How to Get Organized with the 5S Process

Ready to start an organization project?  Do you want a tried and true process on how to remove clutter and achieve your organized vision?

Originally developed in Japan, 5S provides industry change agents a methodology to create and maintain order in the workplace.  Large corporations often engage with the 5S process to address issues involving storing items not needed, excess clutter, and inefficient systems.

The 5S Process

The 5S process allows businesses to take the time to remove clutter, make the area neat and clean, and then build a system to maintain the area.  The 5 S’s represent the following process steps 1) Sort, 2) Set In Order, 3) Shine 4) Standardize and 5) Sustain.  Following this process transforms disorganization into maintainable, organized spaces.  If the process works for large corporations, it definitely will work for your overflowing closet or inbox.

I provide an example of how to complete a 5S event in this video.


Sort is to place items in the space into categories.  I often starting sorting by identifying those items that I will keep in a space and those items that I will remove from a space.  There may be several iterations of sorting throughout the organization project.  My most recent project started with sorting into keep and remove.  Further sorting the keep items into category type occurred next.  Finally, a review of items in each category occured to discard or remove additional items.  During the sort phase, I recommend taking most or nearly everything out of the space to sort in a staging area.

In my example video, I sorted Abby and Emma’s clothes into categories and sorted out a donate pile in one step.


Shine is making the place shine!   That is actually deep cleaning the space – this may include painting, carpet cleaning, dusting, or vacuuming.  Shine is actually the 3rd step in 5S, but I like to shine the area next.  After a space has been cleared, now is the time to dust everything down, vacuum, paint, make the space look like new again before beginning to place objects back in the space.

In my example video, I cleaned Abby and Emma’s closet before replacing their items in their spaces.

Straighten or Set In Order

To Straighten or Set in Order is putting items back into the space that have previously been sorted into an organized manner.  This step will vary greatly based on the circumstances of the project – the items, the space, and the people that will be utilizing or maintaining the space.

The fundamental concept during this step is that there is a place for everything and everything is in it’s place.  The decisions for where items will be kept is determined at this time. In my example video, each category of clothing was placed in a specific location in Abby and Emma’s closet.

Standardize or Systematize

Standardize or Systematize is my favorite part, but often overlooked.  To standardize, develop the systems to maintain the newly organized space.  For example, label containers or implement a schedule to replace or remove items.

In my example video, I suggest labeling the spaced identified for each category of clothing in Abby and Emma’s closet.


Sustain is maintaining the space in it’s current form as it is utilized, items are moved, and new items enter the space. This might include conducting training to ensure all users of the space understand the new item locations and systems. As the space is utilized, consider additional improvement opportunities. A continuous improvement mindset enables adjustments and improvements from lessons-learned.

In my example video, Abby and Emma are bought into the improvement, will be trained, and will plan to put items back in their place on a routine basis.

Ready to Get Started?

Are you ready to conduct a 5S Process in your space?  Please contact me to find out more on how I can help you through this process.