How the Tidiest Woman in the World Organizes Her Email

September 26, 2016, 3:54 PM UTC
2016 Time 100 Gala
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Author Marie Kondo attends the 2016 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images)
Mark Sagliocco—Getty Images

When Marie Kondo wants to unwind, she scrubs the floor.

Because for Kondo, 31, whose breakout self-help book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up made her a star well outside her native Japan, organizing the home is the ultimate catharsis. Her methods are both quirky and precise: she believes you should touch each of your belongings one by one to determine whether they “spark joy” — if they don’t, thank the items for their service and get rid of them. She also asks that you show your socks and underwear some respect by folding them to stand upright in your drawer.

Even with a busy schedule and a second child due this fall, Kondo manages to keep on top of clutter. So it’s no surprise that the pint-sized practitioner of all things clean also has a system for organizing her digital life. (She admits, however, that she’s not great with computers and so the process “doesn’t go as perfectly as tidying the home.”)

Here’s her best advice for staying on top of email, texts and social media.

1. Don’t create too many folders.

“Unlike physical tidying, one of the advantages of digital tidying is definitely searchability,” she says. “Especially with personal accounts, it is unnecessary to sort in detailed categories, creating sub-folders under folders.”

Kondo sorts her email into two categories: “Unprocessed” and “Save.” The Unprocessed emails remain in the inbox — these are emails that are either unread, need replies, or emails she wants to read when she has time. Organizing it this way offers her a way to visualize her unfinished tasks. The Save category is for email she’s read and needs to hang on to — and it can only go in one of three buckets (i.e. – “accounting.”)

Marie Kondo is No. 36 on Fortune’s 40 Under 40. Check out the full list here.

2. Take a “one-shot” approach.

Instead of dipping into your email or Facebook account to read messages as you have time, dedicate time to go through them as “quickly and completely” as possible. The same process should apply to deleting unused apps or files on your computer.

The day Fortune interviewed her, Kondo had 40 unread emails. “They pile up when I take my eyes off my computer even for a short time.”

3.Embrace the delete button.

Emails differ from physical objects in the sense that they don’t have to “spark joy” for you to keep them, Kondo says. Still, if you know an email is no longer of use to you, it’s a good to delete it. “I try to let go of unneeded things so that I can keep myself as light as possible,” she says.

Related: 40 Under 40: What I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

4. Minimize distractions.

Kondo has one iPhone (we imagine it’s white, as it’s the only color she wears these days). She keeps text and email notifications on, but sounds off.

5. Quit Facebook if it doesn’t bring you joy.

Social media can be a great tool if it truly sparks joy for you to connect and communicate with others, Kondo says. But if it exhausts you, quit. “Don’t worry — you will always be connected with the people you have special relationships no matter what.”