Too much clutter?

Skip “Spring Cleaning” and try Marie Kondo’s tips

Stuart Zanville
2019 March

If you don’t already know it, March 20 is the first day of Spring. That means you are only a few weeks away from officially being able do some Spring Cleaning.

I know, “Spring Cleaning” is an old-fashioned term. If you are hip (or think you are), you are more familiar with Marie Kondo than an outdated concept like “Spring Cleaning.”

Who is Marie Kondo? If you must ask, you are of a certain age or generation or you don’t spend a lot of time watching You Tube or Netflix or using social media. Let me explain.

Marie Kondo is a professional organizing consultant and author who in the past seven years has become the world’s leading guru on getting rid of clutter. She was born in Japan but now lives in Los Angeles. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing became a New York Times #1 best-seller. The book led to a wildly popular Netflix TV show, “Tidying Up,” that has turned her into a social media star and has set off a decluttering craze around the world.

In each episode, Kondo goes into someone’s home and shows them how to get rid of their clutter. She instructs them to identify the objects in their homes that “spark joy” and devise a plan to honor those objects by cleaning and storing them properly. Then she encourages people to part ways with the objects that fail to spark joy.

Yes, it sounds simple, even simplistic. But millions of people around the world swear that it works. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about Marie Kondo and clutter, the answer is: If her lessons work at home, they should work in an office, even a trial lawyer’s office.

From first-hand experience I know that trial lawyers love clutter. You see it as soon as you walk into their office and find yourself stepping over files, briefs, books, transcripts and old Advocate issues to get from the front door to the trial lawyer’s desk.

So, instead of offering Spring Cleaning advice, here are a few of Marie Kondo’s decluttering tips. I’m also including some tips about decluttering your computer or smartphone, in case tackling your office clutter is too overwhelming.

Kondo’s basic premise is that your decision should be not what to throw away, but what to keep. She says: “The important concept of my method is that you focus not on what you want to discard but what you want to retain, what you want to keep in your life.”

She says to “tidy in order,” and suggests you tackle categories, not offices, closets or storerooms. She says to deal with all your books, magazines, documents, mementos, all at the same time. Following a set order makes the decluttering process more effective and efficient.

One unique part of Kondo’s concept is that you start cleaning by making a mess. She tells you to pull everything from one category and put them all in one spot, on the floor or on a couch. This will help you see exactly what you’ve got and help you decide what to keep.

She says to make sure everything you save has a home. She suggests that you use clear plastic boxes, instead of regular file boxes so you can see what’s in a box.

One of her best pieces of advice is “Nostalgia Is Not Your Friend.” Once you’ve decided to discard files, books or magazines, don’t spend time looking through each one. That will only bring back memories about a case or trial and you’ll be paralyzed by nostalgia.

One of her final lessons is that “Purging Feels SO Good.” After a few hours of filling trash bags with books, magazines or files to discard, you will feel relief, a weight will be lifted off your shoulders.

I don’t think that Kondo has written about removing clutter from your computers or cell phones, but Brian X. Chen, who writes the New York Times Tech Fix column has. He offers a few tips of his own.

“Tidying up your digital media may not feel worthwhile because your files are not visible in the real world. Yet holding on to all the data takes up valuable space on devices while also making important files more difficult to find.

Do an annual clearance of the files you no longer need. To streamline this process on a computer, open a folder and sort the files by when they were last opened. From there you can immediately eliminate the files you have not opened in years.

While you’re at it, on your smartphone, prune unnecessary apps that are taking space. On iPhones, Apple offers the tool iPhone Storage, which shows a list of apps that take up the most data and when they were last used; on Android devices, Google offers a similar tool called Files. From here, you can home in on the data hogs and delete the apps you have not touched in months.”

If you didn’t know Marie Kondo before, you do now; and if you do clean the clutter in your office, you know who to thank. Kondo says: “We’re sparking joy everywhere and we love to see the cultural conversation it’s sparked.” Now that conversation includes trial lawyers.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail:

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