Kaizen in the Laundry Room...and My Domestic Shortcomings

Kaizen opportunities are often best identified (and done) by those who do the work. This is critical if you're trying to create and sustain a kaizen culture. That said, I usually try to avoid much in the way of lean implementation within my house and amongst my family. Not that I really enjoy all of the typical familial chaos and related muda, but, as Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry once said, "a man's got to know his limitations."

Now, my wife is the predominant laundry person in our house. Yes, I know what you're thinking and I could lie and say it's not like that. Sometimes I'll do some loads, sometimes my three kids...but, that's an abnormal condition! And, I really don't want to talk about folding laundry. Really guilty there.

Today, Mother's Day, my wife mentioned that having the dryer door hung on the left side of the dryer was a pain in the neck. I looked at it, with newly opened eyes, and could instantly understand the waste of motion that the door's orientation induced. You have to remove the wet laundry from the washing machine and then lift it OVER the dryer door and THEN place it inside the dryer. Meanwhile wet socks are hitting the deck and accumulating dog hair and horse hair (no, there's no horse inside the house). Wonderful!

I've had to endure that same waste, but I just turned my brain off and assumed that doing laundry was a pain the neck, because it was ...a pain in the neck. If I was in lean coach or sensei mode, this would have been so obvious! Pretty lame on my part. I've become a domestic "concrete head."

So, I quickly took my wife's suggestion (no formal suggestion board here) and switched the door. Daily kaizen (at least the first one) in the laundry room! Less than 10 minutes to make it happen. Glad she's the brains in (and heart and soul of) the family.

Now that I have shared this little story with you, I can't help but thinking that I may be considered the new Bruce Hamilton of laundry. During Bruce's hugely popular Toast Kaizen video, specifically the pre-kaizen condition, he's waiting for the toast to toast, while the dirty dishes just sit there in the sink. The video observers (especially the females) often voice their displeasure with such a blatant display of sloth. Of course, Bruce gets his act together in the post-kaizen condition (here we won't discuss the hygiene opportunities). I just want you to know - I'm a good dish guy! But, I definitely need to carry more of the load (no pun intended) on the laundry front.

There are 7 Comments

markrhamel's picture

Hi Mark,

You've got that right! I've found that work area design in the kitchen, for example, usually ends up in a bad way. Better to have peace and muda, than no peace at all.

Best regards,

markrhamel's picture


You are a bad man! Yes, I thought about the ergo/height issues, but that's too much work (for me). Besides, my wife is really short. Do NOT contact her!

Best regards,

Jerry Foster's picture

Interesting little example/story. So why haven't you elevated the washer and dryer to the appropriate ergonomic height?? How do I copy your wife on this?

Nice, human example!


Mark Welch's picture

Nice post, Mark. I've always advised the "leanies" among us to kaizen at our own risk in the household. Fashion rules over function in most cases unless we want to get "the look" from our spouses (I KNOW that look!). You picked a perfect opportunity - or rather - she picked it for you. Even better!

Sue's picture

Why didn't I think of this? I've put up with this same annoyance for years, and it never occurred to me to improve the situation. After reading your blog I made the simple switch to my dryer door. Easy to do and it will make my life a bit easier. I preach process improvement at work - I need to put it to practice at home as well. Thanks for the article!

markrhamel's picture

Hi Sue,

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad the mini-washer/dryer kaizen worked for you.

I'm definitely in the same boat as you. I tend to turn my kaizen mind off during my time at home - not good. It means that I end up accepting, and eventually becoming blind to, the muda. So much for easier, better and faster, anyway. This phenomenon at least (there's some good here, perhaps) gives me insight as to how so many folks become conditioned within their daily work life...and then someone like us comes in and tries to change their paradigm!

Best regards,

Philip's picture

Great another addition to the "honey do" list! lol