My relationship with organization was like the idea of marriage to me before I met my husband: I always knew that I wanted for it to happen, but it had to be genuine and real and in a way that worked for me. And, like with dating, there may have been a few missteps along the way with getting organized!
But then, in 2013, I was introduced to Pixies Did It! (and my husband, but that’s another story). And my life was changed forever. The philosophy behind Pixies Did It! is not that you have to be a perfect organizer, follow an exact system, or make your life look like Martha Stewart Living or like it’s directly from a Container Store catalog. (Although if that’s your thing, I’m sure they can help with that too).
The point of Pixies Did It! is that everyone can be organized — even though it might look a little different depending on your personality type. Based in Myers Briggs-like psychology, your recommended method for organizing varies whether you are a Classic (SJs), Fun (SPs), Smart (NTs) or Organic (NF). I personally am an INFJ in Myers-Briggs, making me an Organic type on Pixies Did It! (Unsure of your type? Take the test!)
Being an Organic (NF) type, organization matters to me, but other things matter more. (Like, it’s more important to me that my work is done, that I spend time with my husband and baby, and that I exercise, for instance, than if my house is organized). Those choices make it difficult to be organized with a lot of organizational systems out there. But with Pixies’ advice from their book and consulting, I was able to get organized with open-top, labeled bins everywhere (it takes next to no time and I put items away subconsciously), lots of hooks in my entryway and open racks in my closet (no need to fold, just hang and move on), and cute little trays that serve as catch-alls for miscellaneous items (mail, keys, etc.) As a result, I’m not losing lots of time looking for things or straightening up a ton before guests come over — I’m always about 80-90% organized, and that’s good enough for me!
So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce my favorite organizational experts, Katie McMenamin Sabo and Kelly McMenamin, and show off my interview with Kelly!
1. What is your background? Where did you grow up, what did you study in college, etc.?
I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I’m the middle child of three and the only truly tidy person in my family. My parents are semi-tidy but they’re not detail oriented and do irritating things like use the same knife to put butter and jam on their toast so then there’s nasty butter remnants in the jam always. Sigh. I went to Ruffing Montessori for elementary school and then attended Shaker Heights High School where I ran Varsity Cross Country and my senior year was on the first women’s soccer team, which is semi unbelievable that they didn’t have one until 1991. I went to Miami University of Ohio but it wasn’t for me so I transferred to Barnard College/Columbia University. I majored in Economic History with a concentraion on British History. My senior thesis was proving that Central Banks are not the result of efficient market forces nor do they create more sound money than private banks but are the result of the government’s desire for more power and ability to control the monetary supply to its benefit. Exciting, right??!? I went on to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. Got my MBA at the Tuck School at Dartmouth and then worked as an equity research analyst at various levels before starting PixiesDidIt!.
2. Who started the brand? Why did you create this company?
Katie came up with the name PixiesDidIt! as a play on a nickname our parents gave us, “The Pixies,” as our dad said we were often flitting about annoying them with our gossipy laughter and advice. Like the mythical creatures, we’re annoying, helpful, and a little magical, which dovetails how people think about us as organizers.
3. What is your favorite advice?
Whenever you’re setting up an organizational system, ask yourself whether there is a way to make it simpler or easier by removing a step. It instantly opens your eyes to the fact that most of us are not failures at organization. Often we create systems that are incredibly hard to maintain and that’s why they fail.
4. What is your best before-and-after story?
We once worked with a client who was single when we started the job and right when we finished transforming her entire apartment — home office, living room, bedroom, kitchen — voila, she met her future husband. It’s happened more times than we can count now.
5. What sets your organizational advice apart?
Our advice is different than other organizers because we’re not trying to make it perfect. We’re trying to make it perfect for you, which can look very different but is the reason our systems stick and clients don’t have us come back to re-do a system unless something has drastically changed with their organizational needs.
6. How should people of different personality types organize (you can forward us to book pages or blog posts, that’s fine):
a.) Jewelry? Closed jewelry boxes are deadly for your jewelry — you’re never going to wear earrings that are in a box within a box. It’s best if it’s all out in the open. Think bulletin boards, open bowls, hooks mounted on a wall, and so on (pg.152).
b.) Office supplies? Home office essentials for all types: Create a quasi-mailroom with inboxes for every household member; Implement a document storage system; Use labels in multiperson households; Throw out nonessential papers; Have a wastebasket or shredder nearby; Communicate your new system to everyone (pg. 70). Individualized solutions can also be found in this chapter.
c.) Children’s clothing and toys? Kids’ rooms and playroom essentials for all types: Purge frequently and with your kids; Set up a large floor-to-ceiling toy storage system; Get matching or coordinating bins for toys; Use labels that combine words and visuals; Get small matching hangers; Set up a storage system for outgrown clothes and keepsakes; Place sentimental pieces in deep storage or digitize them (pg. 169). Individualized solutions can also be found in this chapter.
d.) Kitchen supplies? Kitchen essentials for all types: Purge!; Measure everything and adjust cabinet shelves for maximum efficiency; Store dishes near the dishwasher; Use cabinet organizers, lazy susans, and drawer bins; Use labels; Make grocery lists; Place cleaning products in a caddy; Find a formal home for plastic grocery bags (pg. 86). Individualized solutions can also be found in this chapter.
e.) Food? Ignore Pinterest photos of grains, flour, and cereals poured into matching containers. That’s a hassle to maintain and doesn’t make life easier.
f.) Clothing? The fan fold on page 137 works for all types who have to use drawers to house some of their clothes. Organics and Smarts are better off hanging almost everything (pg. 147-148).
g.) Shoes? The best storage solution for shoes is show shelves. Rows of shoes placed directly on the closet floor end up as a dark cavern of unworn footwear (pg. 137).
h.) Handbags? Best stored on shelves with shelf dividers. If you buy a large purse and it arrives stuffed with paper and a protective cloth sack, you can stuff the cloth sacks with paper and put it inside the purse whenever you’re not using it.
i.) Other? Whether you’re a family of one or ten, everyone in your house needs a cubby — this includes pets. And a quasi-mailroom. It’s life-changing if you manage a household and don’t have this set-up.
7. Who is your ideal client?
Our ideal clients are busy parents because the biggest obstacle to being organized is having kids, second only to moving in with someone.
8. Do you have any other success stories you care to share? Testimonials, before and after photos, clinical trials, etc.?
I think what I’m most proud of is that in all of the years we’ve been doing this, we’ve only ever had happy clients after a project is done. We work really hard at coming up with the right solutions for the client and always give them options so that it works and they’re happy no matter their circumstance. I just did a Pixie job this past weekend for a client who is moving in 6 months. She just couldn’t take toys everywhere so she had me come over to brainstorm. She had tons of bins for the toys. They were all contained but no floorspace for them and consequently not as much floorspace for the kids to play. My suggestions was the lowest-budget Elfa shelving system. It would just put 5 holes in the wall which she could fill before moving. The shelves could move with them and she could return to The Container Store in their new city and have them redesign it for a space.
9. What if you’re between types? How does someone who is close on N/S or J/P organize, for instance?
We always tell people to read our entire book, “Organize Your Way,” because at different times of your lives, you’ll find someone else’s solution might actually work well for you even if you don’t love it. For example, a front hall as a coat rack room is amazing when you’ve got kids and a million things that don’t fit into the closet. You might not love the aesthetic to have everything out of a closet if you’re a classic. You’d likely revert to a regular closet when the children are grown.
10. Anything else to add?
If you’re living in a home with many family members, remember to come up with solutions that work for everyone that will interact with whatever system you’re building. If your spouse hates the system, get their input. It’ll never work unless everyone can use it.
Thank you so much, Kelly!
Be sure you buy the Pixies Did It! Organize Your Way book — it truly changed my life, and I couldn’t be more passionate about recommending it to my readers. It’s hands-down saved my life in terms of the way I relate to my material belongings, and I couldn’t advocate for it more.