This week we visit with Dallas organizing wunderkind, Melanie Weinberg, who gives us time (and our sanity) back!
Last week, my monkey mind was calmed when I sat down for a visit with Dallas organization expert, Melanie Weinberg. The goal was to glean some tips for our SOJers on how to bring organization to their busy lives. Mel delivered… read on for the down-low on how to get our org on.
First, a little about her. Melanie describes herself as having CDO (that’s OCD in alpha order). To her, organization is what breathing is for most people. She is fueled by the palpable relief people feel with just even a little organization in their lives.
Melanie’s organization chops were evident when she was a wee Weinberg. She recalls standing on her desk as a small child, rearranging her adjustable cabinets, putting each item where they fit just right.
As an ex-New Yorker, she knows how to work with any size of space to make it organized, functional and cozy. In 2002, Melanie moved to Dallas, or as she likes to say, the wide-open space, and soon welcomed two daughters. As a stay-at-home mom, she honed her skills, helping friends and family get organized while their kids had playdates. She focused on pantries, closets and other spaces that they gratefully gave Melanie access to. And, they kept asking her to come back to work her magic.
So she decided to turn her passion into a business, Simply Organize by Mel. Since she launched 5 years ago, she’s helped DFW area homes, and their owners, lighten their loads while keeping the laughs coming.
Some great nuggets below, SOJers, that will give you time (and sanity) back in your busy lives.
Kate: Have you always been an organizer?
Melanie: When I was young, I wanted to be a housekeeper. I can remember climbing up and organizing and re-organizing shelves just for my enjoyment. When I told my mom what I wanted to be when I grew up, she replied, “You can do whatever you want. Dream big. Go to college, graduate. If you do all that and still wanna be a housekeeper, then go for it.”
Kate: What are your top tips for those of us who need help organizing our lives and schedules?
Melanie: Number one, have a place for everything. Number two, have a list. Write them down. You can use the Notes feature on your iPhone. I also keep a yellow notepad in my kitchen where I have a running list of all the things that we’re out of and the stores where I like to buy those things. I also keep a list of house to-dos, for example, if a light bulb is out in the kitchen because there’s no way I can remember all these things. By the way, the bulbs from Costco are the best. You can get a lot of them for a good price.
I don’t like to go to the grocery store every day and don’t recommend it. Instead, plan when you’re going to go do your weekly shopping ahead of time, check your calendar that morning and take your list with you. That way you’re not wasting time at the store trying to remember what you were supposed to buy, then getting home and realizing you forgot baking flour.
Kate: So you’ve seen me wandering around the store talking to myself? Because that's me, pretty much 3x weekly. Usually, if I have 15 minutes before I pick up my kids from school, I’ll cram in an errand to hit Walgreens or Target or something, and then try to remember off the top-of-my-head what I needed. You’re saying this is a bad idea? (Smirk)
Melanie: Yes! If you have a list you don’t forget and waste time going back. Here’s what I do with the extra 10 to 15 minutes. I keep a bin in the back of my car with all the returns that I need to make, whether it’s the Gap or going to UPS to return something from Amazon. It blows my mind how much money people waste every year not returning stuff that they’ve ordered and don’t want. I have so many clients that have piles of stuff that need to be returned and they don’t do it.
Kate: Guilty. It seems overwhelming to have to add that to my day---making a separate trip to the post office or whatever.
Melanie: You’re not wasting any time making a separate trip because you’ve got them all in a bin in the back of your car, ready to go. One time I had a client who said “I don’t have any room in the back of my car,” to which I replied, “What’s going on in your trunk that you don’t have room?” Okay, that’s for discussion another day! (Laughs).
Kate: (More laughter) Okay, keep talking me through how to do my returns.
Melanie: You can pretty much do all your returns on your smart phone. Take a screenshot and then print the labels out when you get back to your house. You know those poly shipping bags the merchandise comes in that you throw away? Take them, turn them inside out and then reuse them to ship all the stuff back. They’re actually made to be re-used. Some of them even have a little pull-tab on the inside for that purpose. I keep them all in a bin in my office and then they’re all ready to go in the car when I have a spare 10 minutes to return stuff. Do the same with clothes from the Gap or Target, or whatever. Drop them in an extra grocery sack or bag with the receipt and put them in the back of your car. Done! What else?
Kate: What’s the biggest mistake people make that leads to their homes being disorganized?
Melanie: I would definitely have to say not taking care of their returns. And, hoarding keepsakes that they think their kids are going to want later.
Kate: Oh man, I’ve seen that before. The struggle with hoarding the keepsakes is real.
Melanie: With my clients, I take it slow and talk with them about it. I’m never going to make someone throw away something. But I ask them to envision going through all these keepsakes when their kids are going away to college and think about what their child will want. Most likely pictures, things she wrote in her own handwriting that were funny, maybe some report cards, But every report card from each semester? Probably not. One per year? Maybe. One every couple years? Yes.
If they’re still having a really tough time letting go of things, then I designate one bin that mom can keep just for herself. But just one, or things go overboard easily. Sometimes they say “But I’m going to want all these things to go through on my deathbed.” To that I always say, “Okay, that’s pretty sad. I want you doing something better than that. Instead of sifting through a dusty box of papers on your deathbed, wouldn’t you rather be enjoying your time with your daughter or granddaughter then?”
Kate: Oh my gosh, Melanie, you crack me up! I bet you keep your clients laughing the whole time you’re making them throw away all their dirty socks and dolls with no heads on them.
Melanie: Lots of people have a fear of getting rid of something they think they will later regret. Once I had to dive into the trash to rescue a book that was part of a set that was given to my client from her mom. That’s the only time a client has ever regretted cleaning out and throwing something away.
Kate: We have less than a month before school starts. What’s your best advice for getting organized before the chaos of back-to-school begins?
Melanie: Number one, order their school shoes now. Get one pair in their current size, and a pair in the next size up. You can always return them if your kid doesn’t get to that next size.
Number two, clean their uniforms and hang them in the closet. Do an inventory of what’s old and needs to be thrown out and what needs to be replaced. Go through their closets and toss any missing sock pairs, shoes with holes in them
that have seen better days, belts that don’t fit anymore, etc.
Number three, gather all those things that came back from sleep away camps: sheets, towels, laundry bags, fans, any remaining stationery that didn’t get used, stickers, flashlights, etc. Wash them and put them into big Ziploc bags with a dryer sheet. Put them back in the trunk and they’re ready to go for next year.
Kate: Mel, you’re a genius….why didn’t I think of this?!
Melanie: That’s my job! As soon as I pick up my kid from camp, we talk about what we packed too much of, what they needed more of, what they wished they had, but didn’t. They’ll tell me things like, “I never used any of my towels but one,” or “I wish I had an extra pillowcase,” etc. I work off the existing camp packing list to start and then change it based on what they actually used for next year.”
Kate: Mel, I pick mine up this weekend. I am going to feel so dang smart following this advice. Will you come back later this year to make sure we are staying organized?
Melanie: Of course! If you promise me you are going to reconsider keeping glitter inside your house. That is just insanity.
Kate: Mel, (laughing) you won’t let that one go will you?