Marie Kondo for Culture

Marie Kondo for Culture

Please don’t tell me you are the only person on this Earth who hasn’t heard of “tidying up”! Marie Kondo, an organizing expert, is revolutionizing how we think about the items in our life. She started with a New York Times bestseller and now a Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. What she has to say is taking the world by storm and some call it life changing.

At the core of it all is the simple yet profound concept that the clothes, books, and momentos filling our homes and work areas should only spark joy in our lives. Everything else should go!


Am I alone when I stretch this concept and apply it to the people that fill our homes and work areas? Not many bad habits zap joy like complaining. Have you ever been a customer and the employee helping you starts complaining?  Whether a waitress, a manicurist, a caddy….nothing kills an experience more than someone grumbling.

And you know what? Chances are that employee is not a bad person. More likely they’re just a victim of bad culture. A culture of complaining! Behind the scenes this employee probably navigates negativity from leaders and co-workers which drains them of any joy and makes them become part of the problem. 

So I’ve been thinking, I will do some Konmarie-ing (it’s become a verb!), but focus on something more important than my closet and trinkets. I’m taking on a challenge, and I’m challenging YOU to take it on as well. For the next month, instead of cleaning out your drawers or garage, consider cleaning out the negative clutter in your organization’s culture. We could all stand a good cleaning out of those thoughts and words that keep us from being inspired or inspiring others.


Years ago, when I was a nursing home administrator, a team member enthusiastically shared something she had read about, an anti-complaining campaign. Our home had an incredible reputation and was filled with wonderful team members and residents. Yet there was, as I believe there are in most workplaces and personal homes, a culture where complaining was acceptable.

Commiserating brought people together, whether it was in the lunchroom or by the time clock. Complaints were used to describe everything from our work to the weather. Once I actually had a team member complain to me about another employee, “He’s too happy all the time. When I come in and I’m annoyed, why do I have to see him smiling and have him tell me he’s happy to see me?” Of course, I then went on to complain about her and her comment.  

The campaign, Complaint Free World, was started by Will Bowen. He is a minister who recognized that word choice determines thoughts, which determine emotions and then actions. He found it wasn’t enough to just decide to stop using negative words. It required conditioning. So as a community, we embarked on the anti-complaining campaign challenge: go 21 days without complaining. We wore simple rubber bracelets from Complaint Free World (a plain rubber band would do). Each time one of us complained, we had to switch the bracelet to our other wrist and start again from Day 0. Simple, yet, unbelievably powerful. I was shocked at the number of conversations I had that involved a complaint or criticism. The campaign had an impact on all of us that participated and along the way residents started asking for the bracelets as well!


I’m challenging you to join me and do some Konmarie-ing of your own. Notice how you, and those you are talking with, start conversations with a complaint or criticism. Those words are creating clutter that needs to be cleaned out! They will only keep you stuck in a track of negativity and as a result your organization’s culture will be stuck as well. Notice these joy crushing words and commit to choosing more positive, optimistic ones. Fix the words and you fix the thoughts.

I guarantee if you take on this challenge the effects will be immediate and life-changing! As you move along in the challenge you will find yourself choosing your words more carefully and looking for solutions rather than commiserating about what is wrong. So, go ahead…take on the challenge, clean out the negative clutter, and spark joy on a regular basis! Pop us an email and we’ll let you know if the work we do might be a fit for helping your organization focus on the above questions!

The Drive team


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