Interview with Dwell on Design Guest Speaker: Andrew Mellen

The ‘Most Organized Man in America’ tells us why ‘clutter-free’ is the best design style

by Angelica Marino
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Everyone has met at least one. Maybe it was your roommate in college,  your sibling, a colleague. That guy in class who’s constantly rummaging through his backpack in a futile attempt to obtain a pen, his notebook, a term paper. That girl on the bus pulling her headphones out of her pocket, only to reveal its entire contents: gum, rubber bands, that USB flash drive she desperately needed last week. Your work-from-home neighbor who uses work documents as coasters, whose file cabinet is about as organized as a McDonald’s ball pit.


Andrew Mellen is not that guy. Speaker, best-selling author, and overall master of organization, Andrew is the go-to guy for de-cluttering homes. He believes that the simple act of getting rid of clutter can vastly change your life, giving you more time and opportunities to do what you love. His method consists in working through the emotional attachments we create with objects we don’t need, giving way to more organized spaces and improved lives.  


Andrew will be sharing his expertise at Dwell on Design LA during a talk entitled Unstuff Your Life: Simple and Sustainable Ways to Get—and Stay—Organized for Good. He’ll be sharing valuable tips on how to use fast and sustainable methods to organize your space and your life. I had the delightful task of asking him to give us a preview of his discussion and to explain why organization is one of the most important design elements to integrate into one’s home:



You’ve been dubbed a “master of organization”. Which design style would you say is best for an organized space? Is a minimally designed home necessarily an organized home?


 Any design style can be organized — from traditional styles to eclectic to minimalism— they all benefit from a sense of organization and simplicity. Simplicity in this case means staying true to the core values of the style itself. The goal should always be to allow nothing to obscure the essence of the style.



What products or design trends are your favorite for keeping spaces clutter-free?


Applying my Organizational Triangle: One Home For Everything, Like With Like and Something In, Something Out is all you need to keep your space tidy and organized. No amount of nifty boxes or other containers will compensate for too much stuff.



Can you describe for us your favorite room in your house?


I live in a studio apartment — my wall bed is my favorite element in my home. It's simple, elegant and completely functional.


Which room in the house is the most difficult to keep organized? Any tips?


The number one problem everybody faces is too much paper — so I would say it's either the home office or possibly the kitchen if that tends to be the place where you are dropping the mail and other papers.


If paper isn't your challenge, make sure you assign a home for everything in the room that's disorganized – that way you're either either using something or it is in its home. It's the easiest way to eliminate clutter and disorganization.


You’ll be speaking at this year’s Dwell on Design about Simple and Sustainable Ways to Stay Organized. Can you give us a preview? Tell us, what is the link between sustainability and organization?


Being mindful of how we consume things and making sustainable choices in every sense of the word — from materials to usage – is what I'll be talking about. I find that most clutter comes from an unconscious impulse to consume things without any clarity around what and why. Most people have enough of everything already if they are living independent adult lives. They probably have enough clothes, enough furnishings, enough furniture, enough kitchen tools and appliances.


If we're focusing on quality of life, a quick scan around the home reminds us we have all we need already. If we're choosing to replace something, it must be either because it's obsolete, broken or because the replacement would increase functionality and efficiency so much that it would be silly not to replace it. Living and consuming mindfully frees up more time for us to spend doing the things that are really important — being with the people we love and fully participating in the experiences that bring us joy.


Be sure to attend Andrew's talk at Dwell on Design on May 30th at 1:00 pm in the LA Convention Center (Stage C).


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