The Organization Method That Changed My Life…not KonMari

Anyone who knew me from college or before then, knew that you probably wouldn’t be able to step in my dorm room without being horrified at the slob I was.  There were days where I wouldn’t even be able to see my own floor because of dirty laundry or clothes that I had tried on and decided not to wear. And honestly, I didn’t really care what other people thought or wasn’t even really embarrassed by it, it was just who I was and I had accepted that.  I mean I  started to get a little bit more tidy when I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, but there were some days where there was piles of dishes in the sink that my roommates would end up doing, I’m sure they silently hated me for that.

When I began my career as an industrial engineer in a manufacturing facility, I didn’t know that there would be one concept that would impact my life and pretty much be the reason I have decided to embark in this business.  Well…that concept, combined with a neat freak of a husband, forced me to change my ways.  It is this system that I base most of teachings from and it has been adopted in many manufacturing facilities even before the KonMari method became a thing.

That system/concept/idea/method is 5S.

5S is known as being a workplace organization method, but if it works in big facilities, it can be applied in the home as well!  5S stands for the Japanese words seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.  Of course, Americans do what they do best and americanized it to sort, set in order/straighten, shine/sweep, standardize, and sustain.  It is meant to create a visual workplace so that you can distinguish normal from abnormal conditions.  I could go more in depth with the history and its benefits, but I’ll break it down ABC style and walk you through this simple method.  I’ve also altered it from a home-based perspective instead of a manufacturing facility perspective.

1. Sort

There are three criteria that help “sort” this step out usefulness, frequency of use, and quantity.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself while going through your things:

Do I need it or not?  How often do I use this or do I even use this at all?  Do I have more than I need or just enough?

You can create a “red tag area” that will be used as a holding space if you are not completely ready to part with that item just yet.  However, my recommendation is to only keep it for one month, and if it hasn’t moved or found a new place in your home, discard it.

2. Set in Order/Straighten

For every item that you have, give it an address, a home, label it if you have to.  Just like you and me like to be around friends that are similar to us, group items together that are alike.  Items that are used frequently should be put in a space that are easily accessible to you.  Heavy items shouldn’t be too low that you have to bend over to get them or too high that you can’t reach it.  This is a good step to spend time thinking about the way you work so that the item can be in a place according to how you function.  The goal here is that items can be easily retrieved, used and put away.  If you can’t instantly notice that an item is missing, then you are not done!

3. Shine/Sweep

Time to grab those swiffers and start sweeping!  Dust those blinds, grab that vacuum, and put those lysol wipes to use. This is also a good time to come up with your chores list for yourself or your kids.  A “shine” schedule might just do the trick.  This is where you can make a list of items to be cleaned, then schedule a time for a major cleaning, and assign the work as you please.

4. Standardize

Establish your “standard” for you newly cleansed home and make sure that everyone in your house knows what that standard is.  This will help all your hard work to be noticed and adhered to.  You’ve got to maintain all those benefits you achieved in the last three steps, so put your foot down and set the standard!

5. Sustain

The most challenging step to keep up with is sustain.  This is how we maintain the gains we made.  The shine list and setting the standard help you get to this step right here.  Make sure everyone is involved in all steps and possibly create a reward system for yourself and others that sustain the gains you made.  One thing that helps is at the end or beginning of every day, check your house.  Is it in a state you want it to be? If not, do a quick shine so that it doesn’t pile up for the days to come.

There’s also an unwritten sixth S for safety that is used a lot in manufacturing, but it is especially important when you have young kids to think about this sixth S.  Round those sharp edges and protect those electrical outlets!