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The Science of staying organised- 5 ways to get sorted once and for all!

/ The Design Journey / By

You know the saying ‘ I got it from my mother’? well in this case I absolutely did, the ability to organise that is.

I thrive on it and if truth be told I need to stay organised in order to get through the day juggling work, life and children. It’s not just a luxury, it’s essential to my wellbeing so, it’s no coincidence that I went to study Organisation and Efficiency ( I hold a Masters in Lean and Six Sigma)which basically means that I design systems for workplaces to keep everything optimised and working efficiently.

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s my life functioned on practicality and saving. My parents were the embodiment of efficiency and not wasting anything and nothing was beyond the reach of my Father’s toolbox, he even built the trailer for our first overseas camping trip to France. Our lives were orderly, organised and predictable and largely devoid of the many many distractions we face today in our daily lives.

There is a direct correlation between our modern lives and organisation and the drastic daily vying for our attention through screens and mobile devices. Our free time is ravaged by the perils of always being on, being available and having to be doing something 7 days a week. So it really is no wonder then that the most basic of functions that we need in order to survive and thrive is buried under a digital mound of noise and distractions. So many struggle to stay on top of organisation, at home, in work and for themselves and this is having a detrimental effect on our relationships, mental, physical and emotional health. A recent study by the Australian Association of GP’s found that clutter can affect our anxiety levels, sleep, and ability to focus and can also make us less productive, triggering coping and avoidance strategies.

So, is there a way to help us get and stay organised? Absolutely! When I go to a workplace and am implementing a new process or designing a new workspace one of the tools that i use is called 5S which is effectively a tool to keep everything organised, reduce waste and improve the overall workflow. Some might think that this is simple but for so many the perceived simple nature of staying organised is difficult. For those with neuro-developmental disorders or neurodiversity it can be almost close to impossible so by using a defined model or framework this can really be beneficial and in some cases life-changing. So how exactly does 5S work ? it is essentially a mindset that encourages encourages those in the workplace to only have materials, information, and equipment where it is needed and when it is needed. If we translate this to a home setting it works in a similar manner and encourages us to arrange storage and household items only where and when they are needed. There are 5 main pillars of 5S;

1. Sort

Think about what you only need in each space that you use. Anything that is not needed in that place and in that moment is waste. For example if you keep coats in the hall do you need a ski jacket that you wear once a year to be there in the same space as your every day coats? Constantly reaching in to push the ski jacket out of the way to reach another coat becomes stressful and time consuming!

2. Set in Order/Straighten

Really think about how your use your space, walk it, map it out ( i use a sheet of brown paper and post -its) and can see very easily where the clutter is and my time is being wasted moving items from room to room- clothes are often the biggest culprit with some people having multiple wardrobes around the house.

3. Shine

Keep your space consistently clean. Make an effort to clean as you go. I personally do one deep clean a month ( usually on a Saturday) and de-clutter and re-organise. I find that when i don’t do this things start to pile up and I become stressed more easily when the levels of visual clutter start to build up.

4. Standardize

Habit-forming is one of the biggest areas that most people struggle with when trying to stay organised. Making it a regular thing to change how you do your laundry or maybe dedicate a set time every week when you know you wont be interrupted by work can be a real game-changer. How many times have we had the best intention to stay organised but our attention is pulled by work, or an email or Netflix show!

5. Self-Discipline/Sustain

The reality for a lot of people is that change is hard and habits are always a challenge. If you think of the process of organising your space as something that will bring you happiness, less stress and more time then you are far more inclined to stay on track. Remember that reducing clutter is more of a mindset approach than anything else so find one thing that really drives you crazy first, write it down, time how long it takes you to do and then have a go at re-organising. Repeat the task and re-time it. If you have saved time then you are winning. Continuous improvement motivates us to make and keep the changes!

Finally if you are planning a home renovation or new home prioritise your wellbeing in your space with your designer or architect. Trends will come and go but how you choose to live, use your time and function from a wellbeing perspective are crucial to a happy life and home.

Karen Douglas is a partner in the practice and a Flow Practitioner ( Lean and Six Sigma) specialising in early stage design brief and optimising homes and workplaces for flow.