Learn from this "Home 5S" Tip

Household: De-Clutter with a Six-Month “Maybe Box”

The site “lifehacker” is one of my favorite blogs. While not about “Lean” per se, there’s often a great deal of overlap between personal productivity and Lean concepts.

In the post I’ve linked to above talks about de-cluttering the house, which is reminiscent of the early stages of a factory’s “5S” initiatives (or a hospital’s), where you go through a workspace and identify items that are broken, outdated, obsolete, or not needed. These items can be removed — trashed, repurposed, or donated — thus freeing up space for more productive uses, reducing waste.

It’s important to recognize that this “spring cleaning” aspect of 5S is really just part of the overall equation of Sort, Store, Shine, Standardized, and Sustain. Spring cleaning really focuses on the first 3. We don’t want 5S to just be a one-time or annual activity.

So the lesson from Lifehacker is a good one — for work or home. Don’t immediately throw all items into the trash. Some items are obviously trashable, but some items might be of questionable value. Some caution might be in order, as the post says:

…the Zen Habits blog suggests creating a “Maybe” box, stashing non-dire items in there, and …

Then store the box somewhere hidden, out of the way. Put a note on your calendar six months from now to look in the box. Then pull it out, six months later, and see if it’s anything you really needed. Usually, you can just dump the whole box, because you never needed that stuff.

Good advice! In a workplace, we often set up a “Red Tag area” or a “boneyard” where questionable items can be set aside. I often do this for just a week or two, not necessarily six months. This time frame is a “buffer” to make sure everybody has a chance to look to see if items can really be disposed of without harming operations. The night shifts and weekend shifts deserve a chance to review items. This way, decisions are not made exclusively by the day shift or those who happened to be around while the 5S sweep was taking place.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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2 Comments on "Learn from this "Home 5S" Tip"

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Amen! If we all did this (5S at home) we would have smaller, cleaner homes. When I used lean in interior design, I told my clients if you buy a 4,500 sq ft house you will fill it. And if you buy a 2,500 you will fill it. Often with unnecessary stuff. What happened to living within our means instead of beyond? Perhaps the mortgage crisis woudn’t be as bad at the moment…

  2. Joe says:

    Great example on the power of 5S in the home. This is just one of the many lean tools that can improve the effectiveness of activities at home. .

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