5S Comes Home

August 18th, 2011 // 8:35 pm @ eileenwebb

I’m in the mid cardboard box stage of moving to a new home – I can eat, sleep, shower, and relax, but there’s still some boxes around.  This is way better than early cardboard box – when most everything is still in boxes and it’s a treasure hunt to find life’s essentials.

Along the way I’ve taken the principles of 5S from the workplace into my home.  5S stands for five Japanese words (in the US translated into 5 English words – Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) and was developed as a process for improving workplace productivity. 

Sort –

Moving has made me painfully aware of just how much stuff I have.  And not all of it is useful or beautiful or even memorable.  I have enough wine glasses in matching sets to serve more people than I have ever in any of my homes at any one time.  Just how many mismatched and freebee wine glasses do I need to own?  (Zero.)  

I am hanging onto the 5 quilts my mother made and 2 my grandmother made and 5 feather pillows my grandmother made using feathers from the chickens she raised.  To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara from the movie Gone With the Wind, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be cold again!”  Most are beautiful, all have sentimental value and in a few years my nieces and nephew will start setting up housekeeping and I’ll have a few special things to help them get started out.

I also resolved that I would not just put away unopened boxes from the last move.  There’s a lot of real junk in these boxes.  There’s also three boxes of photographs in envelops back from the days when you actually had to develop and print your pictures to see them.  I did actually open and look in them, but I will sort them later, probably when my sister visits me and I’m ready to be immersed in the memories.  It’s past time to find and frame a few of the real gems and throw out most of the rest.

I’ve already thrown out lots, given away much, and have 3 boxes and 3 large black garbage bags of stuff to packed up and ready to move on.  I’ll probably find another 3 or 4 more boxes of stuff to get rid of as I continue sorting and continue with the next step:

Straighten -

This is all about finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place. Frequently used things need to be closest to where they are used while other things can be farther away.  My last kitchen had only four narrow drawers – none wide enough to hold a silverware tray.  This made me crazy.  I ended up putting the silverware just outside the kitchen in the buffet drawer. When I was looking for a new place to live I checked to make sure the kitchen would have a silverware drawer.

On the other hand, I now have three fewer bookcases than I used to have.  So now you know I that I love reading and books.  I don’t really want to buy three new bookcases.  So you now know one of the reasons I think I may have more boxes of stuff to get rid of.   


Before I brought in my stuff, I cleaned and put down shelf liners.  And I have washed countless loads of dishes and laundry, dusted, washed and oiled furniture, and generally cleaned things as I put them away.  I’m even doing better on keeping things clean which is part of this.

Standardize –

I don’t need to worry about this one so much since there’s only one home and one person.  But this is important with multiple people or workplaces.


This is by far the most difficult for me.  Keeping everything clean and put away and periodically sorting and purging – yuck. It feels good to do it as an event when you move, but not on a regular basis.  But I do like living in a place where everything is clean and in its place.  So I’m doing a better job of putting things away, creating a place for the stack of papers that are pending, throwing out junk mail right away, and cleaning regularly.  I’ll shuffle things around with the seasons and as my life changes.  I’ve even scheduled time in Outlook so that I remember to do it on a regular basis.

I’m looking forward to the late cardboard box stage of moving – when pictures are on the walls, and the few remaining boxes are clearly labeled and put away.  But as you can see, whether at home or at work, the principles of 5S can make your life better, as they have for me.

Category : Blog

7 Comments → “5S Comes Home”

  1. Linda Coletti

    7 years ago

    Hi Eileen,

    What a great picture!!! I have always enjoyed reading your emails. This year I have purged a lot as well. It’s a good feeling.
    I like your 5 principles.
    Hope all is well and take good care.


  2. Matthew Gomez

    7 years ago

    I love the 5S, especially the constant purge. My motto if I have not touched it in 5 years, its gone. 5 years is probally too long but its a compromise with my wife.


  3. Judy Elder

    7 years ago

    August 24, 2011

    Hi Eileen Webb,

    I am a fellow EA member, and I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your article. I have moved countless times myself and got really good at packing, so that I knew where everything was. My secret was that I made a list of everything I put in the box, either on a scratch pad (to tape to the box0 or on the wide masking tape that sealed the box. One time I just labeled the boxes “A<B<C etc" and made a table of contents on a legal pad. So you see, we should have met before "THE MOVE" but sounds like you have a good plan going.

    I also wanted to let you know that I have "an eye", as I've been told by my friends, for decorating walls, so if you'd like some help or just some ideas for that part of the settling -in process, I'm offering my friendship and help.

    Another area of my potential help is my EA business concept: Organizing boxes of photos into Pictorial Stories of Life and Life Events. So don't throw out the memories just yet. Lets talk some time……………………………..Good Luck…….. Judy


  4. Toby O'Brien

    7 years ago

    Your email came at the perfect, commiserating moment. I just completed a five-month process, moving from my 1500 sq ft home in Las Vegas, into my 350 sq ft RV in Utah. Last weekend was the end of it – purging was the hardest – getting rid of some of those “kid” and “parent” and “friend” gifts that you just can’t keep holding onto in limited space. (As you did, I kept handmade crafts … mine and others … for the day I move back into a house or apartment.) No garage sale for me; donated whatever didn’t go to the kid! I’ve had no choice but to think critical, small and tidy. (OK, I do have a 10 x 15 storage unit to supplement the camper, but still, it’s small.) You really have to think necessity over emotion, access over accumulation, micro over macro, living today over passing it down the line tomorrow. And now, I’m hoping to enjoy nature’s accessibility.



  5. Judy Thompson

    7 years ago

    I didn’t realize that you were in the midst of moving. Where have you moved to?
    How big is your new house? Are you going to send out the address so that you
    can at least get your annual Christmas card? I admire you for doing all of that
    sorting, storing, etc. I unforunately last moved about 23 years ago. I think that
    we should be forced to move about every 10 years. 5 years is too soon and
    anything else is too long. I hope that you are happy in your new home.
    Have fun with the new house. Judy


  6. Kelly Jones

    7 years ago

    This was an interesting little slice. I have been a person obsessed to a point with order. I think because my mind is so disordered that I need to have things that way just to manage my life. Therefore, I have always kept the minimum of stuff around. If it hasn’t got a need, it doesn’t stay around. Most people, for one reason or the other end up collecting stuff, like you, and don’t even realize they have so much. A move, such as yours always points it out.

    I wish you success in order, at your new home.



  7. Ernesto Rodríguez

    5 years ago

    Agree, 5 S are a powerful tool that makes an excellent use housekeeping habits, not just in business. Thanks Eileen


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