March 13, 2019 in De-clutter, Organizing

How did it get there??

We’ve all had that moment. You get home, throw your keys down somewhere, turn on a light, and the house is cluttered. You swear you just tidied everything up–that was last weekend, wasn’t it? Or maybe the weekend before. You sigh,

drop the rest of your things, and resolve to get your life in order. Starting tomorrow. But tomorrow comes and goes, and the best you do is absent-mindedly flick through organizers on Amazon, hoping that buying the right object will solve the problem with all the current objects you own. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons including guilt, fear, and perfectionism, this never works. Without intentionally tackling the problem head-on, clutter naturally accumulates, and it’s more than just an annoyance: clutter is actually costing you money. Yeah, that’s right, you heard me: clutter costs you money. 

Real-time cost evaluation of clutter

Let’s break this down. A typical executive wastes one hundred and fifty hours a year searching for lost information. That’s essentially a month’s work, wasted. It doesn’t seem like that much when you’re doing it; you make two trips to the printer, rustle through some files, make a call to try and track something down. It only takes five minutes, so what’s the big deal? 

The big deal is that minutes add up to hours, which add up to days. In the words of Annie Dillard, “how we spend our

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days is how we spend our lives.” Things never magically simplify, organize, or prioritize themselves. It takes intention to declutter and to focus on what’s actually important, and there’s a real-time value in doing so, not just for emotional or psychological reasons, but because it will save you money. 

Let’s take the executive wasting one hundred and fifty hours a year example. According to Forbes, for someone earning $50,000 a year (and notice this is a conservative income estimate for an executive), this loss is equivalent to the loss of $3,842. The Wall Street Journal backs this finding up, calculating that the average executive wastes six weeks annually while looking for important documents lost to clutter. 

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s another statistic to get your hair standing on end: the Small Business Association estimates that 80% of the papers we file we never look at again. Not once. 

Just think about all that wasted time. Wasted time equals wasted money. There’s a reason we say “time is money.” The good news is that there’s a method that’s been around for centuries which can radically decrease the amount wasted time. 

5s methodology: magic at work

You may have heard of the 5s methodology. It’s been around since the 16th century when shipbuilders in Venice implemented it in order to make ships in hours rather than days. In modern times, it’s been applied to all sorts of fields and businesses, streamlining the process in a way that increases efficiency and maximizes the sense of importance

every step of the way. Underlying much of the philosophy behind 5s is the philosophy of decluttering: when everything is in its place and nothing is in the way, we are most capable of achieving great results. You may not understand the power of a clean desk or a positive working environment yet, but we believe that after learning about the 5s methodology, it’s real-time value will become much more clear. 

So what is the 5s methodology? Simply put, it’s sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustaining. Each of these five, simple steps are applied to the work environment, and the result is a sharp decline in wasted time and energy. While the model was originally used and adapted within the primarily ‘physical realm’ (it was popularized by Toyota) it is a methodology that can be applied to essentially any work environment successfully. 


The sorting stage is where you get rid of all the extraneous stuff–and believe me, you’ve got more than you think. All of those gadgets, tools, and folders that you hold onto, thinking that they will come in useful at some point, have got to go. They aren’t helping anyone. One method that we like to use is to put everything in your workspace into a box, and only bring things out when you are actually using them. It clears out the space, prevents distraction, and helps you build awareness of what you actually use, and what just collects dust in the box. 

Setting in order

One of the most powerful tools to prevent clutter is to ensure that everything has a home. If it doesn’t; well, then, you either need to make one or get rid of it. Think about our first scenario, when you came home and tossed your keys down. How many times are you going to waste five minutes searching for your keys, when you could just fix the problem once and for all by getting a bowl or a hook for them? It’s the same thing in your workspace. You want clear access to everything you need to use, and you want to prioritize those objects that you use frequently. For example, if you use a stapler one hundred times a day, it should probably be in arm’s reach. 


Here’s where a lot of people trip up. The standard approach is to cram as much into a working day as possible, and then to try and squeeze in tidying up or cleaning whenever you can. That method doesn’t work. Built into the 5s methodology is scheduling time every day to tidy up. Sound like a waste of time? Wrong. Taking a few minutes every day to put things back in order will save you time in the long run, cutting out both the large chunks of time you need to spend cleaning (once you finally get around to it), but more importantly, cutting out all the wasted time you spend on the daily, looking for things that aren’t in their proper place. Think of the ‘shining’ phase like a long term investment: give five minutes a day, and you earn back an hour or more every week. 


This one is especially simple. Create a method, and then stick to it, while keeping an eye out for any potential improvements that can be implemented. If it’s a group environment, everyone should know the system, and if any changes are made, make sure they are clearly laid out as the new, standard, method. 


We all know that between the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins every time. With the 5s methodology, we suggest a similar approach: start small and in manageable steps, and build outwards. Prioritize making your desk clutter free, and then move out to the office at large, common areas, etc. It is key to maintain the four steps that have led up to this. Continue reviewing, and where improvement is possible, implement it in sustainable ways. 

How we can help

Hopefully, reading about the 5s methodology and how it has a real impact on your time (and consequently your wallet) has convinced you of the importance of keeping your life and space decluttered. For a little more in-depth information on implementing the 5s methodology, click here. 

While the net is supersaturated with life hacks and quick tips to make you more productive, the 5s methodology is a tried and true method that has been used for over four hundred years to successfully minimize friction and maximize output. We are certified specialists in 5s, and we would love to help you and your business take the next step towards a clutter-free lifestyle today. Use this link to connect with us to learn more about how you can save time with 5S in your life.

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Todd Allan

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Todd Allan

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