The Wisdom of KonMari: A Digital Health Take

In recent weeks, the KonMari method has led to a mass exodus of heaps upon heaps of items making their way to thrift stores, charitable organizations, second-hand book stores and libraries.

Because of an unexpected medical diagnosis in the family last spring, I found myself thinking about how KonMari might apply to folks dealing with a serious health matter. In particular, while Marie Kondo’s focus has been on tidying up one’s physical belongings, I thought it’d be helpful to share some first-hand patient and caregiver insights on how my family adapted her method to tackle the invisible mess in our lives – digital clutter. 

Now you may be thinking, Why on earth would I be thinking of clearing out my inbox if I’d just received bad news about my health?

When my family first received the diagnosis, we were dealing with so many emotions. This continued throughout our journey of second opinions, treatment decisions and then undergoing treatment. I remember feeling a massive loss of control and having trouble focusing. Tidying up became an activity that gave our family some sense of control and accomplishment. 

1. Discard digital relics first.

The many medical appointments, phone calls, voicemails, patient portal messages, advocacy group email invitations and support information materials were overwhelming, to say the least. Many patients have very little mental space left to build an arsenal of new resources for themselves. In my family’s case, we actually found comfort in deleting the excess information we received so that we could focus on the remaining digital items that really matter. Less is definitely more.

2. Follow the right order.

Devices – we started with the bulkiest, visual items that had a physical presence to accompany their digital life. During our own challenging time, it felt good to be able to help others by giving the five iPhones, three iPads and two Fitbits and Garmins we’d outgrown to others who need them more.

Apps, notifications and alerts – these show up prominently on our devices and, if not regularly utilized, only serve as visual pollution to our over-stimulated selves.

Inbox – in the days immediately following the diagnosis, we found ourselves searching online for all the information we thought we needed, including signing up for distribution lists. We didn’t end up utilizing all of it. The key to hitting “unsubscribe” was whether we’d opened those patient newsletters, Google alerts and invitations in the last week or two.

Files, photos and videos – this sentimental category tends to grow exponentially over time. We decided that we need to keep the digital records we valued in a “Favorite” folder. We deleted all duplicate and similar items, and applied the rule of whether they would teach the future generation anything about us.

3. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

It boils down to this. In this age of seemingly endless information, it’s not solely a matter of tidying up your digital property based on the storage size of your devices or cloud space. If you have no time to enjoy it—or even feel stressed or distracted by it—it’s gotta go.

The above has helped my family breathe a little easier during a trying time. It cleared some head space for us to concentrate on what matters most – our personal health and being there for one another. And that’s an important reminder for those of us in healthcare who are in the business of using technology to engage with patients.

Time is precious. Create digital value that sparks joy.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Jacelyn Seng, Executive Vice President. To learn more about the intersection of digital technology and health, check out our AI Strategy Brief.

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