5S Collage

After college and grad school and before seminary and pastor-hood my husband worked in manufacturing.  One of the practices he implemented and utilized was the Japanese workplace organizational methodology called 5S, which helped him to operate a Just In Time business within the company.

Bear with me for a very brief and shallow economics lesson…

Just In Time is a strategy used by businesses to minimize the overhead and storage requirements of items required for manufacturing.  It involves setting up triggers which prompt an order of goods to arrive just in time for the next step in the process.  Well done, it increases return on investment by reducing inventory and the associated carrying costs.  Poorly done, it decreases a company’s reliability and ability to produce products in a systematic and timely manner.

A key element for Just In Time manufacturing is having an efficient and effective work place.

Enter 5S.

5S is a Japanese workplace organizational method which uses a list of five Japanese words, which, when transliterated into English, all begin with S.  Synonyms starting with S have been selected for the English translation as well.

Wikipedia summarizes the methodology well.  According to Wikimedia:

The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

In short:

1. Sort (seiri)

    • Remove unnecessary items and dispose of them properly
    • Make work easier by eliminating obstacles
    • Reduce chance of being disturbed with unnecessary items
    • Prevent accumulation of unnecessary items
    • Evaluate necessary items with regard to dept/cost/other factors.

2. Set in order (seiton)

    • Arrange necessary items in order so they can be easily picked for use
    • Prevent loss and waste of time
    • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items
    • Ensure first-come-first-serve basis
    • Make work flow smooth and easy

3. Shine (seiso)

    • Clean your workplace completely
    • Use cleaning as inspection
    • Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration
    • Keep workplace safe and easy to work

4. Standardize (seiketsu)

    • Maintain high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization at all times
    • Maintain cleanliness and orderliness
    • Maintain everything in order and according to its standard.

5. Sustain (shitsuke)

    • To keep in working order
    • Also translates to “Self-Discipline” meaning to do without being told, as in forming a habit.

Okay.  Economics class is over.  And that’s enough Japanese to be going on with.  On to Homemaking…

Can you see, as a wife, mother, household manager, how handy 5S can be for organizing your home/life?

We don’t run a full fledged 5S system in our house, but my husband’s job from a decade ago still shapes how we play house. 🙂

Part of 5S in his workplace included being able to put your hands on what you needed most often within seconds.  I’ll be the first to admit that having items on hand quickly improves efficiency.  I’m sure you can recognize echoes of it in Handy vs. Hoarding.

I don’t know about you, but I make a much better editor than creator.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I do a much better job taking something that exists and editing it (modifying, altering it) to my needs than I do starting from scratch and coming up with something on my own.

I am about to spend the next several weeks talking about how we organize a lot of our house.  Our life doesn’t work well as a one-size-fits-all solution, but its a great place to start and edit/modify/delete/alter ideas to suit your own life.  And the only way you will be able to take our version of organization and modify it to fit your home, family, and lifestyle is to understand the principles behind how I do what I do.  5S plays into a lot of it.

When I start to organize anything – from tools to the kitchen to band-aids – I start by thinking through my version of 5S.

  1. What do I need to do in this area and what tools do I need to accomplish it?
  2. Where do I need things to be placed so I can reach them quickly? What is sitting here that is just in the way?
  3. Where will I put things when they are not in use?
  4. Who do I need to tell/inform/educate on how/where to put things away?
  5. How can I keep it the way I want it?  When will I replenish consumable items?
  6. What do I do with things I need sometimes, but not very often?

Band-Aids (A simple example)

I repurposed an old coupon organizer to sort our band-aids.  I also made use of a small craft bag for the rest of our First Aid supplies.  We keep the First Aid bag in the hall linen closet – which, in our house, is right across from the hall bathroom, near the kitchen and the front door.

Since I often need to wash an “owie” before slapping on a bandage, being near the bathroom is pretty handy.

In our First Aid bag we keep:

  • the coupon organizer with band-aids sorted by size (with a couple of slots designated for girly or boyish ones)
  • a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide
  • wax earplugs
  • alcohol wipes/swabs
  • thermometers (ear, oral, rectal – clearly labeled – lol)
  • eye droppers
  • sterile gauze and gauze pads
  • medical tape – paper, water proof
  • antibiotic oinment
  • benadryl cream
  • aloe gel
  • bug-bite itch relieving sticks
  • tweezers
  • an otoscope with pictures of healthy and sick eardrums (most people don’t keep one of these, but our first born had so many ear infections, it was nice to know when to call the doctor and when we could avoid waiting room germs).
  • On the shelf behind the First Aid bag, I keep ace bandages, knee braces, slings, etc. from past injuries which we may find need of again.
  • In the freezer we have a smiley face ice block (“happy ice”) for quick access when a cold compress is required.

When someone comes in, hurt, I can meet them in the hall bathroom with “the medicine bag” and take care of almost anything.

If someone is hurt in the yard, I can send any kid into the house to grab “the medicine bag” and have pretty much anything I need to handle minor injuries.

When we travel, we add benadryl, tylenol, and motrin (usually the generics of these), along with any daily medications to the bag and we have a little traveling pharmacy.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at several areas of our house, how we organize it with this 5S methodology in mind, and *hopefully* you’ll walk away equipped to set up a system that can work for you because it takes your needs into account.

Before we get too far into organizing though, I want to deal with the excess we will undoubtedly find in our houses.  I have a couple of very freeing tools for dealing with excess.  You’ll be amazed at the freedom found in these two tools: the waste bin (next week) and gleaning (the week after).  Then onward and upward to tools, kitchen, bathrooms, oh – just everywhere!

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Photo Credit (Collage)
Japanese Lanterns by JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Common Sense Economics by Ludwig von Mises Institute ([1]) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Doctor-Themed cupcakes by Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Doctor Themed Cupcakes) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Keep on Saving Fuel by Marc Stone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons