How the 5S method streamlined my home organizing and cleaning into one task

This method may have unexpected roots, but the results are undeniable

A desk with computer, lamp, and plant with a swivel chair
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Very rarely do we see a home organizing method come along that has its roots in automotive manufacturing. When I first saw it, I knew I had to give it a go – after all, it sounded ridiculous.

The Japanese concept of the Five S's is designed to improve efficiency. The five S’s translate roughly to sort, set, shine, standardize, and sustain – and its alteration into a home organizing idea makes it the perfect routine to merge organizing and cleaning all into one easy-to-manage task. 

I gave the method a go to tackle my neglected home office, and safe to say this is a routine I’ll be implementing around the rest of my home. 

5S method for home organizing

The five S’s are rather self-explanatory:  

  • Sort: Collect homeless items and sort them into categories (or binning them)
  • Set: Put items back in logical places to make everyday life smoother
  • Shine: Make sure the items and the area are clean 
  • Standardize: Create a routine or checklist to ensure that this method is used in all areas of the home
  • Sustain: Make sure to follow through and repeat these steps to keep your home organized and clean – be it daily, weekly, or monthly.  

Gallery wall in home office

(Image credit: Urbanology/Matti Gresham)

When organizing my home office, I somewhat combined this method with another – the ski-slope organizing method – in that I collected the homeless items lying around my office in a collapsible laundry basket to make sorting them and putting them back a little easier.

Having them all in one easy-to-carry basket made setting them back in the right places less of a juggling act. 

It also meant I could put the items I needed in the office back and set aside items from the living room or bedroom, for instance, in a tidy pile that I wouldn’t be falling over to deal with after I finished with the office.

Foldable bamboo hamper | $25.99 at Wayfair

Foldable bamboo hamper | $25.99 at Wayfair
I use these sleek laundry baskets to help declutter my home and sort my laundry. Their foldable design means they are easy to hide out of sight when not in use, too. 

This is where the method stands out to me. Usually, organizing, tidying, and cleaning are all listed on to-do lists as separate tasks – all mammoths in their own right. However, the five S’s incorporate cleaning tips into the routine, making it seem like I had less to do overall. 

It would probably help to take a duster and some polish to the area you are working on before you start sorting and setting (I had to run back downstairs to grab some). Once I had everything, however, it was as simple as wiping down the surface I was about to set something back on, and wiping down the object as I put it back. 

It wasn't a deep clean by any means, but I think it is a great way to stay on top of everyday dusting without making it seem like another task to check off. 

Method Pink Grapefruit All Purpose Surface Spray | $4.29 at Target

Method Pink Grapefruit All Purpose Surface Spray | $4.29 at Target
I love this all-purpose spray for its fruity scent and the fact it doesn't make surfaces sticky after cleaning. it works wonders both around the home and in the kitchen.

Standardizing and sustaining were two S’s I grouped together to finish everything off. I made a plan to repeat the first three S’s every other day to stay on top of clutter, deciding that instead of creating a decluttering checklist to follow strictly each time, I would simply work in whichever room of the house was causing me the most overwhelm. This made the whole method easier to sustain, as I was not as constricted to what I could get done.  

My verdict

Although called the five S method, the sixth S could easily be ‘streamlined!’ 

This cleaning and organizing solution works wonders by cutting out unnecessary back-and-forths around the room or creating a long to-do list splitting cleaning and tidying up, making it look more daunting to complete – helping to prevent overwhelm when cleaning. 

I will certainly be trying the method again in my kitchen next, where I think the combination of tidying and cleaning in one will be the most effective given how often we all need to clean a kitchen to keep it functional.  


Why is the 5S method important?

The five S method is designed to help improve efficiency and optimize productivity by maintaining a workload or set of tasks steadily over a period of time. It originated in Japanese automotive manufacturing for workers to ensure that everything was constructed to the highest standard without forgetting a step, but has quickly become popular in healthcare settings, office workplaces, and at home. The result is continuous improvement on a basic task.  

What are the benefits of the 5S method?

There are several benefits to the 5S method, one of which is the ability to complete tasks in their most simplistic form, or missing steps that will take more time to correct later on. In terms of home organizing, this means being able to completely tackle one area of your home in a short amount of time. And being able to walk away knowing you won't have to return to continue the task in the short term. It improves your attention to detail and reduces stress and overwhelm.   

The five S method, when coupled with other decluttering strategies to help overcome decision fatigue, makes it an incredibly useful practice to have in your tidying arsenal. I think it is certainly a methodology that can be built into your everyday life, making it a positive habit that can change the way you think about even the most mundane of tasks.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.