Reduce the stress of clutter

Are you constantly struggling to get things done? Feel busy all the time?
One basic way to help feel more in control and reduce the stress of clutter is to change the physical environment in which you live or work.

5S is the name of a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. Roughly translated into English, they all start with the letter “S”. [1]

Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain (Other translations are possible)

Although the origins of the 5S methodology are in manufacturing, it can also be applied to knowledge-economy work, with information, software, or media in the place of physical product. [2]

So today, these principles can easily be applied to how your organise your digital world – files, folders, documents etc.

The 5 Ss

整理 Sort – Organisation

In the first step of this process the emphasis lies on distinguishing between what is and what is not needed. Necessary items can be evaluated with regard to cost, productivity, usefulness etc.
Remove what is not needed and ensure that these are disposed of properly.
Removing unneeded items makes it easier to find what you do need. It also reduces the chance of being disturbed with unnecessary items (stressful) and prevents the accumulation of unnecessary items.

整頓 Straighten – Orderliness (or “set in order or “streamline”)

Next, arrange all remaining items in a neat and orderly manner – “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”
Assign a location for all items so they are easily available for use, preventing loss of time in searching for them. This makes workflow smooth and easy.
Store items with retrieval in mind – possibilities to help include – labelling, and colour coding.
Remember to return items after use!

清掃 Shine – Cleanliness

Clean your workplace completely eliminating all forms of dirt ( I recently cleaned up my computer using a program called “Grime Fighter” – perfect!). Find ways to keep your workplace clean on an everyday basis and use cleaning as a form of inspection – you may come across an unpaid bill or forgotten assignment.
This also has the benefit of preventing equipment deterioration and keeps your workplace safe and easy to work in.

清潔 Standardize

Develop a standard procedure for the first 3S – Sort, Straighten and Shine. Identify the best method to do a task and maintain high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization at all times. It may help to take a picture of your ideal situation and keep it displayed as a visual reminder.

躾 Sustain

In this step the work is in continuously improving your 5S system. It requires self discipline to keep everything in working order! Shitsuke also translates as “do without being told”, (though this doesn’t begin with S).
Perform regular audits.

This 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.

BUT, what it represents is a way of freeing yourself from the irritations of constantly searching for what you need, being distracted by what you don’t and replacing what breaks down due to lack of maintenance. It will enable you to reduce the stress of clutter. Don’t stress – 5S!

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