, Joy at Work, was released. The question of a tidy workspace has become much more pressing since Kondo wrote it in 2019.
“I like to remind people that tidying is much more than organizing or throwing things away,” Kondo says about the subject she’s covered widely. “The goal of tidying isn’t just to have a nice clean desk (although that is a bonus!), it is to have a discussion with yourself about what brings you joy at work, your working style, and if your professional goals will ultimately bring you joy and/or if they need to evolve.”
Kondo’s book includes the more nebulous projects of tidying time, meetings, and professional networks, but here she shares her most essential tips for creating a better home workspace. The master organizer encourages us to “start with the zone that is under your complete control” and to “treat tidying your home office separately from tidying the rest of your home” to minimize stress. Once you’ve decided on what that means for you—whether it’s a breakfast nook you’ve commandeered, or a bedroom vanity that has taken on more responsibility—you should consider things category by category.
It can be hard to tell when exactly is the right time to let books go and which you’ll want to call upon again, but, when space is limited, it’s worth considering what you really need. “Books can be great for inspiration and reference, but a lot of the time we keep books and they become part of the scenery versus being something that sparks joy,” Kondo states. “Of the many questions I encourage you to ask yourself about books, the most telling is perhaps: If you saw it in a store, would you buy it again or walk by?”
Stacks of paper can quickly pile up and become unmanageable, so this category usually ends up taking the most time. Kondo recommends sorting papers in three piles—pending, save because you have to, and save because you want to—and to begin with the expectation that you’ll throw out most of it. For the paperwork you do need to hang onto, Kondo recommends this hanging file folder and this vertical paper holder for documents that you actively need to work with.
Komono, or miscellany, encompasses a lot: Scissors, sticky notes, notebooks, and electronics are among the home office items in the category. Kondo urges you to keep only one of each of these at your desk at a time and to store the rest. As Kondo says, tidying your desk “makes room for you to come up with new creative ideas,” plus your living space will be a lot less encumbered by your workspace when most of your materials are properly stored rather than sitting out.
A home workspace might be crowded with sentimental items that were strewn about prior to the space being used as an office, but Kondo encourages us to remove all of the personal tchotchkes. Though it makes sense to have some in a regular office, in a home workspace, you’ll still interact with plenty of decorations throughout the day in the rest of the home, so it’s not necessary to bog down your desk and surrounding areas with them. “Try to further separate your workspace from your personal space in the home by limiting the personal items on your desk and in your home office.”