The Game-changing Magic of Tidying Your Content

February 24, 2016: Jennifer Kohnhorst, Content Strategist

By now it’s very likely that you, or someone you know, has been transformed by the Marie Kondo decluttering manifesto: “The Life-changing Magic of Tying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” The promise of the book is that by removing the items that clutter our homes, once and for all, we can enjoy the benefits of tidiness—which are myriad and no less than revelatory.

What’s the “magic” referred to in the title? More or less the method requires you to examine each item you own carefully, asking yourself “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service and send it on its way.

The radical simplicity of the method is deceiving and essential. You’ll find yourself making all manner of justifications for keeping things: it cost so much; it was a gift; I wore it on our first date. Such sentiments are the enemy. An object’s provenance, history or years of service are all well and good, but does it spark joy? Once you’ve removed everything that fails to bring you joy, you’ll be surrounded only by items you love.

The Importance of Digital Decluttering

Content has a tendency to pile up in a similar way. Web content gets migrated in the time crunch before launch. Videos languish on a forgotten YouTube page. Press archives collect dust while legacy collateral pieces reflect a brand identity that pre-dates the Internet. It happens.

With the cloud’s promise of infinite storage space, it can be easy to upload content and forget about it. What’s it hurting, just sitting out there on some abandoned URL?

The Internet isn’t actually one big attic where you can stash content until you’re ready to retire it. It’s more like a 24-hour flea market where anyone can find anything if they look hard enough. And like a flea market, too much content can present the illusion of value where there is only volume. Kondo claims the point of decluttering isn’t eliminating a percentage of your stuff. It’s to ensure that you only keep stuff that you love. 

When it comes to content, the goal is to keep only content that aligns with your overall strategy. Content that doesn’t align with your strategy is distracting at the very least, and damaging at worst. 

Does the Content Support My Goals?

What does decluttering digital content look like? An unglamorous but vital process called a content audit. Like cleaning out a crawl space or garage, the process involves heavy lifting and significant time investment. At its most basic, the content audit begins by:
  • Inventorying each digital asset
  • Looking at every piece of digital content
  • Determining the degree to which it supports the organization’s business goals and/or marketing strategy
Just as we are attached to certain things in our personal lives, organizations will offer up a variety of reasons for keeping content: we used so much money to make this video; the CEO wrote this blog post; that white paper used to get a ton of page views. All well and good. But does it support your strategy? If it does, keep it. If not, edit or remove it.

First Declutter, Then Get Organized

You may find a glut of great content supporting a service line you don’t wish to promote. Prune it. You may discover gaping holes in your content library, which might help to explain why certain offerings flounder. Or you might uncover great content buried deep in your website that you can dust off and breathe new life into.

Once you’ve completed your audit, and purged your properties of any unlovable content, the next step is to build a content strategy that optimizes your remaining content, and lays plans for new content that moves your audience toward your goals.

Eventually, you’ll begin to enjoy the increased engagement, more qualified lead generation and higher ROI. It might not be magic, but it just might be game-changing. 
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