These days everyone is talking about Marie Kondo, the star of Netflix’s new Tidying Up With Marie KondoThis Japanese organizer has inspired a nation to clean out their closets and get rid of things they don’t use or simply don’t spark joy.

I am not hard core about her techniques, but I applied this method to my home office. The birthplace of Roundpeg, had become a dumping ground for old electronics, especially computers, books, and clothes I didn’t wear, but thought I might someday.

Reclaiming the space gives me joy in several ways. I come home earlier from the office, and spend time with my husband, knowing I can get one or two things done later in the evening.  And, watching the sun come up over my computer screen every morning, reminds me of the passion and enthusiasm I had when I started this adventure.

The rest of the house… well there is still work to be done, but the process worked so well I figured I could use a similar process to bring a little organization to the clutter of Roundpeg.

The office itself is fairly organized, but the files are another story. About 10 years ago, we got rid of our paper files, but we have digital files going back 17 years. There are more than 40,000 folders and about 290,000 individual files. That is about 1/2 Terabyte of data on our server (and backed up to the cloud every day).

Even though we have folders and sub folders, it often takes a significant amount of time to find an individual file. So we have begun a process of applying the KonMari method, with some adjustments to our files.

Define What “At Once” Means

Marie advocates for one epic cleaning sweep: Keep only what “sparks joy,” discard everything else, and assign a home for everything. While I can commit a weekend to doing nothing but cleaning out closets, it isn’t reasonable to completely stop work on everything in the business. So I have chosen to treat a folder as a home and set a goal of organizing everything in a single folder in one sitting.

Does it “Spark Joy”

Ok, so I don’t necessarily find joy from every file on my server, but some are more valuable than others. Some of the files are older versions or simply duplicates stored in different places. And some of the files are simply no longer relevant.

In this process we are going to look at each file, determining if it is still relevant, worth archiving, or simply taking up space.

Visualize the Destination

When I started Roundpeg, I created a file structure which supported the kind of work I thought I would be doing. Over the years, the business model changed, but the file structure remained the same.

New team members joined Roundpeg, and each one had their own system for storing information.  This led to lots of duplication and more confusion as to where things were stored.

So before before we started dumping files, we had to build a new, standard file structure. It meant letting go of old habits to create something that made sense for everyone on the team.

Part of the challenge was creating something simple that could be applied to every folder, but flexible enough to allow for the fact that every client and project is a little unique. Once we had a plan we were ready to start organizing one folder at a time.

Tidy by Category, Not Location

We have lots of different types of resources on the same topic such as video, podcast, workbooks, presentations, and landing pages. We had some files sorted by years, while other folders simply held all the content on the same subject. The first step was creating category folders, then we collected all the files in that category, and moved them to the new folder.

It was the virtual equivalent of dumping the contents of a drawer or closet on the floor. We slowly picked through the folder finding multiple versions of the same file and saving only the most recent. We gave ourselves permission to delete files for classes I will never teach again or resources which are simply no longer relevant.

For client files the process is slower. I get strange requests, years after we complete a project for a graphic, icon, or stock image. The fact that we keep all the files, keeps clients coming back. So the files may clutter the server, but I am not ready to let go.

We also created a folder for inactive clients. After 17 years, we had hundreds of customer folders which we had to scroll through just to get to the 30 or so active folders. Moving the inactive clients out of the way makes it much easier to keep up with what we are working on.

We will spend our time organizing our active customer folders first, giving ourselves permission to get back to the rest of the process later.

The Not So Perfect Server

For us, this is a work in progress. It is slow, but we are already seeing benefits as we use the folders which have been organized. We probably won’t ever make it to the complete organization level that Marie Kondo advocates for, but that’s ok. We have a business to run.

Curious about what else we are working on at Roundpeg?  Be sure to check out our Facebook Page every Monday at 11.