Citizen Staff Writer
Home & Garden
Deniece Schofield was a young mother with a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and an infant on her hip. The duties and clutter were everywhere: laundry, toys, magazines to read, doctor’s appointments, papers . . . Things seemed to pile up with no end.
“I was young. I was overwhelmed. I was discouraged,” Schofield recalls in a phone interview from her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa. “And I thought, ‘I can’t go on the rest of my life like this.’ ”
So she didn’t. Schofield – through much trial and error, she says – came up with a system to get her family and their home organized. Five grown children and four books later, Schofield comes to Tucson to give two seminars on taking control of your own home.
One key element in her system is getting a planner, whether it be good, old-fashioned paper or the computer. Keeping all of your appointments, invitations, etc. in one place will keep you from wondering what it is you’re supposed to bring to a party or what your vet’s phone number is.
In her seminar, Schofield says, she spends time “getting rid of the floating pieces of paper, which is everybody’s problem . . . everybody in the house generates it, the computer generates a lot.”
Also basic to organization is “to store things where people use them,” she says.
“If you use it really often it should be stored, ideally, between your hip and eye level,” Schofield says. She emphasizes “storing things with motions in mind,” meaning that you want to minimize the number of movements it takes to get – and return – items.
As important as keeping tidy is time management.
“You can’t really do one without the other,” she says.
If you have children, get everyone involved in managing the home. Each of Schofield’s kids had a weekly planning sheet, organized by seven columns horizontally for the days of the week and four columns vertically for chores, school assignments, activities and appointments, and “I want to dos.” This makes each child, Schofield says, feel like they’re a member of the team.
“Ideally those sheets are filled out by them every week,” she says. “The idea of these is they’re going to be responsible for planning their own time.”
The same goes for adults. Plan your chores, and it might just help unclutter your mind.
“I set up a housekeeping schedule that I’ve used over the years. The beauty of having a schedule is housework is never done,” she says, but it’s freeing to be able to see what you are accomplishing.
As for you pack rats out there, Schofield believes in keeping things – to a point.
“Keep as much as you have room for,” she says, but set limits. If you want to keep magazines in the “I might read pile,” fine – just set a limit of no more than three-months’ worth, six-months’ worth, whatever works. For more personal items that are tougher to discard: Don’t keep clothing you haven’t worn in more than a year, get rid of (or don’t purchase in the first place) items that no one in the house uses and remember that needy people everywhere could use what you do not.
“Make a list of items you just can’t live without,” Schofield says. “If you keep everything, nothing has value.”
Deniece Schofield offers the following advice to get your home – and your mind – organized.
• Store infrequently used objects. People tend to place things they rarely use in easily accessible spots, then complain that they have no space.
• Organize a room using four boxes labeled: trash, donate, belongs in another room, don’t know. Place everything you don’t use or look at into one of those boxes. Put the “don’t know” box in the attic or garage or other out-of-the-way place. If you don’t open that box in a year or six months, get rid of it.
• Stop perfectionism. Don’t let an imperfect situation be an excuse to do nothing. Even if you don’t have time to wash all the windows, you might have time to wash one. Learn to be happy with doing things in incremental bits of time. Large blocks of time are too hard to come by.
• If you feel overwhelmed, try the tidbit method. Instead of one room at a time, tackle one drawer or one corner at a time.
• Organize with a buddy. A friend can be objective about your belongings and help you be more realistic.
• Use drawer dividers in your kitchen, bathroom and desk, and your space will multiply. Don’t forget to use containers on shelves. You can handle several things as one unit and convert your shelves into drawers making the items in the back as visible as those in the front.
• Label all containers. That way, everyone knows where things belong.
• Whenever possible, store thing where they’re used, even if that means duplicating some items.
• Maintenance is the key to keeping things organized. Once the room is clean, spend five minutes a day keeping it that way.
• Limit toys. If toys are a problem, perhaps there are too many. Toss broken toys, then donate the extras. Or place some of the toys in a box and store for a while. Every so often rotate them back in. Voila – new toys!
• Eliminate floating bits of paper by writing down everything you need to remember, including appointments and your to-do list in a daily planner. Use the planner to transfer information from incoming paper, too, such as invitations, meetings, parties, etc. Once you’ve transferred the info, toss the invitation.
• Don’t become too organized. You can make home a place people leave when they want to enjoy themselves. The goal is to make home a place people want to be, where they can relax and feel welcomed.
IF YOU GO
What: “Get Organized” seminar with Deniece Schofield
When: 7-9 p.m. Thursday or 10 a.m.-noon March 21
Where: Quality Inn, 1365 W. Grande Road
Price: $25 at the door