Review: Marie Kondo sparks joy at work by bringing her KonMari method to the workplace

Mary Cadden
"Joy at Work" by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo got us to take a good hard look at clutter – clutter in our lives and clutter in our homes. And Americans responded with a resounding yes. The book topped USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list in 2014 and Kondo's organizational follow-up, “Spark Joy,” an illustrated room-by-room guide to decluttering your home, became a best-seller too.

Now Kondo and her co-author Scott Sonenshein, an organizational psychologist, professor at Rice University, are tackling the workplace in “Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life” (Little, Brown Spark, 242 pp., ★★★ out of four). Those of us who brought KonMari method into our homes can now bring it into our workspaces as well. Or, in the time of coronavirus, both simultaneously. 

Kondo's KonMari method for decluttering is simple, really: By gathering our belongings, one category at a time, and keeping only what sparked joy, we decluttered our homes. "But does it spark joy?” became a catchphrase with millions of Americans (admittedly, by many who had tongue firmly planted in cheek). But for fans of Kondo, this new book will certainly spark more joy.

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The one major difference between "Joy at Work" and Kondo's previous works, other than having a co-author, is that when using the KonMari method at work, one does not just ask what brings one joy. When sparking joy at work, we also ask what would bring us success. “Of course, not everything at work can be evaluated on the basis of whether it sparks joy,” writes Kondo. “There are company rules to follow, superiors who make decisions that impact our work, and coworkers with whom we collaborate.”

Decluttering work is not just tidying up physical workspaces. According to Kondo, “We can only truly spark joy in our work lives when we have put every aspect of it in order, including emails, digital data, work-related tasks, and meetings.” Kondo and Sonenshein detail each in alternating chapters. While Kondo’s writing is dominant in four chapters and Sonenshein’s in seven, their individual voices, while distinctive, blend well and the chapters flow smoothly.

Author Marie Kondo

Kondo and Sonenshein tackle every area of work, from the physical desk to the virtual desktop, and how we manage time, smartphones, emails, meetings, daily rituals, decision-making, networking and most dreaded of all, meetings. The book manages to show how one’s work and life philosophies can be in alignment. Which is helpful, since the same could be said for our current workspaces.  

Again, not everyone is a fan of Kondo's KonMari method. And chances are those people won’t be looking for ways to apply it to their work. But for the millions of readers who have embraced the philosophical aspect of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,”  Kondo’s latest is a natural progression of its philosophy and will most likely bring much-needed joy to work.