- Do you often clean up, but afterwards you can't keep order?
- Have you ever thought about hiring a tidying coach?
- Do they avoid spontaneously inviting friends over because they then have to clean up beforehand?
- Do you hate looking for misplaced items?
- Are you buying something new that you know has to be somewhere in the house?
- Don't they like arguing about the situation at home?
- Do you envy the bloggers and influencers who always look so perfectly tidy and clean?
If so, the 5S method is just right for creating order, or even more important: keeping order. It is no exaggeration to say that it can change your life.
The 5S method was originally developed in Japan to organize work environments and workplaces. It is the basis for the Toyota Production System. All manufacturing companies worldwide have now introduced this in whole or in part. In the meantime, 5S has also spread significantly in administrative activities. Over the course of my career, I have used this method to optimize hundreds of environments, inside and out, large and small. Very often, initial skeptics became so convinced of the results of a clean, organized environment that they became the method's greatest advocates.
Incidentally, this method does not come from Japan by chance, because there is great pressure to create order and to maintain the order that has been achieved. The country is densely populated and in Tokyo people have to live in very small spaces, there is simply no room for clutter. Clutter is also a waste of space, limiting or even preventing our activities at home.
How can the method help you at home?
Well, a workplace is not dissimilar to an apartment, just think of the kitchen where someone obviously works preparing food, even if they actually enjoy cooking. In any case, you want to have all the ingredients, kitchen appliances and tools ready to hand, clean and where you need them without having to rummage around for a long time.
A closet is also such a workplace, the activity there is to be able to look through it without wasting time, to be able to wear properly stored, e.g. crease-free, things.
The bathroom should also be optimally designed, nobody would think of keeping their toothbrush meters away from the sink or somewhere else every day.
This can be continued indefinitely, but what does 5S mean?
Sort out. Everything you don't need here belongs away. Old containers with some liquids or stuff that no one uses anymore, something twice or three times because it was once on sale and has now been wasting space almost unused for months and gathering dust. If you don't use it, give it away, even if it was expensive at the time. There are many ways to sell used items. I also sometimes took things with me several times when we were moving that were still packed in the box from the last move. You should get used to something like that.
2. Systematize (Seiton)
What is actually needed is given a selected, defined and marked permanent place, standing, hanging, lying, suspended, whatever. Yes, don't be afraid of labels either. Since I wrote in the fridge what goes where, we throw away a lot less because e.g. B. had successfully hidden any yoghurt behind a higher container until its expiry date. The double and triple buying has also stopped since the flour bag is no longer on the second or third shelf, but only on the third. All the searching is useless and stops when everything has its place. You can see immediately if something is missing and needs to be bought later. So when we talk about creating sustainable order and keeping it, we can consider this point as the core of the method.
3.Clean up (Seiso)
Proper cleaning is part of it. It is best, of course, if an easy-care environment has been created. I once experienced a tidying coach who had defined a suitcase corner (many had them) on the floor for a family. For me it's absurd to think about pushing away six suitcases every time to clean the floor. It would have been better to put the suitcases on a shelf, or even better to hang them on the wall, because shelves also get dusty.
This means the use of uniform ordering principles. So if I have good experience in one corner, I can, for example, use the same boxes elsewhere in the apartment, having a standard here is good if you want to move something between different areas, because there are more or even more in one area less space is needed, then everything just fits together again.
Self-discipline and constant improvement. Discipline is required to maintain order and cleanliness. If a space is defined for an object, it always belongs there. At least until you find a better place for it. Unfortunately, creating order without discipline will not work, but the previous points help enormously that it is easier to discipline yourself here.
You can take it piece by piece
Just pick the worst corner of the house and start trying the method. A tidying coach is often of the opinion that the entire apartment or house has to be cleaned up completely at once in a complex operation. This does not correspond at all with the experience I have gained in hundreds of use cases. On the contrary, it is much better to start on a smaller scale, such as a typical dirty corner in the house. This gives you the experience of how it works. Imagine you've had a great 5S action in the kitchen. Everything has its well-defined place, every spice has its place and everyone knows exactly where to find it, even if it's not there, because an empty place draws attention to it. But now a new spice is being added, unfortunately there is no longer room for it because it was not planned. So put it somewhere. Probably near the other spices, for example next to a tray in which the others are standing. Well, it won't stay there, it will keep changing its position over time, to the left, to the right, to the front to the back, or even to disappear altogether. Then it will also end up on the tray, another one will not find a place for it and will end up somewhere else. So in short, this is the beginning of the chaos. In the end, nothing will be where it was intended. They come to the conclusion that this system of order does not work for them and fall into old habits.
Don't be too inflexible at the beginning
So you'll see, they need some flexibility in their new ordering scheme. However, they must also narrow them down to the extent that order can emerge at all. As you can see, it is a task that requires a certain amount of sensitivity and experience. And they will get that if they gradually reorganize the apartment. But if they did everything at once, they would have a super tidy apartment - but not for long. Because it was so much work at once, certain storage and storage options will not be well thought out. And that takes revenge, the scissors are kept somewhere where nobody needs them. So it is left where it is often needed and not where they defined it. There she is now, whoever needed her knows that. The other family member will look for her where she actually belongs. And it starts again with: "Have you seen the scissors? Why is it here and not in its place?” I think we all know these situations. So do it piece by piece, gain experience, remember that great organization doesn't last long if the ergonomics aren't right. Humans are naturally lazy and would rather give up keeping things organized than walk far or put things away for minutes to get to something they need often. Think of the balancing act between flexibility and a necessary restriction of it. Otherwise, the great clean-up action will only have been a waste of time.
And something else very important, which, in my experience, causes even the best system of order (which concerns things that everyone in the house uses) to fail again and again:
Beware of the pitfall – it can fail here
Not everyone was involved in the introduction. Of course, the idea of tidying up often comes from a family member. Someone was particularly motivated and decided on their own what to put where. However, the partner or the children have a completely different idea of where it should lie, hang or stand. If they decide on their own, the others in the household rightly feel patronized. They get into a defiant reaction and don't even think about following their instructions. The result is chaos again, arguments are free. So they make sure to include everyone in the household when it's not about their very personal things. Think together where to place something, how and why. This can even be fun, regularly do a family 5S workshop where they turn a dingy corner into an organised, clean and beautiful environment! After such an action, don't forget the reward, congratulate everyone and eat ice cream!
Over time, everyone will then stick to the new scheme, because it comes from everyone together. Of course, compromises have to be found where not everyone is equally satisfied. In another corner, they then even it out again.
When the classification system is in place, the work is not done. Changes will always be necessary, new things are added, some are no longer needed, or a family member has an idea of how and where it would be better to put things away. Please take the time to discuss this with everyone again. It's worth it, otherwise there's a risk of a creeping relapse into chaos. It's like a wild rubbish dump, if there's something there, others come and pour their rubbish over it. To do something like that in a pristine clean environment requires a lot more willpower and audacity.
In the end, you will save a lot more time and trouble in everyday life than you put into the order system!
If you decide to create order in a beautiful and stylish way, we offer specific solutions here. Always remember, too much storage space attracts unnecessary things!