Riti Prasad talks about How to Declutter Using the 5S Philosophy

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I remember several patches of time in my childhood when my father would maniacally clean sections of the home. He would start with his room, clear the paperwork, empty jars and bottles. Then he would move over to the room we siblings occupied, sifting through our old books, toys and sundry junk. Finally, he would attack the kitchen with military precision, deep cleaning jars, throwing twisted or cracked containers and excess bottles and gathering the waste to sell. On the days, he assigned to clean our room, our nerves would be fraught with anxiety. We would look over his shoulder as he dumped the junk and the moment he turned away from the pile, we would carry back select things we could not bear to part with and hide them where he would not look again.

I am the true advocate of clearing junk every quarter. And, I live with the assumption that if I have to shift homes, the process should be easy and that is why even when we remodeled our home, the removal and rearranging of things back to their precise locations were easily managed.

I am a believer of the 5S philosophy, which essentially proposes that there must be a place for everything and everything must be in its place. Secondly, one should be able to retrieve a given object in a matter of seconds.

I follow the below methodology to declutter my home.

  1. Divide and Conquer

Divide the household into small segments and assign a day for each.

  • Clothes
  • Linen
  • Beauty Products
  • Papers
  • Toys
  • Books
  • School Books
  • Kitchen/ Refrigerator
  • Bathroom

 2. Declutter in Small Doses

Further subdivide and set aside a fixed duration you will devote to cleaning so it does not seem like a burden. For instance, instead of cleaning the full cupboard of clothes, clean them by racks/ sections.

  1. Clear and Mess

Clear a large area near the place you plan to declutter and dump everything there.

  1. Sort Using the Six-Box Principle

Place six boxes near the area you plan to declutter and label them as:

  • Keep– Things in good condition that one is using go in this box. Look for frayed edges and evaluate whether they are good to use or ready to be retired.
  • Discard– Things which can be neither repaired nor donated nor upcycled go here. Like old undergarments.
  • Donate/ Sell– Things that are in good condition, which someone can use like clothes or old books or things that can be sold to the raddiwallah.
  • Repair– This category of things tends to lie at the back of the cupboard and must be bagged for immediate repair.
  • Upcycle– Boxes that could be reused, clothes that could become dusters, napkins or bags, old notebooks that could be made into scribbling pads, all go in this box.
  • Store– If you cannot decide what to do with some stuff or if they are too dear to be thrown or donated, put them in this box and store out of sight. If you do not ever think of them again, junk them during the next phase of decluttering.

Pick each item from the pile and coldly evaluate on the basis of these six parameters. Do not stop to think and dump the item in the relevant box.

  1. Set in Order

After sorting the contents of one shelf, take the ‘Keep’ pile and arrange them on the shelf.

Arrange according to the frequency of usage. Use the most valuable real-estate like front shelf, racks at eye-level, and top drawers, for things that you use the most. The corner cupboards should be for housing less-frequently accessed things. Categorise items into individual racks just the way shops do. Kurtas go together; dupattas housed in a drawer for easy access; and books are categories by genres.

Riti Prasad

Credit: Good Housekeeping

  1. Use Organisers

Make use of boxes, cookie tins, baskets, shoe boxes, etc. to make mini organisers within the cupboard or drawers. These are fantastic for holding cosmetics, hair clips, perfume bottles, medicines and even blouses together.Perhaps the reason I buy several bottles of Nutella is so that I can use them as storage bottles in my kitchen.

Use jam jars/ coffee bottles for the kitchen and designate bottles for each item instead of leaving them in half-opened packs.

  1. Shine

Design a schedule for cleaning and dusting surfaces or frequently used shelves or cupboards that tend to get messy faster.

  1. Communicate

Establish a culture of decluttering. Communicate the rules to the household. Inform what goes where so everyone knows where to retrieve things.

  1. Review, Rinse, Repeat

Have a decluttering schedule. Run audits to check whether a method of storing is ergonomically sound.

  1. How Often to Declutter

  • Clothes – quarterly
  • Linen – Yearly
  • Beauty products – quarterly
  • Papers – Yearly
  • Toys – every 6 months for younger children, yearly for older children
  • Books – every 2 years
  • School Books – yearly at the close of school year
  • Kitchen/ Refrigerator – monthly on a weekly allocation of areas to declutter/ rearrange. Assign a day for the refrigerator, a day for the larder, and another day for the racks.
  • Bathroom- monthly. Discard empty bottles, clean shelf spaces, replenish stocks and change toothbrushes.

Also read: Being the Only Woman Among The Three Men In My Life by Riti Prasad

Riti Prasad is the author of Double Trouble, Double Fun!: A Supermom’s Guide to Raising Twins, Wicked Temptations and Mathematics Fun, Fact and Fiction. She works in the Fragrance Industry as Creation Head.