The “5S Method” Is an Unexpected Way to Get Your Home Organized

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Toys around kids play room before organizing.
Credit: Rebecca Enberg

You can get great home organizing tips from all kinds of sources, from professional organizers who share their tidying habits to design pros who weigh in on organizing dos and don’ts. But one of the most helpful approaches I’ve come across hails from the most unexpected place: the Japanese automotive industry, specifically the 5S, a system for organizing spaces.

Quick Overview

What Is 5S?

The 5S method is a Japanese automotive manufacturing concept that seeks to improve efficiency. The term 5S comes from five Japanese words — Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke — which loosely translates to Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain in English. Because of its structured system, the 5S can be applied to home organization, too. Read on to learn how.

What Is 5S?

The “5S” method is an automotive manufacturing concept that originated in Japan and has since been adopted by manufacturing and healthcare enterprises outside of the country, as well. The approach seeks to improve efficiency and maximize utility by reducing unnecessary components and implementing a streamlined system that’s easy to maintain. The 5S comes from five Japanese words, loosely translated in English as follows:

  1. Sort: Identify items that don’t have a purpose and put them in storage or get rid of them.
  2. Set: Arrange items you use daily so you can easily access them and put them away.
  3. Shine: Make sure each item is clean and functional.
  4. Standardize: Develop a checklist or routine for completing steps one through three.
  5. Sustain: Repeat these steps each day.
Credit: Rebecca Enberg

Why It Works for Home Organization

The 5S method works for home organizing because it provides a framework for setting up and maintaining systems. While step one focuses on eliminating clutter, steps two and three encourage frequent tidying, cleaning, and maintenance. You can apply the 5S system to virtually any area of your home, including your workspace, kitchen, shower, and garage.

Rebecca Enberg, home organizing expert and creator of the Substack “Your House Machine,” swears by the 5S method and recently applied it to her kids’ playroom. 

Enberg set up the playroom by designating places to store her kids’ toys (the gray storage ottoman and wooden bookshelf) and foam blocks (under the record cabinet) at the end of each day. She then installed an IKEA SKÅDIS pegboard, shelf, and set of hooks above the table to house art supplies and organize her kids’ artwork. She also placed a small round container on the table to serve as a mini recycling bin, which her kids empty out after each project. Finally, she brought in a Montessori-style bookshelf, like this one from Amazon, that her kids can easily reach.

“The whole point of the 5S system is to only have what you need and make sure everything has a home,” Enberg explains. “It eliminates decision-making, which makes it easier to involve your kids in the cleanup.”

Whether you live with kids or not, implementing a 5S system can make it easier to find the items you need and eliminate the decision fatigue that often comes with putting them away. Plus, it allows you to store your belongings in a more aesthetically pleasing way, which makes even the smallest area of your home all the more beautiful.