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Among the many things we promise ourselves in the new year, cleaning up usually tops the list. However, if you believe that decluttering and cleaning are the same thing, you are mistaken. While the former involves removing dust, marks and stains, the latter involves discarding items that are no longer in use or, in Japanese tidying consultant and author Marie Kondo’s words, no longer “spark joy".

The question, “Does it spark joy?", is the unique characteristic of The KonMari Method. Kondo suggests gathering all items pertaining to the same category, and then retaining those that “spark joy" and discarding the rest. Joy Factory, a start-up that we founded, specializes in decluttering using the KonMari Method, and the C2S2 (collect, choose, scrap, store) technique.

Here’s how you can bring joy to not only your desk, but to everything work-related by applying these two approaches.

The starting point

Outline your purpose: Envision your life at work and what you aim to achieve professionally this year. On a sheet of paper, write it all down—your goals, areas of improvement and skills you would like to expand.
Tackle each category: Deal with one category at a time in a process we call C2 (collect and choose).

Clothes: Start with work clothes, shoes and accessories. This will help you hone your decision-making skills of what truly sparks joy.

Paperwork: Start with the books, papers and documents on your desk. Empty all your drawers, shelves and storage spaces. Here, asking yourself the joy question may seem a bit unrealistic. Instead start with relevance. Ask yourself, “Can I possibly store them digitally?", “Am I duplicating information?" Create three folders to organize these papers and sort on the basis of these.

1)Needs Attention: documents that require immediate attention.

2)Save (contractual): documents/papers that are used the least.

3) Save (others): documents/papers that you use fairly frequently but don’t need to be stored as long as the contractual papers.

Digital decluttering: From promotional emails, unopened folders, unused apps, overcrowded calendar to multiple shots of the same photographs—this is clutter that affects productivity.

1) Emails: Keep your inbox clean and filled with items that you want to see. Create folders—mails from your boss, colleagues, clients and organize them based on priority. Once you have finished the task at hand, make sure to delete the emails you don’t need any longer.

2) Folders: Go through each folder on your laptop and delete the items that are no longer relevant or currently in use. You can follow the same rule of three folders here.

3) Apps on your phone: Delete the apps you don’t use. Store the ones you do vertically based on frequency of use of the app.

4) Calendar: This one is tricky. There are of course professional appointments that you have to adhere to but for your personal engagements, follow the spark- joy rule. If a personal invite truly excites you, accept it and if it doesn’t, gather the courage to say “no".

5) Photographs: Delete multiple shots of the same photograph, and transfer those that spark joy to your laptop to clear out your phone memory.

Sentimental items: Finally move on to souvenirs and memorabilia from conferences, awards or little notes from friends /colleagues, any items of sentimental value. Again, ask yourself the same question. Take a picture of the notes and letters, and save it for a quick read later. However, if you are the kind of person who believes in keeping physical copies of everything, then file them and make a scrapbook.

Winding up

Thank and discard (scrap): The next step is to discard what you no longer require. It’s important to be conscientious when it comes to discarding. Remember, all these items were originally put in their place with a sincere intent. So be grateful for the purpose those emails, calendar invites or photographs served, thank them and let them go.
Give each item a home (store): The last of the steps is to make sure that every item has its own home, a designated place. Also, store items vertically, instead of horizontally. Vertical storing helps you clearly see what you own and makes it easier to identify what you actually need.

To maintain a joyful work-life balance, set aside 15minutes at the end of your workday to get rid of items that you no longer require from that day.

Gayatri Gandhi and Neetika Pahwa run the Joy Factory (, which offers decluttering and organizing services for homes and offices.

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