5S for Families

by Davorka Filipusic

Many articles have been written about 5S programs and their applications in the business environment.1 As a quality professional, I have been involved with teaching, implementing, supporting, improving or revitalizing such programs in several manufacturing and service organizations.

When I started, it didn’t occur to me that these principles would one day have such a significant impact on my personal life.

My son was born four years ago, and because he didn’t come with an instruction manual, the last four years have been challenging for my husband and me. We had to get used to our new roles as parents while remaining full-time working professionals.

As our son grew, so did his needs and space requirements. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the increasing clutter in our house that came with our son’s growing assortment of toys, books, games and whatever else he decided to collect. As the toys became bigger and bulkier every year, and because some of them were dangerous to step on, they started to present a home safety hazard in addition to an aesthetic problem.

Explaining the importance of good housekeeping, organization, safety and recycling to a 4-year-old child isn’t easy. However, I realized it was something that should be taught to children at just that age.

A solution was desperately needed, so some decisions had to be made quickly. At the time, I was successfully teaching and implementing a 5S program in a business environment. This gave me an idea: Why not apply the same principles at home and take back control of my house, while ingraining these fundamentals into my son’s daily routine?

Define and Develop

The first thing I had to do was define and develop a 5S program for our family in terms my 4-year-old son could easily understand and respond to.

The next step was to provide designated areas in the house, as well as tools, for organizing and storing items. This was probably the most challenging part. While thousands of storage solutions are on the market today, our challenge was to find storage elements that would fit well in our home, have an acceptable appearance, and be functional and child friendly.

After we settled on the first three S’s—sort, set in order and shine—it was time to decide as a family how we were going to standardize (fourth S) and sustain (fifth S) activities on a daily basis. To standardize, we cooperated to develop our family’s 5S policy. We also decided it would apply to each family member.

The focus of our 5S program was to quickly identify unneeded items (clothes, toys, books, CDs, DVDs, mail, magazines) and process them to their designated places while considering recycling or reusing options. All 5S activities were to be implemented continuously in all areas of the house.

Our objectives were to improve the appearance of our home, contribute to the personal safety of all family members, and improve our mental and physical well-being while teaching our child valuable life lessons. To measure and sustain our 5S activities, we decided that at the end of each day, we would rate our individual 5S efforts with smiling or frowning face magnets on a special magnetic board.

For children our son’s age, using face symbols for feedback is very effective. Our son is very competitive, so he is willing to do anything to avoid being rated with the dreaded frowning face.

Back in Contol

Shortly after implementing 5S, I regained control of the house, and everybody in the family, including me, is doing his or her share of daily 5S activities. My son now applies 5S steps in whatever he does without any extra effort. It has become part of his daily routine. When someone in the house says “5S,” everybody understands what it means and knows what needs to be done.

Implementing 5S in your family is an amazing learning experience for kids and parents. To succeed, all family members must be involved, but parent participation and guidance are especially important. Parents must lead by example. In my case, this was easy because my husband also is a quality professional and he supported the idea from the beginning.

5S is a lot more than a cleanup project. It is important that both children and adults have fun while doing it and at the same time learn important habits and behaviors at home. The orderly appearance of your home will improve the quality of your life, and the lessons learned will remain with your children for years to come.


  1. For a definition of 5S, see ASQ’s glossary at www.asq.org/glossary/f.html.

DAVORKA FILIPUSIC is a quality manager for Hafele America in Archdale, NC. She earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Zagreb in Croatia and is a senior member of ASQ.

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