Kitchen Counter Clutter, An Interview With Melissa Picheny

Holly Bohn-Weiss: How did you get started?

Melissa Picheny:I had a natural desire to help friends and family get organized. I found that once they could let go of old habits they were able to move forward with their lives.

HBW: That’s a really profound observation, we could probably stop now [smile], but I have too many questions. Were your parents organized? Were you organized growing up?

MP: My mom was very organized, but my dad would hold onto things. My room was pretty organized, but I placed an emotional attachment to everything I owned. After moving to the city [NYC] and into a tiny apartment there was one weekend that I was stuck in my apartment and surrounded by my stuff. There was a particular moment that I was staring at all of my stuff and I began evaluating my things, questioning my reasons for holding onto them and it was a life-changing moment. It started with tossing just one item, but once I started letting go of these “things”, it felt so good I kept going. I spent the weekend going through my entire apartment and donating or tossing what I no longer needed. That process definitely changed me; helped me grow up. I loved the way I felt and I knew I wanted to help others have that same feeling of letting go.

HBW: When did you actually start organizing as a business?

MP: In 2004. I started doing it part-time for two years, while I was working as a TV Producer. It was a natural transition because producing has a similar skill-set to organizing. You have to be able to visualize the end result and all the little steps it takes to get there.

HBW: So you were a TV Producer and organizing on evenings and weekends? You must be organized. I’ve known people in production and that is one crazy busy job. I don’t know how you did it. Those are two very demanding jobs.

MP: The word lazy is not in my vocabulary. [Laugh]

HBW: Obviously! Were you scared to leave your “real” job?

MP: Not really. I had this blind faith that it was going to work out. Kind of like when you first fall in love.

HBW: That’s such a great analogy. I imagine that most entrepreneurs experience that same feeling or they wouldn’t take the leap.

MP: I have been very fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of encouragement from friends and family; my parents were really supportive. I also took a very methodical approach to starting the business. During the two years I still had my other job I was building the business on the side. I saved money, created a business plan, and networked. By the time I took the leap to organize full-time I had enough organizing clients and booked my first staging job.

HBW: So would you consider yourself a type A personality? Do you think all organizers are?

MP: When I saw that you were going to ask this question I went and looked it up. I realized that if I’m looking it up then I am Type A.

HBW: [Laugh] That’s going to be the gold standard now for assessing whether or not someone is Type A. So now we know you’re Type A, but what about Type C. Everyone tells me I’m Type C, which stands for crazy because I’m not only obsessed with organization, but I’m obsessed with closets and storage being perfect—you know matching containers and labeling.

MP: [Laugh] No I’m not like that at all. If you’re too perfect it will make you crazy. I tell my clients that on a daily basis not everything has to be in its perfect place; it’s not realistic. You have to be able to live and enjoy life. I tell my clients they are successfully organized if they can put it all away within 30-60 min. Let’s say someone calls to say they are stopping by, if you feel comfortable having them come over because you can get everything in its place, then you’ve reached the goal.

HBW: You have so many great one-liners. That’s a great way to assess personal organization. It’s ok to have stuff out, but can you put it away quickly when you need to? I want to ask you a million more questions, but I better get to the subject matter. Have you ever struggled with kitchen counter clutter?

MP: No

HBW: Really, never—that’s annoying I thought everyone did. Is it a major problem for your clients?

MP: It’s a big problem.

HBW: Is it a problem for people with kids or everyone? I like to blame my kids for all my problems so I’m just checking.

MP: Many people struggle with kitchen counter clutter-or KCC as I like to call it-whether they’re single, married or have kids.

HBW: KCC, I’m using your buzzword for Kitchen Counter Clutter, was a struggle for me because my kitchen is very visible from anywhere in the house and I didn’t want ugly organizing stuff all over the counter. Have you had this same concern from clients?

MP: Clutter is debilitating no matter where it is. It just happens in the kitchen because it’s a home base; it’s where most people use as a dumping ground for all of the “stuff’ that comes into their home.

HBW: You work in NYC and with the popularity of the TV Show Selling New York I think everyone wants to know if the people in those luxurious 5th Avenue apartments have a problem with clutter.

MP: I work in those apartments all the time. Kitchen Counter Clutter is not a financial issue; it’s a time-management issue.

HBW: So the only difference with those clients is they have the space for a dedicated area in their kitchen and can afford to build custom cabinets to your specifications?

MP: Yes [laugh]

HBW: I’m jealous. Is there one system you recommend or do you come up with a new plan for each client?

MP: I create an individual plan for each client so there is no one method. You have to consider someone’s personality and schedule before creating their system. The one commonality is teaching them to make this a priority, to better manage their time and to learn to deal with things immediately rather than putting them off.

HBW: Without giving away your trade secrets can you tell us what steps someone should take to come up with a plan?

MP: Set aside time. Evaluate incoming paperwork. Make rules. Set locations.

HBW: Can you give me an example of a rule?

MP: Well a lot of city clients get their mail as they come into their building and then they have the ride in the elevator up to their apartment. I encourage them to use the elevator time to make decisions about each piece of mail. By the time they get into their apartment they can quickly put it where it goes, rather than piling it on a counter or chair because they know where everything should go.

HBW: What are some tools that you use? Go to places for supplies? [Whispering] Please say, please say Just kidding, be honest tell me where you go.

MP: [laugh] I do go to See Jane Work a lot. I also like Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Container Store. I like to go where there is a nice looking consistent offering.

HBW: Favorite products?

MP: It’s hard to recommend products because everyone is so different.

HBW: I can understand that. I am sometimes hesitant to recommend a product because people with organizing issues run out and buy it thinking that that one product is going to solve their problems.

MP: That’s so true. That’s why I named my firm declutter + design. First you declutter, and then you design. Don’t buy ANYTHING [she didn’t yell anything, but she did emphasize it], until you have a plan. I also try to repurpose items in my client’s home, there’s no sense in buying more stuff if it’s not necessary.

HBW: Do you have an area for paperwork or a junk drawer in your kitchen?


HBW: Nothing, what about take-out menus?

MP: Nope I use Seamless Web. [, sadly this is not available in all cities.]

HBW: What about a junk drawer? I have bins in my junk drawer so everything has a place, even little pieces to my kids’ toys. [I thought she would be impressed that my junk drawer is organized. I was wrong.]

MP: Why do you keep pieces to the toys?

HBW: Well they break off and if I throw them away the kids get upset.

MP: Do their toys have a place that they belong?

HBW: Yes

MP: Then why don’t the pieces go there as well?

HBW: I guess because I’m too lazy to take the tiny piece to their room. I could have a weekly family meeting and everyone takes their stuff and puts it away or I throw it away.

MP: That’s a good idea.

HBW: Thank you so much for talking with me today. When I’m next in NYC let’s have lunch [I’m really just trying to find a way to get into her house and look in her kitchen drawers.]

Melissa is like a therapist. She led me to a solution rather than suggesting it for me. She didn’t even come to my house and she helped me get organized. But wait, I’m supposed to be an organizing professional. Now I can’t decide if I feel better or worse.

To learn more about Melissa and her services visit her website at

Here are some fun images of kitchens that Melissa decluttered and designed.

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Posted in Organize Your..., Time-Management | 9

Organize Your Storage

Organizing your storage doesn’t have to be complicated, but somehow it ends up being just that. If you’re not a weirdo, like me, you should probably stop reading. In other words, if mismatched plastic bins and labels written in permanent marker don’t bother you then just keep doing what you’re doing.

I don’t understand why stores change plastic storage bin colors, latches and shapes every season. Does anyone really care if their storage is in this season’s hottest color? My garage or office storage ends up being a mess. New bin sizes don’t stack properly or fit on my existing shelving. When I’ve tried to reorganize it all again and stock up on extra bins, I still end up needing more than I purchased.

I took a look at various sizes of bins, prices and of course how long the design has been around. I also looked at different ways to label the storage so I can easily find what I’m looking for and easily change the label with the contents.

My favorite bin right now is the Office Depot Clear File Tote. They also have fun colors, but I decided to stick with clear as I know it won’t change. These bins are the right size for most items including letter and legal size files. Office Depot also runs frequent promotions on this item. At this moment they are having double-reward points.

To label the bins I affix an M.O. Document Pocket available on The Document Pockets are intended for customizing project or presentation folders, but they work great for holding labels on plastic storage bins.

Why use Document Pockets for labeling? I can print the labels on regular 8.5” x 11” paper and simply cut it in half and insert into the pocket. I can easily change the label if the contents change. The label is really large and easy to read and the size is consistent among the items being stored. Also the document pocket provides protection from the label rubbing or falling off.

Here are the steps:

The Label being used is a simple Word Document printed on standard letter size paper. I can print two labels per page and simply cut them in half to fit into the pocket. Save the document on your computer so that you are consistent with font style and size.

The labeled bin is easy to read.

The clear file totes from Office Depot stack well.

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Posted in Home Office, Office Organization, Organize Your... | 3

Resolution Planning

Lose 10 lbs, spend more time with family, create a budget and stick to it… it’s good to have lofty goals, but sometimes you need to break those goals into smaller more manageable steps in order to stay on course and actually achieve those resolutions.

My goal in 2012 is to spend smarter. While having more funds available for charitable purposes or a rainy day is important, it’s not my main objective. The goal here is to model sound financial practices for my three children. Well, that and the fact that smart purposeful spending is always in style.

In order to track my progress I needed to break this goal into realistic steps. I thought I would share a few of those steps with you.

Organize Receipts

The ability to locate a receipt is critical for work reimbursements, tax write-offs or simply store returns. And if you’ve ever spent an hour dumping out handbags or combing through the center console of your vehicle only to end up donating your new, but too small, cashmere sweater to the thrift store you know the waste of lost receipts.

I’m going to use the Galison Accordion Organizer in black, but you could also use the Receiptables-Money, the Receipt Catcher-Car, or a small accordion check file. I’m going to keep it in my purse while traveling and in my car when running errands. EVERY receipt is going in there. Each week or month I’ll get rid of any receipts that should be saved temporarily to match to a bank statement or for consumables like groceries. At the same time I’ll fill out my expense report and make a note on any receipts that are tax related.


Galison Accordion Organizer

Receipt Catcher-Car

As an added bonus I’ll be better able to track how I’ve spent cash.

I’ll save online shopping receipts in a folder in my email box; printing out or backing up any receipts that are needed for tax purposes.

Plan Menus

Growing up in a house with a mother that can best be described as spontaneous I never knew what it meant to plan dinner. One month we were vegetarians and my mom prepared meals like cottage cheese loaf (yes, there is such a thing) and falafels, the next month she served only soup. The point is there was no plan, she bought what looked good at the store and then made a plan about an hour before we were to eat. Now don’t get me wrong I love my mom and my house was certainly a fun place to grow up, but there is a time and place for spontaneity and if you want to save money, the grocery store is not it.

When planning my weekly menu I’m going to focus on buying seasonal produce. I’ll use the See Jane Work What to Eat/What to Buy list each Friday morning or afternoon. I’ll pick up what I can at Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and then shop for the rest over the weekend. When the chaotic week hits I’ll be relieved to know exactly what my family is eating and have the necessary ingredients on hand. I’ll save money, time and hopefully calories.

As a bonus I’m going to save the meal plans so at the year’s end I’ll have a year of meal plans that I can reuse. Routine can be boring for some, but for a working mother it’s a necessity.

Follow a Daily Checklist

Whether it’s workday tasks, running errands, Saturday chores or time for myself I’m going to make a plan each day and stick to it (well-mostly).

I’ll use the See Jane Work To Do List, the Bob’s Your Uncle No Tomorrow Planner Pad or maybe even the Kate Spade Long List Pad at the start of each morning. I’ll prioritize my tasks and plan the most expedient route to completion. I hope to save gas, time and frustration. (You might wonder how frustration comes into saving money. I can assure you that more money is spent on wine, food and/or long distance calls at the end of frustrating days.)

Bob’s Your Uncle No Tomorrow Planner Pad

Kate Spade Long List Pad

Whether it’s over my morning coffee or before everyone else arrives at work, I’m going to better plan how I want my day to go and what I hope to accomplish.

Remember whether you have a lot or a little, money (like everything else) should never be wasted. In addition to my financial organization, there are some additional things I’ll be working on in the New Year. I’ve illustrated them for you.

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Posted in Financial Organization, Holly Bohn-Weiss, Motivational | 1

Fashion Inspired Office Décor-Yellow

The runways for spring 2012 are full of bright yellows in a variety of hues. My complexion doesn’t favor yellow so I was thrilled to see so many options from purses to pants. I decided that if worn away from my face yellow could work for me so I invested in some yellow J. Crew pants. I’ve been amazed at yellow’s versatility. I’ve worn the pants with navy blue, pink, grey and of course black. In decorating I’ve always loved yellow and grey together, but the runways and this personal fashion experience have given me lots of new ideas.

Pair the yellow Bella Leather Desk Set with Semikolon paperboard boxes or binders in navy, black, grey or even tan. The See Jane Work Basic Storage in chocolate also looks great with yellow. You’ll be surprised and inspired by the versatility of this color in fashion and décor. Give this trend a try!

1. Bella Blotter

2. Bella Pencil Cup

3. Bella Leather Mousepad

4. Susy Jack Notebook

5. Semikolon Notebook

6. Semikolon Magazine Box

7. Semikolon Document Box

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Posted in Fashion Inspired Decor, Office Style | 3

Repurposed Storage

Life is full of change. One moment you’re single and carefree the next you have three kids and a mortgage. Well maybe it wasn’t exactly a moment, but sometimes it feels that way.

About 1% of the population plans their life out perfectly; you know the ones who prepare for each chapter of their life long before they’ve gotten through the introduction. The other 99% of us figure it out as we go. It’s not that we don’t try to plan; it’s just that sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out.

I’ve learned to adapt quickly. A recovering planner I thought I could control every direction and aspect of my life. I learned the hard way that the only thing I could do well was laugh and make the best of my current situation.

Sometimes making the best of a current situation means using what’s on hand to solve a storage dilemma. Remember I started See Jane Work in 2003 when office supplies were ugly, but I still needed to decorate my office. I did it by repurposing items. A vase for a pencil cup, same size shoe boxes covered in fabric and used as storage, and an egg holder for…………

• Your nightstand to hold jewelry that you remove each night

• Small office supplies that can otherwise clutter your desktop

• Beads and other small craft supplies in your workshop

Here is how it looks on the desktop:

Egg holder available at Anthropologie.

Post your unique office storage solution in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift certificate from See Jane Work.

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Posted in Home Office, Office Organization, Office Style | 19

Useful Collections

Like love handles and grey hair, collections have a way of popping up. Take my mother-in-law for example, she loves jam and jelly. As a result she buys more than she can possibly consume, so now she has a jelly collection that we lovingly refer to as her Jelly Museum. I collect striped ceramics. Here are a few pieces from my collection:

Jonathan Adler Prozac Jar available at

Terramoto Ceramics Striped Bowls available at Coastline Tabletop

Accidental collector or not, at some point you have to set limits based on the amount of space you have to actually store or display your collection; unless of course you want to end up in an intervention on an episode of Hoarders. Why not focus on collecting something that can actually be put to good use?

I’ve always spoken out against displaying collections in the office, but recently I’ve had a change of heart. My newest collection of silver trophy cups and vases is being put to use in my office.

(I love silver and white almost as much as I love black and white stripes.)

By limiting my collections to objects that are useful, I have more storage and spend less time dusting. My silver trophy cups and vases hold paper clips, paint brushes and pencils in my office. My striped bowls are used in the kitchen to hold fruit while the striped jar holds sugar. I’ve also got my eye on a striped pitcher that I’ll use for flowers. Collecting becomes a fun challenge when it serves a purpose. It can also add style and individuality to your workspace.

What are you collecting?

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Posted in Office Style, Organize Your... | 3

Decorate Your Office Walls

Sometimes art is the inspiration behind a room and other times it’s the last thing you need to complete a room. When outfitting an office decorating your walls becomes an even greater challenge. Whether you like it or not, you will be judged by your coworkers, clients, boss and anyone else who sets foot in your office, so choose your artwork wisely.

I am very particular about what I put on my walls. I don’t “decorate.” There is no pressure for me to cover every available surface. Art has to be meaningful to me; it has to make me laugh, jog a memory or otherwise inspire me.

I’ve done several blog posts that relate back to office walls. I’ve hung chairs as shelves, artists’ canvas as bulletin boards and magnet boards in a grouping, but I haven’t shown you true art that will look great in your office.

There are a few styles that I think are fun for the office.

Here is some message art. I consider this type of art to be a stylish version of the tacky inspirational office posters.

1. Nick Agin, Pick Your Battles.

2. Mike Monteiro, Untitled.

3. Austin Kleon, Open Road.

4. Artist: Craig Damrauer, The New Math of Relationships.

(All prints above available at 20 x, a great new place to shop for art.)

I love prints from Sugar Fresh, but they might be too juvenile for the office. On the other hand juvenile art might be better understood by some of the people you work with.

To see more Sugar Fresh art here is the link.

I was so inspired by this message art that, together with a graphics person (Heather Doyle) I work with, I created my own office message art. Humor helps me at work, so please don’t be offended. I think it’s so funny I might end up printing it and selling it. Let me know what you think.

If you aren’t into typology or message prints here are some other options.

1. Robert Verdi, Ideal Bookshelf 101.

2. Lisa Congdon, Day1: Vintage Erasers.

3. Tom Slaughter, New York Valentine

And just to review in case you are new to the blog or don’t remember, there are many other great things that can live on office walls.

Chairs as shelves

Magnet Boards in a grouping

Chalkboard wall decals

Artists’ canvas as bulletin boards

I hope you’re inspired to decorate those walls!

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Posted in Office Style | 5

Cubicle Makeover

When I launched See Jane, in 2003, it was difficult to decorate a home office. Back then jobs were easy to come by, stylish office supplies were not. Sure you could spend your weekends at thrift and antique stores or your money at high-end retailers, but all that would get you is a nice desk pad or pencil cup. Binders and other necessities still left a lot to be desired.

Eight years later much has changed. Stylish office supplies are now easier to find than an actual job in an office. And while the market may be full of stylish, unique and colorful office supplies, your workplace is full of rules and ugly furniture.

The most difficult workspace to decorate is a cubicle. There’s no wall space, paint options or room for an accent chair; there isn’t room for much of anything. You can decorate a cubicle, but it’s not easy. I decided to show you rather than tell you.



At this office, I wasn’t able to go crazy with color as this particular employer had offices that had been professionally decorated. Hopefully, that decorator won’t read my blog because what I’m about to say could be hurtful. The office I made over was awful, full of faux cherry desks and beige and forest green walls (I added the forest part to further emphasize the horror of the color palette).

Here are some tips for cubicle décor:

1. Don’t fight the corporate color scheme. I lucked out with this cubicle in that it was beige and black, many other offices have blue, maroon or even mint green cubicles. It’s not easy to find stylish office supplies that coordinate with mint green. In these situations use complementary or neutral colors as accents. For advice on choosing colors in your workspace read my article on color.

2. Cubicles are small, make sure to “decorate” with items that will be used daily. The workplace is no place for knick knacks.

3. Get creative with your storage. I found out that the metal surrounding the cubicle was magnetic so I used super strong magnets to attach a Three by Three Magazine Pocket and a Spot-On Mini Magnet Hook to hang the scissors.

4. Ask first. If you’ve been in corporate long enough you may subscribe to the motto “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” unfortunately that won’t work here. Your hard work and money will go to waste if you’re asked to put everything back the way that it was.

5. Don’t go crazy in the supply cabinet. Keep only what you really need at your desk. The trip to the supply cabinet might be your only exercise so making frequent trips there isn’t such a bad thing.

6. Limit personal pictures or mementos to one wall or space in your cube. Although covering ugly fabric walls with your two-year olds beautiful crayon drawings is an improvement, it can also add to the visual clutter.

7. Consider adding something homey like a lamp or a vase of real flowers. Just remember to choose something small and least likely to offend. A vase of strong scented flowers could send your asthmatic co-worker to the ER.

8. At this point my New Yorker friends are gritting their teeth. This cubicle seems huge compared to what they work in! If your space is no space, invest in lovely file folders for your work in progress, a great pen to use daily, a memo mousepad, and a fun notebook for meetings.

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Posted in Office Organization, Office Style | 4

Organize Your Holidays

I used to look forward to holiday baking, decorating and wrapping gifts. I would even go so far as to say I was talented in these areas. Unfortunately, in the last few years my holiday cheer has been replaced by holiday guilt. With three kids and a full-time job I never have enough time to participate in these holiday traditions. What I do manage to accomplish does not meet my exacting standards. When I founded See Jane Work I thought I would have more time with my kids; but that was my first mistake.

I recently attended a dinner party and listened to moms who were just as busy and had just as many kids. It was a challenge, but I made a point of hearing their advice rather than tallying all the ways that they were better than me.

So how do they survive the holidays? They make lists and combine tasks.

Making lists may sound like organizing 101, but you would be surprised how easily you can be swayed by the marketing mania that surrounds holiday shopping. If you organize your shopping on a list you will spend less, get the gifts you need, and ensure that you’ve purchased items that the recipients will actually like or want. It’s easy to blow your holiday budget when you see the great sales and discounts; a list will keep you on track. I’ve created a form that you can use to plan your holiday gifts. Click here to see the Holiday Gifts Form.

Combining tasks is also nothing new. I’m sure you’ve attended cookie parties designed to simplify holiday baking; I’m not convinced they really work. My kids expect the same cookies every year so no matter what I bring home from a party I still have to bake the cookies they prefer. What these ladies do is eliminate holiday social events and instead make parties out of their holiday tasks. They go shopping together to minimize mall parking lot frustration. They have a wrapping party instead of a cocktail party (don’t worry there are still cocktails). They even buy cases of wine to get the discount then trade bottles for a variety.

You’ll still have to attend some holiday parties, but you’ll look a whole lot better in your fancy dress if you’re stress free. So get your girls together and get busy. Make being organized for the holidays a group project!

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Posted in Holly Bohn-Weiss, Organize Your..., Time-Management | 0

Decorate Your Storage

It’s easy and fun to personalize your storage and desk accessories. Some good candidates for personalization include:

See Jane Work Storage Boxes

Simple Structure Pencil Cup

Three by Three Magnet Boards

The craft store is full of fun stuff that can be used to personalize your storage and desk accessories. For this project we used vinyl letters from the home center. Here are the letters and numbers we used:

Here is a close-up of the black and white theme with arrows pointing to the items we decorated.

Here is a wall of magnet boards used as an office action calendar; each board is numbered for a day of the month.

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Posted in Home Office, Make Your Own..., Office Style | 2