Benefits of ‘Tidying Up’ in Life and in Work

It’s that time of the year again, Spring cleaning and the declutter season is upon us!  I recently finished decluttering my home office space and wardrobe as I do a couple of times a year.  This always results in bags of recycling moving from my house to the recycling bins and to the charity shops nearby. I bring all my clothes to the SCAR shop in Shannon which is a wonderful place to bring old clothing to, and to sometimes invest in ‘new’ pieces to bring life to the wardrobe again. Like anyone else, the sense of satisfaction I get from being able to see and use the spaces I have is second to none.


Applying the 5’s of Lean

This led me to thinking about the “Lean-sigma ‘5-S” principles which I studied many years ago, when I worked in financial services.  The 5-Ss of Lean are:

Sort – the process of separating out the necessary items away from the unnecessary ones

Set-in-order – going about organising the necessary items into an efficient arrangement for ease of access

Shine – This is all about having a clean workspace, for a safe and pleasant environment 

Standardise – Meaning that the process becomes the ‘way of working’ and can be applied to all other processes and areas within the workplace 

Sustain – Essentially, this means having ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’, and keeping this going over time

Lean methodologies were first introduced by Henry Ford in his motor car factories and went on to be enhanced by Japanese expert Taiichi Ohno who build the Toyota Production system after World War II. The term ‘lean’ itself was formed in the 1980’s by John Krafcik and has since been developed further and adopted by many industries, from manufacturing to call centres.


The Benefits of Decluttering Your Space

Decluttering a work or office space, has numerous benefits.  I’m sure you can identify with the scenario of working away at your desk, looking for either something physical such as a certain type of envelope, paper or ink for your printer for example, or similarly, looking for something you’ve filed and saved on your desktop or in the cloud and not knowing where you stored it or left it last time.


Marie Kondo’s Approach to Tidying Up

You might remember the craze that swept the globe around 2014 when Marie Kondo’s book sold millions of copies, worldwide.  Her book entitled ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organising’ burst into our lives and we all went a bit mad decluttering our homes.  Her theories suggest that we do the declutter in this order:

  1. Tidy by category and not location (i.e. all coats and not just ‘the wardrobe in the spare room’)
  2. Discard first, then store (i.e. get rid of everything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ and then store wat you have left)
  3. Choose what to keep, not what to discard (this can help to keep the mind focused on the task at hand and not to get side tracked or overwhelmed)
  4. Work in a specific order (Kondo recommends starting with clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items and lastly, sentimental items)
  5. Give everything a home (clutter is often caused by a failure to put things back where they belong)

We can see the similarities between the Lean 5-S model and the ‘Spark Joy’ theory of Marie Kondo.

Image of Marie Kondo, folding clothes at a table

Marie Kondo, Emmy Nominated Organisational Expert, Image Credit: Marie Kondo

Applying Decluttering Lessons to Your Life and Business

In your business and professional life, these are the three things I would consider based on my experience of building a business, and running a home for the last 20 years:

1. Know Your Why

Always check in with yourself, ‘what is the purpose of this task, this item or this activity’ and does it align with a goal, or a strategy of mine.  If the answer to the latter question is ‘no’ then, in my experience we need to connect with our inner Marie Kondo and thank it, release it and let it go!

2. Set Achieveable Goals

When it comes to decluttering a space, or getting clear about what stays and what goes in your work, home, your mind, or your business life, set yourself achievable goals and start there.  For example, I will take 1 hour on Saturday and 1 hour on Sunday to do XYZ task.   This is more achievable than telling yourself you will get it all done on Friday, knowing well that after a long week’s work, its probably the last thing you will do.

3. Recognise Your Inner Saboteur

What does your ‘inner failure gremlin’ sound like?  You know that voice, the one full of doubt, questioning, second guessing and even ridiculing you for your plans, goals, dreams and desires.  It helps if you give it a silly name and an even more ridiculous voice, like Daffy Duck for example.  You don’t need to listen to and believe every thought you have.

Where Will You Start Today?

In the words of the ancient Japanese swordsman and philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi, ‘If you know the way broadly, you will see it in everything’.  For me in this context, it means that once you make the initial painful start of applying Lean 5-S to your workspace, or Marie Kondo’s magical approach in one area of your home life, you begin to see how easily it can be applied to all areas.  Not just your physical space, but your mental space also.  And that, in my experience is where the true magic happens.  The way becomes clear and suddenly success feels close at hand. 


Understanding your purpose is crucial when it comes to decluttering and organizing your life. If you haven’t already explored this, check out the previous blog post on Finding Your Why for a deeper dive into aligning your actions with your goals.