Often called “the most organized woman on Earth,” Deniece Schofield has penned five books on time and home organization, and has traveled across the country holding seminars on organizing. Her first book, “Confessions of an Organized Homemaker,” has been a bestseller for years.

Yet she’s quick to point out she didn’t always live in a tidy house.

“I got married and had three kids under the age of 4,” said Schofield, who lives in Las Vegas, NV. “It wasn’t their fault—I couldn’t keep getting away with my bad habits. It was like I was running around all day putting out fires, but never caught the guy with the matches.”

 Organizational expert Deneice Schofield says she wasn't always clutter-free.
Organizational expert Deneice Schofield says she wasn’t always clutter-free.

When her home filled with clutter and she couldn’t keep track of commitments, Schofield hit a turning point. “I felt like I had to leave or do something,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t face the rest of my life like that.”

By outlining projects and focusing on the right amount of order, Schofield reduced stress and gained time for fun activities.

These days, she’s eager to help others on their organizing journeys. Here, she offers three timeless tips for establishing an orderly, happy home.

1. There’s No Need to Compare.

When she felt overwhelmed at the disorder in her life, “I assumed that I was the only person in the entire world who had these problems,” Schofield said. Now, however, “I see we all have the same problems.”

It can be easy to get frustrated when you start organizing, but remember that everything is relative, Schofield said. Instead of sizing up your efforts to a neighbor’s home or a Pinterest page, focus on your own health, energy and strengths.

Schofield says to make to-do lists for each organization project.
Schofield says to make to-do lists for each organization project.

Then, track your progress. Schofield began organizing by making a list of every project she wanted to tackle, and then worked on one project at a time until she got an area under control. She followed this setup, while still carrying out other daily activities, until she completed the list.

“Organizing is like dieting,” she said. “You do really well for a couple of days and then eat a box of cookies.”

The key is to pick yourself up and continue until a task is at a comfortable level.

2. You Don’t Have to Downsize.

Schofield begins her two-hour seminars with a 30-minute session on finding space without getting rid of everything. “It’s about prioritizing things and spaces,” she said, “and making those match.”

For instance, you’ll want items you need every day to be simple to spot and reach. “Motions are huge,” Schofield said.

If something takes three or four movements to put away and you use it all the time, try changing the arrangement. Frequently used toys, for example, should be stored in containers without lids.

 You don't have to downsize to get rid of clutter. Instead prioritize, Schofield says.
You don’t have to downsize to get rid of clutter. Instead prioritize, Schofield says.

Belongings you use infrequently shouldn’t be stored between your hip and eye level. There’s no need to see winter sports equipment every day during the summer or suitcases if you take only two trips a year. Store these in a spot where you can access them, but where they don’t interfere with the high-priority items.

Schofield’s seminars also include a half-hour of rapid-fire ideas on getting organized, followed by a special focus on paper documents.

“Paper never stops,” Schofield said. “It’s like paying interest; even if you lost your job, it’s still there.”

3. Strive For Balance.

Signs of going too far with organizing can include covering the floor and furniture in plastic when guests visit, or lining up all of your pens to face the same direction.

Instead, “ask yourself, ‘What is the best use of my time right now?” Schofield said.

 When it comes to organization, finding the right balance can help you be more spontaneous in life.
When it comes to organization, finding the right balance can help you be more spontaneous in life.

Aiming to have enough order in your life so that mornings can go smoothly. “There’s so much less stress and more time,” she said. “You don’t have your mind reminding you of what you should do or what you will fix for dinner.”

She added: “When things are more organized, you have more time to be spontaneous. You know there aren’t dishes in the sink or clothes in the dryer. You can enjoy life more.”

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Rachel Hartman