Marie Kondo took the world by storm in 2014 with her method of organizing and decluttering everyday life. Her approach is known as the KonMari method. Kondo is a household name once again with the recent release of the series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo’s KonMari method is in the spotlight once again her new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (source: Netflix)

The KonMari method encourages people to tidy up their belongings by category, dictating an order: first clothes, then books, then papers, then miscellaneous items (komono), and finally sentimental items. Kondo advises people to discard any items that don’t “spark joy,” first thanking an item for its service before throwing it away.

For lean practitioners, this may seem awfully familiar. In fact, the lean universe has already taken notice. Tom Ehrenfeld, editor at the Lean Enterprise Institute, wrote a review of Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Value of Tidying Up when it was published in the United States in 2014.

Aspects of the KonMari method brings to mind similarities with the 5S methodology. Like the KonMari method, 5S dictates a process for organizing the workplace: sort, set in order, standardize, shine, and sustain. Perhaps the most widely-known aspect of the KonMari method is the tagline, “does it spark joy?” A person should only keep an item if the answer is “yes.”

A manufacturing engineer is unlikely to answer “yes” to this question while performing 5S on the shop floor. However, it remains relevant as a call to determine whether the item adds value to the manufacturing process during the “Sort” step.

As a whole, the KonMari method bears similarities with some basic Lean principles. The underlying goal of Lean is to increase value in a manufacturing system by eliminating waste. Similarly, the KonMari method touts an ability to bring joy to practitioners that follow their methodology of “tidying up”.

The KonMari method dictates 6 rules:

Rule 1: Commit yourself to tidying up.

Rule 2: Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

Rule 3: Finish discarding first.

Rule 4: Tidy by category, not by location.

Rule 5: Follow the right order.

Rule 6: Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Successful lean practitioners are committed to organizational and cultural transformation. Rules 1 and 2 align with this ultimate goal of continuous improvement. As lean manufacturers know, Lean is not a one-time process. It’s a long-term organizational commitment. KonMari promises–and requires–a commitment to change in one’s lifestyle, as well.

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