By Debbie Arrington
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Get organized! It’s near the top of every New Year’s resolutions list.
“It’s just exactly like dieting,” said author and organization expert Deniece Schofield, referring to another popular resolution. “Organizing doesn’t happen overnight. It’s one bite at a time, one step at a time. Just like those extra pounds, you added on stuff a lot easier than it comes off.”
Nicknamed “America’s most organized woman,” Schofield is all too familiar with such resolutions. What makes her different is she’s figured out ways to make them work.
“My first book came out in 1982, before organizing was an industry,” said Schofield, who has written five books on home management. “I really was an organizing pioneer. These resolutions come from things I’ve learned from years and years of experience.”
A simple January declaration isn’t going to make mountains of paper disappear or make sure you never misplace your keys again. But it can start a new mindset and perhaps launch some constructive lifelong habits.
Schofield brings her organization skills to in-person workshops, and gets the same questions.
“’How can I get my husband and kids to buy into this?’” she said with a laugh. “That’s the No. 1 question. Then, they’ll ask about paper.”
In the digital age, would-be organizers continue to be overwhelmed by paper.
“Half my workshop is devoted to managing time and getting rid of paper,” Schofield said. “Paper is everybody’s nemesis. It never stops coming.”
All that clutter adds up to stress, which is why organizing is so popular. People want to de-stress their lives as much as possible.
As an industry, organizing has exploded, more than doubling in size in the past decade. The National Association of Professional Organizers boasts about 4,000 members. Annual sales of organizational products and services are close to $1 billion.
According to NAPO, the top reasons consumers hire professional organizers will sound familiar to anyone making an organizational vow: Too much clutter, general disorganization, difficulty determining what to keep and what to discard, difficulty finding things, and selling a home or moving.
The most-requested areas for professional help? Home office or den ranks at the top, followed by the kitchen, closets and master bedroom. Then, there are the garage, attic and/or basement; they need help, too.
NAPO offers advice for hiring organizing pros and an online search tool for referrals via its website (www.NAPO.net). It compares the process to hiring a fitness trainer or image consultant; sometimes, you need a coach to get started.
NAPO also recommends organizational products. Its top 2013 pick for Best Solution for Organizing at Home: Ziploc’s Space Bag.
Schofield takes a DIY approach to home organization. Aimed primarily at busy moms (and grandmothers) like herself, her methods have worked for thousands. Woman’s Day magazine dubbed her “the world’s most organized woman” decades ago and she’s never misplaced that title.
From her base in Las Vegas, Schofield travels the nation for seminars, teaching organizational shortcuts. Through working with so many would-be declutterers, Schofield realized they were trying to do too much all at once. The result? Everything stayed messy.
“This time of year, everybody wants New Year’s resolutions,” she said. “So, I came up with six resolutions for organizing. The trick to making it work: You choose only one – the one you really need. Just by following that one resolution, you can make a huge difference in your life and home.”
Here they are:
• Never ever buy something new unless you know exactly where to put it in your home and what you’ll use it for.
“We’ve all heard this, probably done this: ‘It’s such a good deal, I couldn’t pass it up,’” Schofield said. “But what happens? All those good deals pile up.”
This is particularly true for collectors or bargain-hunters. Before you buy that item, make sure it will have a home in your home, Schofield added. “Or you’ll just have more stuff piled up in the corners.”
• Never start today with yesterday’s work.
We’re talking procrastination, the enabler of disorganization and clutter.
“Empty the dishwasher, don’t leave the dryer full of clothes,” Schofield instructed. “It’s all those little things that add up. If you’re in the middle of a project and have to stop, write down where you left off, so you can step right in and pick it up instantly. It helps eliminate procrastination.”
• Eliminate from your vocabulary the phrase, “for now.”
“‘For now’ becomes forever,” Schofield said. “We say, ‘I’ll put this here – for now. I’ll leave it this way – for now.’ You’ve really got to train yourself to stop saying, and doing, ‘for now.’”
• Let go of clothes you won’t wear.
“Sort your clothes into three piles: Yes, no, maybe,” she said. “You can hold onto the ‘yes’ and ‘maybe’ piles, but give away the others. It’s selfish to hold onto clothes you don’t need when there are so many people and charities that need them.”
• Plan menus.
“What will I fix for dinner tonight?” she said. “That question is always floating around in your brain. Your family is thinking about it, too. You can eliminate a lot of stress, for you and them, by planning menus.”
Advance planning also allows for shopping for all the ingredients at once and having them on hand.
“I post a list of 10 to 15 possibilities and have all the ingredients available,” Schofield said. “Then, ‘what’s for dinner’ is up to my mood and conditions, such as how much time I have to cook. I can also delegate dinner duties; the ingredients are all ready to go.”
• Ask yourself: Would you let someone walk through your home unattended? What would you hate for them to see? Then, deal with it.
Every home has a trouble spot, be it a messy office, closet disaster or whole house. This walk-through exercise can focus your organizing energies.
“If you chose the right resolution for you, it can really make a difference,” Schofield said. “If you can keep that one thing going for four to six weeks, it can become a habit for life.”
And it will become one organizing resolution you’ll actually keep.