Alex Bea

Digital KonMari

As many friends and family of mine know, we went all in on Marie Kondo’s fantastic exercise in privilege, the Art of Tidying Up — aka the KonMari method. You may be familiar with the basic concepts:

  1. Go through EVERYTHING in your home one by one, grouped by category
  2. Take each piece in your hands, question if it “brings you joy,” and only keep it if it does
  3. When totally done, put everything in a reasoned place to which you’ll always return it

The rules are deceptively simple in a no-duh kind of way. From that book and finally reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done, I’ve learned that these books about “systems” are, in fact, worth reading fully if you are at all interested in their ideas. Yes, they tend to oversell, but move past that and there can be real value. With KonMari, I found it helpful at providing a framework for clearing away physical things that were mostly still around due to inertia.

The book is extremely specific regarding physical things. There’s something like a whole chapter about folding various types of clothing. Kondo doesn’t discuss our digital “stuff” at all, however. Being a dev and an obsessive computer organizer, I thought it’d be worthwhile to bring the same principles to this area.

My steps were very similar:

  1. Go through every folder in my computer and individually look over each file (or use iTunes to look over the music).
  2. Consider if that file either A) still “brings me joy” or B) is still actively useful.
  3. Delete what’s no longer useful — DON’T simply move it into an external drive or other storage location.
  4. Identify the proper place for the stuff that remains, create simple systems of organization where needed, and make sure things end up in the right spot.

As with the physical KonMari, this took a while and is best done in chunks (e.g., Documents, then Downloads, then Music, then Video, etc). It’s sort of still in progress. Just yesterday I open up my notes in Simplenote and realized I had meeting notes from a few jobs ago. No more!

There were ideas for writing projects in multiple files (now one), duplicate archived directories, music that came in a bundle that I never played. I had some applications that were not compatible with my updated operating system, that had long expired registration, or that I had replaced with another alternative. There were also old freelance client projects in my Sites directory that are inactive and could be easily reinstalled from a remote git repository.

My computer has always been the place I’m most obsessively organized, so the effect isn’t night and day. Still, as I traverse my file system on the command line or simply click-open folders, things are easier to find and feel less visually cluttered. As a front end developer I work to make websites easier to use, so why not my own machine?

I encourage other devs especially to go through this kind of process every so often. Hopefully, as the KonMari method goes, a one-time deep dive should mean easier organization and, most importantly, more efficient work (and play) going forward.