Home offices

Marie Kondo’s 3 steps to permanently cutting paperwork clutter

In an excerpt of ‘Joy at Work,’ Marie discusses the power of paper – and the steps to cutting clutter

Marie Kondo talking about cutting clutter
(Image credit: Mondadori Portfolio / GettyImages Contributor)

Organization guru Marie Kondo is renowned for sparking joy – the statement at the heart of her teaching – and the name of her eponymous Netflix series. However, while the KonMari method is built around sparking joy, mirroring this joy in your workspace involves a different technique. 

In her recently republished book, Joy at Work, Ms. Kondo shares reveals the home office ideas that hold the secret to a more joyful workspace – and her clutter cutting technique works for desks and workspaces of all sizes. 

In an exclusive excerpt of the latest edition below, the celebrated organizer reveals her tips – and what you need to know to keep your home office setup running seamlessly. 

Marie Kondo's 3 tips for cutting paperwork clutter

‘Even if you tidy up, papers are bound to pile up again quickly, making rebound inevitable. But there’s no need to worry. As long as you follow the three rules of storage I introduce below, you’ll never return to paper clutter.’

Rule 1: Categorize every paper down to the last sheet

White home office with bespoke storage wall

(Image credit: Jan Baldwin / Future)

‘Start by sorting your papers into clear categories, such as presentations, project proposals, reports, and invoices. Or you could sort them by dates, projects, or the names of individual clients, patients, or students. One of my clients, for example, designated files for Design Ideas, Management Ideas, English Study, and Documents to Keep and Remember. Use whatever system works best for you.

‘The most important point is never to store even a single sheet of paper “just because.” Now is the time to categorize your papers in a way that makes your work easier. Make sure every paper is sorted into a category.’

Rule 2: Store your papers upright

Home office ideas seating James Merrell

(Image credit: James Merrell)

‘Do you know people who are always asking, “Where did that file go?” Often it’s because they are piling their files in stacks on their desk. There are two disadvantages to stacking documents. First, it’s difficult to determine how much you have, so you don’t notice how much you are accumulating over time and end up with a messy desk. Second, you forget about the files at the bottom of the pile and waste time looking for them.

‘For optimal efficiency, it’s crucial to store your papers in a hanging- file system. Put each category of papers in a separate folder and store them in a filing cabinet or upright in a filing box placed on a shelf. Storing them this way makes it easy for you to see how many papers you have. It also looks neat and tidy.’

Rule 3: Make a pending box

Blue home office paint colors

(Image credit: Mark Bolton)

‘Make a pending box, in which to keep only those papers that you need to deal with on that day. Again, I recommend using an upright filing box so that you can clearly see how many papers need processing. If you prefer, you can use a tray-type filing box and store them flat, but be sure not to forget the existence of the papers on the bottom. When you’ve processed pending papers, discard those that don’t need to be kept.

‘Just as for tidying anything else, tidying up your papers makes them incredibly easy to manage because you know exactly how many of each type you have and where they are. Once you have sorted your papers and decided where each category belongs, look at your workspace and determine the maximum amount of space you have available for storing them. When you exceed this storage capacity, papers will begin to overflow. That’s a signal that you need to reexamine what’s there. Check for papers that no longer need to be saved, and let them go. By checking regularly like this, you can keep your papers tidy at all times.’

Whether you are looking for large or small home office ideas, Marie’s paper tips will ensure your space stays tidy for good.


Joy at Work| £14.99 at Amazon

For more tips, you can pick up Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein now. US readers can order a copy on Amazon US or shop deals below. 

Excerpted from JOY AT WORK © 2021 by KonMari Media Inc. and Scott Sonenshein. Used with permission of Macmillan Publishers. All rights reserved.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.