Feeling overwhelmed by clutter? Wishing your home was a bit more organized? I’d like to share a process I learned in my time as an engineer that will help you tackle any space. It’s called the “5S Method”.
The 5S Method originated in Japan and became popular in the west in the 1980’s. It is now used in a variety of industries including health care and aerospace. The 5 “S’s” stand for:
- Set in Order
What started out as a manufacturing organizational method can be easily applied at home. I love this process because it is focused on giving every item a place. It also helps you to group items by function in “kits” that help your day run more smoothly. Here is how you can organize your home using the 5S method.
The 5S Process
5S will help you go from a cluttered work space to a streamlined one in just a few simple steps.
Before You Begin
- Focus on a single work space at a time. Choose one to start with and identify its main function.
- Create a “red tag” area. This is a place to temporarily put items that do not belong in your work space. Create zones for the following categories:
Step 1: Sort
- Empty the work space completely. Be sure to clear items out of drawers, off surfaces, and out of shelves.
- Remove obstacles, unnecessary items, and those not currently in use.
- Dispose of any trash immediately.
- Move other items that don’t belong to the “red tag” area.
- Categorize each remaining item by function.
Step 2: Set in Order
- Arrange items in work space by category.
- Create zones for each function and group all related items together. Use baskets, bins, or dividers to keep groups contained.
- Put more frequently used items closer to the front.
- Create and label (if desired) a “home” for each item and/or group.
- Ensure that your “work flow” is smooth.
- Make sure everything is easy to retrieve and replace in its location.
- Make sure items you use frequently are within easy reach.
Step 3: Shine
- Determine a routine to keep your work space clean.
- “Clean as you go” throughout the day to minimize workload later on.
Step 4: Standardize
- Review your system periodically to see what works and what doesn’t.
- Make adjustments as necessary.
- Identify “best practices” and apply them in other areas of your home.
- Verify that every item has a dedicated “home” to return to.
Step 5: Sustain
- Perform regular inspections of your work space to make sure it remains organized.
- Determine a routine for clearing out your “red tag” area.
- Make a shopping list of any organizers (boxes, bins, dividers, trays) you need as you categorize items.
- Clear out your “red tag” area as soon as possible (trust me, it will become a new problem area if you don’t).
- If you’re stuck on where to store an item, put it aside for a moment and continue organizing. Return to it when you’re finished and see if you can find a place for it.
- Nightstands or under-sink cabinets are great places to start.
The goal is to follow this method for every area of your home, one work space at a time. When everything has a clear, easy place to return to you’ll find that there is less clutter overall.
Which space are you going to organize first?