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It’s hard to imagine organization expert Marie Kondo struggling with a messy desk, but she illustrates her battle with clutter in her latest book, Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, written with Scott Sonenshein. 

Early in her career, Kondo worked at a staffing agency in corporate sales. She wrestled to keep up with her colleagues to meet sales goals, even while working long, frenzied hours. One day, she realized that her space was disastrous. After an hour of decluttering, all she left on her desk was her phone and computer.

“I could find the documents I needed right away,” she said of the transformation. “There was no mad search for things just before I dashed off to a meeting, and when I came back I could launch right into the next task.”

It hit her just how vital a clean workspace is. She started to feel happier at work, and began helping her coworkers tidy their spaces, too. Whether it’s physical or nonphysical clutter, we pay a high cost when we fail to maintain order amid chaos, Kondo writes.

Clutter at work is a common problem that plagues many individuals, regardless of their work environment. Kondo shares several eye-opening data points about the loss in productivity that occurs due to inefficient, untidy work practices. The average office worker loses two hours and 39 minutes a week in ineffective meetings and has an average of 199 unopened emails in their inbox on any given day. Almost half of office workers report misplacing a significant work item, whether a file folder or a USB drive, once a year. Research shows that the time spent searching for lost items comes out to an average of one workweek per year per employee.

But the argument in favor of tidying goes far beyond productivity statistics. A huge theme throughout the book is that examining and assessing aspects of your job—both tangibles and intangibles—allows you to uncover purpose in your work. 

“Tidying can help you get in touch with what you really want, show you what you need to change, and help you find more joy in your environment,” Kondo says. “Every job is essential. Finding meaning in our daily tasks makes our job worth doing and this leads to joy.”

Check out three key takeaways from the book to bring a greater sense of purpose to your work life:


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