It was probably a fairly offhand tweet in the first instance, but she has a point. And lately as I have been slogging through a quagmire of killing conceptual darlings in my research design for the sake of focus whilst simultaneously learning how to fold my clothing into neat little vertical standing parcels, it occurs to me that these are not different things.

My specific focus has been on refining my research design, and specifically my inquiry approach, but the same principles apply to any act of design, and may well be most useful in the pedagogical design domain when we are trying to achieve multiple strategic ends and satisfy many stakeholders.

To wit, here are some useful principles one can borrow from Marie Kondo (I don’t netflix; these are taken from her book).

Before you start, visualise your destination

Known to people not tidying houses as ‘backcasting’, this is a sound principle that I suspect we too often don’t articulate in explicit enough terms. Marie (APA 6th feels wrong here) describes a vivid narrative that talks through the vision of one of her clients which I like – what does it feel like, what does the experience look like when things have changed because of your design?

How to choose: does it spark joy?

Maybe you can’t literally take concepts into your hands, but you can take them into your head and try and afford them a sensory experience there. Concept by concept, design element by design element, question by question. And when you choose to discard those elements that do not spark joy, the process of thanking could be interpreted as evaluation – what did we learn from that particular artefact or process?

Tidying is a dialogue with oneself

The act of creating a quiet space to converse with yourself systematically as you evaluate each thing you own regarding its capacity to spark joy (and/or being pummelled by a waterfall) is a rather more quaint and appealing description of reflective evaluation than one normally encounters.

Designate a place for each thing; pursue ultimate simplicity

Once one has decluttered, one must then neatly fold and store everything that remains.

I will leave you with this, which struck me right in my online learning designer heart:

A common mistake many people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out. This approach is a fatal trap… storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.


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