The workplace-changing magic of tidying up your content

Content clutter

5 ways to “KonMari” your content

  • By Kathy Wagner
  • |
  • Jan 14 2019
  • |
  • Categories: Articles

Marie Kondo’s new series on Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, has just been released and her unique approach, called the KonMari method, is inspiring people everywhere to declutter their homes. I remember when her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, came out in 2014 and was all the rage. I admit I was part of the craze and followed her guidance (for the most part) in a huge decluttering effort. And I’ve been very successful in keeping my home clutter-free since then. With her new series bringing her into our homes and hearts once again, I started wondering: Can Kondo’s decluttering tactics be applied just as effectively to content?

Overall, much of her approach to decluttering is spot on when it comes to content. Kondo says to “Start by discarding. Then organize your space, thoroughly, completely, in one go.” I couldn’t agree more!

Kondo talks a lot about mindset, and how changing your mindset can change your habits, your home, and your life. This is also true for content, only the changes occur in your work environment, team and customer satisfaction, and business success. And the mindset is a collective mindset, brought about by strong content governance and leadership.

So, without further ado, here are five ways that you can transform The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up into The Workplace-Changing Magic of Tidying up Content:

1. Have a (content) tidying marathon rather than doing a little each day.

If you have thousands (or tens of thousands) of pages of content, trying to eliminate useless content as time permits is a futile exercise. Of course, you’ll have some wins, but you won’t change the overall experience for yourself, your team, your business, or your customers. You’ll feel like it’s an impossible, never-ending chore and you’ll be right.

If you’re serious about decluttering (and you should be), then put the time and resources aside to clean it up and reorganize it in one fell swoop. This creates a dramatically tangible difference and it’s that difference that creates the magic needed to keep things clutter-free in the future.

2. Before you start, visualize your destination.

“Begin by identifying your goal,” Kondo says. Sounds like content strategy magic to me! She talks about identifying goals (in the content world, an example might be making content easier to find) and also why those goals are important (for example, easy to find content creates a better customer experience or increased employee productivity).

3. Start by discarding, intensely and completely.

There are only two main tasks in tidying content, or anything else: deciding what to keep and deciding where to put the things you keep. Deciding what to keep or discard comes first, and your focus should be on getting rid of anything that’s not used.

Kondo talks about setting criteria for discarding household stuff, which you also need to do for content though the criteria will likely be different. If we discarded all content that didn’t spark joy in us, there may be very little content left indeed! It’s probably better to determine the criteria to reduce content based on value to the audience and business.

4. Don’t scatter your storage spaces.

Like your jackets and Tupperware containers, every piece of content should have a single clear and obvious home. Ideally, it will be a designated spot within a storage space (for example, your information architecture or content management system) that houses the majority of your content.

The fewer possible storage spaces for any one item, the better. Kondo refers to this as “pursuing ultimate simplicity”. Hmm… Maybe it was Kondo’s book that inspired the Nielsen Norman Group to research the usability implications of simplicity vs an abundance of choice.

5. Storage experts are hoarders.

It’s tempting for many organizations to turn to technology to solve their problems of bloated content. Content management systems and data asset management systems are great for storing and retrieving large amounts of content, but content will always feel cluttered and difficult to find if much of the content is of low value.

In Kondo’s words, “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved…This is why tidying must start with discarding. We need to exercise self-control and resist storing our belongings until we have finished identifying what we really want and need to keep.” Amen to that!

There’s actually a whole lot more tidying wisdom to be found in her book, so I encourage you to read it. And if you’re still in a decluttering frenzy after your home is tidy, then it’s time to turn your attention to your work, and your content!

Keep in mind, though, that not everything about the KonMari method of tidying is relevant to content. I guess content has some unique challenges that just don’t apply to socks and old photos. Stay tuned to read about some ways that Kondo’s approach does not work for content.