Get organized! It's near the top of every list of New Year's resolutions.
"It's just exactly like dieting," says 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. It's 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 that she's figured out ways to make them work.
"My first book came out in 1982, before organizing was an industry," says 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 guarantee you will never misplace your keys again. However, it can start a new mindset and perhaps launch some constructive lifelong habits.
Schofield brings her organizing skills to the Bay Area next week for six workshops. And she knows which questions she will hear.
—'How can I get my husband and kids to buy into this?' " she says 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 says. "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 over the past decade. The National Association of Professional Organizers boasts about 4,000 members. Annual sales of organizational products and services total nearly $1 billion.
According to the association, the top reasons consumers hire professional organizers will sound familiar to anyone making an organizational resolution: too much clutter, general disorganization, difficulty determining what to keep and what to discard, trouble finding things, selling a home or moving.
The most-requested areas for professional help are the home office or den, followed by the kitchen, closets and master bedroom. Then, there are the garage, attic and/or basement -- they need help, too.
The association 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.
The association also recommends organizational products. Its top 2013 pick for Best Solution for Organizing at Home was Ziploc's Space Bag (available in a variety of sizes, up to 35 by 48 inches, for travel and home storage needs).
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 to teach organizational shortcuts. Through working with so many would-be declutterers, she realized that 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 says. "So, I came up with six resolutions for organizing. The trick to making it work: You (can) 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."
"We've all heard this, probably done this: 'It's such a good deal, I couldn't pass it up,' " Schofield says. "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 you will have a place for it in your home, Schofield adds. "Or you'll just have more stuff piled up in the corners."
We're talking procrastination, the enabler of disorganization and clutter.
"Empty the dishwasher; don't leave the dryer full of clothes," Schofield says. "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."
—'For now' becomes forever," Schofield says. "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.' "
"Sort your clothes into three piles: Yes, no, maybe," she says. "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."
"What will I fix for dinner tonight?" she says. "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 says. "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."
Every home has a trouble spot, be it a messy office, closet disaster or the whole place. This walk-through exercise can focus your organizing energies.
"If you chose the right resolution for you, it can really make a difference," Schofield says. "If you can keep that one thing going for four to six weeks, it can become a habit for life."
And it will be one organizing resolution you actually will keep.
Workshops on how to get organized
Through: Jan. 22, 10 a.m.-noon and 7-9 p.m.
When-where: Jan. 20 at Hampton Inn and Suites, 55 Old Tully Road, San Jose; Jan. 21 at La Quinta Inn and Suites, 6275 Dublin Blvd., Dublin; and Jan. 22 at Residence Inn, 700 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill
Admission: $25 at the door (reservations not required)
Information: 800-835-8463, www.denieceschofield.com