We Are Family

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 24, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

We are only as strong as our weakest member. This saying is used in business and in coaching, but I think it can be used for our family as well. I have seen my role as a mother to not only comfort my children when they are suffering and to give them strength when they are weak, but to raise them to be productive members of society. I have always treated my children like little adults. I treated them like they could always do things. I never doubted their abilities. When I sent my oldest off to college I never worried about the little things. He flew across the country to Hawaii for his first spring break and flew through O’Hare and LAX and I never worried about him. I knew he was capable. He actually would do a better job than me.

But what I have been seeing when I work with families is that the children are out of control. Parents have lost the ability to get their children to listen and help around the house. I have seen parents that are exhausted trying to do it all. But I think what is often forgotten is parenting is a team sport. We need to first of all be on the same page with the person we are co-parenting with. I was a family law lawyer for many years and I know that co-parenting is not easy, in fact it is often downright messy.

It is a struggle if the co-parenting relationship is stressed. Some are on their own and they have nobody to co-parent with. Parenting is hard. Although there are millions of parenting books out there we all know that children do not come with instructions. Each child in a family raised in the same environment and home are different. Our end game result is all the same however; to produce productive members of society. The training ground is the family home. The examples we set under our roof are the ones that will take them into adulthood. But what is an exhausted overscheduled parent to do?

Rule 1: If you take it out put it back. This may seem like a no brainer but you would be surprised at how many people can not even do this simple task. As parents we have to set the example. If I take a blanket out, when I am done I should fold and put it away.

Rule 2: If you can help, do it. My favorite feeling in the world is when people can anticipate my needs. I like it if people hold the door open for me as I will do the same for them. I like to help out when my kids are busy by doing their laundry for them. This does not mean that you enable your family and always do it. But if you can help, do it. Kindness is a great gift.

Rule 3: Set the example. Be the change you wish to see in the world. If you want your children to do a specific chore, you should be setting the example and doing it too. If I want my kids to rinse their dishes, I should be rinsing my dishes too. If I don’t want my kids to be wearing shoes in the house, I should not be either.


Rule 4: Stay consistent. This is probably the hardest thing as a parent. We set a rule and it is broken within a day and we just give up. Worse yet is being the parent who enforces the rule one minute and forgets about it the next and then enforces it the next. If you set the rules, you need to make sure that they are followed. When my kids were little I said no video games on nice days. I wanted them playing outside or using their imagination without electronic stimulation. The minute it would start to drizzle the boys would run inside and tell me it was raining and could they play video games. Some days it would have been easier to allow video games all the time, but I am glad I was tough and “mean.”


Rule 5: Respect the property of others. When we live in close quarters of a home we often step over the boundaries of other family members. Your daughter may wear her older sister’s shirt. This is great if permission was asked, but often it is not. Make sure that we respect what belongs to other people and their space.


Rule 6: If it takes 10 seconds do it. Often we walk by the same mess over and over again. Look at projects as small bursts of time. When I walk from one area of my house to the other I often look for things to grab to take with me. It may be returning the laundry basket to the laundry room. Or perhaps it is rinsing a dish. Too often the small tasks grow into much bigger tasks that overwhelm us and we never start.


Remember we are in this together as a family. We all have the same goal. It is my hope in life that I have raised young men that will go out into the world and do great things, or at the very least have an organized home for me to visit!


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Learning to Say No

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 17, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |


We all are asked to do things that we don’t want to say “yes” to. But if you are like me, I am ill equipped with being able to say “no” in a way that I feel will not hurt the other person. We would rather hurt ourselves than say “no.” It makes no sense. I would say my thirties will filled with saying “yes” to every volunteer opportunity that I was approached with. I was flattered that people would ask me to help. I quickly learned that there was a very small pool of those that always said “yes” and I had jumped into that pool headfirst. But what happens to most of us that say “yes” too often is we quickly burn out. I learned in my forties to start saying “no.” I also learned creative ways to start saying “no.” I recently avoided a parent meeting for fear of me saying “yes”….so my husband went for me as he knows how to say “no.” I felt like a coward, but I could not figure out another way to say “no.”


As I was sitting in a coffee shop yesterday waiting for a friend I overheard the conversation of the woman next to me telling her friend how she never sees her child. She leaves for work before he wakes and she has social obligations after work and he is often asleep when she returns home. I recognized who she was and she has a prominent job in our community and I assume she has great pressure at work. I wanted to pull her aside and whisper in her ear, “just say no.”


The funny thing is as I was doing my morning reading today I found a great list of ways to say “no” in the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg Mckeown. He reminds us that Essentialists regularly says “no” with grace. I needed to add these ways to say “no” to my repertoire ASAP . The Essentialist is able to distinguish the vital few from the trivial many. This focus allows them to get to the important things quicker and get the tasks finished faster because the distracting road blocks have been taken away.


1. The Essentialist uses the awkward pause when asked to do something. Just let the request sit in the air. The person asking will eventually say things that allow you to say “no” in an easier manner. Simply by counting to three and taking a deep breathe allows you time to gather your ability to say “no.”


2. The Essentialist uses the “no but.” This is what I call the reasonable excuse to say no. I have a deadline that I am working on “but” when it is complete I can contact you.


3. The Essentialist asks to check their calendar first. This allows you time to pause and gather your thoughts. You get to take control of your decisions. Plus if you take a look at your calendar chances are there is no extra time that would allow you to say “yes.”


4. The Essentialist uses an auto responder. I love this idea of having an out of office set for not only when you are on vacation but for other times when you are especially busy. My husband does this and I love this idea. If he is working on a particularly complex project and he knows he will not have time to read emails. People will learn to adapt without you giving them an instant response. Reply when you have time as they are on notice that you will take some time to reply to them.


5. The Essentialist asks the person to help them find ways to deprioritize. When you are asked to add a nonessential project remind your superiors that you would be neglecting other aspects of the projects you are working on. Often they will find that you don’t have the time and will pass it on to someone else.


6. Say “no” with humor. You don’t have to be rude when you say “no” and often humor can help diffuse the situation and allows you to feel better about saying “no.”


7. Say “yes” to what you can commit to. I am great at saying “yes” to smaller tasks. So instead of saying “no” I can not help I like to figure out how I can commit and I say “yes” to that.


8. Give a name of someone who you do think would say “yes.” Often there are others out there who would be much better at the task and if you can help identify them you are actually helping. We often think we are the only one who can do the task, but the truth is there are often people better equipped at doing it.


I want you to imagine a world where you say “yes” to things that you ultimately want to do our need to do. When I say “yes” to things I don’t want to do I am doing a disservice to all involved. I hope the woman in the coffee shop yesterday reads my blog and realizes that it is time for her to start saying “no.”


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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What Would You Grab?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 10, 2015 in Family, life |

Organizing isn’t always easy. We are surrounded by our possessions that often seem to possess us. If we think about buying something rarely do we go past the price of the item. We don’t think about where we are going to store it. We don’t think about having to clean it. We don’t think about how we are going to eventually have to get rid of it. But what if we started asking ourselves a new question; what would you grab if you had five minutes to leave your house?

Many of us living in the Red River Valley have had to face this question in a real way over the last ten to twenty years. I was one of those people who lived close to the river and brought all of my downstairs contents on to the main floor. That was the year I refused to let anything go back downstairs before I looked at it. I got rid of large amounts of things that year. I almost feel like I need to do that again. However I could do without the threat of natural disaster.

I really want to live a minimalist lifestyle and as soon as my youngest graduates I will be ready to move to something smaller. Until that time, we need to get rid of 80% of our items. My goal when we move is to move in a small moving truck, you the one that you can drive. I don’t want to hire movers. I have a dream of living in a houseboat on Lake Union, WA. It is a tiny space and my husband and I enjoy each others company, but could he move without his comic book collection?

But what if you walked into each room of your house now and started asking yourself the questions; what would I grab?

Living room: I have some pictures in frames of my boys when they were little and I have my husbands 13 cubes designating the 13 patents he has. Those are important to him so I should probably grab them. The furniture isn’t important. The decorations aren’t anything special. That room was easy!

Kitchen: The most important things here are family recipes. Some are handwritten and some are typed. I also have a few of my grandmother’s kitchen items that mean something to me, but I could let them go as I know that the possession does not make the memory any less strong. I have a good knife set and some nice everyday plates that I would take with me. I know I wouldn’t grab my china and crystal.

Office: We have a basket where all the bills are kept and passwords are written down. This would be an important item to take with us. But I also think that we could downsize this into a single sheet of paper. Sounds like a weekend project for my hubby! I would take my Surface, external hard drive and my extra monitor as I work so much better with a second screen. I also have a few books and pictures I would grab. Everything else I am ok living without.

Bedroom: The furniture isn’t important. The hardest things will be my clothes. However I really am not attached to many. Right now I am in between sizes and working towards being ready to wear my collection of cute dresses for summer.  I have clothes that make me happy and I love to wear. Those would be the first ones I would grab. I have some favorite shoes as well that I would grab, perhaps 4 pairs.

Bathroom: Really most everything can be left. I have my makeup I wear and I have that pretty well organized and my face wash. A fair share of hair products but the rest I can leave. We only have one towel for each of us so that is easy enough. I have a collection of white wash clothes that I wash my face with that I would need but can be easily replaced. Most items in my bathroom I could live without.

Kids rooms: Once again a few personal items as they wear the same clothes and have very little. My older boys who are at college have left behind one large tote each with their sentimental items. We have done the hard sort before they left for school and I would highly suggest doing this. Have your kids help in this process. You would be surprised what they want to keep and what you would want them to keep. Listen to them, not your sentimental heart.

Basement/Family room: This is where I store my favorite books and my photo albums. This would probably be the room that I grab the most things from. I know that when we had the issue with the Red River flooding I could fill an entire SUV with photo albums and pictures. This is an area that I need to scan and store in the cloud. Sounds like a job for a teen boy this summer. I really don’t want to have to take all of that with me when we move. It takes up a lot of space. I also do not want to rent storage space.

Garage/Storage space: Another place to ask the hard questions. Why are we keeping certain items that we never use? If I had a few minutes I would probably grab three totes, one for each boy where I saved their baby items and special toys. My husband has been great at releasing things from the garage. We have that space fairly well weeded down.

So the challenge this week is to walk around your home with a new set of eyes. If you were forced to grab just a few items, what would you grab? You will suddenly realize what is important to you. Chances are it isn’t the physical possessions but rather items that have sentimental meaning to you. Have other family members do the same thing and compare the results. It may lead to an interesting family discussion. Now it might be easier to start donating the items that you wouldn’t grab.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Procrastination Nation

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 3, 2015 in Family, life |


Our country is suffering from an illness that is hiding in our junk drawers, cabinets, kitchen counters, kitchen tables, dryers and closets; I call it procrastination. As I was thinking about writing this post this morning I was telling my husband about it. He looked at me and said, “maybe you should get out of bed and write that then.” touché.

When I work with clients we often tackle the procrastination piles. My favorite definition of clutter is “delayed decisions.” Take a look around you right now and see what are your delayed decisions. I am writing in my office and I see my desk covered in “creative clutter,” you know those projects that I will get to someday. But what if I grabbed a stack of file folders, my label maker and file box and filed all of those creative projects? Yeah, my desk would be clean.

I know I need to mark off a few hours on my calendar this week and call it procrastination day. As I turn my head to the left I see more clutter that needs to have decisions made.

Having clutter does not mean you are lazy. I give this simple illustration when speaking about clutter. Imagine your laundry basket full of laundry that needs to be folded. Is it really about not wanting to fold the laundry, or is it more about not knowing where to put the laundry once it is folded? The drawers are over flowing, there are no more hangers to be used, the closet is already jammed. The problem is not the action of folding, the problem is taking the time to make space.

So here are some things to help keep procrastination at bay

Declare Procrastination Day: Make it fun. I had a friend share with my that when she needs her children to clean they play Cinderella and she is the evil step mother and forces them {in a fun way} to keep cleaning. I am sure that there are several members of the family that could join in on procrastination day. Have each member of the family focus on their projects that they have been neglecting. Set a timer and have a fun family activity when all of the projects are complete.

Consider the next step: For me it is important to ask “what is the next step?” When you have a pile of papers to go through chances are when you ask the next step question you will come up with different answers. Some papers will be bills to pay, some will be calls to make, some will be things to enter into the computer. These should all be separate piles as they take different items to get them done. So when you have a few minutes to make phone calls grab the stack and your phone. When you need to pay a bill, grab the bill and your wallet.

Group needed items together: When you get a minute to sew on those Boy Scout patches you don’t want to be looking for the patches {in an envelope above the fridge}…the shirt {dirty on the floor}…thread {in a closet piled high only to find out you don’t have the right color thread}….scissors {yes the safety scissors will work.}  By the time you have everything gathered you are exhausted and need to leave to pick up said child from scouts. But what would happen if you started to group everything together that you need to complete a project. You will take less time running around looking for stuff and more time being focused on getting the project done.

Turn off distractions: Yes this is easier said than done. But all electronics should be powered off. While writing this post I have checked Facebook 27 times, checked my email 4 times and tried to order something online. Wait a minute, I need to make a hotel room reservation. In all seriousness, the area should be empty of all electronic, human and animal distractions. People think they can focus with other humans and animals around. I am here to tell you that is simply not true. I watched sweet cats jump into their owners laps over and over again. The owner would place the cat on the floor and the cat would jump back in the lap. It is a vicious fur circle. If the humans around you are not active participants in procrastination day they need to leave. I have seen spouses derail the organizing train and start to pull things out of the garbage. I wanted to put that spouse on a time out!

Today is the day that you take a stand and tell procrastination to take a hike. Stop looking at what you need to get done and feeling all guilty, just start. As I often say, the first step is the hardest. Just take it and see where it leads you.


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Books Are Clutter Too

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized |


I am a self proclaimed book lover. I was an English major in college. I belong to book clubs. I have a basement full of books. But my book shelves runneth over. Looking at my books I know I have to make another big sweep. I want to get rid of all of the bookcases in our basement and create a bar. In order to do that I need to make some tough book donation decisions.


I have gone through my cookbooks a few years ago and I only kept a few. This was an easy process for me as I usually find and store all of my recipes online. But now come the books. I have already pared them down over the years by getting rid of the paperback ones as that was an easy step for me. Now I recognize that I need to get rid of even more and make a jump into the hardcover ones.


The art of downsizing and becoming a minimalist isn’t always easy. I recognize the fact that I need to shed some books. I come from a family of book lovers. One whole wall in my parents house is bookshelves. I have a section in my basement dedicated to books. But I see my current habits of not returning to those books and they just sit on the shelves collecting dust that someone has to dust.


I am currently participating in an organizing challenge to get rid of 40 bags in 40 days. The time frame is lent and I am surprisingly having no shortage of finding a bag a day to get rid of. I think if my focus is on my books for the last two weeks of lent I could easily fill 14 bags.


But where do you start?


Books you will read again: These are the classics that you always turn to when you are in a reading slump. My husband has a whole set of sci fi books that he reads over and over again, or so he tells me. These are the books you keep.


Sentimental books: There will be a few books that you read to your children or were a part of your childhood that you can’t part with. Be mindful of the memory that they hold and keep only the very special ones.


Books you won’t read: Sometimes we have all the intentions in the world to read a book but it never happens. If you keep passing up the same stack of unread books, now is the time to get rid of that stack. Donate the stack without guilt, just get it out of your home.


Books you won’t finish: One of my New Year’s resolutions has been to read a book a week. So far I am on target but one of the ways I am making it through a book a week is I am going and reading books I haven’t finished. You know the ones that have the last 50 pages that you had the best of intentions to finish. It is surprising how many of those books I have. The good news is now I can donate those books when they are complete. If you look at those books and have no desire to finish, you now have another set of books to donate!


Donate all the paperback books: I did this a few years ago and it was easy for me to do as most of them did not hold sentimental value for me. I didn’t have to think emotionally about a book. If it was a paperback I donated it. I rid myself of a couple of boxes this way. For you it may be get rid of all the hardcover ones. It was a simple way to divide my books without thinking too much.


Visit your library: Chances are the book you are looking for can be found at your local library. Dust off your library card and start checking out your books again. Many libraries also allow you to check out eBooks so you can even check out a book in the middle of the night.


Limited space: Find a space to store your books and only allow what can fit in that space. Once it is full, some books need to go. You suddenly will be faced with making choices.


Pull out 20: If you could only take 20 books with you, which ones would they be? Start with those 20 books and work around donating the rest. When you have to choose your most favorite you will begin to realize that the rest don’t matter nearly as much.


Go on a book diet: Simply stop buying books. If I hear of a good book I download a sample to my Kindle. That is a way for me to remember the recommendation without purchasing the book. When I am ready for a new book I already have a list ready to go.


Give with purpose: I maintain that if you can find a donation place that resonates with you, you are more likely to donate. Find a school, friends of the library, assisted living facility or women’s shelter, that will gladly take your gently loved books and it will fill your soul up. I see “Little Free Libraries” all over my town. I may take a drive and start dropping them off. I just need to remind myself to not bring any new ones home!


So join me in sorting and donating your books. I realize books are like children and it is hard to decide to get rid of them. But remember they served a purpose one day and you read them. Now is the time to find a home where others can enjoy reading them.


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


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Make Time

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on February 17, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |


If I were to look at your calendar right now would I be able to figure out what type of person you are? When my kids were young my life revolved around theirs. My day started before they woke up and ended when they went to sleep. I was a school volunteering queen, because at the time I thought it was my job as a stay at home mom to volunteer for puppy math bingo on Fridays. My calendar was full of parent meetings and giving boys rides. That was who I was.

Now I have one child home and my free time during the day has given me choices. I work for myself so I get the choose how to shape my day. I am lucky, but it is hard. My day can easily fall down the rabbit hole of sorting mail and going on Pinterest to find what to make for dinner. These time suckers are not scheduled but they happen. I don’t have Pinterest and mail sorting written down in my calendar.

What I have found is that if you want things to happen you need to write them down. I have scheduled reoccurring appointments for my business planning times. I only take organizing clients for 12 hours a week. I schedule my personal appointments on Fridays.

But my calendar has been missing some important things lately. Missing are my scheduled daily work out times. Missing is date night. Missing is organizing my office.

If you were to look at your calendar right now can you tell me what is missing. What are you wishing you had time to do but it just seems to never happen. Schedule it now. Sit down and work on the life you want to have. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Time with friends: Life becomes busy and often our friendships are pushed to the side. We are raising our kids and our adult friendships seem like a distance memory. But sometimes magical things happen when you make that time. I had scheduled lunch last week with five friends but weather and circumstances kept three from coming. That left three of us who had a lovely discussion as one has terminal cancer. I can grarantee you her calendar is full of time with friends and not reading the mail.

Time to exercise: I am a walking example of this. When my exercise time is scheduled I go 90% of the time. When I try to fit it in, it happens 5% of the time. I know how important exercise is for me to live a better life. Yoga has been added in as well as weekly time with my trainer, Texting a friend each time I go to the gym also holds me accountable. If she hasn’t heard from me by noon she knows to send me a text to make sure I get my workout in.

Date night: My husband and I do a pretty good job of this but it was nonexistent when our kids were young. It was a hassle to find a babysitter let alone find the money to pay for one. Find a friend to swap childcare with. I wish I would have paid more attention to this when my kids were younger. Being a team raising children takes time to plan and dream, schedule that time.

Time to organize: Yes organizing is one of those things that doesn’t happen magically. If it did people wouldn’t need to hire me. Organizing isn’t fun and it takes a mindset to get it done. I recommend blocking off three hours of time and make sure you have no distractions. Turn off the phone. Make sure that you are home alone. Even animals can be a distraction. Don’t think you are going to block out a whole weekend to get organized, you will just become resentful and quit.

Take time this week to get you schedule back on track. Get important things scheduled and start to create the life you want. Because if you don’t make the time, who will?

To Organizied Simplicity,

MS. Simplicity

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Use It Or Lose It

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on February 10, 2015 in Family, Food, life, Moms |

When did I become known as the handmade soap collector? I looked in my bathroom drawer the other day and I saw 9 bars of beautiful soap that I have received as gifts. I use the soap in my bathroom but one bar has lasted 6 months. At the rate I was going I was going to have soap for the next 12 years. So I made a decision to use each of these soaps for a month at a time. Enjoy them, and think of the person that gave it to me. They are coming out of the drawer and being used.


While I was in the same drawer I saw some face cream that was almost gone but I hadn’t used it all. What was I waiting for? The thoughts that went through my head was….it was expensive…I don’t want to buy a new one when it is gone. But then my professional organizer brain took over and shouted, loudly I might add, get over it! So now I am using that face cream up…along with some lovely hand lotion. The bright pink lipstick will have to wait until summer however.


But this got me thinking, what else am I holding onto. I found some great corn salsa that I was saving for when we have company….someday. That salsa is coming out this week. Here are some areas to get your thinking,


Freezer: Try using stuff up this week and creating meals around what you find. I know I have some hamburger and chicken frozen as well as some freezer burned shrimp. You may be surprised at what you find in the recesses of this frozen treasure trove. I seem to put things in here and forget about them. Try only eating from your freezer for a week and see how fast you can open up some space. Gone will be the almost empty ice cream containers and the small bags of corn that are now one solid ice chunk.


Pantry: Remind me why I bought capers again? What about that honey mustard? Heck we could eat out of our pantry for the next month. But wait, look at those expiration dates. Yes, I have had those same jar of capers for 5 years….too long! Start using those pantry items up this week. If you don’t think you are ever going to eat that can of double noodle soup drop it off at the food pantry. My local grocery store takes donations so this is an easy item to get rid of.


Bathroom: You know you have that eye shadow pallet with your favorite color empty. Are you ever going to use the rest of the colors? I am telling you now, only a special person can wear electric blue eye shadow and it isn’t me or you! Just toss it now! Are you like me and have that last bit of expensive eye cream that you haven’t used? Use it as it will soon be past its prime and you will open that jar to find it has evaporated. How about the hair spray that you paid too much for but doesn’t really work? Donate and get it out of your bathroom.


Kids items: I can’t tell you how many gifts my boys received over the years that I was just too afraid to let them play with and ruin. Oh if I could turn the clock back on that! Let them rip the page of the pop up book. Let them color in that coloring book from Russia. Let them play with the expensive teddy bear. Let them use these things and love them and make memories with them as memories were never made of looking at things on a shelf!


Cleaning supplies: I will buy something and try it for awhile and then find something else that I like better. But still under my sink is the old cleaning spray. Why can I not get rid of these? So one day I did the smart thing and lined them up on my counter when my cleaning lady was over and told her to help herself and then I got rid of the rest. Am I really going to Murphy’s Oil my cabinets? Let’s get real here…..no.


Kitchen utensils: I keep grabbing the same spatula every time, so why do I keep the other 17? This week figure out what you use and ask yourself if you are going to use the other 17. If the answer is no, then get rid of them!


Have fun this week using all of your “I will use it someday” items as this week is your someday! You will be surprised at how much you can clean out by just starting to use these items up. And remember, just because you have empty spaces now does not mean you have permission to fill them back up!


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity



Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


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The Perfect Client

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on February 3, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |

When I receive an email or phone call from a potential client I never know what I will get when I accept them as a client. My one requirement is that they must want to change. Usually by the time they contact me they are ready to change. If they are forced to contact me by friends or family it usually doesn’t go so well and I spend time spinning my wheels with them. I will leave without pay if all I feel we did was move their clutter around. I want them to want to change and release the clutter. If they aren’t ready, I am not going to force them.


But sometimes I get my favorite client of all kind, the one that is 95% organized and they want me to take them to 100%. These are rare clients and I usually work with them once or twice a year. But what they do is challenge me and keep me on my toes. I have to ask a lot of questions to get to the perfect solution they are looking for. They usually have tried all of the common suggestions I give my clients and we go to the next level of organizing; organizing nirvana!


Most have created systems that are very well organized but the systems are causing them anxiety and taking up precious time in their lives. They realize that finding a balance is the right thing to do and they want that balance.


Here are some common things I find:


1. File more broad and not so detailed. Statistics show that when we file we never look at 80% of the stuff ever again. So keep that in mind when creating a filing system. For most people they need a category called “Vehicles” and don’t need files broken down into every vehicle that they own.


This became picture clear in my own world when I use to file and organize my negatives, remember what those were?  They were organized and labeled and had their own envelopes with the date on the outside clearly marked. And then I heard someone say to just throw your negatives in a box and store it at a family members house and when I do have a time where my photos are destroyed I will then take the time to sort and look through the photos. Until that time, save time and throw them in a box. Huge time saver for me!


2. Focus on the things that drive you crazy. For one client it was creating the area in her kitchen to make toast. Every morning toast crumbs would find their way into her spotless kitchen and she would have to take the time to clean them up. We figured out a way to keep the toast crumbs at a minimum and save her time every morning and she was thrilled.


My area that drove me crazy was my mail. Because I work from home I would get the mail and sort it. But the sorting would take me down a wild path that would eat into my work day. I would want everything to be perfect. I would look through the magazines. I would pay the bill. I would write down the appointment reminder and 90 minutes would pass. Now my husband does it and it takes him 2 minutes and once a month he has a small pile for me to sort. It isn’t until he leaves town for work that I realize that Pottery Barn is still sending me catalogs….and I stop what I am doing and dream about my perfect house…and thirty minutes later I come out of my perfect house coma and get back to work!


3. Focus on the big picture. If your idea is to spend time with your family or to create lovely scrap book pages, focus on that. Collecting the supplies and shopping and storing and creating systems to store them does not get your pages done. Realize where the time suck is and eliminate it.


I was a lover of scrap books. I even sold Creative Memories so I could get the discount. But one thing I learned early on is that I could get distracted by everything that was in the marketplace. So for me I focused just on what Creative Memories had to offer. I didn’t spend time at other craft stores looking up and down the aisles for inspiration and spending time looking for coupons to save money. I focused on one thing and kept it simple. Now I download all of my Facebook posts to a company that places all of my statuses an pictures into one book. It takes me about three minutes to order it once a year and I am done. I now use Facebook as my daily journal and it is an easy and low maintenance way for me to capture my life.


The same goes for clothes for me. I focus on two stores for all of my clothes and that is it. I know that they are quality clothes and I look good in them and besides that I don’t need a closet full of clothes to stress me out. I do the one in one out rule, if I buy a new shirt, and old shirt must go. I buy clothing once a year in the fall and it usually gets me through to another year.


We all have that want to be more organized. Take time this week to figure out how you can get let go of the old way of doing things in order to give you back some precious time! It might be letting go of perfectionism. It might be letting go of old habits. Whatever it may be, just….let it go…let it go!


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


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Evolution Of The Family Meal

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized |

When we bought our house we were intentional by not putting a television upstairs. People visit and comment on the fact that the television is missing. We had three young sons and we wanted to make sure that family meal time stayed sacred. We knew that a television would be stiff competition for our attention. Little did I know how quickly the television would no longer be considered our major struggle.


There was sports! Our meal time evolved once our boys were involved in sports. No longer was 6:00 our dinner hour, but rather anytime between 4:30 and 8:00 as the boys grew. Activities became the main rival for our time as a family. We still managed to sneak in a quick family meal with all five of us around the table, but it was rare. I had to learn to prepare a meal that could be prepared quickly or sit in a crock pot. I was usually running one kid to an activity while another one was at home doing homework waiting for me to come home so that I could run him to his activity.


I was the queen of the taxi service. I called my car an expensive garbage can on wheels as many nights I would take a boy through drive through and they would eat in-between activities.  My dad was amazed at how many miles I put on my car just from in town driving. The car became our dinner table. The car is where I would hear how the day went. The car is where I would hear about the issue with friends. I was with the boys actively listening and that was all that mattered.


But then my oldest got his driver’s license and we saw less and less of him. I was no longer driving him to activities. I was no longer driving him to school halfway across town. Gone were those conversations in the car. School activities and sports as well as a job kept him away from home most evenings at dinner time. We became a disjointed family trying to have dinner.


Then the middle son got his driver’s license and we began to see less and less of him. I still tried my hardest to make family dinner time a priority. I started cooking more interesting meals. I tried new cook books and recipes hoping that it would be the siren song back home. And in many ways it worked. When the boys began dating, the girls would often be at our house and our dinner table began to grow. And I loved it.


Soon my oldest left for college. Gone was my adventurous eater who could eat several helpings of food. It was no longer fun to cook as half of what I prepared was now leftovers. I began cooking the same things that I knew our other, fussier eaters would eat. Dinner time became mundane and routine. My middle son’s girlfriend would tease me when my oldest came home from college that now we were going to eat great food. But it was true. I knew that he would eat and be grateful for the meal so I would once again prepare elaborate meals.


As the time approached for my middle son to leave for college I realized that we were once again going to be in for a major life change. He too was active his last year of high school and we rarely saw him. But we waited until he got home as he was the last one to usually arrive. We would then eat at the same time. I knew that our meals were numbered and I made them count. My husband and I were busy working and usually nobody made dinner. So we would find ourselves eating at a restaurant, but that was ok as we were together and that was what mattered.


Now we have our youngest home. I now schedule meal time around his schedule. He tells me what time he is going to be home and we wait to eat with him. The first thing he says when he walks through the door is “what’s for dinner?” I know in a blink of an eye he too will be gone and it will just be my husband and I wondering where the time went and having conversations about why we don’t have a television upstairs.


So when families have issues with kids and adults being on their cell phones during the family meal, I beg of you, take those phones away! As that is the same issue we had with deciding to not put a television upstairs. Put a basket in the kitchen where everyone places their phones during dinner. You don’t want to miss out on the family meal time because that time is fleeting and magical. Let your kids be mad at you because when they are older they will remember the dinner table conversations not the latest topic on reddit!


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.



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Leaving A Life Of Simplicity

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on January 20, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |


This post is dedicated to all of you baby boomers out there who are struggling with all of your possessions as well as the possessions of your parents and your in-laws and maybe even that childless aunt or uncle. You have been entrusted as the family keeper of memories. You are not sure how you received this honor. But one day you woke up and your house was about to explode from things that don’t bring you joy but rather things you need to keep so that nobody becomes mad at you. And yes, the people that you are most worried about offending have now passed on.


But I am here to tell you, the people who have passed on do not want you to feel smothered by their possessions. I know that I don’t want to pass on the burden of “things” to my children and I hope I am leaving a legacy of experiences for them to remember me by.


One of the main reasons that I see my parent’s generation suffering so much is that they were raised by parents of the Depression era. These were people who when they bought a couch, they kept it for 50 years. These were the people who knew how to feed a family of 8 with a cup of flour and a few eggs. These were the people who mastered the art of hand me down clothes. So the baby boomers were raised by fiscally responsible and frugal parents. It was engrained in them to waste not want not.


The reality is that we are now in a digital area where things are not built to last anymore. Our children are not going to want any of our possessions. Trust me they don’t want our stuff, just call them if you don’t believe me. I am dealing with my own clutter issues and trying to discard as much now and live a life of simplicity so as to not burden my children. Here are some common areas that I see my clients suffering from.


Furniture: Furniture comes in various shapes and sizes. Furniture is bulky and takes up space. Chances are you have a few pieces that have been passed down to you. My theory is unless it is serving some practical reason, get rid of it and let someone else enjoy it. My mom has the bed that my grandparents had when they got married. I have tried sleeping in it. I am almost five foot ten, I don’t fit in that bed unless I am diagonal. This would not be a practical piece of furniture for me to inherit. Now if I had a young daughter, it would be perfect and I would love it.


Make sure that the furniture serves a purpose in your current life, not a life in the future. If you are holding onto something for your children, ask them now if they even want it. Chances are you will hear the answer no. Remember to not have hurt feelings over this. Rejecting a possession is not rejection of you.


Knick Knacks: In my world if you have to dust it, I don’t want it. I like clear and open spaces. Take an honest look at each tchotchke and see what kind of feeling it invokes. And then see where you are displaying it. Is it on a crowded shelf where nobody can see it? Is it hidden in a box? Is it shoved in a cabinet? If it has meaning and it brings you JOY, it should be displayed in a place of honor. Display it our donate it, but don’t box it up for its fate to be decided by another generation.


Photos: This is a hard one for so many people. What to do with the photos. I tell you, take the time to sort through them now and see if you know who everyone is in the photos. If you don’t know who someone is, discard it. You can take the extra step and see if someone else remembers, but chances are they don’t either.


Right now on my desk is a picture of my dad when he was probably three with his blond curls and a dog next to him and my dad loves his dogs. Looking at this picture makes me happy. This is a picture I wont get rid of, however my kids might someday. But I am going to make it easier for them and make sure the picture is labeled so that they know that it is a picture of their grandfather.


This summer I came across the unicorn {rare} of all pictures when I was watching a video of my aunt’s and uncle’s wedding, I saw my mom in the video. I paused the movie and took a picture of the screen of my mom as a young girl. My mom doesn’t have many pictures of herself when she was young, so this picture is a treasure.


Go through your photos now and discard any that don’t bring you JOY, or you don’t know who is in the photo. Or perhaps it is scenery that means nothing to you. Chances are you can toss a large stack of photos.


Recipes and Letters: These mean a lot to me, especially the ones in my grandmother’s writing. My mom also made a cookbook with all of our family recipes in it. That is a treasure. Anything in my grandmother’s writing that is beyond my name written is also special. Cards with just a signature do not mean that much to me. However if someone takes the time to write a note as to why I am special I display that note and then it goes in my happy file. My happy file is where I place papers that bring me JOY.


What I hope you do this week is start walking through your home and look at the legacy that you are leaving. Are you leaving one of clutter and indecision or is your legacy one of simple elegance. Don’t burden your family but rather encourage your family to celebrate a life that is well lived.


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity



Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.


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