How to Get Organized and Stay Organized in 5 Simple Steps. No Manual Required

How to get organized and stay organized in five simple steps. No manual required

Organization. What a daunting word, especially when it comes to your office. I find myself flipping through design magazines, and even pick up the Ikea catalogue for some kind of guidance. The multi drawer desks and hand made containers you can make in two minutes all look lovely, and would, to most people’s chagrin, be fun to put together, but it still doesn’t take away the mess I’m looking at. Ugh.

A few sips of java, and eureka! It comes to me. The 5-S ! Thank you my brilliant Japanese masterminds.

What is the 5-S you ask? It’s a theory, made up of five Japanese words that start with a ‘S’ used to manage workplace organization. In fact, this theory is so simple and effective it can extend past the workplace, and be used in many aspects of your life. So Martha Stewart, move over!

The 5-S

Sort (Seiri)– This is where we collect all the papers and random items sitting around your house, that have desperately wanted your attention. Put them all in one place, and start to sort the necessary (e.g. invoices, income statements, and you know, that notice to renew your now expired driver’s licence that you should have paid attention to, etc.) from the unnecessary (e.g. cool but useless goodies picked up at your last conference, piles of articles and magazines you’ve been meaning to read for the last year but haven’t, etc.). Whatever you don’t need, donate it, recycle it or dispose of it. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Straighten (Seiton)– Now that you have sorted everything you need, create a designated and accessible place for it. This does not mean you should start creating a new pile of papers on your desk, or a new pile of magazines at the foot of your couch or start dropping all you miscellaneous items in a little container in the front foyer table. Yes, I know, we’re all culprits. Mea Culpa. What this means is, paper is appropriately filed in folders or drawers, desk is clear of any items, supplies are stored in an organizer; you get my drift. The only rule of thumb you need to keep in mind is, nothing goes on the floor.

Shine (Seiso)– This step may be easiest, requiring little to no decision-making. Just clean! Sweep, vacuum, dust, mop, you know, give it the works. Make this part of your regular work routine. Every time you finish work for the day give it a little clean and put everything back in its designated place. A clean workplace creates a clear mind.

Standardize (Seiketsu)– Standardizing is not a big deal if it’s just you who uses the office or work area, but it’s key when there are more people using it or sharing it with you – e.g., your spouse, kids, business partners, colleagues. Set a standard for the area. For example, if you share a computer, come to an understanding as to how you should leave the settings, that way, whenever anyone uses it, it’s ready to go. This makes me think of when I was a kid, and we had to rotate classrooms through out the day, you could bet your bottom dollar that at least one classroom you’d enter would require rearranging because of the class before; you know, chairs all over the place, tables and desk pushed back against the walls. We would generally lose 5- 10 minutes of our class trying to put things back together.

Sustain (Shuitsuke)– This last step is very important, and may take a little effort if it’s more than one person involved. What this says is that anyone who uses this space is responsible for, well, the 5-S! Make sure everyone understands what is required, and if anything slips, communicate again. Since I’m a big fan of lists, maybe you can make a checklist everyone can follow as they leave the work area.

Alright, now that I’ve refreshed myself on the 5-S approach, it’s time to get started!

If you have a great alternative to the 5-S method or you think it would be that much better with an extra step, give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Good luck if you’re on your own mission, and have a fabulous sunny weekend.

Until next time!