I took part of a Lean Event last week that ended in a pretty intensive 5S session. I was paired up with the facility Manager and our task was to clean the Maintenance team area (a big room filed with junk and items belonging somewhere else).
Truth is, it was really overwhelming for both of us. Not knowing where to start was our biggest challenge. We eventually decided on a small area containing car tools and equipment. We sorted the tool and put them back into their cabinet (that still needs 5S), thrown away what was empty or broken. We cleaned the area and put back what belonged there only. It took us about half an hour, but it felt really good!
Then the confusion was back: what our next step should be? We walked around the room and adopted two very different strategies:
- The facility Manager started with what he knew of. Mostly small items or some straightening, but easily done.
- I focused on the biggest objects: a bin, tires, big boxes...
After another fifteen minutes, my partner in crime looks around and tells me "you've only touched a few things but it looks like a million dollars, where I've moved a lot but it doesn't seem like it".
The key when you start such a big sorting spree is to start with what will make the biggest impact. It will create a lot of space, but also enable you to see the smaller details better. Its like when you look at stars, you only see the major ones at first, but after a time you start seeing smaller ones. Mayhem is the same, your standards get higher the cleaner the place is. Also, if you need to stop quickly, you'll really see a change.
Same goes with cleaning up your house. Don't get me wrong, I do bleach and clean thoroughly my house on a regular basis. But daily, or before I start doing the cleaning, I focus on what makes the biggest impact: couch cushions and blanket back in order, declutter in front of the TV where all papers end up, put shoes back in the rack, empty trashcans (as it helps me cleaning after)... Making the bed has became one of my favorite new habits, as it easily triggers cleaning up the rest of the room and then the house.
Only after I'll focus on sorting the papers, cleaning windows and mirrors and all the tasks that don't make a visual impact. I can make my house presentable (though not cleaner) in fifteen minutes this way, then I have the bulk of the cleaning left. And it's easier to clean when you don't have clutter in your way.
Good luck with your sorting!