Marie Kondo’s work from home tips: have a starting work ritual, take breaks

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Marie Kondo has a new book out, Joy at Work, which has both tangible and psychological recommendations for an efficient and productive workspace. She recommends having specified times to respond to email and not letting it distract you, color coordinating your desk and categorizing “every paper down to the last sheet.” This is why I don’t follow her recommendations and prefer Clutterbug, honestly. You can get more organized and have a clean home without aiming for perfection. Maybe I’m just resistant because paper clutter is one of my biggest issues, and I feel accomplished if it’s in a folder.

Marie did a remote interview with People to promote the book and I wanted to talk about some of her recommendations. She says they’re just as useful for everyone working at home now.

“I believe that fundamentally it’s the same whether you’re working in your work space at home or in your office,” Kondo tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

The keys: creating a healthy environment, having a consistent routine, taking time to recharge, and accepting that, yes, sometimes things are going to be chaotic.

Here are her best tips to make working from home a little more joyful.

1. Leave Your Bedroom (If You Can)
“Even if you don’t have a work desk at home, sit up straight at your dining table or kitchen counter,” says Kondo. “And do something that signals the start of your work day.”

“Just wiping down the surface of your desktop is helpful,” she says, but if you’re feeling a little more ambitious, she also suggests creating a little ritual to signify that you’re “shifting gears from private mode to work mode.” In her home office, she uses a quartz crystal and tuning fork from her own line to restore balance and establish a good vibe, but she says something as simple as breaking out some scented oils, is a good signifier to the body of transition.

2. Add an Item that Sparks Joy
In Kondo’s case it’s a small wooden egg that’s meant to be rolled under the palm as a meditation. A house plant works, too. She calls these “joy plus” pieces and they don’t count as clutter!

3. Remember to Take Breaks
“If you work from home, you tend to lose track of time,” says Kondo. “Designate a time for a coffee or tea break. Step away use this time to fully disconnect and recharge.”

4. Keep Your Work Space Tidy
Kondo’s work surface holds her computer, a charging pad and a tray from her line to keep small items (like blue-light-blocking glasses she designed) corralled. “Put only what’s essential on your work surface,” she says. “This is extremely important and will allow you to focus on your work and minimize the time you are looking for the things you need.”

Put distracting items out of sight. Place your phone in a drawer and keep snacks out of easy reach. Mindless snacking “is something I’m often guilty of as well,” Kondo says.

[From People]

I really like the idea of putting your phone in a drawer, I never considered that. I have a little bamboo desk set similar to this and can put my phone in there when I’m working. Of course I have little knick knacks on my desk, probably way more than Kondo would recommend, but it makes it feel homey. As for having a starting work ritual, does ripping the page off my Bob Ross day calendar count? As weird as it sounds, I really look forward to that. I used to meditate every morning right before work but I moved that to the afternoons. That really helped me though and I should start doing it again. Maybe I can get on board with some of Marie’s recommendations.

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17 Responses to “Marie Kondo’s work from home tips: have a starting work ritual, take breaks”

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  1. LaraK says:

    I find some of her methods a bit much, but in general I like that most of her advice is just about being deliberate.

    I’m so guilty of just putting crap anywhere convenient, and eventually I just drown in stuff. I’m trying to use the extra time at home to deliberately organize my stuff, and that includes my work space. She’s twee, but it doesn’t mean she’s wrong.

  2. Laalaa says:

    The problem I now have, after a month in lockdown is – I have a routine that works, but I’ve repeated it so much I am getting bored.
    So my tip would be – it’s important to have a routine, but make sure it works for you the best way it can – and that way can change.

    • lemonylips says:

      my friend told me it helps her to write down a list of someting new you’d like to do. make a new list every day. and then try to do at least one thing to shake the routine up a little. like – i’m gonna clean my closet. or write down some of my thoughts, or dance for 10 minutes to some music i never ever listened to before. something like that. and it works.

    • LadyMTL says:

      I’ve been working from home for several years, and it is definitely important to have a routine but it’s just as important to realize that it can be tweaked as often as you need. If you feel like showering one day in the AM and then the next day wait until lunch, that’s fine. Or if you normally make a coffee every morning but decide one day to have a smoothie instead (or oatmeal or toast, etc) that’s fine too.

      Our routines can often get too set in stone, and that’s when boredom can set in. There’s nothing wrong with changing it up a bit. Sometimes just a small change can make a big difference. :)

    • Jo73c says:

      Yes – that’s a really good point. My working week in the office isn’t the same every day, so having such a set routine every day working at home (as recommended by all the experts) is so dull. I need to think of ways to mix it up a bit without just introducing a heap of distractions.

  3. Mellie says:

    Shut up Marie.

    Just kidding, I love her. But we are going on 3 weeks of teleworking here (and we do know how fortunate we are, yes we do), but it is getting old and we are both really very ethical people so we sit here glued to our monitors all day (no tele-housework for me), take our 30 minute lunch, a few internet breaks on my phone is what gets me through the day. It’s getting hard…work is slow right now, as it should be, everyone is home doing what they should be doing. It’s hard not to be at work, corroborating with my co-workers… I’ve never been interested in working from home and this sure has sealed the deal. I need some way to get through the afternoon blahs!

  4. Esmom says:

    This all sounds reasonable — although she does not strike me as someone who mindlessly snacks, lol.

    I’m most intrigued with the ideas about transitioning from private time to work time. When my kids were little, I worked 100% from home and had no childcare so transitioning into work mode was so hard sometimes. For me, going out for a run was the best way to do that. It would clear my head of the kids stuff and I could think about whatever work problem I needed to tackle or brainstorm in advance of sitting down to do it. I like her simpler ideas.

    And I 100% relate to being happy if I can just get my stuff into folders!

  5. lemonylips says:

    I never kind of got the buzz around her but I do like her and I’ve only now realized how much these simple tips can help so many people. Sometimes we think we know all this but actually need someone to tell us, yeah this is a good idea or good for you, try it. So props to that.

  6. CROOKSNNANNIES says:

    I struggle with tidiness in general after growing up with a mother who was a hoarder. I am not a hoarder, and I do not have those tendencies, but I’ve noticed that I don’t mind things like shoes out of place, a sweater draped over a chair, etc. I’m trying to get better.

    I think of Marie Kondo and I’m like great for her for building this career but does anyone really need to hear this? Then I think, maybe I do! Then I read “tuning fork” and “quartz crystal” and it’s all over.

  7. Case says:

    I’ve been working remotely for three years. I’ve had phases where I’m super productive and phases where I’m tired, unmotivated, and distracted. Here are my little tips:

    I’m at my best when my home office is tidy and I work in there all day. Even if I want to lounge on the couch, I stay in there from 9-5 with some breaks here and there to do a load of laundry or wash dishes. I’m a believer in doing whatever productive thing you feel like doing – if you’re in the mood to vacuum for 10 minutes and need a break from the laptop, do it! Most people in offices take breaks socializing with colleagues or run an errand at lunch. Give yourself a breather.

    I don’t “dress up” for work, but I also feel much better and more motivated if I take a refreshing shower before work, do my skincare routine, and wear cute loungewear I feel good in, rather than something sloppy or mismatched. Feeling good about yourself when you might live alone and have no one to impress is so important.

  8. Eugh says:

    Agree with everything she says. I think some that are struggling possibly don’t have that very harshly defined work space/life space schedule and it all blends together. My place is cleaner than ever, really puts you in a good mindframe. But i’m also a fan of hers, I did my closet her way (I even fold underwear into packets), and it definitely sparks joy.

  9. Foile says:

    I do get that routines help, and I have been working from home for the last 15 years but when I read something like this

    she also suggests creating a little ritual to signify that you’re “shifting gears from private mode to work mode.” In her home office, she uses a quartz crystal and tuning fork from her own line to restore balance and establish a good vibe, but she says something as simple as breaking out some scented oils, is a good signifier to the body of transition.

    I cannot help but be reminded of Pavlov’s dog. (Ignoring she is selling her own stuff here too)

    I sometimes go from cleaning and putting fresh flowers on my desk, to sometimes just waking up and going straight to work because I have an idea/ feel motivated. So whatever gets you to work (productively) is fine. But it is also important to remember, that unless your job requires it, you are now free from most of the work day shackles and routines, and can work however you please and you might as well embrace that.

    • Ali says:

      “But it is also important to remember, that unless your job requires it, you are now free from most of the work day shackles and routines, and can work however you please and you might as well embrace that.”

      This. I’ve worked from home for six years and I don’t sit in front of my laptop for eight hours straight. Ever.

      I do have an office space but I also use my kitchen counter in the mornings or my bedroom at night.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I was all ready to dismiss the Marie Kondo hype as a useless trend, but, I actually started trying some of her suggestions, like having my clothes rolled up in the drawer and I love it! (Ironically, I had already been rolling towels on the shelf for ages.) She may come off very quartz crystal-y, but she has a lot of excellent practical suggestions and she’s so nice, lol. It’s probably refreshing for me to listen to someone who’s calm and polite and thoughtful in our current environment.

    I downsized a lot last year (not originally my plan but it worked out like that) and I actually love a less cluttered space. YMMV. She’s not just a fad, a lot of this is extremely useful.

  11. styla says:

    This bish have kids?

  12. Silvie says:

    Major Kondo fan here: the Bob Ross calendar is fine. It’s not about minimalism. It’s about surrounding yourself with things that inspire you and “spark joy” instead of stacks of bills that stress you out simply by being there.