Don't hate her because she's organized. Deniece Schofield wasn't always that way. When she hit bottom, she says, she had three kids under age 4, a dog with a penchant for chasing motorcycles, and a washing machine that headed south whenever it was running.
"I was constantly moving from one mess to another, rarely finishing anything before the next crisis was tackled. It seemed like I was just following the kids around trying to keep up with their piles of discarded toys, clothes and food crumbs. I was like a hubcap spinning toward the gutter."That was when she sat down and made a list of all the things that were driving her crazy. And then she tackled them one thing at a time. The first thing was the laundry. It seemed like she was always doing laundry, she says, and always worrying about whether she had left wet clothes in the washer or forgotten to take clothes out of the dryer. "So I set up a schedule where I only do laundry three times a week. The rest of the time I could quit worrying about it."
It took six months before she felt she got on top of things. But the experience taught her a lot about the need for organization and the best way to achieve it. Since then she has honed her techniques and shared them through several books and countless seminars around the country. Now the mother of 5 and living in Iowa (she moved from Utah four years ago), Schofield has worked as a consultant, traveling lecturer and magazine contributor.
The first thing to decide, she says, is what organization can do for you.
"I enjoy an organized lifestyle because it helps me get what I want. Good home management skills provide me with a cheerful background for living. A well-managed home eliminates much tension and irritability. There are fewer interruptions. Because things are orderly, minimal time is spent housecleaning. I have a lot of free time while I still enjoy the benefits of a tidy, comfortable home."
She admits that at the outset it takes lots of self-discipline. But it doesn't have to take over your life. "Some people think you have to be compulsive, that you spend all your time getting organized. But the opposite is true. Once you get the system in place, it frees you up for other things."
Start with your own list of things needing to be worked on. And don't let it intimidate you. "Some people see that long list as too overwhelming. But everything on that list is in your mind constantly buzzing around like gnats flying around your head. Knowing that you have it written down so you won't forget it can help clear your brain."
One of the most common problems people have to deal with, says Schofield, is the mountain of paper that comes into the home: canceled checks, bank statements, tax records, newspapers, magazines, coupons, sweepstakes notices, loan payment books, directions for cleaning the drapes, schoolwork, photos, pamphlets for "The Care and Feeding of Gerbils."
A three-part system can help deal with this deluge, she says. First you need a planning notebook where you can record and throw away things that don't need to be kept long. Then you need a larger, looseleaf notebook to keep things you need to refer to often: community calendars, school schedules, practice and activity times. And finally, you need a filing system for permanent records that is easy to use so you can find things you need when you need them. Everything you want to keep should have a place.
A second complaint Schofield hears from seminar attendees is the problem of getting kids to help with the housework. "Many kids feel that if they make their beds they are helping you do your work. What you need is to inbreed a spirit of cooperation so that everyone feels like they have a responsibility for a clean and happy home."
This may take some work. But the way to start is to stop nagging. "If you see things out of place, quietly put them away. Stay off the kid's backs. Don't let them be slobs, but ease up a bit."
Have weekly planning sessions, she advises, where the kids write down their week's activities and their week's work. These things have to be checked off before they can participate in activities or outings with friends.
"Make a list of all that needs to be done that week and ask the kids what they can help with rather than just assigning chores. That way they feel like part of the team."
A third challenge Scofield talks about is how to find more space without throwing things away. Most people keep things because they want them, she says. But you need to open up functional areas. Things that are used less often - say less than once a month - should not be allowed to clutter up functional space.
One system involves putting seldom-used things in boxes and giving each box a number. Then list contents of the box on an index card or a notebook that you can refer to when you need something.
There are lots of other storage systems; you need to find one that works with your lifestyle, she says.
Being organized will give you more time, contribute to a pleasant nature and add to the peace and security of your home. But, like anything, it can be taken to extremes - and that can turn you and your family into a miserable conglomeration of nervous wrecks.
"Efficiency is good only when it works for you, not against you," says Schofield. "So find a level of efficiency that works well for you and then use it."
BASIC ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES
The ultimate purpose of organizing your home and your life is to give you time for more important things. These are a few basic organizational principles common to any endeavor:
Think before you act. Think things through logically before you act. Industrial time and motion experts have estimated that workers are only 50 to 70 percent efficient. Why? Mainly because they work by habit; they act before they think.
Discard and sort. Of all the work simplification techniques, discard and sort is by far the most important and usually the most difficult. Determine the function of the room or area in which you are working. Work in one area at a time, and keep three boxes and a large trash can with you. One box will hold anything that belongs in another room. Put things to give away or sell inside the second box. The third box will hold things you're not sure of. The trash basket is there to encourage you to discard everything you possibly can.
Group. Whenever practical, group and store like items together. When you're grouping things, ask yourself if each particular object is frequently used in conjunction with another.
Be motion minded. Store things at or near the point of first use. Store equipment and supplies so you can work without having to take a lot of steps. Strive for one-motion storage by storing frequently used things is such a way that they are easy to see, easy to reach and easy to grasp. As much as possible, store only like items behind each other. Avoid stacking things over two high (three maximum).
Practice preventive maintenance. Whenever you buy something, ask yourself, "Where am I going to put it?" Make sure you have a clearly defined place in mind. Be certain that you will really use whatever it is you are buying.
Keep a running list of things you'd like to buy someday. Chances are, some items will remain on your list so long you'll realize you can live without them.
Learn to say "no thanks" to castoffs from friends and relatives. Ask yourself if maintaining a prospective purchase will be time consuming. If so, are you willing to spend the extra time necessary to keep the article in good condition? Keep a charity and recycle box handy. Whenever you come across a castoff or other object you're not using, toss it into the box. When the box is full, donate its contents to charity.
Deniece Schofield will be in Salt Lake for a series of time management seminars next week. Programs will be presented at Ramada Inn, 230 W. 600 South, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 7-9 p.m.; and Wednesday, Aug. 17, 10 a.m.-noon and 7-9 p.m. Cost is $15. The same material is presented at each seminar.
Scofield is the author of four books on organization and management; most recently "Confessions of an Organized Homemaker." The seminars will feature tips on no-nag ways to have a neat house, happy kids and calm parents; how to eliminate all scraps of floating paper; how to schedule your time and hint for more efficient use of your space and time.
For more information call 801-292-3689.