6 Minimalist Methods to De-Clutter Your Office
Free space to create room for success
Look around your office. Do you see piles of papers, staplers, pens, mugs, books, post-it notes and you-name-it lying all around? Do you often need to search for items simply because there is too much stuff, too many distractions? When you open your office drawers do you see notebooks, letters, papers, scissors – numerous items that you haven’t looked at or used in months and you have no idea whether you will use them ever again If you answered yes to any of those questions, it is time to consider de-cluttering your office. And I am going to share 6 minimalists’ methods how to do that.
Who are those minimalists, you ask? They are people following the popular lifestyle movement of minimalism. The minimalists are consciously getting rid of unproductive stuff and all things that do not bring joy or utility. This way they free space and time for the things that really matter. Most of the minimalists methods are intended for de-cluttering wardrobes, drawers, rooms and homes. But considering that we spend most of our awake time in the office, rather than at home, it makes sense to apply those methods also at work. Pick the one that you like and enjoy a better office.
Marie “Konmari” Kondo is a Japanese minimalist sensation, a best-selling author and organising consultant. She sold millions of books, the most famous of which “The life changing magic of tidying up”. The KonMari method is the following. You need to get everything out of every desk, drawer or shelf on one place on the floor or on a big table. Then you physically pick up every item and ask yourself “Does this spark joy in my heart?” Before you start laughing, think that Marie Kondo sold millions already of her newest book, called exactly "Sparking joy". KonMari talks in her books about cleaning our homes and getting rid of clothes, books, kitchen utensils, etc. Since we are in the office, if the question of joy is too spiritual to your business liking, then ask yourself whether every single item you pick from the pile is helping you do your job better, or just cluttering your space. As pointed by Break the Twitch – a YouTube channel of a minimalist – this method is good, as it "allows you to think not you want to throw away, but what you really want to keep" in your office. The rest has to go – donate, give duplicates of items to other colleagues who might need it, throw away or recycle. On the downside of using this method, if you share the office with colleagues, they would have to agree that you all do the same cleaning together to enjoy the full benefits. You also have to be able to stop working for a day or two, depending how big is your office and how much stuff you have accumulated. The grand promise is that with the KonMari method, if done properly, you will never ever go back to overloaded desk or over-filled office drawers again.
The Minimalists Game
The method was invented by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, jointly known as The Minimalists. The rules of the game are as simple as they can be. On the first day you throw away one item, on the second day you throw two items, on the third day you get rid of three items… And you go like this for a month. The game would be fun to play with colleagues and compete who will last longer. It can also be recorded on social media to inspire others to live a more simple and fulfilled office life. By the end of the month you would have cleared about 500 unnecessary items. This method requires some dedication from the players and the its difficulty increases as you go along.
The 4 Boxes Methods
I first heard about it a de-cluttering methods video in the YouTube channel Break the Twitch. For this method you need to get 4 boxes in the office and label them: PUT AWAY, GIVE AWAY, THROW AWAY or UNDECIDED. This method can be practised in the course of a day, a week or more. You can decide yourself whether to throw things in the boxes as you go along with your days or do it all at once. When you are not sure about an item, just put it in the undecided box, but be careful not to overload that one.
The One method
This is a variation of The Minimalists Game that the minimalist Anthony Ongaro proposes. It requires you to throw away one unproductive and cluttering item from the office every single day for a month. If you have more stuff and you want to get it done quickly, fill in one box per day with unnecessary stuff for a week. Play this One game with your colleagues and make sure you agree on an award in the end. According to Anthony Ongaro this method also helps you build de-cluttering as a habit, that might stick for longer than the game lasts and help you keep your office clean and organised.
The Packing Party
The idea was also developed by The Minimalists. When Ryan Nicodemus decided to join his friend Joshua Millburn in his quest for a simpler and happier life, he organised a packing party, as if he was going to move out of his apartment (which he eventually did). All of his belongings were packed in boxes, and in the course of one or two months he only took out only what he really needed. After that time, the remaining unused items were recycled, thrown, donated or sold. Same can be done in an office. In a work environment you need to be a little bit more conscious about throwing away sensitive documents or documents that need to be kept for a certain period by law. Also you are not allowed to sell company property only because you don’t use it. But you can give your spare pair of scissors or a stapler or a drawer to another colleague. As small and insignificant gesture as this sounds, this sharing mindset can save the company costs, while helping you enjoy a more spacious office.
The Swedish Death Cleaning
This popular Swedish custom recently got world-wide fame through the book of Margareta Magnusson, an 80-something Swedish artist, who wrote The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The custom of death cleaning is called döstädning in Swedish. “Dö” is for death, “städning” is for cleaning. It means removing unnecessary things and making your home nice and orderly when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet. The insight is that performing death cleaning on your office as if tomorrow you will not be in it and removing the junk, can be, in fact, beneficial for every age and every person. The death metaphor is hardly appealing or motivating, so think instead what will people find in your office if tomorrow you are suddenly promoted and need to leave immediately the office for a better job and life. The method is similar in effort and time to the KonMari method and it has been described in more detail in an earlier article of The C-Suite Minimalists here
Happy de-cluttering, Chiefs!