I’m taking a break from my mini-series tutorial on pulling back some stock data from the WSJ to talk to you about Marie Kondo. If you missed the first part of this tutorial, you can find that here.

Today, I’d like to talk about Marie Kondo. To the uninitiated, Marie Kondo is the author of Tidying Up, and star of the new Netflix Show, Tidying up with Marie Kondo. In the show, she greets guests who desire to live in a tidier home, and spiritually and respectfully consults them on how they can achieve this at-home nirvana. TL;DR: this is mostly a gag post.

Marie Kondo doing what she does best.

Make no mistake, Marie is a psychopath. But while watching this psychopath breakdown everyone’s home, I couldn’t help but appreciate the ways in which it may help me be tidier with my own projects at work. We all have that messy desktop that contains random items, or perhaps data/analyses that has duplicate information we don’t need.

All of these things create more confusion, makes us less productive, and undermines the reliability of data and analyses transmitted to others in the future (old versions, outdated analyses, etc.). This is something that Marie Kondo knows well and it’s why her method is so damn successful - it helps people re-orient their mental space, by physically removing to-do reminders around them.

Sure, at the end of the day, you get a clean house, but the real end-product of decluttering is sense of clarity, and time for other things. We don’t constantly have to worry about something being out of place.

So I wanted to attempt something similar with our data and files using her process, while keeping it pretty light:

Step 1: Greet Your Computer
  • Get on your knees and sit in an uncomfortable long silence with your eyes closed. At the end, say thanks. If you don’t feel uncomfortable, then you didn’t do it right. Make sure to set your desktop sleep timer settings accordingly.
Step 2: Air Your Dirty Files
  • Marie will have her clients deal with clothes first by throwing them on a bed. This strategy works, because you realize how obscene your large pile of clothes are, or how long it’s been since you’ve worn an item. Similarly, move all of your unsightly folders and files onto your desktop.
Step 3: Say Thank You and Goodbye
  • Now here’s the tough part. You have to decide which files/folders spark you joy. If it doesn’t spark joy, you must throw it in the trash, but don’t forget to say thank you to it first. Now organize your files into nice clean folder structures (but don’t nest too deep, or you’ll be clicking forever), and move it out of your desktop area. Let’s keep that neat - I think Marie would approve. I know what you’re saying, “work files don’t spark me joy”. Well too bad, figure it out.

  • There’s more. Your data. It’s messy. You can’t possibly handle this in one day, but Marie recommends tidying up all at once, so that’s what we must do. Find data you work with everyday. Gather those data that you know to be correct and set aside. Then place all your data in folder that needs work (clean up, etc). Spend a couple of minutes each day cleaning them up going one by one. Archive old versions, so you don’t get confused about what versions to use. Don’t mess with Marie.

  • Finally, if you’re a power user and have several databases, comb through your old tables in your database. I like to name tables by the data that’s stored in them (duh) and whether or not it’s a lookup table, an analysis table, or if it’s raw data from a client. I also organize tables into project folders/directories, which you can do on a SQL client like Navicat. At the end of a project, I typically have multiple versions of tables. It’s worth taking a look at ones that aren’t final analyses and deleting them or archiving them.

Step 4: Retrieve Said Tidy Items
  • Marie Kondo recommends storing low-use items in clear containers, so if you ever need to retrieve items, you can look through the box and know exactly where to find them. This is the same as a good folder directory and file name, so get to work. Marie Kondo that sh**.
Step 5: Dealing with Sentimental Items
  • Finally, move your sentimental items into a personal folder and get a bigger hard drive. In the digital world, I don’t really see a reason to get rid of that stuff, sorry Marie. Perhaps, however, after going through it, you could, print an album of photos or something. No idea.
The Final Word

Here’s what no one wants to hear: once you tidy up, you have to keep the effort going. Marie appears to be changing lives, but time will tell if her advice sticks. Alternatively, you can throw your computer off a 50-foot building somewhere.