What we observe, experience and may abhor or enjoy, will ultimately become part of we what refer to as common sense, as we believe ‘everyone should know that’. For example, in today’s mechanized world the idea of an assembly line screams organized efficiency. We take this process for granted. Over time it has become part of our collective common sense. Yet, the assembly line (arguably) didn’t gain recognition until 1913 when Ford put process flow knowledge garnered from multiple industries into action, the moving assembly line. (Later to be improved by Toyota and customized by McDonald’s.)
What does this have to do with organizing one’s home? The concept of eliminating waste (of steps, space, inventory, money, time…) is at the core of what is known as ‘Lean Manufacturing’ and the aforementioned companies were the pioneers of the assembly line doing just that!
At first blush, one might think comparing a manufacturing environment to one’s household seems rather odd. I get that. The funny thing is – once you start reaping the benefits of this conscious effort to organize through lean methodology, you may end up saying things to your partner like I do. “Why would we want to do it that way? It’s not lean.” Of course, as he has been the Lean SME (Subject Matter Expert) in previous employment positions, not only does he find this humorous, we’re in immediate agreement
Although there are MANY aspects to running a company (or household) with Lean concepts in mind, let’s customize and apply the 5 key principles with the ‘customer’ being an average level of needs household member:
1. Value: Is defined by the customer’s need for a specific product (timeline to delivery, price, meeting of expectations). Examples of organizational processes to be considered; food supply to and from cabinets and/or refrigerator, laundry from dirty to being cleaned and returned to proper location, children’s toys / games, garage usage including storage and tools… Having efficient organizational processes in place will provide you predictable accessibility (the end goal) to these high value items.
2. Value stream: Once the value (end goal) is identified, the activities it takes for that delivery are reviewed (aka value stream mapping), we look to eliminate as many non-essential steps as possible. Simplified examples: We would all agree common sense tells us the best place to locate spices is near the stove and an extra roll of toilet paper should be within arm’s reach of the toilet. Obvious. But, how they get there, stay organized, and kept in stock are processes to consider.
3. Flow: After waste has been eliminated from a process, the flow will need to be reviewed to ensure it is running smoothly. Maybe we discover the extra roll is just out of reach for our youngest. Or, household members find it too difficult or inconvenient to replace the spare. And, maybe the spices are located where it’s hard to keep their containers clean or find the ones we use most often. Perhaps, that idea of having them all in matching bottles with labels is too painful to maintain and we wish we had never made the investment.
4. Pull: Naturally, accessibility will improve greatly with improved process flow. Product redundancy and inventory will decrease. This will mean a savings of time and money! In our examples – If your toilet paper is partially stored in the linen closet, in the cabinet of each bathroom, in the garage, in the laundry room, and in a container on the floor of each bathroom, it is difficult to know how soon you will need to buy more without checking each location. You can easily end up with an abundance taking up valuable storage space in multiple locations and / or miscalculate and run out entirely prior to shopping; creating a time and effort wasting trip mid-week.
5. Perfection: Until every household member participates in defining, engaging in and improving the processes, they are not perfect. And, as needs change the processes may need some tweaking.
The elimination of waste, whether it be in activities (as in too many steps or activities required to accomplish and maintain a process) or an abundance of inventory (such as an unknown amount of duplication in clothing types, vases, cans of soup, paper towels, etc.) that clutter our emotions and space, will ultimately help you streamline your life and give you more time for what you WANT to do.
We’re here to help you identify what is of value to you and your household members. Then organize your space/s for efficient process flow. Think and implement lean.
Kathryn Hisert's experience includes 30+ years of sales and marketing. This includes having been a Realtor for over a decade, a Marketing association president, and an Accredited Staging Professional. She is currently a member of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing), the National and Arizona Realtor associations and various home staging groups.