Five Days to Perfect Orderliness

Everything has its place in a rucksack

I used to go backpacking with a friend who was kind of a schlump in daily life but on the trail he was in prefect control. His backpack was amazingly organized – everything had its place. When he needed anything it was instantly at his fingertips.

I made a vow, “someday, somehow, I’m going to get organized like that.” Now, twenty five years later, prompted by a LifeHacker article “The 5S Method Keeps Clean, Lean Order at Your Workspace,” I’m ready to give it a shot.

Last year I tried to implement the Japanese methodology of 5S into my daily life and I failed. I confused 5S with a method for getting things done, which it isn’t. There’s no do stage in 5S. It is primarily a way for organizing your physical space, not your task list. But it can easily be applied to computer files as well.

So here’s my plan, stolen entirely from the Wikipedia definition of 5S, for getting my life in perfect order:

Monday – Seiri, Sorting: Go through all tools, materials, etc., in the plant and work area. Keep only essential items. Everything else is stored or discarded.

Tuesday – Seiton, Straighten or Set in Order: There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. The place for each item should be clearly labeled or demarcated. Items should be arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow. Workers should not have to repetitively bend to access materials. Each tool, part, supply, piece of equipment, etc. should be kept close to where it will be used (i.e. straighten the flow path). Seiton is one of the features that distinguishes 5S from “standardized cleanup”.

Wednesday – Seiso, Sweeping or Shining or Cleanliness (Systematic Cleaning): Keep the workplace clean as well as neat. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. This makes it easy to know what goes where and ensures that everything is where it belongs. A key point is that maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.

Thursday – Seiketsu, Standardizing: Work practices should be consistent and standardized. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.

Friday – Shitsuke, Sustaining the discipline: Maintain and review standards. Once the previous 4 S’s have been established, they become the new way to operate. Maintain focus on this new way and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways. When an issue arises such as a suggested improvement, a new way of working, a new tool or a new output requirement, review the first 4 S’s and make changes as appropriate.

Resources: Rowdy Kittens social change through simpler living.

5S Related Resources on Amazon

Crazy Thought Question: Why are all the visual resources linked to 5S so unforgivingly horrible?

Photo credit: Joadl