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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published November 03 2013

Path to being organized came with lots of training

One of the questions I get most often is, “were you born organized?” The answer would be most defiantly not.

My mom has pictures to prove it. When I lived in a sorority my roommate had a name for my chair with my pile of “kind of” clean clothes (you know, the clothes that you wear for a few hours and they aren’t dirty enough to wash or clean enough to hang up). She called it “Melissa Mountain.” She is a bit over dramatic, and I don’t think it was that bad.

But there are certain things about being raised in an organized home that start to rub off on you. I found myself naturally doing some of these things when I had my first apartment. And as I got older some of these things became even more ingrained in me.

Here are a few of the things that are most ingrained in me:

E Alphabetize your spices. The spices in our house have always been alphabetized. I thought that is how everyone organized their spices. It makes so much sense and it is so easy to find things when they are all in order. Now if you just have pepper, salt and seasoning salt, no need to stick to the ABCs.

E Everything has a place. Everything always had a home. Nothing was left out to trip over. The toys were put away after we used them. The shoes had a space in the hall closet. The coats got hung up. I remember a time when my mother was checking on a neighbor’s house when they were out of town and she came back and said that they must have left in a hurry as their shoes weren’t put away. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that most families kick off their shoes and they land in a pile in the entry of their home. Now I get paid to give mom’s tidiness advice to families.

E Keep yourself moisturized. Mom has the nicest hands you will ever see. She must put lotion on her hands at least six times a day. Because of this, you will never be able to guess her age. Put our hands side by side and you would guess I am older. Time to start submerging my hands in lotion. She also keeps herself out of the sun while working in the garden by wearing my dad’s old army shirt. Smart lady.

E Roll your cookie dough with a yard stick cut in half to guide the thickness of your dough. I was rolling dough last weekend and I would have given anything to have those two sticks to guide me. To easily glide my rolling pin along the yard stick, I would have had even thickness to my dough. Instead I had to call on my husband who is a tish meticulous with even things. He can roll without a yardstick and paint without tape on the baseboards.

E To cut bars and fudge with a ruler. Once again the way to perfectly cut bars and fudge was to do the math and figure out how many squares in a 9-x- 13-inch pan. Each bar was a perfect shape. A perfect square or a perfect rectangle, depending on what pan was being used. Every kitchen should have a “baking” ruler – and a yardstick.

E Measure your cookies with a tablespoon. This too created perfectly shaped cookies. Now they make tools like cookie scoops as a separately sold kitchen item. In my day I had to use an actual tablespoon measuring spoon. Oh, the horror! Each pan would hold 12 cookies – four going down and three going across – never 13 cookies – never an extra row. Always 12.

E Iron a hankie. I cannot only iron a hankie but I can also iron a men’s dress shirt as well. Thanks to my dad’s white-collar job, he always had a perfectly pressed shirt and hankie thanks to me!

E How to fold underwear – and everything else. Yes, there is a proper way. And no, my husband didn’t know how to do it “right” when we got married. He still will rebel a bit and fold my underwear the wrong way. Now he is not allowed to do any laundry (well played dear husband, well played!)

Towels, sheets, socks and underwear all have the “right” way to be folded and there is no other way.

When I asked my sisters what they learned, my youngest sister knows how to can, knit and to sew with a pattern or what I like to call basic Laura Ingalls skills.

I think my dad gave the best answer when he told us Mom potty trained us. Thanks mom for making sure we all can hold our bladder and know how to use a toilet. Looking back on my life, I realize how much of it is formed by my parents. In my early adulthood I was a lawyer like my dad. Now I am being more Martha, like my mom, and I am so much happier.

As a plus my kids get perfectly shaped cookies and perfectly cut bars as well as perfectly folded underwear.

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. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.