According to a recent Staples survey of over 5,600 customers, a messy workspace can contribute to about one hour a week in “lost time” because an employee is distracted by something in the work area or is looking for something in the unorganized workspace.

Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, a workplace and life organization expert and creator of the Productivity Institute, says few things are more time-wasters than a messy workspace. Wetmore thinks an unorganized work area can lead to as much as 15 percent of a workweek wasted.

So what’s the best way to get organized? As advocates of visual cues and 5S practices, we’ve put together a guide using 5S premises that can get your office setting workplace more organized.

Applying 5S to Office Areas

The practice of 5S traces its origins to Japan. The 5S methodology has come out of a study of the techniques studied in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and from the Toyota Production System (TPS).

The name comes from five Japanese words that all happen to begin with “s” sounds – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke – hence, the S in 5S

Here’s what each word translates to in English:

  • 5S Seiri – sort, clearing, classify
  • 5S Seiton – straighten, simplify, set in order, configure
  • 5S Seiso – sweep, shine, scrub, clean and check
  • 5S Seiketsu – standardize, stabilize, conformity
  • 5S Shitsuke – sustain, self-discipline, custom and practice

You can apply these tips to organizing your office, cubicle, home office or a homework nook. Whether you’re in a busy office environment or just trying to get your home office organized, we think these steps will help.


Look around your office. Take note of things that can be tossed, stored and put where you can easily access them.

A file with research for a project proposal that went nowhere – trash it. A legal pad of notes from a successful campaign – file it. A file of tax information from 2012 – store it.

Think to yourself, “What do I need on my desk to get my job done/goals accomplished every day?” Choose items that add real value to your everyday routine to take up space in your front-and-center workspace. Do the same with drawers, file cabinets, file boxes, shelves – everything that is a home for items or clutter. Do the same for your email inbox. Get rid of your clutter!

Seiton/Straighten or Set in order

Some of InSite Solution’s most popular products are signs that designate where items go – like our pallet corners or “Pallet Jack Here” or “Ladder goes here” signs. By designating a space for tools to be put in a warehouse, it increases productivity as employees know exactly where to find something and don’t waste time looking around for misplaced items.

The same applies to your workspace. Establishing set locations for things like pens, folders for current products, stapler, calendar of upcoming events, notepads, etc., can help cut down on wasted time looking for these items.

We have clients that use our carpet tape to outline areas for copier paper; racks for products or files; and designated work areas.

Dr. Wetmore suggests using labels or color coded stickers to help remind you where things go. “By clearly labeling one file bin ‘Project proposals’ and another ‘cold call leads,’ you can quickly find the resources you need, rather than fumbling through a bunch of folders all thrown into one basket,” he advises.


As you’re purging and organizing, clean. Dust, clean up drink rings, vacuum under your desk, empty the pencil sharpener, clean your computer screen, clean off your computer desktop and dust off all your computer cords.


Create a system that keeps your workplace organized. This can be a physical standardization or maybe a new process standardization.

For example, you’ve established a new email folder called “work related services I may want to look into.” That’s a new standard – you place all applicable emails into this folder as you receive them. But to take it another step, Wetmore suggests you establish a time once a week, when you go through those emails and make a decision to order new service, make a call to check into it further or delete the email.

Another example could be used in a homework area your kids are using. Every Thursday night, work with your kids to clear out old papers they don’t need anymore, clean up supplies and straighten. Make this a standard in keeping the area organized and clean every week.


This basically means – Keep it up! It requires discipline and mindfulness, but staying organized is not hard and doesn’t require much time – once you get past the first three steps.

In the long run – it will save you time and increase your productivity. Think about all the distractions a kid doing homework experiences walking ten feet across the room to get a crayon. It could take 15 minutes to get back to doing homework, after they’ve pet the dog, gotten a snack or stopped to watch a commercial on TV. If that crayon is right there at the homework desk, it takes 2 seconds.

Taking the time to get your work area organized will pay you back in time saved, a hundred times over. Get organized today!

Products aimed at getting offices organized

Floor Tape or Carpet Tape to outline desk areas, designated packing areas, office equipment, trash and recycling areas.

Labels for organizing supplies, products, mailboxes, accounts receivable, inner-office communications

Corner markers are great for more subtle desk outlines or equipment spaces.