You want to get things better organized, but it seems an overwhelming thing to do. Most of us want to do it, but it’s a task that repeatedly gets moved further and further down the “to do” list, or it reappears year after year on the new-year resolution list. Why is that? Often it’s because we don’t know where to start, or we look at organizing as one huge time-consuming task and there just is never enough time to do it.
There are many methods to organizing. One that we like is the Japanese 5S method because it keeps things simple and is repeatable from space to space. The premise of 5S is to help organize and improve the conditions of a workplace, but the process can also be used to get and keep your home organized.
The 5S method comes from the Japanese words “seiri,” “seiton,” “seiso,” “seiketsu” and “shitsuke.” Roughly translated into English this means to “sort,” “set in order,” “shine,” “standardize” and “sustain.”
To get started with 5S pick a space, any space — a drawer, a closet, a room — and follow these steps.
Step 1 – Sort
Empty the space and sort ALL of the items to get rid of clutter. Use a four-bin or bag system. The labels you will use for sorting your clutter are “Toss,” “Donate,” “Store” and “Keep handy.” Depending on the size of the space you are organizing you may find that setting up a table to place things on for sorting may be helpful. Once you are done sorting, remove the “toss” and “donate” items so you can focus on the next step.
Step 2 – Set in Order
When you put things back in order, ideally you want items to be clearly visible, and easy to locate or identify. This is where you will want to use containers, labels, shelves, etc. to organize items logically so they are easy to see and access. Use clear plastic containers if you are placing items on a shelf, it’s much easier to see what is in the container. Label containers so you know what the contents are, this it makes it faster to locate items and helps others to find items or return them to the right spot. Avoid putting things on top on one another or in front of one another so that you have to move things to get to something you want. The point of organizing things is to be able to see what you have and to get to it easily.
Step 3 – Shine
Shine is basically cleaning the space. Wipe out the drawer before you put items back in it. Wipe down shelves, vacuum, dust, paint — do whatever is needed to make the newly organized space “shine”.
Step 4 – Standardize
Standardize by defining the places for the thing you need to store. If there is a shelf that is designated to store household cleaning items, don’t put the blender you rarely use on that shelf. If you have a closet designated for winter coats, hats and gloves, don’t allow athletic equipment to get tossed in there too. Use labels to keep things organized. The idea is that all of your items have a home within your home so they can be easily put away when no longer being used.
Step 5 – Sustain
Sustain your organized places by keeping them up on a regular basis. If you spend time organizing the master close, then have a plan to review the contents twice a year or to tidy it up a regular basis. Remember, it’s easier to keep up than to catch up. Organizing isn’t so much of an event as it is a routine practice.
How to Get Started
Make a list of the spaces in your home that are the most problematic and rough out a schedule to tackle them over a period of time so the effort is less overwhelming. Start with an easy space (maybe a drawer or a desk) and practice the 5S method. Once you get the hang of these simple steps organizing and staying organized will be much easier.