10-Minute De-Stress… It’s Not What You Think

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you might think that this post is about a quiet walk in the woods.


Or a trip to see a beautiful sunset.

Sunset at LeStrange

Or maybe a quiet moment watching wildlife on a spring evening.


But no….this post is about something I used to teach frequently in my work.

It’s about 5S, a technique that is used to organize clutter, improve efficiency and ultimately relieve some of your day-to-day stress.

I’m not a compulsive organizer, but I do feel calmer in an uncluttered environment.

Do you get stressed when your house is messy?  How many times have you opened your garage door, looked at the clutter and dirt, sighed, then closed it right back up again?  Do  you get irritated when you can’t find your favorite shirt?  How long have you looked for a tool on your messy tool bench?

You get the idea.

5S was developed in Japan and stands for the Japanese words seiri (tidiness), seiton (orderliness), seiso (cleanliness), seiketsu (standardization), and shitsuke (discipline). The English translations of these words are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in order
  3. Shine (sometimes this occurs before #2)
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

I used 5S at work with teams to organize nursing stations, pre-operative preparation areas, inpatient supply rooms, central sterile supply and pharmacy storage areas.

It’s a great team activity, building teamwork as areas are organized.  I used it to set up work areas, but also when mildly dysfunctional teams needed a ‘pick me up’ group activity where they could work together on a shared goal.

5S has served me well at home too.

Last week I was searching for a slotted spoon as I made supper.  I clanged through my utensil drawer, looking for the thing with no success (it was there…).  I was tempted to take the whole drawer and dump it in the garbage can.  

It’s my own fault…..

When we moved, I combined 2 drawers in our old house into one drawer, expecting everything to fit.  I’ve lived with the consequences ever since and today is the day we’re going to fix that.

Here’s what we started with:


Where’s the other half of the turkey baster?

I began with the first step, Sort, as I pulled items out, asking myself if I’d used the thing since we moved in last October.

I don’t even know what this is.  Do you?

Lemon Juicer

Yuck.  This came out of the drawer like this…


How in the world??

I sorted through everything, creating a discard pile and also a ‘Red Tag‘ pile.  Red Tag items will be thrown away if I don’t use them in the next 6 months or so.

Here’s my throw away pile–it has broken and never used items that don’t have much value.

Throw Away

Here’s the Red Tag pile–I’ll put these away for 6 months.  If I need them, I’ll put them back in the drawer:

Red Tag

How did I get so many whisks?

Shine:  Now it’s time to clean it up!Lysol

The next step is ‘Set in Order‘.  I tackle the issue of the crooked drawer dividers by adding felt pads to the dividers to prevent slippage.

Felt Pads

I put a pad on each end of the drawer where the spring-loaded divider sits.  The friction is enough to keep the divider from slipping.

Empty Drawer

I decide I’ll put my most frequently used items in the middle, less used items on the left side and smaller items on the right side.  This will help when I’m looking for things.  I also decide to move large spoons and spatulas to a mug next to the stove so they are close at hand.

Utensil Mug

Here is the drawer after items are set in order:

Finished Drawer

Less used items on the left, most frequently used items in the middle, small items on the right

Standardize is the 4th step.

This step creates a system to support the new organization.  We want the drawer to stay organized.  How do we do this?  First, I talk to Rob about this new organization plan.  I ask him which drawer he thinks we should 5S and he quickly answers, “That utensil drawer!”   He’s been frustrated by the drawer too.   There’s nothing like shared goals.

In the work environment, this is the step where a new procedure is created or a diagram is made that describes where things go.  We don’t need that here.  I’ve made the organization simple so we both can remember it.  We’ll  just remember “Less used items on left, most used items in the middle and small things on the right.”

I’ve learned that complicated organization never works.

The final step is Sustain.  This is the most critical step.

During this step, you develop a plan to keep the new system in place.  Most groups do this by establishing a schedule for routine evaluation of the area. Usually it is done as the area is cleaned–Inspection occurs during cleaning and if anything is out of standard, it is removed and/or replaced.

How many times have you spent a whole day cleaning your garage, only to find it a mess 4 months later?

Think about it…  

You spent so much time and energy getting the space organized, and you were so very proud of your work, right?  I’ve seen groups do great work, only to see them backslide in 4-6 months.

Here’s my sustain plan:  I’ll do a quick once-over of the drawer every time I empty the dishwasher.  Every couple of months, I’ll wipe down the drawer.

Key Point:  This is a critical step.  If I don’t do this quick and easy step, the organization will gradually slip back into disarray.


So that’s it–Today’s tip for a calmer, healthier life.



For some giggles, take a look at this video–This takes 5 S to a whole new level!

Here is a resource on 5S for healthcare:


  1. Linda Larin | 21st Apr 16

    I should have known your first blog would be about 5S 🙂 How wonderful! So great to hear from you and the photos are amazing. I’m jealous hearing about all the great things you are doing! Way to go!!! I’m subscribing so I can get your regular updates. Miss you! Linda

    • Stella | 21st Apr 16

      Of course I’d blog about 5S!! 🙂 I miss you too and look forward to seeing you soon! I’m glad you’re going to follow along.

  2. Shon | 7th May 16

    Ruste, this warmed my heart. I felt so satisfied over Christmas when I 5s’ed several closets and drawers. Of course, I took a bit of flak for that from my family. A funny story about this is that my husband said he was going to organize the basement workroom just like I had done in some areas of the house. When I came to look he had organized paint, supplies, cleaners, crafts etc all by size of can or container. I asked how we would know where to find something if we weren’t sure of the size… We started over 🙂

    • Stella | 7th May 16

      🙂 That gave me a giggle! That would be a great teaching story!!!

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