Andrew J. Mellen, once-upon-a-time VirgoMan and now “simply” “The Most Organized Man in America,” began in the organizing profession in 1996. He’s another of our giants – a little more literally, since he stands at 6′ 1″ – alongside such luminaries as Judith Kolberg and Julie Morgenstern. Luminary is appropriate in another sense – Mellen had a long and storied history in the theater before transitioning to Organizer. He brings a storyteller’s sensibilities and talents to his book Unstuff Your Life!
Some Organizers’ books suffer from what I call “OF COURSE YOU CAN” issues: they’re written with a “Well, this is easy, just do it!” perspective which is irritating at best, and destructive at worst. If the people reading the books could “just do it,” they wouldn’t be reading the books! Other books are written rather one-size-fits-all, with an underlying assumption that techniques discussed in the book will make anyone, anywhere, successful.
At first glance, I feared Unstuff might have those flaws. I’m glad to say I was wrong. Mellen does teach one-size-fits-all methods: “Like with Like” and “One Home for Everything” (a rule which I teach clients to break all the time, by the way) – but any Organizer who doesn’t teach those two fundamental principles needs to get out of the business NOW. More impactful, Mellen has constructed brilliant protocols for objectively assessing your uses of spaces and stuff in order to get to those next steps of “Like with Like” and “One Home for Everything” which really are darn close to universal.
Equally meaningful, Mellen is thorough, kind and good-humored in helping his readers confront the emotional aspects of organizing. He offers real-client examples of common stumbling blocks and gentle, achievable self-help tools for getting unstuck. His readers may, in particular, enjoy his worldly approach to these efforts: Mellen is a highly creative cook, conversant with mindfulness and willing to refer to cultural icons as diverse as Eggo waffles and Julia Child. Readers may also appreciate his generous acknowledgement of his own humanity: he alludes to a fondness for Food Network shows, shares an intimate story about grieving his father’s passing by eating chicken egg foo young, and may enjoy luxury bed linens.