How did you meet?
Kristina: I lived across the hall from Melissa my freshman year in college. She was a sophomore. And we both majoring in music. We didn’t really run in the same circles in our department but were friendly when we’d see each other in the dorm. And then…
Melissa: …we got paired up for clinical work. That year changed everything for us. There were many meetings at the local restaurant during which our lists and ideas were scrawled on napkins. We’ve come a long way since those napkins – ask Kristina about her lists!
Those early days of planning turned into many long car rides – purposely trying to get lost. (Seriously, it just never happened. One big circle, every time.) Even though we were very different personalities, from two different backgrounds, we have always had such an acceptance of each other. We don’t ask why, we just know our friendship has stood the test of time.
Graduation could have been the end of it, but we have been each other’s maid/matron of honor and shared the joys, struggles, challenges and successes of raising (and organizing!) our families in our own unique styles.
How big is your family?
Kristina: We are a tiny trio. My husband Jon splits his time working from home and traveling far and wide for work. Our son Matt is an incredibly bright eight-year-old who keeps us on our toes. We live right next door to my parents who love to spend time with their lone grandchild.
Melissa: There are six of us in a house that sometimes seems it’s splitting at the seams. Our only daughter is the oldest at 20, followed by her three brothers, ages 18, 13, and 12. Add in Louie, the beloved cat; Milo, the cranky dog; and Gryffin, the watchful bearded dragon and I don’t know how I keep it all together some days. My hubby Chris assures me they couldn’t do it without me.
Have you always been organized?
Kristina: I grew up in a household that had a strict “a place for everything and everything in its place” motto. I struggled a bit to stay organized as a child. In fact, one of my father’s favorite stories is the time I flung myself in front of my closet door to prevent him from looking inside. Sure, I tried to push against it with my teenage angst but I never got far. And then I went to college.
As my college roommate can attest (yep, that’s Melissa), I went through a phase of utter organizational rebellion in college. I developed a “put it anywhere” philosophy. And often that meant on the floor. More than I’d like to admit, you’d have to follow the path to get anywhere in my room.
Then I graduated. I stayed in my parent’s house for a few months and it whipped me right back into shape. This time, I loved it! And parenthood only solidified my skills. Now I enjoy putting laundry away, my calendar is color-coded, and I no longer use my floor as a catch-all.
Melissa: When I was younger, I rebelled at my parents telling me I needed to clean my room. It was my room, after all. It would get to the point where I wasn’t allowed to come out of my room until “everything” was cleaned up. I felt I had to move every piece of furniture, knick-knack, and toy to accomplish that. Needless to say, I was in my room for hours once I finally started cleaning up.
In college, I found I liked things to be organized and orderly. Even back then, I brought a bookshelf from home to keep my things neat and accessible. My hundred of CD’s were alphabetized. Books arranged by genre. Make-up specifically placed in a Caboodle. Not having a lot of extra money, I accidentally adopted a minimalist style that still works for me today. Which is good, because with six people, things get out of hand very quickly here.
Now, I’ve actually learned to let some things go – our time together is so precious and I’ve overcome some of the obsessive cleaning and organizing. Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. A few of my organizational tricks are to find places to hide the overflow.
What is your biggest organizational triumph?
Kristina: Certainly my son’s clothing. I buy most of his clothing on sale during off-seasons. And I am always buying future sizes. But who can resist a sale rack of 60% off when you have a 30% off on top of it?! So keeping track of what I have and what I need took me a bit of time to figure out.
But my organization skills also extends to consignment and donations. I consign kid clothing with two different shops with completely different styles that they will accept. As such, I’ve developed a seasonal bin system and inventory sheet so I’m prepared when the buying season shifts.
Melissa: My biggest triumph, if you can call it that, is being able to find what we need, when we need it. The other five people in this house are constantly (annoyingly!) asking me where something is. It’s a double-edged sword because I tend to know the answer. From socks to birth certificates, there’s a system for everything. It’s about using the right pieces to place the similar items, so that I don’t have to spend hours thinking about where they might be.
What is the hardest thing to organize in your home?
Kristina: We have a closet under our stairs. We call it our Harry Potter closet. When we first moved here, it became the catch all. We put in all the things we didn’t know what to do with. My sewing machine, extra fabric, my husband’s comic books, and a slew of other odds and ends landed in that closet.
Well, here I am 16 months later and I still haven’t tackled that closet. It is on my list of things to accomplish in 2019. When it is finished it will surely be my biggest organizational triumph!
Melissa: Mail and the little odds-and-ends that pile up. Especially, the ones you aren’t sure if you want or need and don’t have anywhere to go, but aren’t ready to trash just yet. We have two places in our home for those “to go through” piles and I have been known to throw it all in a laundry basket to hide in the laundry room if company comes over unexpectedly.
What is your most important organizing tip?
Kristina: Lists! Lists of lists! For me, there is something calming about writing a list. A list can make the most daunting task seem manageable.
Melissa: Once you find the place that works for something, always put it back. Get it in your head that this spot is its home and commit to putting it back every time, even when you are tired or being lazy. It will save you time and frustration the next time.
What is your favorite thing to shop for?
Kristina: Paper. Notebooks, cards, pads – I love them all! I just love to write things down. There is something so wonderfully old-fashioned about putting a pen to paper and feeling the ink glide across the surface. It brings a smile to my face. You know I make lists. I send cards – in the mail! I take notes. I write lesson plans. So as the world is getting more high-tech and paper-free, I’m clutching tight to it.
Melissa: Funny enough, it’s shelves and shelving units. In our home, we’ve run out of space to go wide, so we have to go up. There are a lot more mementos- diplomas, trophies, awards and personal items – to display as the kids get older.
There are still a lot of what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this-stuff moments for me. I don’t know if anyone else gets giddy over finding the right shelf, but I find joy and excitement in scouting out the right ones. Sometimes I shop with a mission – I know what I’m trying to organize or display and I have exact needs and dimensions for what I want. Other times, I run across a good one and think – oh, this would be perfect for that.
Who is Scott?
Scott is the man behind What the Shelf. Kristina met him when she was in the freelance writing business. One day, they decided to make a go of it and start working together. Within a week, they added Melissa to the team. And SKM (Workgroup?) was born. (Pretty fancy name, eh?)
Scott handles all of the technical stuff. And every so often, Kristina and Melissa coax him out of his comfort zone to write some articles about organizing from the guy’s point of view.
He’s a husband. A dad to two teenage daughters. A softball coach. An entrepreneur. And a Wisconsinite who dreams of lounging on a warm beach.
Why did you create What the Shelf?
Kristina: I spent a few years of my freelance writing career writing articles and reviews about products I never used or even saw in person. It made me extraordinarily wary of trusting anything I read online. And frankly, moms don’t have time for that!
So when we started discussing What the Shelf, we wanted to create something different. We wanted a site where people knew we own or want to own every product we recommend. We wanted a place where moms could trust our reviews.
Melissa: Having spent several years working in the digital branding and promotion world- i.e. “social media,” I’ve seen how much time is spent behind the scenes marketing to people to make them believe in this or buy that. To me, it’s always been about building relationships and having real, honest communication.
What the Shelf gave us the opportunity to take our passion and necessity for organizing to the next level and share it with others. For all the hours I’ve ever spent looking up and comparing the products and ideas that I needed, I hope we save you that time to do the things that make you happy.