This month we are excited to work in a room that is near and dear to our hearts: the home office! We use a process called 5S when we work in any office. 5S is an organizing method that allows you to maintain order and eliminate waste in the workplace by reviewing office items and minimizing clutter.
The 5 S’s are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. For more information on 5S and how it can help you, check out our Organizers Northwest Business Services: 5S Lean Office page on the subject. We also have a helpful blog on the subject, called Defining 5S in the Lean Office. This method can be applied virtually anywhere in the home!
This month, we are going to show you how to apply the 5S’s in your home office, step-by-step.
Prepare for your 5S office organizing project by gathering all needed items. We recommend a label maker, garbage bags, post-its, sharpies, tape and any cleaning products and dusting rags you may need. Make sure you have adequate light and lots of snacks! You should budget two days for this project – one for sorting and a second for the remaining steps.
Begin by sorting paper into categories based on how you want to file them later. Use post-its to assign temporary categories before making permanent files labels, since you may change your naming conventions as you go. Make sure to keep your topics broad; our rule of thumb is to never have a file with less than four or five papers inside of it. Think about how you will look for things later on. For instance, you car will change over time. Naming the file “Cars” is better than naming it “Subaru.” Be sure to separate any papers requiring an action from those that will be used for reference.
Don’t forget to sort your office supplies when you do this step! This should be done separately from paper. We recommend gathering all office supplies together and placing them on a large clean surface to sort through. Place like with like, remove excess and donate or relocate to another area.
Once you are firm on your paper file categories, you are ready to create file tabs. Decide where paper file categories deserve to live based on how often you refer to them. When you return to the paper requiring an action, address the items that can be done in five minutes or less and complete them right away. For the remaining papers, consider making a QuickSort file for your desktop. You can find directions for how to do this on our blog, Organizing The Household Paper Trail: Tip #2. A quick sort file helps you to separate action into verb-based categories so that you can “batch” your to-do’s all at once.
Take the time to dust down the insides of drawers, around power outlets, lights and plants. Pay particular attention to the back of your computer. Check the fan and remove dust from behind all electronic parts. There is no better time to get things clean than after an organizing session!
Now that you have done the work of 5S’ing your home office, clarify where things are located so that it is easy to maintain. Label bins and boxes, and make sure to leave space for yourself as you add files. Color-coding is great, but not if it will be too difficult to maintain in the future! Avoid purchasing specific patterns for files, since they are almost certain to be discontinued at some point. We love the army green hanging files that never change! They are cheap, easy to find and make your work easy to maintain when you need to add new files down the road.
Here is a great test of whether your standardization work is complete: imagine that you are away and you need someone else to locate a file for you. Would they be able to find it based on your directions? If not, return to the system and clarify it even more.
This piece of 5S is in some ways the hardest. The work of sustaining your efforts relates directly to your ability to return to the project for regular maintenance. That means creating a designated time each month, week or even daily to put things back in order and maintain the system. Put it in your calendar, make a date with yourself to keep the work up. You deserve it!