KonMari Your Media

The art of tidying digital clutter

Polly Adams
Dec 16, 2018 · 9 min read
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(The tidiest my bookshelf will ever be)

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Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
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Marie Kondo, courtesy of The Cut

“The important thing in tidying is not deciding what to discard, but rather what you want to keep.” — Marie Kondo

Applying Marie Kondo’s wisdom to your digital space, much like your home, isn’t about cutting all ties to unnecessary media, but instead examining what’s taking up space and prioritizing what provides more long term value. But when there’s so much to watch, listen to, and make memes about, how can anyone possibly decide what is best to keep in their life? Classifying everything you waste time on as an unworthy distraction is neither realistic nor required. While some modern media we engage with is healthy in the right context, it has the potential to do more harm than good. Following the news is essential to staying informed, unless constantly refreshing your feed starts to dominate your life. Spending time on social media can help you connect with loved ones but it can also fill too many hours of the day with cute animal videos that your great aunt shares. It ultimately comes down to personal appraisal.

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1. Commit yourself to tidying all at once

Kondo is a stickler about dedicating time to organize one’s space all in one go. To see the benefits and have them last, you must emotionally commit to the act of organization. KonMari recommends deciding on a determined amount of time to accomplish your goals. Whether it’s 3 hours or a full day, it’s important that you go all in when deciding to tidy up your everyday media.

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

To prevent relapsing into old habits, remember why you decided to tidy in the first place. Take a moment to imagine your ideal interaction with digital media. Are you staying up until 3 a.m. with your eyes glued to your phone, crafting a response to a friend’s post about climate change? Or are you taking ten minutes before bed to listen to a podcast about green lifestyles? Consider your life as it is now with the media you engage with on a daily basis, and be honest with yourself — is it truly bringing you value, is it giving you space to grow and think? Then, consider what practices might give you that space and imagine what your life might be like if you had more time for them.

3. Tidy by category, not location

Another hard and fast rule of KonMari is that organization should be done by category rather than location. At home, this means organizing all the books in your home at one time, rather than tidying the bedroom before getting to the kitchen. Though going one room at a time may seem easier, Kondo believes it discourages further tidying and enables distraction. Once one room is “done,” we have the tendency to reward ourselves by putting off organizing elsewhere. The same concept applies to our digital spaces. Instead of tidying one space at a time, like your laptop, tablet, or email inbox, take a moment to categorize your media consumption and address each one systematically. An example of this might be categorizing your media its focus (i.e. entertainment, social networking, or news) and starting with the one that occupies most of your time.

4. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Interpreting this gets tricky in the digital world, as some of things we feel obligated to consume are not necessarily joyful, like news on political updates or natural disasters. Define joy for each category: media in the “entertainment” category should bring you enjoyment and not just occupy time, while media in the “social” category should serve a purpose that makes you happy and brings value into your life. An example of this is setting personal boundaries: Instead of deleting your Facebook account altogether, go through your friends list and followed pages, and ask yourself if what you’re seeing from them is personally meaningful. If it’s not, unsubscribe.

5. Find a home for everything you keep

Kondo says that an important aspect of remaining organized is having a designated space for every possession. While your digital media might not always take up physical space, it will always occupy an area of your mind. One way to find the room for your everyday media is to only consume particular types of content at different times in your routine. This could mean deciding that news is for the morning over coffee, or in the evening with your partner to unpack what it all means. Another method is setting a certain amount of time to what you decide to keep, like limiting your daily Netflix intake to one episode or giving yourself a maximum of one hour to browse Medium articles. Short and simple rules are easier to commit to and remember. The more you make exceptions, the more you invite clutter to gather.

6. Finish discarding everything before moving on

Once you have thoroughly tidied your first category, make sure you really dispose of the things you don’t need anymore. The intangible nature of the media we consume is both a blessing and a curse, in that it feels easy to get rid of and it is just as easy to get back. Media creators and distributors don’t want you to unsubscribe, and it’s almost guaranteed that old interactions will come back to haunt you. Take all the necessary actions to make sure the media you don’t need is as out of the picture for good, and note that you’ve taken that action with purpose. Evaluate how the extra mental space you’ve just created feels, and use that as momentum to get to the next category. Repeat.

“The inside of a decluttered space has much in common with a Shinto shrine… it’s a place where there are no unnecessary things, and our thoughts can finally become clear” — Marie Kondo

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