A spark

Who could have predicted that one of Japan’s most sought-after decluttering experts would be so popular here, now, in the United States? Yet there’s no denying the sensation that is Marie Kondo and her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

In hindsight, Ms. Kondo’s approach to work and life seemed destined for mass appeal. As a culture, we’re starting to question our affinity for possessions, and looking for joy in experiences and connections rather than in acquiring more stuff. We’re searching for freedom and space instead of more kitchen equipment, more clothing, or more organizational systems from the local Container Store.

I spent an afternoon last week following Marie Kondo’s wisdom and decluttering my wardrobe. I still have to tackle the rest of the categories—books, papers, memorabilia, and so on—but that single afternoon spent paring down my closet has already had a big effect on me. It isn’t just the cathartic act of tossing out clothing, but rather the subtly powerful mind-shift the book led me through.

Dubbed “KonMari,” Marie’s method is simple: gather together all of the possessions you have in a certain category, hold each item in your hands, and then decide, based on how you “feel,” if the item sparks joy. It may sound strange, but it works. Marie Kondo has taught me that it’s more about deciding what to keep than what to get rid of.

It wasn’t long before I considered how I could apply KonMari to Cardsmith.

Today, as I’m pondering this new mindset, I stared at my Cardsmith home board, and I saw lots of boards. Too many boards. I was feeling a little stressed out by them all.

The feeling isn’t new. Actually, the Cardsmith team as been kicking around the idea of adding a board archiving feature in order to address this issue.

I didn’t create all these boards for no reason, of course. When I have a decision to make, a presentation to give, or any kind of project to manage, I use Cardsmith. But, as was the case with my old clothing, I sometimes give in to a little bit of a hoarding tendency. I want to hold onto all of these boards; after all, they’re only electronic, right? They take up no space—other than, well, screen space. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to the archiving feature: it would allow me to tuck old boards away, but rest assured they’re readily accessible to if I ever need them.

And yet, as I pondered my air-filled closet and the drawer in my bedroom with neatly folded-on-end clothing—where I can literally see every top I own in one glance—I began to question the desire for an archive feature. Do I really need all these file folders, even if they are digital?

So, I decided to apply the KonMari method to my Cardsmith boards. I was pretty sure decluttering would bring some much needed space to my mental environment, since I use Cardsmith almost every day, but I knew it may not come easy.

I took a deep breath and opened my Cardsmith. I counted all the boards on my home screen: 95! Another deep breath. “Okay,” I thought, “let’s just open each one and see how it feels.”

Step 1 was easy: I gathered everything in a category together in one place, which was simple considering how Cardsmith’s single-level board system already provides this. Step 2 involved “holding” each item and asking myself whether it brought me joy. I couldn’t hold my boards, obviously, but I did open each one and paid attention to how viewing it made me feel.

It was hard for me to totally ignore the logical reasonings that crept in as I was contemplating why or why not a particular board imparts a subjective measure like “joy.” But, in the end, I was able to delete 65 of these boards by applying the KonMari criteria and asking myself that simple question.

Here are a few of my “joyous” boards:

  1. Our team’s marketing initiatives Scrum board: We use this all the time and it brings our team together in a weekly sprint planning session that keeps us all aligned and focused on the important things to accomplish that week. I enjoy looking at this board, as it makes me feel calm and organized about the most important aspect of our business.
  2. The iPhone feedback board that we’re using to collect bug reports and feedback from our early mobile Beta test group.
  3. My social media knowledge board, which tracks the various bits of knowledge I need to remember when it comes to things like finding stock images or uploading videos to YouTube.
  4. My meal planning board, because it contains preplanned groups of recipes and shopping lists. When I get busy and don’t have time to plan a grocery list, I can just access one at the store using my iPhone.
  5. My latest “mind sweep” board: When I’m overwhelmed, I go here to dump out the thoughts in my brain, and then prioritize and plan my next steps. I feel joy knowing that I have this method to calm my sometimes-overly active brain and re-concentrate on what matters.

And here are a few boards that didn’t bring me joy, and were deleted:

  1. A Q4 Company roadmap: It felt great at the time I created it, but we didn’t accomplish all of the goals that had been planned. It was time to let this go, and move forward!
  2. A project plan for a workshop I gave last fall: I have the workshop materials now, and no longer need this project plan. It gave me no joy to review it now, but I did make a card in another knowledge management board to acts as a visual pointer to various Dropbox files I may need in the future. I can’t see everything in Dropbox, but having the valuable parts connected in a visual hub does bring me great joy.
  3. A problem solving/decision board for a problem I’ve moved beyond.
  4. A daily schedule board for all of November, in which I had planned to map out my tasks each day for the entire month. Of course, I never did this, because the approach to planning doesn’t work for me. I should have known better! Oh well, no joy—delete.

Looking at my decluttered homepage now, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Beyond the productivity boost I’ve gained by removing irrelevant information from my daily to-do list, the emotional benefits are immense. I feel refreshed, motivated, and inspired to accomplish more, to keep my priorities moving along rather than letting them languish with a bunch of stuff from 2015.

And I had another “duh” moment: Cardsmith really is the perfect cluttering and decluttering platform. As it is with sticky notes, there are times (like brainstorming) when it makes sense to plop down a whole bunch of ideas or tasks, and there are times when you need to clean everything out. Because it only takes seconds in Cardsmith to create a board to solve problems, outline ideas, or or manage projects, I didn’t feel much conflict clicking “Delete Board.” I know that if I ever need to return to a project, I can create a similar board in the future. In fact, now that I’m imbued with greater joy and serenity from following the KonMari lifestyle, I’m confident the board would be even better.