Clutter overflow by Puikkibeach on flickr (cc by 2.0)
Clutter overflow by Puikkibeach on flickr (cc by 2.0) | Source

The amount of disorganization in your house has now become a major problem, and you are wondering what to do with all the piles of materials that are building up in every available space.

You decide to do something about it but do not know where to start, and it seems like an overwhelming task. The reason for this is because despite your best efforts, you will not make any progress due to the fact that there is no discernible system of organising your home.

Using the following time-tested method, you can easily manage the unnecessary accumulation of clutter.

1. Sort

The first step is to identify the area in which you want to remove clutter. If the area is too overwhelming to start with, break it up into sections and the work will seem a little easier.

For example, if you feel that clutter is everywhere in the house, you can focus on only one room. If the room is still too big for you, focus on a cabinet, shelf or just one corner of the room.

The key here is getting started so that you overcome the initial inertia caused by the seemingly daunting task. Once you identify where to start, jump right into doing the real work of de-cluttering your space. Allocate a space (we will call it the sorting section) where everything in the section you have identified will be moved to.

Remove everything, including stuff that you need, and place it in the sorting section leaving you with a completely empty area. This will give you a feel of how much space is occupied by unnecessary stuff and the much needed encouragement to move forward in the project.

Measure the area and compare what percentage will be occupied when you are through.

Clutter clutter everywhere

The accumulation of unnecessary items in our personal space is a very major problem caused by our consumer habits.

We buy too many things that we do not need and are constantly missing the the things we really need. As this cycle continues, clutter accumulates and sooner or later there is not enough space to function properly.

The amount of time spent managing clutter grows to a point where it is overwhelming. This hub demonstrates a way of organizing your space in order to save time and resources.

1. How to sort

Sort all the the items into the following four categories:

  • Items that are not needed at all – these are things you will never need again. This will be a little difficult at first but just ask yourself if you have used the item in the last 2 years. If not, you do not need it. Keep all these items together and do not worry if you have made the wrong classification because you can come back and re-categorise them later.
  • Items that are needed but are in the wrong place- when items are kept in the wrong location it is very difficult to trace them. It is quite likely that a missing item was just in the wrong place and you will be surprised at how often this happens. Do not spend to much time examining these items as there is still much to be done.
  • Items that are needed but are too many- because of constantly losing things due to the clutter, we replenish and lose them again in a vicious cycle. Soon we find we have many things that are necessary but in large quantities.
  • Items that are needed but not now- we also acquire things that we need for the future. These should not be mixed with the items we need on a daily basis as they just get in the way and result in a lot of time wasted searching.

2. Clean with meaning

The empty space where all your stuff was should be thoroughly cleaned in order to expose any abnormal conditions.

Cleaning in this case is an inspection exercise with the aim of identifying any repairs that may need to be done.

All the items in the sorting section should also be cleaned to inspect their condition and if found to be defective should be separated from the rest of the items.

3. Arrange the sorted items

Determine how the sorted items will be arranged in your space. A logical way is to arrange the items in the following manner:

  • Frequently used items should be easier to reach and should be more generally at the front
  • Less frequently items should be at the back
  • Store heavy items closer to the ground to avoid injuries while lifting
  • Light items at the top
  • Chemicals should be separated from food stuffs
  • The items with expiry dates should be arranged using the FEFO (First Expiry First Out) system.
  • Make use of vertical space by using shelves

4. Create a standard way of managing stuff

Decide on how you maintain the new way of handling your items so as to prevent a recurrence of clutter.

  • Label locations for all the items you want to keep
  • Have a protocol for placing things in a certain place. Never put something in a place that it is not supposed to be
  • Set the maximum and minimum number of items to keep at any one time
  • Before you make a purchase, check if your have the item in stock
  • Let everyone you share the space with know of the standards and ensure they observe them

How much time do you spend in a day searching for lost items?

  • 13% Less than 1 minute
  • 33% 2 – 10 minutes a day
  • 39% 10 – 30 minutes
  • 15% Over 30 minutes

89 people have voted in this poll.

5. Sustain

Regularly check the actual conditions against your new standard.

Note when things start going back to the way they were before you made changes and investigate the cause of slipping back.

Ask another person to audit you just to get a second opinion.

The Kaizen 5S Methodolody

The steps above were adapted from the Kaizen house keeping technique called 5S which is used in many factories applying the Lean Production philosophy as practised by Toyota. Kaizen is a Japanese word literally translated to mean “continuous improvement”. For more on the kaizen philosophy, please read my upcoming hubs on continuous improvement. The 5S process can be summarised as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

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