Why Marie Kondo’s magic doesn’t always work for content

Declutter content with caution

5 “KonMari” tactics to avoid when tidying your content

  • By Kathy Wagner
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  • Jan 17 2019
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  • Categories: Articles

Marie Kondo is the world’s latest answer to effective, efficient tidying. Last week, I reviewed some of the many ways that her unique KonMari method of tidying and decluttering works brilliantly for content. But she clearly needs to spend more time cleaning out the content closets of large organizations, because some of her tactics just don’t transfer over.

Here are five of Kondo’s tidying tactics that you should avoid when cleaning up your content.

1. Do NOT forget about “flow planning” and “frequency of use”.

Kondo suggests that you should store similar items in one place and then create your “flow” around that rather than storing items where you would logically use them. For example, store all books together in one place (your library), rather than keeping work books in your study, novels in your living room, and cookbooks in the kitchen.

This doesn’t translate well when designing content for others to use. People need to find the information where they’ll use it, and in the order they need it. The content flow should map to the user’s task flow, rather than making people return to one content-specific area every time they need information to support them. Similarly, you need to make sure that content that’s frequently used is more prominent than content that’s rarely used. Unlike socks, content won’t just naturally end up in the back of the drawer if it’s used less often.

2. Do NOT organize by category.

Kondo suggests that you tidy up one category at a time. She gives some examples of categories as clothing, books, memorabilia, and kitchenware. Subcategories might include tops, bottoms, socks, shoes, etc. The content equivalent of her definition of categories is content types: articles, policies, events, or product details, for example. But you do not want to organize by looking at batches of content types.

It’s much easier to identify missing or duplicate content if you sort by topic, bringing all the various content types with information about the same topic into one batch to work through. Or, you can simply reframe Kondo’s definition of categories, and organize by topical categories.

3. Do NOT think that there’s no need for commercial storage systems.

While using shoe boxes and plastic food containers may work just fine for old photos and toiletries, we’ve found that selecting your CMS based on what you have on-hand, or even custom building one, is rarely the right choice.

Your content storage space needs to be built with the explicit purpose of authoring, storing, distributing, and displaying content. Period. Commercial CMSs will likely need some customization for your unique business needs, but they will have a foundational suite of features that are tested and supported.

4. Do NOT think that all will be well if you follow your intuition.

Kondo says that when it comes to discarding and organizing, “there will come a moment when you know what is just right.” This simply doesn’t transfer over to the working world of content.

Intuition is fine, to some extent, and may help to draw your attention to areas of content that need the most work, but content is better designed based on user research and evidence-based insights rather than intuition. Besides, I’ve found that intuition alone doesn’t score too many points when trying to get approvals or budget from stakeholders.

5. Please do NOT decorate your (content) closet with your secret delights.

It’s highly unlikely that the content we’re managing is just for ourselves, so we clearly can’t decorate our content “with anything, whether private or not.” And while I smile at the idea of secretively sprinkling bits of delightful content around, I don’t think it would play out well. Can you imagine a person going to a customer support site and stumbling over fluffy kitten videos?

As delightful as it might seem for two seconds, that spark of joy will quickly turn to anger because those damned kittens keep getting in the way of the task at hand. It’s probably best to leave our secret delights in our closets at home.

So maybe Marie Kondo isn’t such a golden child of tidying up after all. We content strategists could teach her a thing or two! Now, excuse me while I go put my socks away in their designated shoebox.