clean your closet and shirts on rack
shirts on rack

Don‘t clean out your closet – 5S it!

Hey friends,

did you ever wonder what would happen if you put an engineer into a closet? Right – he 5S’s it!

This article is an example of one of my own 52 steps. Basically, it’s the yearly sorting out of the unused clothes, but with that handy tool from the automotive industry – 5S

What is 5S?

5S is the name of a workplace organization method […]. The list describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

(as found on Wikipedia)

In short: 5S is a methodology which comes from the automotive industry (most famously from Toyota) and the aim of it is to make your work place more efficient and yourself more productive.

The 5S stands for 5 Japanese words, which begin with an S and summarize the methodology.

1. Seiri = Sort

5S Tools drawer” by Tasma3197Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

decide which tools are really necessary at this work place to get the job done, that needs to be done here. All other stuff gets out of here

2. Seiton = Set in order

arrange the required tools at this work place, so you can access them easily and always know what is where

3. Seiso = Shine

clean the tools and the work place/machine. Mainly for safety reasons, but also useful, when your boss wants to see how you‘re working

4. Seiketsu = Standardize

find the best way to complete the requested work with the right tools and let that way be the standard

5. Shitsuke = Sustain

repeat the points above on a regular basis (most difficult point)

So, you see these rules are made for industry, where every second counts and machines have to keep on running. However, we can copy-paste it into some parts of our day to day life. But please: DON‘T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUS

Let‘s play

And how do we apply 5S in our closet? Pretty straight forward:

1. Sort = In or out?

First of all, the whole stuff has to fly out of your wardrobe. You can do it by sections (I did it shelf by shelf) or more dramatic and simply put it all on one heap in the room.

Now, you see it all („did I really buy THAT shirt?“) and decide, which piece stays and which one has to make someone else happy (donate, if possible).

In another blog (with a helpful roadmap), they say clothes that you didn‘t wear for 6 months or longer, you should throw away. Personally, I would recommend at least one year, just to make sure you don‘t toss all your winter clothes in October

2 a. Set in order = what comes where?

Now you have only the priority clothes in front of you – great!

Before putting back onto the shelves, group them. Make stacks of pants, sweaters, shirts, and so on…

3. Shine = clean it

Just wipe the dust and spider webs (?) out of the inside of your wardrobe. You know it‘s a rare opportunity

2 b. (no S for putting the clothes back in)

Ah, everything is clean and fresh – your clothes will like it.

You‘ll want to arrange your stuff, instead of just putting it all back in. Sort it as it suits you best

4. Standardize = become efficient in dressing

For those of you, who strive for efficiency and want to reduce the time of dressing in the morning: chose your favorite outfit and copy-paste it several times. If you have 3x blue jeans, 10x white t-shirts and 4x gray hoodies, that simplifies the decision making a lot. I guess it‘s why soldiers have just one camouflage („Hm, is the nature khaki or rather olive today?“).

This advice is not for people who prefer to have some variety in the closet.

5. Sustain = see you next year 🙂

You made it! Fantastic!

But: you‘ll have to repeat it next year… and the year after… and then again. That‘s the hard truth – stuff will come and try to steal space and you‘ll have to take it back

And now it‘s your turn

Are you ready now to 5S your closet?

Maybe not yet, there might be some inner hurdles. For example that feeling guilty to throw away good clothes, that you liked, bought but don‘t wear at the moment. Well, that‘s just natural. But you should rather remember how bad it feels to see those clothes hanging there and waiting to be worn. Imagine how you will feel released from that. Plus: if you donate, people will be honestly grateful and happy to get your used stuff.

And eventually I‘d like to mention: Do not expect to feel good while you throw out your shirts. At least I didn‘t experience that. The relieving feeling comes afterwards. So you better switch to autopilot and just get the job done.

I wish you a nice 5S-ing and really look forward to read your comments.



Picture from: Jeff Sheldon