The Marie Kondo Technique

Who doesn’t like tidy spaces around them? It is only that we want it to be tidied up by someone else. When it comes to cleaning things on our own, we oftentimes hinge on procrastination. Well, there is a fix for that. It is called the Marie Kondo technique or KonMari method.

The famous KonMari method is developed and marketed by a Japanese consultant named Marie Kondo. She has also published a book (which is a bestseller) called ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. The book is based on her revolutionary technique of organizing category-by-category instead of room-by-room which she had developed during her early days as a cleaning consultant. The book was adapted as a Netflix show by the name Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The reader is encouraged to refer to both if the access is available. Good for you, a simple and brief summary of the method is being made available to you. Be it your dorm or laboratory, the principles are applicable everywhere. Kondo often says that her method was inspired by Shintoism where cleaning and organizing are considered as spiritual practices. She says, ‘Treasuring what you have; treating the objects you own as not disposable, but valuable, no matter their actual monetary worth; and creating displays so you can value each object are all essentially Shinto ways of living. [1]’

There are six basic rules of this method [2]:

  1. Entrust yourself with the job of tidying up.
  2. Envision the lifestyle you’d like to have.
  3. Get rid of the trash first.
  4. Shipshape stuff categorically.
  5. Follow the order of organizing stuff.

The method, instead of tidying up, actually focuses on discarding the not so useful first. Therefore, the last principle is;

VI. Ask yourself if an item sparks joy in you, if yes, organize it first.

While the book has its own defined set of rules, M.K encourages the participants to go by their guidance system for choosing the order of cleaning and choice of keeping stuff or not.

Without going much deep into the specifics (we’ll reserve that for people interested in reading the book), lets dive into how we can use the method to clean our laboratories.

Disarrayed workspace erodes productivity and desire to work. It also dampens the motivation to work. With time, as the unwanted stuff accumulates, it becomes difficult to find what you are looking for. Here is a step by step guide to cleaning and maintaining your lab.

Bench and workspace (include the workbench, biosafety cabinet, or fume hood in case of chemistry, sink, etc.)

  • Inspect and get rid of all the unwanted items (used TLC plates, old SDS-PAGE, empty tip boxes, etc.).
  • Roughly sketch how you would like to arrange your bench. A quick reference is given below:

Sample sketch of workspace

  • Stack all the miscellaneous items in the racks (if your lab has any).
  • Label everything before placing it back on the bench/shelf.
  • Perform regular audits to get rid of expired supplies.

Storage area (cabinets, refrigerators, freezers, shelves)

  • storage area ensures you have an idea about your stocks, where to find them, and when to order them.
  • Remove all the items and stack them in one place.
  • Discard the expired, broken, and unwanted items (obsolete reagents, kits, old culture, and media, etc.).
  • Designate a labeled location for items categorically.
  • Use a consistent labeling system
  • Make an updated inventory sheet as you place all the items back in your cabinets.
  • Perform regular audits to remove all the unwanted stuff.

The same can be replicated with your office space, your PC (we all have that nasty download file soup), or with your time. I will come up with separate articles on office space and time management


[1] T. Hachimangu, “The Shinto Way of Life,” 22 October 2019. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22 October 2019].

[2] M. Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, New York: Ten Speed Press, 2014.


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