Lean processing is a manufacturing practice, which aims to improve efficiency and profitability through the elimination of waste. Wasted movement, wasted effort, wasted output, wasted time and so on. This is a very simple explanation, but you can read more about it here.
My husband puts a number of lean principles to use in his workshop, on a day-to-day basis. He put these processes into place with the help of his sister, who used to manage factory lines and is a dab hand at this sort of this. All his hand tools, for example, have fixed places within easy reach and are positioned carefully, so that the time he spends reaching out and grabbing an oft-used tool is minimised. The idea is that by shaving seconds from each job he undertakes, he can be more productive.
Over the past few months I have, almost without thinking about it, been lean processing a lot of what I do when I am at home. Because I work full-time and also have a toddler to hang out with, my time at home tends to be consumed by a to-do list as long as my arm. After Thrifty Baby was born, it didn’t take me long to twig that if I was going to see him or, for that matter, this blog at all, some daily life hacks were in order.
At first I thought I was putting some time-saving ideas into practice, but once in the swing of it I realised that these hacks were really lean processing, transplanted to a domestic setting.
Take this here cleaning caddy. I bought it a couple of months ago, for £1.99 from one of those discount stores with lots of plastic stuff out front.
I hadn’t used one of these since I was a cleaner. (Many moons ago, I was in charge of doing all the cleaning, laundry and ironing at a large nursing home at the weekends.) This caddy lives in the cupboard under the sink, and is stocked at all times with everything I need to clean any room in the house: homemade multi-surface cleaner, homemade toilet cleaner, a spray bottle of white vinegar for glass and mirrors, furniture polish, some Grotbuster for occasional use in the bathroom, clean dusters, sponges, rubber gloves and microfibre cloths.
I put this together because I realised that whenever I cleaned a room, I was running back and forth between the room I was cleaning and the kitchen cupboard; to get, say, the vinegar spray to clean a sticky toddler handprint from a mirror, or a clean duster. Too much faff! Too much time, for a tired person with a limited time window. So that when I go to clean a room in the house – any room in the house – I can just grab the caddy and go. I have everything I need right there in front of me. I carry spares of the gloves, cloths and sponges in case the ones I am using need changing.
And it works for me: it’s such a simple thing to do and, although I couldn’t tell you how much time it saves on a weekly basis, it certainly seems to make household cleaning easier.
Still on cleaning: with the caddy in place, I’ve also started to give the bathroom a regular once-over in the evenings, while Thrifty Baby is playing with his toys in the tub. Obviously I can’t clean the bath while he’s in it, but I give everything else a quick clean. Result: sparkly bathroom with zero additional time spent.
I have even started picking in the washing differently. Rather than picking it in from the line and piling it up in the laundry basket indiscriminately, I now whirl that rotary line around and pick in each person’s load in turn. It means that once I’m back upstairs, I don’t have to spend time sorting it.
Finally, to try and keep the house tidy in the face of Thrifty Baby’s talent for turning rooms over in mere seconds, I have been sticking firmly to an idea I picked up on Mumsnet some time ago: never leave a room empty-handed.
Does all this make me sound like somebody with a neurotic cleaning obsession? I hope not. I just love the idea that by minimising wasted time and effort, just as I minimise waste in other areas of my life, keeping on top of things becomes less of a chore and a time-sink, and more of a smooth ride.
Do you have any time-saving or lean-ish tips? If so, please do share them in the comments: I really, genuinely would love to hear them (and pinch ’em)!
P.S. This post is called Tuesday Teaser. I am hoping that, if you lot like them, Tuesday Teasers could become a regular spot here on the blog with prizes for the best answers. 🙂