The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
– Hans Hofman
So look around your office, your factory, your home. What do you see? What’s on your desk and shelves? Do you really need all of that… stuff? Is there a purpose to each item? Does it need to be available and present in your space now, or can it be put out of sight for a few weeks… months… forever? How much time is consumed, and stress created, by looking for the appropriate tool, book, or utensil? Do you really need three beat up measuring cups of the same size?
A core tool in lean is 5S, taken from five Japanese terms that roughly translate to sort, straighten shine, standardize, sustain. Remove what isn’t needed, find a defined home for what remains, clean, turn the activity into a habit, and find a way to ensure it continues. Can your factory floor have just the tools that are needed, in just the right place, always returned to that place? How about your kitchen? Decluttering also has a zen component. Find one room, or even one shelf, and evaluate each object. Challenge it. Why is it there, and what is its purpose? What would happen if it wasn’t there? If it has a reason and has real value, then find and define a home for it.
The clean, neat environment will help give you the focus and strength to tackle the challenges that remain. It can become obsessive. You should have seen the look on my real estate agent’s face when I told her that I wanted a house with less storage space, not more.
And soon you will realize that simplifying and decluttering doesn’t just apply to physical stuff…