It has been 12 years since Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” was first published, and four years since her Netflix show “Tidying Up” made her a household name—and, controversially, a verb. And for a time, her KonMari method was largely viewed as the one and only way to overcome clutter, and, in turn, other problems in your life.
But our brains don’t all work the same way, and Kondo’s strategies didn’t work for everyone. If you fall into that category and have maximalist tendencies, you may be interested in a different organization method known as “knolling.” Here’s what to know.
What is ‘knolling’?
In short, “knolling” is an organizational method that involves arranging groups of tools and other everyday like objects into parallel lines or 90 degree angles. The result is a workspace that looks clean and symmetrical, where the items you use regularly are clearly displayed, instead of tidied away. Your stuff is not only accessible, but also aesthetically pleasing.
You may have also seen Instagram posts featuring knolling—similar to the image above—where its more commonly referred to as “flat-lay photography.”
The name “knolling” is a reference to Knoll, Inc.: An American furniture company founded in 1938 that has manufactured chairs, tables, desks, and storage pieces from iconic designers and architects, including Eero Saarinen, Florence Knoll, Marcel Breuer, and Frank Gehry.
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The organizational method dates back to 1987, when sculptor Andrew Kromelow and artist Tom Sachs were both working in Gehry’s studio. Kromelow coined the term, and Sachs popularized it.
How to use knolling to organize your space
In 2010, Sachs created a video for his employees titled “10 Bullets,” which he described as “the studio manual.” One of the 10 bullets is “Always Be Knolling,” in which he breaks down the organizational method into four steps:
- Scan your environment for materials, tools, books, music, etc., which are not in use.
- Put away everything not in use. If you aren’t sure, leave it out.
- Group all like objects.
- Align or square all objects to either the surface they rest on or the studio itself.
Here’s the video, in case you’d like visual references:
Want to learn more about knolling? This article from Dwell provides additional background and examples.