5S In Action - Organize and Simplify



Some people, it seems, are blessed with a natural inclination to organization. Their desks are kept clean, the cupboards are organized, and their closets are neat. A co-worker of mine had an almost mythical ability to produce any document or sliver of information from his array of three ring labeled binders behind his desk. How can anyone not be impressed?

The rest of us struggle somewhere between compulsive hoarders and clutter that occasionally gets out of control.

While I have always detested filth I had come to terms with clutter, even embraced it at times in my life. If anyone has ever heard “A home is not a home without a little clutter” or “I don’t want to live in a museum” it was likely just and excuse, we’ve simply given up trying.

Clutter is not a prerequisite for a home. It is still possible to have a place you feel comfortable that is also organized and more importantly efficient. If you’ve never learned how to overcome your clutter and disorganization consider the 5S’.

For a more technical explanation of each of the 5S’ see the article Get Organized, Save Time, Save Money and Aggravation – Get Rid of Clutter Using the 5S’

Today I’ll share 5S in action:

As one of our Mother’s Day gifts this year, my nine year old daughter and I decided to 5S a kitchen cabinet that has been a point of frustration.

These cabinets hold a wide assortment of food stuff and ingredients. We have dry goods, liquids, sprays and even condiments in every shape and size.


Waste ๐Ÿ™

We first removed every item, inspected it and began to Sort (1st S) the items. We began by deciding what was not going back into the space. Expiration dates made this easy and highlighted how much our overstocking and disorganization is costing us in terms of wasted foods. Items were then further sorted by product type, packaging, and size.

With all the products laid out in clear view we could then strategize on the best storage methods. Each product or grouping needed to have a defined place, referred to as Setting in Order (2nd S).



Our primary challenge was the smallest of items, packets of gravy mix; seasonings and small packages would often fall or be knocked out as we retrieved other items. Our solution was the repurpose a storage basket we no longer used elsewhere. We cut up some manila file folders and created dividers, each labeled for the respective products. Taking the extra effort to create storage aids when necessary are instrumental to Sweeping (3rd S), or keeping the area tidy and organized.

While we have not taken the corporate approach of labeling each area of the shelf or building dividers for every product types, with a cleaner and more organized space that is not cluttered by useless material we can clearly see and access supplies in this cupboard. In effect, we have established a new Standard (4th S). It is visibly clear to anyone where the gravy packets, bottles of liquids or pasta belong.



Lastly and the most difficult step is Sustaining (5th S) what we have done. For the two of us that contributed to the process, we have invested our time and energy, we have ownership and pride in our accomplishment. It is not a stretch to think that we will have an intrinsic desire to maintain our accomplishments. However there are two others that also use this space and products; what will ensure they maintain the new standard? Without ownership, there are only external influences available. Education others is the first step, making them aware of the new methods and establishing the expectation. Beyond this, we only have peer pressure, if someone strays from the new standard, escalating levels of reminders should be enough. While I probably would not go to such lengths at home, in a working environment as a last resort an eight and a half by eleven picture of the expectation should ensure compliance.

If you are like me, forever challenged with organization, give the 5S a shot. In my experience this has been the most effective and most successful approach toward building a more organized and efficient life.

Readers: Are you a naturally organized person? If so, can you share where or how you learned it? Maybe the military changed your life? If you are naturally disorganized, do you really prefer it or are you envious of the other half?

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10 comments to 5S In Action – Organize and Simplify

  • I think you make the point well when you said that for some people it just comes more naturally than others.

    I remember when I was twelve and mom was at work. I pulled everything out of all the kitchen cabinets and reorganized it. Nothing ended up where it started. She was shocked. Don’t know if she liked it or not but it stayed that way for the next 35 years.

    In my twenties a friend was at my home and pulled everything out of my linen and clothes closets and reorganized them by color. I was in a new vista of rainbow organization and loved it!

    The biggest trouble about organized people is that they tend to want to organize everybody else. ๐Ÿ™‚ My son is the same way and starts picking up wherever he is. Like Adrian Monk says “It’s a blessing, and, a curse”. The new word they call it is OCD. lol

    Your cabinets look great!!
    .-= Carol@inthetrenches´s last blog ..Financial Blind Spots =-.

  • I like the example of the kitchen cabinets… they can get disorganized, but one problem is that each person has their own idea of where things are and how it should be organized, so sometimes it turns into a little contest ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thanks for the mention!
    .-= Kevin@InvestItWisely´s last blog ..Opening up new frontiers =-.

  • I really enjoyed this post! I like to think in my office (which is part of the house) I can produce anything on demand just like your co-worker. My working space is pretty efficient – I think I’m addicted to shopping at Staples. But the rest of my house in particular the kitchen is always a challenge. I just can’t approach it the same way I approach organizing my work space..it must be a mental block. I could be the way I approach my consulting here at Financially Digital, very planned, methodical and detail oriented. If I’m going to consistently work like that then it would stand to reason that my work space should reflect that energy. I need to get over that hump though and organize my pantry!! ;p Great perspective and way to make me think about my own oddities lol – or at least provide the space for me to type about it and rationalize as I go.
    .-= Nunzio Bruno´s last blog ..Want to make more money, give it away! =-.

  • I am a naturally organized person (get it honest from my mother) but I tend to be a little compulsive and it drives even me nuts. There are only so many times and ways i can continually re-arrange the silverware drawer if you know what I mean.

  • I am a sucker for anything organization… Call me crazy, but any idea, tip, show,or article on organization catches my attention. I am always striving- never quite there! It takes a lot of time to be compltely organized, thus another life tradeoff! I liked the pix and analogy. Great article!
    .-= Barb Friedberg´s last blog ..MBA Course: Investing & Portfolio Management-Class 3-The Lazy Investorโ€™s Guide to Asset Allocation =-.

  • I guess you could say I’m chronically disorganized. Every once in awhile I will do a big clean up (usually on the weekend) and then during the week everything will be a complete disaster again. I guess I need help with the fourth and fifth s’s (setting a new standard and then sustaining it). While it is often frustrating when I can’t find something, I also find that I am in sort of an organized chaos and that I work better when things are slightly out of place. If I spend all my time getting organized, I feel that there will be less time for the things I enjoy, especially my creative pursuits like music and painting.
    .-= Moneyedup´s last blog ..Changes in Personal Bankruptcy Law =-.

  • If only it was that simple. I do enjoy my clutter. It keeps me company.

  • Ron

    Too many processed goods in the cabinet!!
    The 6th S should be – Stop eating so much junk.

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