Few of us can be entirely unaware of Marie Kondo, and her KonMari method of tidying. Even those who have not engaged with it are surely aware of her rule that you should only keep things that ‘spark joy’. At the very least, anyone on social media has probably seen the meme that says that having tidied up using Marie Kondo’s rules, the fridge is now empty of vegetables and the electricity bill is in the bin.
There is nothing especially new about Marie Kondo’s ideas. As far back as the nineteenth century, William Morris was telling us that we should have nothing in our homes that we did not “know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Where Kondo goes further is the recognition that tidying up is not really about things, but self. The act of tidying up is a way to improve how we live—and therefore, hopefully, ourselves. It is a signal of intent, as much as anything.
That might be a bit deep for most of us, but Kondo’s six rules do provide some useful ideas for thought leadership and especially for content management.
Rule 1. Commit to tidying up
Tidying up your home and your life is a long-term process—and usually ongoing. You need to commit to it. It’s no good blitzing it one day, and then taking a long break. The clutter will creep back, and will often be worse than before. This is also true of content management. You need to be committed to it. You also need to keep doing it, over time, or it gets too overwhelming.
Rule 2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
This rule reflects the fact that tidying up is actually about making your life what you want it to be—and not really so much about picking stuff up and sending it to the charity shop. It is more a question of thinking about what things and people you want in your life, and what matters most. In thought leadership, you need to think about what you want to present to the world. What is your key message? What matters most to you? Focus your content on that, and try to avoid getting too distracted by side issues.
Rule 3. Finish discarding first
Kondo advises you to start by getting rid of things you don’t want, before looking at the things that you definitely value. That is a good rule for content management too. There are some pieces of content that you can immediately see are out-of-date, or where your opinion has changed. Identify and discard those pieces first, and you will start to see the gaps in your thought leadership offering. You may also identify how your thinking has changed over time, giving you new ideas to take forward.
Rule 4. Tidy by category, not by location
Kondo breaks down tidying into categories: clothes, books, paper, miscellaneous items and sentimental items, and focusing on one at a time. This is in preference to tidying (say) the bedroom, then the kitchen and so on. This also makes sense in content management. Focus on one topic at a time, and get it in order. It is no good looking at your content by date, or even (for those who manage content for organisations) by author. That will not give you a sensible picture of what you have.
Rule 5. Follow the right order
This is effectively a follow-up to Rule 4 that says finish one category before starting another—and again, this makes perfect sense. It is always tempting to start looking at related topics in content management. Instead, focus on one topic at a time, and curate your ideal message there before moving onto the next topic.
Rule 6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy
By the time you reach this rule, you have thrown out all the things that you know are unnecessary. Kondo then asks you to consider whether each ‘thing’ that is left sparks joy in your life. We’re not suggesting that your content is really going to produce joy when you read it. However, the equivalent question in thought leadership might be ‘Does this chime with my values and my view about what matters most?’. You could also consider whether this is the image of yourself that you want to present to the world, and whether you are still interested in that issue. If not, the answer is simple.