The 5S Methodology: Cut the clutter! Learn how to lean towards more with less to build a sustainable life.

Photo by Stephanie Renee Cluff on Unsplash

I love watching TV shows since I can remember being able to sit in front of a TV.

One of my best shows back then was Hunter. I loved the cars chasing and how Rick and Dee DEE were busting criminals.

Often in detective TV shows, you always have that moment. The detective tries to arrest a criminal, not as per the book.

Then he has to go to the commissioner’s office, where he is told how badly he has behaved. Then he has to give back his badge and his weapon.

Cutting to the next scene, Rick would take all his belongings and leave the premises. And at the parking lot, where he is with only a box.

Back then, I wondered how he could have so little things while he has been working for so long.

Fast track 20 years later. I am working at a big company, with no private office, and sharing a vast open space with other colleagues.

Each time I am used to my new desk, we have to move to another building or another floor in the same building.

Because of all those things, each time I have to move, I try to reduce the staff I have to carry with me.

Now I understand why Rick has only one box with all his belongings on it.

In our life also, we tend to accumulate so many material things. And that stuff occupies so much physical and mental space that it suffocates us in the long run.

And you know that this was a huge issue when Netflix created a reality show about it. The show is called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”:

Yet the above show only tackles the material things we accumulate. In this article, we will explore some methods used by Marie Kondo.

We will explore both the material and immaterial worlds and how we can cut the clutter.

The method is called the 5S methodology, based on a Japanese framework that Marie uses on her show.

Are you ready for some Japanese mind martial art?

1. SEIRI OR SORT — The first step is to separate the necessary from the unnecessary. As we go through our life, we accumulate things.

Some of them are necessary to help us accomplish what we need right now. Yet most of the stuff in our closet, the one of our mind, in our garage, the one of our mind, are things we don’t need right at this moment.

We have to find the courage to get rid of those unnecessary things weighing us down. As we don’t see an animal with a backpack while we are hiking, we have to focus on what is essential to our cause, our mission today.

1. Seiri (Sort) — Separate the necessary from the unnecessary.

2. SEITON OR SET IN ORDER — Once we sit in our closet, in our garage, be it in the real-world or our mind, we can feel the power of essentialism.

Now is the time to put everything in its place. In life, things that are on the right spot need minimum energy to maintain them there.

Like water, we must always take the path of least resistance when setting our things in order. We have to do it deliberately and intentionally.

2. Seiton (Set in order) — Put everything in its place.

3. SEISO OR SHINE — Once we have set things in order, we have to ensure that no dust settles on them.

We have to clean and maintain our environment, be it our physical or mental worlds.

Cleaning will help us be in control of our environment. It will help the energy flow around us with no drag.

If we take care of our environment, our environment will take care of us. Like a cleaned window, a cleaned environment will not dim our shine. It is quite the opposite.

3. Seiso (Shine) — Clean and care for the environment.

4. SEIKETSU OR STANDARDIZE — Cleaning and keeping our environment tide is not a one-shot action.

This approach has to be maintained through some rules that we have to define.

We need to standardize our approach regarding the 3 previous steps. Like traffic regulations, we need to be conscious about the rules we need to apply to keep chaos out of our lives’ highways.

Standardization is the best way to use minimum energy to maintain order and minimize disturbance due to external forces.

4. Seiketsu (Standardize) — Create rules to maintain cleanliness and tidiness.

5. SHITSUKE OR SUSTAIN — Rules are great. Yet, they are easily broken. When it comes to change or evolution, nature’s weapon is one word: habit.

Habits are harder to break. If you don’t believe so, ask people who are trying to quit smoking or who are trying to stop getting into toxic relationships.

The Power of Habits is what will change you and your world, eventually. When a habit is like the air you are breathing, it better be a good habit.

5. Shitsuke (Sustain) — Commit by transforming rules into habits.

By transforming the rules into habits, we will be able to maintain our environment clean and tidy.

If things are in order, they are easier to sort. And here we are, back to square one.

As shown in the picture above, the 5S methodology is an iterative process. And if we want to make it efficient, we have to transform it into a habit.

Then we will be able to apply it with the minimum of brainpower.

There you have it, the 5S methodology in a nutshell:

  1. Seiri (Sort) — Separate the necessary from the unnecessary.
  2. Seiton (Set in order) — Put everything in its place.
  3. Seiso (Shine) — Clean and care for the environment.
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize) — Create rules to maintain cleanliness and tidiness.
  5. Shitsuke (Sustain) — Commit by transforming rules into habits.

Be it in the physical world or the mental world, one must always strive to live with what one can bring into one’s grave.

Because at one point, life will fire us. And all we have will need to fit in that box. No more. No less.

Yes, it is a grim ending. Yet this is the way of living a life where less is more.

How cluttered is your mind? Your physical space?

What are your tips to minimize your maintenance energy? Maximize your potential?

What other methods do you use to do more with less?

Leave a comment below.

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📖 Griot 🧙🏿‍♂️Mentor 🦄 Intrapreneur 💪🏿 Entrepreneur