Back To Basics: Packing For A Trip

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on April 22, 2014 in Uncategorized |

A question I am often asked is how do I pack. When I went to my first Professional Organizers Conference in San Diego you can imagine how well everyone was packed! Having an organized suitcase is a great way to start a vacation. Before my vacation I like to start stockpiling the items  that I think I will need on a bench in my bedroom. I like to visualize what I have and what I am missing. This is especially true when we are going on a family vacation and I am responsible for more than myself.

When I fly, I like to only pack a carry on bag for several reasons. The first being I don’t like to pay for a checked bag. Second I don’t like waiting for my luggage. And finally I like the challenge of having everything fit in my suitcase. I see it as a game, as I really need to focus on what I will really use and wear. Too often I over pack, it is an illness of making sure I have everything I will need. But often in my focus of packing just the right things I forget some obvious essentials….like my makeup or my underwear, true story.  But I do have some secrets to help me get packed in the most efficient manner possible.

1. I use a product called Shelves on the Go that is essentially a collapsible shelf that goes from packing in my closet, into my suitcase and finally into in the closet in the hotel. No need to put things in germy drawers in hotels. I can easily see my clothing as I pack. I don’t need to be searching through the deep recesses of my suitcase as I know exactly what shelf everything is on. My dress clothes go on one shelf, my exercise clothing on another and my everyday clothes on the third. I like to put my outfits together and be very visual as I pack and I even include the jewelry at this step. This product goes in one half of my suitcase.


2. I wear my bulkiest items on the plane. For me that means a large sweater that I can use as a jacket and my shoes that take up the most room, usually my gym shoes or a pair of comfy dress shoes. But most often it is a pair of boots that can be used with my dress clothes.

3. I pack my smaller items in packing cubes. This helps me keep like items together in my suitcase.  I usually put my undergarments and socks in one and if I am going to a tropical destination, my swimsuits and cover-ups in another. The cubes fit great on the other side of my suitcase.


4. Take advantage of unused space. For me I have a suitcase that has an area where my curling iron fits in perfectly. Use every nook and cranny for your benefit. Don’t leave any open space. For me it is sometimes my husbands suitcase as he has open spaces and I throw extra shoes in there, you know, just in case!


5. I pack a very practical bag as my second carry on. It must be able to fit my purse and my makeup bag in it. This bag will also double as my bag that I carry as we do touristy things. This bag easily sits on top of my suitcase and can go in front of my seat on the airplane. I always pack my chargers in this bag and my essentials that I can’t live without as sometimes you will need to gate check your suitcase and I don’t want the risk of losing them.

Some things that I have changed in the past couple of years as my travel has ramped up: First I got a credit card that gives me miles for purchases as well as gives me a free checked bag. My husband and I both flew to the Dominican with our files for free. As for checking the bag, there are times when I have tight connecting flights that I don’t want to haul around my suitcase. Some turnaround times are 30 minutes and when you have to sprint across the airport you do not want to be lugging your wheeled suitcase no matter how good those wheels are.

I really try to wear what I pack. Too often I am at the end of a trip and I didn’t wear over half of my clothing I packed. I am getting better at this by thinking of multiple uses for items. For example I have a pair of flip flops that have black sequins on them that can double as dress shoes if need be. This same pair of flip flops is so comfy I can walk all day in them. Hmmm…looks like I should just be taking these shoes as my only pair next time.

I really imagine my day to day activities on my trip before I go. If I am realistically not going to go out to fancy restaurants, I am not going to bring my dressy clothes. If the plan is wishful thinking on the exercise, I will leave my gym shoes at home. If I plan on laying in the sun the whole time, maybe just a few swimsuits and cover-ups is good enough!


To Joyful, Organized Living,


MS. Simplicity

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Back To Basics: Organizing Your Photos In A Digital World

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized |


Hi, my name is Melissa and I like to take photos. I have a problem but I am not about to change it. Currently my biggest problem is my phone doesn’t have the ability to store all the photos I take. But worse yet is having the backlog of printed photos sitting all in organized boxes and knowing that I want them all made digital.


I come from a family of photo takers. My mom was great at taking photos of me as a child. Not only did she take lots of photos, she also organized them all. Not only did she organize them all, but they all had who/what/where/when written on the back of them. What a gift! I too tried to carry the family torch of photo organizing. There was even a time that my negatives were all organized in sleeves. See, I really do have a problem.


So what do I do knowing that I want to get all of my photos made digital. If you saw how many photos I had….you would wonder if I ever put the camera down. Needless to say when our house was at a critical stage for flooding from the Red River a few years ago I took our SUV and loaded all of our photos and scrapbooks into it and drove it to high ground. And yes, the SUV was full.


My reoccurring nightmare is losing all my photos. But with the advances of technology I know that my photos that I am taking now are backed up in the cloud. So needless to say I am sleeping easier at night. But I still have this nagging feeling of all of my other photos that aren’t in the cloud. So I decided to take action….in baby steps. Now there are lots of online options for you out there. But we are just going to cover the basics here, think 101 level. If you are looking to get all of your photos stored digitally here are a few things to think about.


1. Gather all of your photos in one spot. You would be surprised to find how many photos you have tucked in the recesses of your house. Get them all together and while you are at it, take the photos out of the frames if you are not actively displaying them. Frames take up lots of space.


2. Start sorting into categories. Mine are all in chronological order. Some people group by holidays, vacations or family member. If this is not possible and you are overwhelmed, skip this step.


3. Get rid of all duplicates and all bad photos. Back in the day when we had to auto focus a camera we had plenty of bad photos. You know the one that I am talking about….where your eyes are closed or it is blurry.


4. Decide on your level of time and budget. If I had the budget I would pack up all my photos and drop them off to be scanned. I did this a few years ago and it cost me about $100 but I still had thousands of photos left. I used a service called PhotoBin where they sent me the box and I put the photos in and they scanned and sent them back to me. I would caution that you only use a service like this that is in the United States. I also saw that a local photo place in our mall is now offering this service.


We have a scanner, so we are doing it the old fashioned way. One picture at a time. So far we have gotten through half of a box and we have at least twenty more to go. My theory is….slow and steady wins the race. We will bite off small sections on weekends while watching a movie or catching up with our television shows.


Other options are to take a picture of each photos. Cameras are good and if your lighting is perfect this is a very fast option. I have done this with posting photos to this blog or to Facebook, a picture of a picture taken with my phone. You would never know that is how I capture it. So don’t get caught up in the details of having the perfect scanner.


5. Label. I like to be able to search for my photos and know what I am looking for. It makes no sense to me to have a bunch of numbers behind a photo that doesn’t mean anything to me. Your labeling may simply be a grouping of photos. So this grouping could be chronological or by person as well. Save in a file called 1993 or Christmas or Tyler. To me the worst thing I could do is to spend all the time scanning the pictures only to find out that I can’t find the pictures that I am looking for. So take some time at this step and figure out what sort of organizing makes sense to you. Think about if you were to put them in a filing cabinet how would you label the files?


6. Figure out your back up system. Now that you did all this work, you better make sure that you have a back up plan. For me it is cloud storage. For a friend she put them all on external hard drives and gave one to each of her children, GENIUS!


Now that you are done, think of your photos as your back up to your back up. Where before we had negatives, now think of your photos as your back up. And what should you do with your negatives now that your photos are all scanned? You guessed it….bye bye! Even my well organized ones.


To Joyful, Organized Living,


MS. Simplicity

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Back To Basics

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on April 8, 2014 in life, Moms |

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the big picture that I forget about the tiny steps that compose and make up the big picture. Exhibit 1 your honor, my bathroom cabinet. I had things overflowing and it was a mess. I had to move things to grab other things. I ended tipping things over, it was out of control. I just kept looking at it and I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I just kept on with my day to day activities. Finally I had enough of the knocking stuff over. It was a Sunday night and I wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to tackle it! This is the exciting life of an organizer!


Here are the riveting steps in play by play format.


1. Pull everything out and wipe out the area. All of a sudden everything was out of my cabinet and I was wiping down the cabinet. It was like someone had taken over my body, I was just doing the steps. There was no stopping me!


2. Sort the items into trash, donate and keep.  I had a full garbage can of old and expired items as well as things ready to be donated that I know I will never use again. I looked at nail polish and asked myself, I get my nails done at a salon, am I ever going to paint my nails again? Nope…out went the polish.


3. Get others involved. I called my husband up to sort through his stuff. He realized that he hates wearing contacts and in fact hasn’t worn them in two years. Out they went. He was now able to get all of his items back in his bin and he no longer had items that were flowing over and getting knocked over.


4. Categorize the items. I started putting like items together. I take a lot of baths and I have lots of bath products but until I put them all together I didn’t realize how many I had. Now I could see how many I had all in one place.


5. Containerize the groupings. It isn’t until you go through the sorting and purging process that you should even think about putting things in containers. I personally always use clear containers when things are out of site. I don’t need beautiful decorative boxes if it is going to be in a closet. I need clear bins with straight edges (no wasted space) and with a handle to grab in an instant. Luckily I had just purchased the bins as this project has been in the back of my mind for a few months now. So when the time came, I was ready!


6. Label. Even if you think it is obvious, label anyway. It never hurts and it makes people think that you are super organized! Even if you have a category called “junk” label it and it will make you feel better and impress your friends and family. I had a client where we had a label called “misc.” and her son wanted to know who Misc was as he didn’t understand the abbreviation. So make sure that when you label, everyone knows what you mean!



{And before you judge my abundance of floss please note that I have those floss picks behind the floss, the whole drawer isn’t full of just dental floss containers in the roll. Wow I got defensive on my floss didn’t I? Clearly I love my oral hygiene.}


So what I want you to do is to stop beating yourself up about the project that just seems so overwhelming. Just start and you may possibly be surprised that it wont take you as long as you thought it would. My bathroom project took my 15 minutes. No lie! I too was shocked. The reason it took me only 15 minutes is I was ready to take action and I had all the tools I needed with me. It is time to get back to basics and remember that the hardest step is just starting!


To Joyful, Organized Living,


MS. Simplicity

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Hosting An Organized Graduation Party

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized |

So I am a few months away from having had my second child’s graduation party, a party that I had planned for a couple of years. In essence, right after his older brother graduated two years ago I knew right away I wanted to do the same party again. Plus, I have been going to graduation parties that my friends are having for their kids and I am seeing what I love and seeing what short cuts would work to make my event that much more simpler. His scrap book for elementary school will be done at a scrapbooking retreat that I have planned with other moms of seniors in a few weeks. I know who I am hiring to make a video…..my husband. I know who I was hiring to cater the meal. The announcements have been ordered. The hard stuff is figured out!

The best decision I made was to relieve myself of the stress of not having the party in my garage. Yes the garage…..as that is where I thought we would hold the party. It is a place where my organizing skills will shine. The garage is the last part of our home that needs to be organized. I have left it up until now as we have been busy with home and yard projects. I am sure people drive by my open garage and say to themselves, I can’t believe she is an organizer, look at that mess. Well guess what folks….I am a real person with three kids….oh and a husband. I love to keep it real as it shows that I am human. I have been dreaming of my garage being organized for the last 5 years and I cannot wait for the transformation to begin. I am still waiting for my super organized garage so in order to save my marriage I went to plan B….hold the party somewhere else.


I have been seeing trends from the traditional party in the garage to holding parties elsewhere such as parks, restaurants, churches, community centers, theaters, etc. Another great idea I have seen is several families having their parties together. Chances are your child has a close group of friends that you could all work together and share in the party expenses.
Tips for planning a graduation party:

• Keep it simple. Keep it simple. Keep it simple. I want to know why we don’t have these big parties for our children when they become employed full time and have health insurance. That is the time that parents should celebrate! My party may look like it was really expensive and took a lot of planning and time. But compared to what I was seeing out there, mine was on the conservative side of things.
• Focus on what you enjoy. For example if you hate to cook, enlist some friends and family to help or if the budget allows, hire a caterer.
• If you are stressed about your house not being “picture perfect” focus on these areas; the kitchen, entry way, guest bathroom and whatever room the party is going to be held. Now is not a time to clean out your closets and organize your medicine cabinet. If you are having the party in the garage sweep the garage and hang up sheets to hide the messy areas.
• Keep the beverages simple, bottled water and maybe 2 soda choices, one diet and one caffeine free.
• Don’t have your party be weather dependent, have a backup plan!
• Ask for friends to serve as hosts at the party for you. Put a friend in charge of food, one in charge of drinks and one in charge of garbage. You need to enjoy the party too!
• I have seen a lot of graduation open house invitations on Facebook this year, what a great and easy way to send out the invites to friends. Most family still want a paper invitation. But know that your kid will likely invite their guest list via social media.

Memorabilia Tips:
• The pressure is always on to have the perfect combination of photos of the kids at the graduation parties, but to not make it look like a shrine to the child….we have to keep those egos in check!  Have a framed and matted 8 x 10 of the graduate and have a pen available for the guests to sign the mat. This is a great keepsake for the graduate. I have seen these in Target in the frame aisle (they usually have a wedding couple in the picture). I used the Dr. Seuss book “Oh The Places You Will Go” as my guestbook. It is a keepsake and something practical as it is a book my son can read to his children someday. {We used the Dr. Seuss theme as a saying on a chalkboard that was on his display table, see photo at the top of article}
• Poster board with fun pictures of the graduate through their life are fun to look at. Once again, keep it simple and find a friend who loves to scrap book, they could finish this project for you in a couple of hours. Tip, scan the pictures into a computer or make copies before cropping as some of the photos may be one of a kind. I like the photo boards that have a theme to them. Try to group them together into areas like their interests in school. Group the sports ones…..special friends……if they are in drama or music…..you get the idea. Instead of poster boards, I did albums for my oldest by theme that took my husband and I about 4 hours to create. We found our favorite pictures and had them blown up into 8 x8 and placed in an album, one picture per page and our album could not have pages added. We had limits and we had to pick our favorites. This also is something that my son can keep forever as opposed to a poster board that is hard to display.
• Take all of the grade school pictures and display them in chronological order. It is fun to see the progression of the graduate. I am sure you have a family member that has been collecting these for years for you all jammed into one frame! I created one board with all of his photos from school on. It was a super cute way to see the progression through the years. {See photo above}
• A graduation party I attended two years ago had a book that was assembled on line by the dad with the child’s quotes and pictures throughout his life. You do not need to tell the life story, just a few humorous stories here and there. For example, maybe they had a favorite shirt that they wore all through 3rd grade, or maybe the graduate hated math in elementary school and now they want to be a math teacher. Make it personal.
Food Tips:
1.     People are not looking to be fed a meal. Many have already been to several graduation parties during the day already. The only ones that are looking at being fed are your out of town family and guests. The majority of the guests are just there to stop in and say hi, drop off a card and leave.
2.     Don’t serve alcohol. It is just asking for trouble. First, alcohol gets expensive and can add hundreds of dollars to an already stretched budget. Second, alcohol could get into the hands of minors or the relative that really should not have anything to drink because they get even more loud and more obnoxious.
3.     Have plenty of bottled water. If it is hot out, people will need the water to stay hydrated. My green tip is to have recycling bins placed so that it encourages people to recycle the plastic water bottles.
Trendy graduation food:
  • Anything that is a finger food and easy to eat.
  • Most people come already full to a graduation party. Why not serve just desserts or have a make your own ice cream sundae bar?
  • Cotton candy machine rental? Yes, it can be done. But please remember it is a sticky mess and if you are the one making the cotton candy, you will be covered in that sugary floss for the day.
  • Pick a theme with the food, such as Mexican and stick with it. For example, have a salsa bar with different kind of chips and salsa. And a walking taco is always a good choice. What is the graduate’s favorite type of food? Maybe Italian, then you could have a pasta bar with garlic bread and different pastas and sauces for a heavy meal if you have a lot of those out of town guests coming. We are doing brunch, super easy and most people didn’t schedule graduation parties in the mornings. So we are having crème brule French toast and egg bake along with candied bacon.
  • Anything on a stick is always fun to eat. Think fruit kabobs with dip.
  • Cupcakes instead of cake. Cupcakes are easier to eat, no cutting required and no utensils. Have the cupcakes in different flavors…what is the graduate’s favorite cake flavor? Instead of a traditional cake, we had cake bites for my oldest son’s party, bits of cake covered in frosting!


  • I like the idea of candy in the school colors as centerpieces. M and M’s come in so many colors, place the school color M and M’s in candy dishes, or simply scatter them down the table on a white tablecloth. Take it to the extreme and order M and M’s with the graduates face on it. Nothing says we love you like candy with your face on it!
  • I was at one graduation party last year that had a “candy buffet”. A table full of every kind of candy imaginable. My 12 year old loved it as he picked up enough bubblegum to get him through the summer!
  • I found templates for Hershey kisses and mini candy bar covers that I customized with my oldest son’s school colors and his name. It was cheap and easy to do while I watched a movie one night. {See picture above}
  • The best option, keep it simple and skip this part all together.


Please keep in mind, don’t stress and have fun! This is a party for you to have fun at as well! Ask for help and see what you can outsource! 
To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity

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Organized Living Lessons From My Dog

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 25, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |


Losing a pet is never an easy thing. Before we lost our dog Rex I had only lost one other pet and I was in college and the world revolved around me at that time so it had little impact on me. But last week we made the gut wrenching decision to put down our beloved pet Rex. It was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make. We had him as a puppy and he was one of my boys for 12 years. He sat at my feet when I worked in my office. He followed me around the house, I was his mamma and he was my fur baby. We gave him incredible vet care that would pay for a year of college at most universities. How could we not, he was one of us.

When we went to pick him out as a puppy I knew the breed of dog that I wanted. After I found the breed I went to the kennel and held him in my arms and he snuggled right into my arms, just like each of my boys did when they were born. He was a part of our family from day one. The boys had picked out his name from a Junie B. Jones book even before we saw him. He was named Rex, a tough and fearless name. But he was anything but tough.


Watching each one of my children and husband say goodbye to Rex in their own way was especially difficult. I have had lovely cards and flowers sent to me as well as a treasured book about losing a pet. But I learned many lessons from Rex, not just how to love an animal as if it were your family, but so many more.


1. Be excited to see whoever enters the house. I was always greeted with a wag of the tail and a happy to see you look. My husband said he missed that greeting now that Rex was gone. It is a good reminder that each time someone enters our home, we should take a minute to greet them like a puppy. Take time to say hi and let them know that you missed them!


2. Pick up after yourself. We could never leave things on the floor. As Rex’s eyesight began to fail, we always had to make sure that things were not left on the floor as he would take a tumble over a book or a pair of shoes left laying around.


3. Be on time. Rex was an insulin dependent diabetic dog and he needed to have insulin shots twice a day 12 hours apart. We were rarely late and always made sure that someone was home to give him his shot. We needed to be on time as our dog’s life depended on it. We couldn’t forget and let time slip by. When the morning alarm clock went off on a weekend morning and we wanted to sleep, we could sleep, but after the shot.


4. Push in all chairs. This ties into the one with picking up after yourself. When you are nearly blind, leaving chairs pushed away from the table makes for a dangerous obstacle course. So push in those chairs! Also don’t leave cabinet doors open or the dishwasher!


5. Close closet doors. Nobody wants to see your dirty laundry dragged out by your dog, so make sure that the doors to your closet are closed or you never know what guests will be exposed to when they come over.


6. Even the tough will cry. I took my oldest son with me when we put Rex to sleep. I watched his heart ache along with mine. He took me in his arms and gave me a strong hug after we were done. He is my tough kid who buries his emotions down. I saw his emotions that day and it gave me comfort.


7. Don’t leave your purse on the floor. Purses don’t go on the floor and Rex knew it. He had a super sniffer and was able to find gum like a blood hound. He will riffle through your purse like a thief and find that gum.


8. Don’t let food sit out. Rex had an ability to jump very high. He could grab a pan of brownies off the counter like he was four feet tall. He was a small dog, but you would never have known it. If you gave him a chance, he took it. So we learned early on to never leave food sitting out.


9. Intuition of an animal is always right. There were people that my dog didn’t like. Those same people I didn’t care for either. And then there was his intuition of wanting to crawl in someone’s lap who was having a particularly hard day. He just knew who needed some love. Pay attention and ask what is going on with that person who suddenly finds themselves with an animal in their lap. You may be surprised at what you hear.


While we go though this transition of being without a pet, we are learning so much of how our daily routines revolved around Rex. We couldn’t be selfish as we had someone who depended on us. Hats off to those of you who are pet owners as I had no idea of how hard this would be. They really are not just pets, they are our children with fur.


To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity


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Clothing Collector

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 18, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

We all have those special collection of clothes that we hang onto. For some of us it is sports jerseys for our favorite team. For others it is a tee shirt collection from high school or even into adult life. There are also the boot, shoe or purse collections out there.


I sat down with an avid tee shirt collector as I was fascinated with how she organizes her vast collection. Marsha Dahl’s (Moosh’s) collection probably tops 300, but they are all neatly organized and I was intrigued. Her strategy is simple, keep the ones you use in easy to access spots, and the rest get put out of reach or in boxes. She has limited space, so she knew that she needed to be smart in her storage and organizational choices. Marsha realizes that her collection needs to be reduced and she is thinking about implementing the one in two out rule. Or maybe she was just telling me that because she was meeting with a professional organizer?


I loved her sorting by the types of tee shirts and how she makes sure that she is able to wear so many of them. For the month of December, she only wears Christmas tee shirts. Anytime NDSU is playing in big playoff games she starts to wear NDSU shirts the two weeks preceding the big game. Starting March 1 it is St. Patrick’s Day shirts until the holiday has passed. She also has her favorites that she wears just to see the type of reaction she can get. These are not obscene shirts, but rather obscure shirts. She enjoys seeing the reactions from the shirts, they are a social experiment in a way. Should I mention now that she has a stocking cap collection to go with many of her shirts? It too is amazing!


There are a few tricks up Marsha’s proverbial sleeve to organize all of these shirts: Keep all similar shirts grouped together. A special tee shirt folder that she found online helps make sure that each shirt is perfectly folded. She also found that stacking 5 one way and 5 the other way ensures an even stack and no tee shirt avalanches in her closet. Using milk crates makes for easy movement of the rotation.

With all of these collections it is important to keep a few things in mind as I would be remiss to not tell you some professional organizer strategies!

1. Make sure that you have the space. I was once hired by a client to help me find room for her baby that was due in a few months. She gave me a tour of her home and when I asked what was in all the dressers in her house, she casually mentioned that it was her husband’s collection of tee shirts. I was shocked to say the least. And then I had to give her the tough love talk and told her to tell her husband what a mean lady I was and I told her she needed to get rid of the tee shirt collection. Please note that I did not force her to get rid of anything, just to blame me if she decided to. I realize that this is an extreme example, but I think it drives home the point that if you want a collection you need to make sure that you have the room to store it. A beautiful display of team jerseys hanging in a closet is a great idea. Dressers stuffed with tee shirts is a bad idea.

2. Place it in a place of honor. I have had more than one client have a super cute boot or shoe collection, yet they were stored in boxes or on the floor of the closet. I convinced them to put the shoe or boot collection at eye level in the closet and store something else on the floor. Once the shoes and boots were moved I saw their eyes light up. They loved seeing how a simple location change could make such a huge impact. If you have a signed jersey that is extra special and you know that you are never going to wear it, display it. Have it mounted in a shadow box of have it hung from a game room wall.

3. Use it or lose it. If you are having items stored in boxes the chances are you are not seeing them and you need to get them out and use them. If you have boxes that haven’t been opened in years, guess what? Time to simply donate them. A collection of clothing is suppose to be worn, not looked at. You too may need to implement Marsha’s strategy of one in two out to help get rid of the ones that you no longer are wearing!


To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/


· Need to contact MS. Simplicity privately; you can email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.


· For daily organizing tips find the MS. Simplicity Facebook business page here.

· Order featured Clever Container organizing supplies here, consultant ID #18.


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Hanging On For Change In Your Closet

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on March 11, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

What type of hanger do you use in your closet? I know if seems like a trivial question but it really can make a huge difference in how you feel about your closet.  When I asked this question to my closet organizing group there were two main responses, anything but wire and one color of plastic. I couldn’t even find a wire hanger for my picture. The only wire hangers I get are from the drycleaner and when I pick up my clothes I give them back the hanger. Yes, I am weird like that! I use to be a plastic hanger girl but then I was converted to wooden hangers. It started innocently enough. I saw a box of wooden hangers at Target and I thought those would look pretty in my closet. I allowed myself to buy one box. As I wore an item of clothing and it was washed and hung back in my closet it went on a wooden hanger. Soon I had a good visual of what I was wearing and the clothes that I was ignoring. I took it a step further and decided that anything that had a plastic hanger on it in six months would be donated. When we live in the upper Midwest we need to wait at least six months so that we can go through a couple of hot days and cold days. Heck, sometimes those days are in one week so you may not need six months!


After six months I had a brand new closet that was a pleasure to walk into. It made me feel like I was “shopping” as everything looked lovely and it made me happy. Clothes were easy to find. Clothes were easy to hang up as I didn’t have to squish clothes together to put in my closet. I could easily see where an item of clothing went as it left a little void where it was previously hung up.


So let’s chat about the three main types of hangers that are used. I am going to ignore wire hangers as they should be recycled and not used in your closet.


Wooden Hangers: The thing you need to know about wooden hangers is they take up more room in your closet. So you need to be even more strict with what stays and what goes! I also like the way that my clothes hung on them. I felt that my clothes had less “sweater bumps” and just looked better in general.


Plastic Hangers: These are the hangers that I used for years. They are inexpensive and you can find them anywhere. I transitioned years ago to one color, white. I use to just buy any color when I ran out of hangers. I soon had a closet that was a visual hanger zoo. Going to white I became more mindful and the closet started becoming more visually appealing. I eventually donated all the other color hangers. When I transitioned to wooden my kids hangers were transitioned to white.


Thin Felted Hangers: We see commercials on these hangers telling us that you can get more hangers in your closet. Small closet that is ok. Large closet, stop. My clients who buy these hangers buy them with the idea of getting more clothes in their already large closets and not paring down and getting rid of some clothes. If that is the reason you are buying these hangers you are not ready to organize your clothes. Most of us have closets that are bigger than our childhood closets, let alone our bedrooms.  My closet as a kid was about 18 inches wide. Even if you have a mid sized closet I would caution you on buying these hangers to save space. I do use these hangers for one reason, for my clothes that slip off of my wooden hangers. So if you have clothes that slip off your hangers, buy the hangers just for that reason. Please don’t tell me that all of your clothes fall off your hangers so you needed to buy all of those hangers.

Here is a client’s before and after of her closet:




So if you are ready to make the transition to one style of hanger what do you do? Even if you have plenty of money to spend on hangers, I caution you. All you will do is spend a lot of money and hang up clothes you never wear. Instead, buy one box at a time and transition to your new hangers. Write a date on your calendar that you are going to get rid of all the clothes left on the old hangers. Go and write it down now. Seriously, write it down. Now start your hanger transition and start to see your closet transform before your very eyes!



To Joyful, Simplified Living,


MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/



· Need to contact MS. Simplicity privately; you can email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.

· For daily organizing tips find the MS. Simplicity Facebook business page here.

· Order featured Clever Container organizing supplies here, consultant ID #18.


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Going On A Clothing Diet

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on February 25, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

The best way to keep a goal moving forward is to speak it publicly. So here I am, speaking publicly. I am going on a diet, a clothing diet. Inspired by a friend who is doing this for a year, I am not that disciplined. This is not an easy thing for me to do as I have lost some weight over the years and have discovered cute clothes that make me feel good and I want to buy them. Please understand that I am not extreme by any means, I am not a Kardashian with an overabundance of clothes. I still practice the one in one out rule in my closet. Which means for every one item of clothing I bring home, one must leave. This has kept me very mindful over the last couple of years as I was shopping. But even implementing this rule I have found something that holds true to me and I am sure to you as well; I don’t wear all of my clothes. I don’t even wear half of my clothes. So I am going on a clothing diet, nothing new for 6 months.




Statistics say that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. I think it is true. Want to do an experiment with me? Take all the clothes in your closet and turn the hangers backwards. Now as you wear something and hang it back in your closet, hang it up the right way. Try this for a few months and you will see how much you actually wear. Make a deal with yourself and say that whatever is still turned backwards in 6 months you are going to donate. No questions asked, just have it leave your closet. Not sure if you are ever going to wear that unicorn sweater? Chances are if you haven’t worn it in the last 10 years you are not going to wear it again.


I asked the question of how long I should be on this “clothing diet” and I got answers from 30 days to over a year. One woman says she never buys herself any clothes and instead spends her money on her children. I use to be that woman. Looking back I had these very well dressed kids and if I allowed a picture of me in it, I was dowdy mess. Usually wearing ill fitting clothes that were less than flattering on me. I am not saying you have to spend money on yourself, but feeling good about yourself makes you a better wife and mother. I really wish I would have received that message earlier in my life.



You are going to hear things as you decide to keep things as well as when you try to get rid of things in your closet. You are also going to find excuses to buy things. So what are the voices in your head that you are going to hear if you do this?


  • “I paid good money for that!” Yes for sure you did. But as the saying goes you need to love it, use it or lose it. It isn’t doing anyone any good just hanging in your closet. Donate it to a charity that someone can do some good with.


  • “But I have a special occasion!” I think I could find a special occasion every single day. Knowing that there is a special event coming up does not give me permission to buy some new clothes. I may need to be creative and borrow clothes from a friend. But knowing that I have some special occasions coming up, like my son’s graduation reminds me that I better start getting creative!


  • “I have nothing to wear!” Yes, you may hear that after a few weeks of this “diet” but that is what makes this all worth it….push through it. Get creative with a scarf or a piece of jewelry. At this point you will start to rediscover things that you always looked over. You may find out that the sweater that you never wore because you thought the color looked bad on you, actually looks nice on you. I also have plans on having friends come and look at my closet and help me put things together that I haven’t already thought of.


  • “But my mom gave that to me and I don’t want to hurt her feelings by getting rid of it.” I usually turn this questions around on my clients and ask them, “if you gave someone a gift and they no longer needed or wanted it, would you want them to keep it?” They usually say of course they wouldn’t. Then why do you want to treat yourself any differently? Besides, chances are your mom won’t even notice if you donated that sweater. And if she does, you have bigger issues than an ugly sweater going on with your mom.


  • “But I got engaged in that shirt and I can’t part with it.” Yes, so what. Heartless aren’t I? We all have sentimental reasons that we keep things. But if you think about it, is the memory in the clothing or is it in the event itself? Keeping the shirt isn’t going to relive the memory for you. Keeping a picture will. If we keep everything that is attached to sentimental memories, we would be bursting from every corner of our homes. Keep the memory, ditch the clothes. Men who keep years of tee-shirts in drawers, this is for you as well. Keeping more than a reasonable amount of tee-shirts is a waste of space. Yes, someone might make you a quilt out of them. But give yourself a time frame to get that quilt made or get rid of the tee-shirts.


  • “But when I lose weight I want to wear those skinny jeans, so I am going to hold onto them!” I have a line in my presentations that I give, that when you lose the weight and can fit in those jeans you are going to want to buy yourself new jeans as nobody is wearing acid washed jeans anymore. It gets a good chuckle, but it is true. Too often we keep clothes for some magic number on the scale. When in truth you should be keeping clothes that make you feel good when you put them on. Plus I know when I walk past my skinny jeans in the closet I usually feel bad and then want to eat a cookie. Sort of self defeating so time to get rid of those skinny jeans!

So what is this little social experiment going to do for me? Hopefully it will help me focus on what I really love and also gets me wearing more items already in my closet. I have passed month one so I am 1/6 of the way to my goal. I also hope that I will save some money along the way. Secretly that is my husband’s goal of me doing this. But ever the lawyer I did put in some escape clauses. For example; if I lose more than 15 pounds I can buy myself new clothes. This truly is a win/win for everyone. I will be motivated to get healthy in order to buy more clothes while at the same time saving money during the process. So come and join me and go on a clothing diet and see what you will “lose” along the way!



To Joyful, Simplified Living,



MS. Simplicity



MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/


· Need to contact MS. Simplicity privately; you can email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.

· For daily organizing tips find the MS. Simplicity Facebook business page here.

· Order featured Clever Container organizing supplies here, consultant ID #18.

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Time To Take Action

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on January 30, 2014 in Business, life, Moms |


I recently heard an African proverb, “As you pray, move your feet” and it really struck a chord with me. One of my pet peeves is a person who complains yet does nothing to change their circumstances. I am not someone who can listen to someone complain for hours about how they have the world’s worst case of plantar fasciitis. Tell me once and let’s move on. There is no award for having the worst of something. I can empathize for you, but after twenty minutes I am going to get bored. I am happy to problem solve with you or strategize on ways to improve your situation. But if you are complaining to complain, I am not your girl.

Something that you may or may not know about me is that I am a girl of action. If I want something, I go for it. If I don’t like how something is working in my life, I try to change it. But we can pray, wish, dream, mediate all we want. But if we don’t take action our circumstances will unlikely change.

I remember the story of the shipwrecked man who prayed for God to save him. A fisherman came upon him and told him to get in his boat. The man declined saying he was waiting for God to save him. The man soon died. When entering heaven the man asked God why he didn’t save him. God’s response was that he tried, he sent a fisherman in a boat. This is a great example of how we need to take action.

When I walk into client’s homes I am reminded that they are afflicted with what I like to call “analysis paralysis.” Meaning they are overthinking the situation so much, that they don’t know where to start, so they simply never start.

But what if you don’t know where to turn or where to start?

Ask for help. Start by asking a question to a trusted friend about how you are not sure where to turn for guidance. See if that friend has suggestions.

Don’t like how our government or certain politicians operate? Volunteer for a candidates campaign or simply take the time to become more educated on the workings of our political system.

Are you frustrated with your job? Can you start seeking some education to give you the confidence to improve your situation? Meet with a career counselor to see what options you have. By simply asking, you may be surprised what is out there.

Not happy with your personal relationships. If a relationship is toxic or abusive in any way, seek outside guidance. However, if it is simply a person not being nice, can you distance yourself from that person. Or can you be kinder to that person and take the time to find out what is making that person unhappy.

Less than thrilled how your kid’s school or your place of worship is being run. Get involved and serve on a committee and see how things are being done and try to have a positive impact and start moving things in a new direction or have a new appreciation for the status quo.

Years ago I was told by a friend that we vote with our feet. Meaning, that what we support we show up for. This was probably the best advice I received. I try hard to not sit back and complain. Instead I try to get involved. If I see a cool thing to attend, I RSVP and say yes. I don’t ignore the request and wait for something better to come along. Accept that invitation and show up!  I have meet really interesting people by saying yes and showing up.

What would happen if we all started showing up instead of complaining? My guess is that we could rid the world of poverty and also figure out world peace!

I challenge you to take action this week. Stop complaining. Stop overanalyzing and get moving. Stop saying you want to lose weight but continue to tell yourself you are too fat to go to a gym, you aren’t. You also don’t need the perfect outfit. There is no excuse, Call that doctor to take care of your plantar fasciitis once and for all. Oh, and you may need to follow instructions and do the exercises.

To Simplified, Joyful Living

MS. Simplicity

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The Long Winter

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on January 24, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

Too many cold days. Too many snow days. The book that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote called “The Long Winter” was indeed a cautionary tale. Let’s face it, we are all going a little stir crazy! We start to hate our Facebook friends who post pictures from warm and sunny destinations. We start to salivate over pictures of comfort food, pictures full of carbs and sugar. We drive to the gym then circle the parking lot to find a close parking spot only to give up and go home because we don’t want to walk from the car to the gym because of the cold {true story.}


I have lived in the upper Midwest for most of my life and I know cold. I can tolerate the cold. The wind however is not my friend. Living in the Red River Valley we are a giant wind tunnel from the polar vortex I call Canada. But now I just want to be in denial.


But denial isn’t very productive. We need to survive this in order to hear birds chirping from trees. Right now the birds are even wearing little tiny scarves that someone knitted for them. But instead of closing my eyes and counting down the days to spring, I am doing something else. I am trying to find beauty in the cold. I am keeping myself with doing things that keep both my mind and body busy. Last week I found the most glorious of sunrises. That image of that sunrise stayed with me all day, despite the bitter cold. To keep my mind busy, I joined a vegan 21 detox group to see how my body reacted to only putting fresh fruits and vegetables in it.


Here are some ideas to get you going in the right direction in keeping your mind and body busy for the next couple of weeks.

  • Find a physical challenge at your gym and join it. Don’t belong to a gym, then find a group of friends who also want to be active and hold each other accountable. A pedometer is a great way to count your steps to make sure that you get to 10,000 per day. The mall is full of people walking and getting their steps in. Go and join them!
  • Update your legal papers. When was the last time your will was updated. How about that power of attorney over your financial affairs and your health care directive or a living will. If you don’t even have these, this is your time to get one. Just knowing that you have your legal papers in order brings comfort.
  • Get your vitamin D levels checked. Once I started taking larger doses of vitamin D I saw a huge spike in my happiness level. Let’s face it, the sun isn’t going to give us at the levels we need, so get yours checked and see if you are deficient in vitamin D.
  • Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. And I don’t mean buy the person behind you a cup of coffee. Take it further and call your local women’s shelter or homeless shelter and see what they are in need of. Perhaps they need size 2 toddler clothes and you just happen to have a box of them from your child who has outgrown them. Doing something kind will make you feel great! Share what you did with your close friends. Challenge your friends to do the same and create a random act of kindness chain reaction.
  • Do something “just because” this is kind of like a random act of kindness but with someone you know and love. I had flowers delivered to my mom and the card read, “Just because. To remind you that you are loved and appreciated by all of us.” I think that it felt as good to send the flowers as it did for her to receive them.
  • Invite a friend that you haven’t seen in awhile out for coffee. Sometimes giving an ear to someone is all they need to make their day brighter. Once you see the positive changes in their spirit you will want to keep going out for coffee all the time!
  • Write five thank you notes. Not for gifts received but for a friend that helped you through a hard time or was there for you with support. Remind them that you are thankful to them. Let me tell you, a thank you note and a smile can go a long way!
  • Take a class that pushes your boundaries. For me…it was swing dancing lessons with strangers. Great fun and now I can dance just a wee bit better. I also took aerial yoga classes, yes that was outside my comfort zone but oh so good for me!
  • Download a book that you want to read but have not had time and listen to it in your car while driving. You will be amazed at how much time you spend in the car and how many books you can “read” by doing this.
  • Change the desktop background on your computer and your phone to a picture that brings you JOY. I just changed mine this morning to a beautiful picture that I took over two years ago of the sun being playful in some maple leaves. Surrounding yourself with beautiful images will help take the focus off of the cold.
  • Stop talking about the weather. What would happen if we all agreed to stop talking about it. Start having new conversations. Ask questions like, what brought you JOY today? Or, what can I do to help your day go better? I guarantee that if you start asking those types of questions, magical things will start to happen in your life!

No matter what….start doing things that are productive and make you feel better. The long winter will soon be over and the season of the mosquito will be upon us! But the good news is that I heard the mosquito numbers are going to be down this summer because of our cold! See…a silver lining! Now go and find some more silver linings!


To Joyful, Simplified Living,

MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/


· Need to contact MS. Simplicity privately; you can email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.

· For daily organizing tips find the MS. Simplicity Facebook business page here.

· Order featured Clever Container organizing supplies here, consultant ID #18.

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