Marie Kondo is a fantastic editor.
Like everybody else, I very much enjoyed Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. It's a soothing show to have on in the evening—things get tidied, people change their bad habits, and we get to see the before-and-afters.
In the last episode I watched, Marie was helping a couple tidy their box of random electrical cords. (I, too, have a box of electrical cords—does everyone?). She suggested they store the items in the box within additional smaller boxes "so that you can see everything at a quick glance."
So, instead of keeping a tangle of chargers and cords and adapters that someone has to dig through every time for the one thing they really need, we should put each item in a tidy little box so we can see it all at a glance.
That’s useful advice for junk, and for written text. Sub-headings, bullets, and tables are to Bold Type what tiny boxes inside other boxes are to Marie Kondo: once you start using them, you realize you could use them... everywhere.
Like tiny boxes, these document-organizing tools let a reader "see everything that is inside" a paragraph or section with just a glance. They don't have to dive in and start untangling things. Instead, all the work is done for them; they can find exactly what they need.
In fact, a lot of what Marie Kondo hears from her home tidying clients is similar to what I hear from writers:
"I don't know if I'm ready to let this go."
"We might need this later."
Watching Marie Kondo coach home-owners through letting go of things that they only think they need is like watching a ruthless, effective editor cut redundant verbiage from a document.
It's no coincidence that one of our workshop exercises is called a "clutterbust.” In it, we challenge writers to throw away the extra words and phrases that are weighing down the document. Afterwards, a tidier, more usable page emerges—you can see everything at a glance. And just like on Tidying Up, the before-and-afters are super satisfying.
Let’s get out there and Marie Kondo some writing!