Learn from this "Home 5S" Tip

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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of a factory's “5S” initiatives (or a hospital's), where you go through a workspace and identify items that are broken, outdated, obsolete, or not needed.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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

2 COMMENTS

  1. 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…

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