5S in the Home

5S is the name of a workplace organization methodology that uses a list of five Japanese words which are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke.  These translate to: Sorting, Straightening, Shining, Standardizing, and Sustaining.


Diagram of 5S

5S is used to make workplaces an effective environment for work.

I have been attempting to make use of the 5S system at home.  I have inherited a bit of the pack-rat syndrome within my lifetime. So, many of my 5S adventures are stuck at the first step.

Sorting.   “I might need that one of these days”  is what I tell myself, but going back though the boxes, it is clear that almost everything has a season in life that often doesn’t repeat… even if I think that it will. Everything that I choose to keep is not free. In fact, I pay for it dearly. Sometimes I might pay even way more than I expect. For instance, I might have bought a trailer that I thought would be beneficial to me, but I only use it infrequently.  I still have to pay licensing fees on the trailer every five years.  Yes, that is an obvious fee, but what about the cost of storing the trailer. I need some space to put it. I now have to rent a place that has space to put my trailer. (Or the corollary, I can not live in a smaller place and save money because I have a trailer that needs to be stored.)

Saving stuff costs money. Getting rid of stuff is hard because you paid so much money for it originally.  Even while thinking about 5S, it can be difficult to know if you should throw something out.  Certainly, some things you would not want to throw out. Tools are an example of something that should probably be kept, but there are many things that you can do without. Here are some of my examples:

  • three -ten year old expired medications… Really?
  • cardboard boxes and packing peanuts… because you never know when I might need to ship something quickly
  • VHS tapes. I need them right? I mean I haven’t owned a VCR in years.

So, what is it in your house that you are holding onto so dearly that you could really just live without?

Once you are done organizing, then its time for:
Straightening (A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place).  So, I bought a label maker, but this is just a start.  Finding out where some stuff belongs is challenging.  When in doubt, I put it where I think I would look for it.  Kind of makes sense, yes? But really it is not the first place that is often thought of.  Usually we want to put it where we think it makes sense.  Trust your first instinct.

Shine (Systematic Cleaning). Now here is a place which we all struggle. I think that it is mainly because the first two S’s are not set in motion.  It is certainly easier to clean if everything has a place to go.

Standardizing. While this isn’t a job site, a lot of what is in your home can be standardized. If I have things standardized, then it is going to be easier for my wife to be able to come in and do the same job that I would do (or vice versa.)  For instance, if my wife normally pays the bills but for some reason I need to pay them this time, there needs to be a standard system for payment. Are the bills logged into a spreadsheet program? Are there verifications that need to be set in motion to be sure that a bill was paid? What happens to the bill paperwork? etc….

Sustaining. Don’t fall into the old ways of doing things. Sustaining keeps the other four S’s in orbit.  I like to think of this one as the most important. I relate it to our star, the sun. The other four S’s are sustained by it. Standard methodologies should be reviewed, and the practices should be thought through on a regular basis.

To learn more about 5S, visit the wikipedia entry here.

Here is a list of things I have done to comply with 5S in my house:

[catlist name=5S]

4 Responses to 5S in the Home

  1. Pingback: Cleaning the Sink | The Organization of Entropy

  2. Michael says:

    What people think works and what works are often two different things. Attack the room that needs to be cleaned without mercy. Take all the junk and put it in another room. Yes I did say another room. Try to stay as safe as possible. You will quickly see how big a problem your mess is. Once you have the 1st room empty…( clean it.) Now go through your stuff using the sort advice. You will find that the clean 1st room will serve as the place to set your keep stuff back in place. While putting stuff back define locations or standardize. Be sure to get rid of anything that you no longer need. For help with sustain be sure to take pictures of how messed up the second room became. Always take before and after photos. Not exactly the 5s order, but this is my preferred method of cleaning.

  3. Hali says:

    Straighten: don’t forget the red tag system – this gives you bandwidth to make decisions about things you aren’t sure whether to discard. With regard to the VHS: does it contain something you want to preserve? There are services that record VHS to DVD or some other more modern medium.

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