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Using the Japanese 5S system to Declutter Your Front Desk

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Articles, Tips and Tricks

Using The Japanese 5s System To Declutter Your Front Desk

Clutter makes for a chaotic work environment. A chaotic work environment makes you less productive. These are the facts. And when we work in a dental office, clutter can also enhance already existing dental anxieties among patients. 

This is why it is so important to keep our front desk area decluttered. But let’s face reality, sometimes decluttering can be difficult. So we found a simple system that you can use to declutter your front desk area. It’s called the Japanese 5s system.


What is the Japanese 5s System?

As you have probably already guessed, the Japanese 5s system is an organization method that involves the 5 “s” words:


  1. Seiri or “Sort”
  2. Seiton or “Set in order”
  3. Seiso or “Shine”
  4. Seiketsu or “Standardize” 
  5. Shitsuke or “Sustain”


Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Seiri (Sort)

Step one of the Japanese 5s system involves sorting through everything in your area. Anything you don’t need, get rid of. That means if you don’t use it or it doesn’t contribute to your work in any way, you don’t need it and it’s time to go!

This includes all the little things! If you have 500 pens at your desk – get rid of them! If you don’t need 1000 paper clips, just keep what you need! You can keep things like storage and organizational tools to help you organize the little things up front. 



Step 2: Seiton (Set in Order)Set In order

In step 2 of the Japanese 5s system, you give everything on your desk a home. In this stage, your job is to set things up so they are at easy access for use. For example, if you use a stapler regularly, it should be near you and within reaching distance. Things you use less often can go in drawers that are further away. 

In the dental office, you’ll want to keep things like pens, telephones, sticky notes, paper clips, and frequently used documents within an arm’s reach. Other things like provider manuals, infrequently used supplies, your personal belongings (i.e. a purse), and printer paper can be stored in cabinets or drawers further away. 


Step 3: Seiso (Shine)

By now everything is organized – great! It’s time to start cleaning. Dusting, sweeping, mopping – anything that needs to be cleaned, now is the time. It’s also during this phase that you can do maintenance on anything that needs it. 

In the dental office you may need to fill the printer with paper and ink, add staples to your stapler, wipe down your phone and calculator, and so on and so forth. Make sure nothing is dusty or dirty. This is critically important for a healthcare facility because you want to convey the idea of cleanliness.


StandardizeStep 4: Seiketsu (Standardize)

At this point, your desk area should be cleaned, organized, decluttered, and looking fantastic. But that doesn’t mean much if you don’t maintain it. So how are you going to hold yourself to these standards? Will you create a cleaning schedule? Will you set aside time at the end of each day to tidy up? Will you create lists? Now’s the time to figure out how you’re going to maintain your new decluttered workspace.

Keep a to-do list nearby your dental desk to ensure you follow through. Ensure that staff who use the area follow the schedule.


Using the Japanese  5S system to Declutter Your Front DeskStep 5: Shitsuke (Sustain)

This is where self-discipline comes in. You’ve done all the hard work, created a schedule for maintenance, now it’s time to actually follow through. If you work at the desk, it’s your job to find a way to establish enough self-discipline to do this. If you are the boss, you may want to invest some time in teaching your staff self-discipline skills so that they can maintain their workspace without any reminders. 

This should become second nature in terms of following the 5S’s on a daily basis. 

And there you have it! The Japanese 5s system makes it very simple to tidy and maintain your front desk area. Now you have the knowledge and tools – it’s your turn to put it into play!


B. Vo, DDS
Author: B. Vo, DDS