The 5S Clean Up System – Organising and Simplifying your Space

A systematic guide to becoming more productive courtesy of a Japanese Management style

This post will deal with the physical side of becoming more productive. If you would like to read about ways to get your brain in gear try here.

The Problem

If you work from home you might have a desk that looks something like this:

5S Cluttered Desk

This is not a productive way to do things…

So I would like to introduce a management system called 5S.

What is 5S?

  • 5S is a housekeeping methodology guided by 5S’s
    • The first S (sort) is focused on elimination of unnecessary items that are not required for production operations.
    • The second S (Straighten) centres on creation of efficient storage methods in order to arrange items for easy use and to make it easy to find.
    • The third S (Shine) focuses on cleaning the workplace and equipment regularly so as to maintain standards and identify the defects.
    • The fourth S (Standardize), which comprises of revisiting the first three of the 5S.
    • The fifth S (Sustain) is focused on rules to maintain the standard and continue to improve every day.

5s main

SEIRI – 整理 – Sort

  • Concerns the sorting of items within the workplace both necessary and unnecessary.
  • Sort involves removing all unnecessary tools, parts and instructions within the workplace.
  • Sort results in only the necessary items required for the work/process to be readily available.
  • Prevents accumulation of unneeded items and unnecessary delays through removing obstacles to work.

SEITON – 整頓 – Straighten5s straighten

  • Once the items no longer needed are cleared, you will “Straighten” up what is left.
  • Arrange all necessary items so that they can be easily selected for use. Items are presented for use in an ordered fashion which prevents the loss and waste of time in the workplace; this enables smooth and easy workflow.
  • Here is an example of a ‘Straightened’ Workplace:
    • Notice the clear and ordered layout of tools/items necessary for work use means that no time is wasted in looking for item. This ensures a first-come-first-served basis.
    • If a tool was missing from the toolbox, it would be obvious that it was missing and would give the worker an opportunity to find or replace it before they needed to use it.

SEISO – 清掃 – Shine

  • The purpose of shining your work place is to avoid deterioration on machinery and equipment
  • In this step cleaning is regarded as an inspection
  • Here are the essential steps for the shining phase of 5S:
    • The workplace must be cleaned completely and routinely a “spring-clean” must be undertaken.


SEIKETSU – 清潔 – Standardize

  • Standardize basically means developing rules to maintain the first three S’s
  • The shadow board shown is an example of a standardizing method, as every time a tool is placed back on the board, it will have a specific location.
  • Therefore the next user will always find the tool in the same place. Over time this will become habitual increasing the speed of the process.

shadow board

  • Here are the essential steps for the standardizing phase of 5S:
    • Maintain high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization at all times
    • Maintain cleanliness and orderliness
    • Maintain everything in order and in its right place according to its standard

SHITSUKE – 躾 – Sustainthe 5th s


  • The 5th S is the binding or gluing together of the previous 4 S’s
  • Creating new standards means braking old habits and forming new ones. This can be an uphill struggle.
  • The initial 4 S’s need to be adopted by the work culture, to the point where they are the norm.


  • The 5s method was developed by the Japanese in order to achieve high levels of quality, safety, and productivity.
  • Considered as one of the most important contribution of the Japanese in management.
  • It is highly effective at reducing waste in the workplace as a result of the ongoing practice of the 5S’s (sort, straighten, shin, standardize and sustain)
  • Being set achievable goals of continually improving speed and quality of work in a workplace, the 5s methodology will provide healthier worker commitment.
  • A clean and well-organized workplace will in turn lead to a greater well-being and an increase of motivation of workers.
  • The 5s methodology can and has been used to also improve the quality of life of individuals as well as workplace efficiency.

More Info

If you would like to know or have a question more please email me at

Or drop a comment below any post and I will get back to you asap

Your friend,


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14 Replies to “The 5S Clean Up System – Organising and Simplifying your Space”

  1. Peter

    Hello and thanks for this really interesting and inspiring article. I’m a pretty tidy person by nature but this has helped me to see that there’s plenty more I can do to improve my surroundings and therefore my productivity! Cheers.

    • Greg Hannam

      5S is brilliant, I hope to show you more japanese techniques as we go along that could help change your life for the better! Greg

    • Greg Hannam

      Cheers, I am hoping that people will find ways to apply this in their lives and make it much more efficient overall. Greg

  2. Marcus

    I’d never heard of the 5s system until I came to your site. It’s true though, a tidy work space is a more productive work space. I always feel better when everything is in order and tidy, and I like to know where everything is should I need to use it.

    • Greg Hannam

      Thats the idea. I’m going to make a video to highlight this so hopefully with this in place the benefits will become much more apparent. Greg

  3. Emily

    hi Greg
    Superb post! I like cleanliness and things to be organized. A few months I did a major cleaning and decluterring of my space at home (I do work from home part time). Boy did it feel good! I still have to work on the sustaining part though…So it was useful to read your post.

    • Greg Hannam

      Yeah in companies they usually outline the practices on big colourful boards, maybe you could try this at home to nail the last of the 5S system.


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