Inside the immaculate Manhattan apartment of America’s Most Organized man
Andrew J. Mellen is better known as America’s Most Organized Man.
Author of the best-selling self-help book Unstuff Your Life, Andrew has helped over 100,000 people and businesses worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives.
His message is a simple one: More Love, Less Stuff. But does he practice what he preaches? DailyMail.com gained exclusive access to his one-bedroom Manhattan apartment to find out.
Andrew J. Mellen lives in Hell’s Kitchen in New York’s Midtown West. He owns a 700-sq ft apartment in one of the big, multi-amenity apartment blocks overlooking the Hudson that serve’s a large part of the city’s professional community. First impressions of his apartment on the 9th floor are: NEAT, NEAT and NEAT. Everything has its place. It’s a simple but effective logic that forms the backbone to his book. If you keep your keys in the same place, without fail, you will never waste time looking for them. Same for your phone charger and wallet. This valuable time, Andrew, says can be better spent doing things you actually enjoy. Note the shoe board for the three pairs he uses most often. A cupboard in the hall stores the others (in shoetrees of course)
‘If you can organize your kitchen you can organize your life’: You will not very little plastic in Andrew’s kitchen, nor will you find on a utensil out of place or an appliance that isn’t used. Andrew says: ‘Pots and pans should have lids, so shouyld food-storage containers (glass over plastic). Appliances should have all their parts. Groceries should be organized into categories. The kitchen should be broken down into zones: Preparation, cooking and baking, beverages, pantry, tableware and cleanup. Before putting a single item away, wash and wipe down the interiors of every cabinet and drawer. This system begins to unravel the minute you defer returning something to its home in favor if doing it “later”‘.
To achieve your dream kitchen Andrew recommends ‘sitting down for a minute and breathing. Think about your dream kitchen. Think about the meals you’ll make for those you love. Or even just like. Think about waking up in the morning, walking into the kitchen, pouring yourself or making a delicious cup of coffee. It’s peaceful in this room. Things are put away and there’s room to breathe. Room to plan and to spread out. Your knives are sharp, your dishes are clean’.
Glass over plastic: Andrew recommends this not just because it is more eco-friendly but also that it’s more hygienic, easier to clean and feels better all around. He keeps all of this containers together with their corresponding lids in a drawer near to the sink in the preparation zone of his immaculate kitchen.
Andrew sharpens his knives regularly. HE recommends either doing it yourself or finding someone to do it. ‘A sharp knife is a happy knife. And a happy knife is a happy cook’, he says.
The cutlery drawer in his kitchen sparkles. Wood cutlery container over plastic. ‘Really be honest with yourself about how you live, how you want to live, and how you don’t want to live. If you’re tired of living in a fantasy of “someday” and ready to live your life as it actually is and, even more important, how you want it to be, chuck the stuff that is holding you back’
He recommends the following simple guide to de-cluttering the kitchen. Ask yourself three questions: Is this object something I currently or frequently use? Is it beautiful? Do I enjoy looking at it. Does it serve a practical purpose in my kitchen? If the answer is no, get rid of it. ‘Having a pizza stone is useless if you don’t eat carbs, no matter how cool you think it is’, he says.
Practical reclosable freezer bags are always kept stocked in his kitchen to ensure his freezer is kept well organized and items easily visible. So is Andrew OCD? Or just super organised. And whats’s the difference? ‘I know I’m not OCD because i can go to sleep at night without having to move things’.
It’s worth noting that what Mellen espouses is not rocket science, the way he lives is not completely unfamiliar. We all know what a tidy home looks like and we all know what we should do with our own homes to improve them.
What Mellen specializes in is explaining the value of living like this and how, if you follow his process, you will free up more time and live a much calmer, productive life.
He is the difference between you giving your apartment that one big spring clean before letting it gradually slide back into unorganized chaos and you finally being able to keep on top of the apartment’s organisation and maintaining a clean and tidy place all of the time.
‘If you act on my advice and are consistent and alert and apply yourself, you will have more time on your hands than you ever thought possible. You will do less, and you will accomplish more.
Andrew’s bedroom is his oasis. His favorite thing? Pressed sheets. ‘Without help, there’s not a lot of time in the day to press and fold the linens. A tip is to remove the sheets and pillowcases from the dryer while they are still slightly damp and drape them over a shower rod to dry. It’s the next best thing to ironing them, and they come out crisps and without wrinkles.
Art lines almost every wall in Andrew’s apartment. His friends and family are artists and it is mainly there works which take pride of place. He practices Buddhism after dating a Zen monk for two years. This explains the nods to Buddha throughout the apartment. to the right of the dresser, in the above picture next to the lamp, is an interesting object. It’s an automatic watch winder for his kinetic watch. ‘My watch is kinetic and I don’t wear it all the time so this keeps it wound. I bought it off Amazon for approximately $40. It says much about Andrew’s commitment to efficiency and not wasting time. Better to spend $40 than spend wasted minutes shaking the watch like most of us have to do EVERY time he goes to wear it.
Andrew calls drawers mini-closets on their sides. Like closets he recommends organizing them by type of clothing. The most important result of organizing your drawers is that ‘you should be able to see the entire contents of each drawer easily as soon as you open it, as you can for your closets. A drawer should NOT be a crammed and jumbled mess of clothing.
Andrew even insists on keeping similar types of socks together. Thick socks, light socks etc. It’s all fairly obvious advice, but seeing it in practice reminds one of how life becomes so much calmer and easier when things are in their place.
Andrew is all for photos from trips and travel but also believes ‘people spend so much time documenting their excursions that the first time they actually experience being someplace different is when they get home and look back at photos taken and souvenirs gathered. By then, the experience is over and all you’re left with are artifacts from history, albeit recent history. Put down the cameraand explore, experience, drink up the adventure while having the adventure’.
The best way to strip back your closet and make sure it contains the things you actually use, Andrew recommends sitting down and deciding how many shirts you actually need, how many pairs of pants, shoes etc. If you decide on five long sleeve and five short sleeved shirts, make sure that when you buy a new shirt, get rid of an old one. One of Andrew’s tips for keeping a tidy closet and bedroom is returning those annoying wire hangers back to the dry cleaners for recycling, while keeping all of your hanging clothes on robust hangers. Couldn’t agree more.
Belt and tie hooks make for easy visibility and reach. Andrew recommends also having a hook, an area or a chair where you can place clothes in ‘purgatory’ – ‘the ones that aren’t quite dirty but not quite clean, either. You’d wear them again to run to the market or scrub the kitchen floor but maybe not for lunch with your mother-in-law’.
It was interesting to learn that Andrew has a housekeeper who also does his laundry and arranges his shirt, just as he requests: Short sleeves at one end, long sleeves at the other and color co-ordinated. Jeans and sweaters are folded and kept above. At first I thought the housekeeper surely means that it isn’t Andrew who is Mr Organized, it’s the staff. But, as Andrew says, it simply means he has more time for the valuable things in life. He knows how his home should be organized and he pays someone to do it. And she does a very good job.
Author Molly O’Neill who sought the help of Andrew Mellen said he ‘is efficient, no-nonsense, practical and persistent. He delivers order from chaos and he does it fast. I’m still not used to all the clean surfaces and orderly files and figuring out what to do with all the time and energy he’s saved me!’
A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew has addressed audiences from Dwell on Design and TEDx to The Great British Business Show and BlogHer
‘You will always be able to find anything – in your home or office, kitchen or car – within thirty seconds. You will never be late because you misplaced your keys. You will finally have the time to do the things you love to do. Or to discover the things you love. Or to rediscover them.
‘What I do is guide you through a precise process that will enable you to unstuff your life of everything that doesn’t serve you and shine a light on everything that does. How’s that sound instead?’
Now, full disclosure: Mellen surprised me by revealing that he has a housekeeper. My first thought was surely that’s cheating? The second was: She must have her work cut out.
But as he explained, it’s about time saving. He knows how he wants his home to look and how he wants it to make him feel. The fact he is paying someone to implement it simply means he has more free time to do the things he loves and focus on what he considers more valuable endeavors like building relationships with people, maintaining friendships and enjoying his work.
You can, it turns out, still be America’s most organized man and have a housekeeper to keep you organized.
Dubbed ‘America’s Most Organized Man’, rather surprisingly, Mellen began his life in the theater. He worked as executive and artistic director at community-based arts organization DC Arts Center in the early 1990s, before moving to Seattle to work as a playwright, actor, producer and director at Alice B. Theater.
‘I’m not a minimalist, I’m an essentialist’, reveals Andrew. And he’s no-nonsense too. Not only is he ruthless with his own belongings, but also gifts from other people. No way does he believe these things should clutter your home just because they were given as a present. ‘Get rid of it as soon as possible. Any object that upon sight causes you pain, grief, regret, embarrassment or disappointment has no place in your life. Re-gift it’.
Just because he espouses living simply and cleanly doesn’t meant that Mellen shies away from color and pattern, as his quirky choice of chairs and artwork shows
Mellen takes inspiration from Buddhism and speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others
Mellen believes clutter leads to an unhappy life, but what counts as clutter depends on the individual. His vast collection of books, displayed in neat piles around his home, bring him happiness and therefore are not clutter
Mellen uses his apartment as a teaching tool for clients. Mellen leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations and non-profits to CEOs, filmmakers and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere
In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world’s first virtual university dedicated to organization and decluttering, offering classes, workshops and other online resources for businesses and individuals
But in 1996 he decided to take his career in a whole new direction.
Following his passion for organization, he began working one-to-one with clients and multinational corporations including Goldman Sachs, American Express and Time, Inc. as a consultant for streamlining work, and keeping things simple.
He also wrote a column for Real Simple (Ask the Organizer) and is still a frequent contributor for numerous news sources including Wall Street Journal, CNN Money and NPR, among others.
Mellen also wrote best-selling book Unstuff Your Life! which includes his unique The Organizational Triangle®.
This is a set of three simple rules to declutter; 1: One home for everything, 2: Like with like, meaning similar objects should be stored together and 3: Something in, something out.
Andrew is also a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.
Dubbed ‘America’s Most Organized Man’, rather surprisingly, Mellen began his life in the theater (which is hinted at by some of his book collection – nestled into the home design books) He worked as executive and artistic director at community-based arts organization DC Arts Center in the early 1990s, before moving to Seattle to work as a playwright, actor, producer and director at Alice B. Theater
In 1996 he decided to take his career in a whole new direction. Following his passion for organization, he began working one-to-one with clients and multinational corporations including Goldman Sachs, American Express and Time, Inc. as a consultant for streamlining work, and keeping things simple. He also wrote a column for Real Simple (Ask the Organizer) and is still a frequent contributor for numerous news sources including Wall Street Journal, CNN Money and NPR, among others
The self-help book author also has a bookshelf full of self-help and self-improvement literature
His bathroom is simple white with folded brown towels and a bidet-style toilet, styled using The Organizational Triangle®. This is a set of three simple rules to declutter; 1: One home for everything, 2: Like with like, meaning similar objects should be stored together and 3: Something in, something out
Mellen has almost nothing out on the side. No clutter or mess aside from a bottle of handwash, keeping in line with his simple motto; More Love, Less Stuff