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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An Organized Bon Voyage

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on January 13, 2015 in Family, life, Moms |


Travel for me is an easy thing to do…. when I am by myself. If things go wrong I just go with the flow and just brush it aside. But when I am planning a trip for many of us and spending lots of money it adds to the pressure, so I work really hard to make sure that I have every contingency taken into account. It might be that analytical lawyer side of me where I play worst case scenario and make sure that I am ready for anything. So in the process of planning a cruise for 6 of us I learned a few things along the way. I asked for advice from my Facebook friends and I used some travel advice from several well traveled friends and I think I have a comprehensive list.


1. Arrive to your destination a day before your cruise departs. With weather and plane delays you just never know what can happen. You are not in control and with so many elements at play, you will want the time buffer. In our case we flew on two different airlines and all of us were delayed for different mechanical and staffing issues causing all of us to come in 5 hours later.


2. Pack snacks. Nothing can calm a frustrated and tired person more than a good snack. Flights get long and time zones destroy your inner clock. I usually always have peanut m & m’s and some kind of protein bar with me. This time I took two shoe boxes full of snacks and I didn’t have to worry about the “hangries” {hungry + angry.}


3. Motion sickness meds can be your friend. I brought plenty of motion sickness meds, plus sea bands that apply pressure to points on your wrist to take away nausea. Add in some ginger flavored candy to help settle an upset tummy, and I was set!


4. Waterproof cell phone case or waterproof cameras. You will not want to miss what you are experiencing and having a camera at your disposal will be worth it. I used a waterproof pouch for my cell phone that allowed me to take my phone in the water with me. If I was smart I would have brought the cord with to hang it around my neck to have my sea pass in it as I needed that at all times and I didn’t have pockets in my swim suit.


5. Hanging toiletry bag for the bathroom. Space is limited on cruise ships and nowhere is that more clear than in the bathroom. Being able to hang my bag from a hook and grab everything as I needed it saved precious counter space.


6. Pens and post it notes. Because we were in two separate cabins and texting was not an option, being able to leave each other notes became a necessity. It was also great to leave reminders on the door in the morning so I remembered to grab the sunscreen.


7. Look for excursions that aren’t with your cruise line. As long as you find reputable businesses you can save money and often are able to do things in smaller groups. We booked one with our cruise line and the rest were with another travel site. I carefully read reviews and made our selections.


8. Bring a variety of sunscreens. My boys hate lotion, so I brought lots of the spray sunscreen. But what happened was it was so windy that little if any made it on their skin and the sunburns are the proof of that. I kept reapplying my lotion and only burned on my back, where I might add my husband was in charge of applying the sunscreen. My middle son told me that if I had told him how close to the equator we were he would have applied more sunscreen. Now he has funny patterns on his back where the hit and miss sun screen spray was applied. Lesson learned for him!


9. Bring a multi strip power cord. We found two plug ins in our room and while it worked for my husband and I it did not work for our kids. A multi strip would have allowed everyone to get a full charge before heading off the ship.


10. Nail clippers and small scissors. We had random things we needed to cut and a scissor is not usually something I travel with, it is now however! A nail clipper is something I always have and it was missing on this trip, and we needed it!


11. Travel water bottles and flavor packets. If you are not buying any of the expensive beverage packages you will want to make sure that you are drinking plenty of water. A travel water bottle that you can refill is the perfect fix. Even bring some flavored water packets along to flavor the water for some variety. Some cruise lines allow you to bring cases of water on board, check with yours ahead of time to see if this is allowed. But personally, I would not want to be hauling a case of water on to a ship with all of my other things.


12. Walkie talkies. We didn’t bring these and we wish we had. We saw other people using them. But what we did was use the good old fashioned face to face communication methods like, meet me at the dinning room at 4:00.


13. Well stocked first aid kit. I had every size of band aid, travel tissues, pain reliever, aloe with pain killer, aloe lotion and with the flu out there I had cold and flu remedies as well.  And yes we used everything.


14. Travel laundry items. I usually have a tide to go pen and a small container of liquid laundry detergent. All of which was used. Doing a quick soak and wash of the clothes in the bathroom sink was a way to save the day!


15. Swim shoes or sandals that can get wet. Your feet will thank you as you walk over rocks to get into the water. I still have a mark on the arch of my foot where I stepped on a rock.


16. Alarm clock. I didn’t need this so much for the alarm, as I used my phone for that. However, I did wake up and wonder what time it was. The only way I knew the time was to walk across the room and look at my phone.


17. Call your travel agent before you go and check on any price changes. Often if the price has dropped, you can receive on ship credit which in the case of my cousin saved her $1,000. We weren’t so lucky, but I did call and check just in case.


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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Keeping It Simple and Perfect

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on December 29, 2014 in Family, Food, Holidays, life, Moms |

Now that the dust, pine needles, sugar high, gift tearing frenzy is over I can take time to applaud myself and say that the holiday I designed this year was perfect for me. Did I just say it was for me? Yes that is right. We design holidays for other people and what we imagine they want, when what we really should be doing is creating the holiday of our dreams. I have had many years where I have been in tears in my room crying by myself because things just were not “perfect.” One year I even went so far as to check into a hotel for a few days just so I could feel relaxed as I was too overwhelmed with making the perfect holiday.


Why do we do this to ourselves? It really is of our own doing. Our families are not demanding to have the Currier and Ives Christmas. Most holiday movies are of dysfunctional families trying to cope during the holidays. Those movies are more like the real deal than the Folgers commercial of Kevin coming home in the middle of the night and his family being all weepy over a cup of coffee. Most of us have the relative that makes us uncomfortable because of his racist or homophobic or political rants. Most of us are just trying to keep it together to make it through the holidays. Some are newly divorced and don’t have their children with them. Some have family that is serving overseas in the military. Some are dealing with the death of a loved one. Some have family that are in the hospital or dealing with a health crisis. Some are dealing with crippling depression. We all have something that we are dealing with.


So this year I gave up control. I gave up the picture in my head and just focused on what mattered. First things first: my holiday baking. I baked too much again this year, but I scaled way back. The only thing that matters to my family are the peanut butter balls and the roll out sugar cookies for me. All the rest I could have skipped doing. I had a cookie exchange with friends so I had a nice variety of other cookies. Even though I did less baking this year I could do even less next year. In all honesty I finished the peanut butter balls and roll out sugar cookies on Christmas Eve and they were perfect!


Timing: We all have our traditions but as my sons bring people into their lives I have to let go of when our family holiday is celebrated. When I was a divorce lawyer I would remind my clients that Christmas is just a day. Kids are fine celebrating any day of the year and we should too. I had to give up our traditional time and just go with the flow as my middle son celebrated with his girlfriend’s family.


Christmas Eve meal: I usually do elaborate appetizers and cook way too much food that nobody eats and I am sad that I wasted the time and money. So instead I went to Costco the day before Christmas Eve and focused on what people would actually eat that was already prepared and I could heat and serve. {Honestly it helped that I was under the weather and just didn’t have the energy to create anything over the top.} Barbeque shredded chicken on Hawaiian rolls and scallops wrapped in bacon and some crab cakes. I made just two appetizers, a lovely dried apricot with goat cheese, almond, thyme and a drizzle of honey was one appetizer and lettuce wraps were the other. Nobody missed anything and clean up and leftovers were a snap.


Christmas Day: Gone are the days of my boys waking up early to see what Santa left them. This year Santa made his stop after we woke up as he knew that the boys would sleep until noon. Next year, Santa may even skip our house and that is ok. I didn’t cook an elaborate breakfast and have us all gather around the table. Instead I cooked some simple egg bakes and relaxed and told the boys they could eat them when they were hungry. My husband and I then headed to the movies. I didn’t force them all to go with us. Only those that wanted to go went, and so it was just the two of us. When we got done with the movies we headed out for Chinese food at our favorite spot and invited the boys to join us. It was a perfect day. I was relaxed and everyone was happy.


So as I take time to reflect back on my perfect holiday, I focus on what I enjoy. I love playing games and watching holiday movies with my family, all which I have done this holiday. Fondue night is coming up as that is a family favorite of trying not to get burned over a pot of hot oil! I love creating my holiday cards and I love to decorate my pots outside of my house with greenery. I decorated my house very quickly this year with only the decorations that brought be joy and it took about two hours. Everything has now been taken down and put away and it took about an hour. I even donated some things that we didn’t use this year and I know we are not going to use next year. I don’t need to hold onto these holiday decorations and I don’t need to hold onto the idea of perfect Christmas because it doesn’t exist. We get to decide what the perfect Christmas is for us and that is the perfect Christmas and don’t let any commercial tell you otherwise. It is about spending time with our family doing what we love, so I challenge you to be a little selfish next year and make it all about you and what you love! Chances are it is not cooking in a kitchen but rather playing a game with the grandkids or reading them a story.


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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New Year, New You?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on December 22, 2014 in Holidays, life, Moms |

I have to admit that my favorite time of year is the end of the year. I always take time to reflect on how great the current year has been and what I can do to improve the incoming year. I tell people that New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday as it is one of the holidays where we focus on ourselves being better. I like to set goals in my personal and business life. I like to choose a word of the year that covers both areas. It is fun to dream and focus on what is important.


So what are the steps to help you make sure that you stay on track this year? Some steps you will find work for you and some may not. Focus on just a few and try not to get overwhelmed because when we get overwhelmed we just stop working towards them.


Find a partner: It is always easier to stick to your goals if you have an accountability partner. Certain diet programs are successful because you have to go in and weigh yourself every week. Knowing that you have to check in will make you work a little harder. Find a friend and share your goals and get going.


Schedule check in times: I have created reoccurring appointments on my phone for my weekly planning sessions. I usually don’t need more than 15 minutes a week to figure out what my big tasks are to accomplish. I have also scheduled monthly and quarterly time to work on my bigger goals.


Set realistic goals: Saying that you are going to lose 50 pounds can be overwhelming. But starting with baby steps like walking 10,000 steps a day or not eating sugar are both good starts that will help you in your overall goal without feeling defeated when you step on the scale and the number hasn’t moved.


Break the goal down into smaller pieces: If you goal is to organize your house it may be easier to say that you are going to organize for 10 minutes a day or to work for an hour a weekend. But if you don’t have it broken down, you will not know where to start.


Don’t beat yourself up: As long as you are moving in the right direction, that is all that matters. Don’t be mad at the number on the scale and go eat a snack to try to cope with it. That is just moving you backwards.


Reward yourself: Set up little rewards systems along the way. We all love to be acknowledged along the way. If we are privately working on our goals we need this more than ever. Be your own cheerleader and own it. It is ok to set up a massage or a night at the movies for all your hard work. Write down your rewards and focus on them.


I have been putting some focus this past week on how I am going to accomplish my goals. I know it is important to set up systems to help me now. The trick is to not make it so complex that you have slim chance of success. I remember my favorite question, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. Start to figure out your bites and get going! Here is to a better you in your personal and business life!


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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