Melissa Mahanes has a fairytale superpower: she can turn straw into gold. Give her a budget – an unconscionably small one – and she’ll design a party or invitation that sparkles with magic! You’ve seen her golden touch all over town, from Ballet Ball (which she co-chaired in 2015 with Kerri Cavanaugh) to Symphony Ball, Library Gala, Frist Gala, Swan Ball Auction Party and many other fundraisers.
Melissa isn’t just thinking up great design ideas and asking others to execute. She’s the one at 5:30 pm the night of the party making sure that everything is just right and dealing with the occasional last minute crisis. She’s not scared to make a decision and commit to it. She knows when to let something go and when to be firm. You’ve never met a more sensible creative genius.
Kate Satz, who has played tennis with Melissa for years and worked on many fundraisers with her, emphasizes Melissa’s caring qualities:
I think the most wonderful Golden Nugget about Melissa is what a deeply kind-hearted mother hen she is. As you know, she scared the daylights out of me at first, and I don’t think I was alone. She is Highly Capable and Unflappable and Businesslike in everything she does… but she’s also an incredibly thoughtful caretaker. She’s shepherded teams of tennis women for years, patiently managing ever-changing schedules and moods and inevitable NALTA Drama. She always approaches with a bright “Hi!” no matter how irritating the situation. I often try to channel her attitude: ‘there’s always a solution; let’s just find it!’
In addition to all of her talents, Melissa is THE most reliable, up-to-the-minute source for every juicy bit of popular culture to be found. It’s hilarious. Without her, I’d have no idea who the Kardashians are, or Honey Boo-Boo, or fill-in-the-blank cheesy tv show to watch while folding laundry. How she finds the time to ferret out this info, between whipping up a gourmet dinner and planning multiple gala events and driving her boys and playing tennis and cooking for the Nashville Food Project… well I have no idea. Melissa is a Force of Nature.”
Melissa has mad kitchen skills but is most proud of getting dinner on the table most every night for husband Dave and sons Jack and Charlie, both seniors of their divisions at their respective schools. The most ambitious dish she’s ever made is 72-hour Sous Vide Short Ribs, “worth the wait!” In a perfect world, she’d have a 7-minute soft-boiled egg with E.A.T. (NYC bakery) multigrain toast strips and thick-cut bacon for breakfast every day.
Other guilty pleasures include bingewatching Netflix and Amazon Prime and spending time on Pinterest (“Mel-interest” in her house). Recently, she was forced to go on a cleaning binge at her house – at the same time she was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Brilliant!
Early this summer, a most unfortunate situation occurred at the Mahanes house. Every large kitchen appliance with a capacity to leak did so simultaneously, straight into the garage area below, soaking a stockpile of old family photographs, textbooks, and just “stuff” that we’d stashed there after cleaning out Dave’s parents’ home. Of course we’d had every intention of sorting it. Someday.
Such summer fun! Charlie and I spent 2 days gathering the soggy (and heavy) debris into about 20 black trash bags before heaving them into a dumpster from Bin There Dump That (they really exist) conveniently located in our driveway. Said dumpster proved tremendously liberating, causing me to think about what else could go!
Enter The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo.
Her “KonMari” method involves a strict approach of tackling your clutter one category at a time and in a specific order. Clothing first, then “stuff” (she calls it “komono”), books, and ironically for us, photographs and mementos last. This emotional arc is supposed to be the most successful because it transitions you from easiest to most difficult.
”Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely.”
Kondo’s uncompromising approach to clutter-free Nirvana involves choosing to surround yourself only with things that “spark joy.” Her belief that every object has its own life and energy seems a bit extreme, but it does make the decision-making process easier. After gathering everything into a pile, you actually speak to each item. If it does not immediately bring you joy, you thank the item for its service and send it on its way – right into an opaque black garbage bag. It moves pretty quickly and is very satisfying!
Once you have completely culled a category, your clothes, for example, you are supposed to treat what’s left with a newfound respect. Downgrading clothes to leisurewear that you can never leave the house wearing is strictly taboo. I can live with that, but I don’t know that I buy into caring for my socks’ feelings. “Never, ever ball up your socks,” she writes. “They take a brutal beating in their daily work… The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest.” Puhleeze. Kondo arranges her socks in sushi-type rolls and stacks them in orderly rows in her drawer. Similarly hardcore: she actually cleans out her purse every day and thanks her shoes that she removes at the door.
Truth be told, I do feel lighter already. Surrounding oneself with things that “spark joy” does seem like an obvious way to promote happiness. I am looking forward to reaching Kondo’s “click” moment, when I have tidied everything there is to tidy, so that all the objects in my home are ones that serve a concrete purpose or bring me true joy. I’m excited to feel even lighter, physically and emotionally! While I’m determined not to break Kondo’s winning streak (she claims that she has never had a client lapse back to hoarding ways), I am (in no way) prepared to give up Costco.
Included here is a checklist from fellow KonMari admirer at jujusprinkles.com to help get you started on your own magical tidy up. Enjoy!
Well said Kate! An excellent description of Melissa!
Thank you for the wonderful post! I have my work cut out for me and can’t wait to dive into this book!
Melissa Mahanes is always spot on! Listen to her.
Haha, loved the passage about the socks, and nice to “meet” you in this way, Melissa, great guest post. I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d had the idea of writing this book (along with Fifty Shades of Grey) and make a boatload of money telling people how to throw stuff away. Being German by birth, I’m a pretty good de-clutterer by nature. I read an article the other day discussing above book and bringing in some de-cluttering consultant in England, and she said that she gets contacted by lots of Germans and is always puzzled why they wanted her advice as their houses already looked pristine. That just as an aside.
As another aside, I’m not sure the above approach to getting rid of everything in my house that doesn’t bring me joy would be a good idea at the moment. Having just read Madwoman in a Volvo (thank you Jennifer for the suggestion, I laughed so hard!), this method would mean I’d pretty much get rid of EVERYTHING in my house, including (and perhaps foremost) all the people.
Sine!! I am laughing. Keep writing!! xo
Melissa – Kate captured you perfectly – I’d add that your reputation for results oriented awesomeness precedes you wherever you go! Agree with you on the socks – the author would probably really be shocked by my self-created sock management method – we dump all socks (everyone’s in the family) into a light portable hamper. No sorting – everyone always knows where they are going to be found and it is easily stashed in a central location. Since the girls and I wear the same size, it’s much easier than running around looking in three rooms. Orphan socks sit in a plastic ziplock in the same bin awaiting a reunion – come to think of it, maybe my socks are having a party! Great post!
LOL, I love the sock party! And think of how much time you’ve saved over the years by not having to match (and agonize over missing) socks!
I can attest to Melissa’s creative talent. She helped me with the Frist Gala several years ago and was wonderful! I always love spending time with her.
Melissa, love your post. Funny (as expected) and inspiring! We all hang on to too much “stuff” (physically and emotionally). This book has been on my shelf for months – I now look forward to reading it.
I read this book with my college-aged daughter last spring and we made it our goal to get rid of everything that no longer “sparked joy” in her closet this summer!! Quite a cathartic exercise!!
I have loved Melissa Mahanes since our Vanderbilt days! So smart. fun and creative…and ALWAYS in the know. She moved to Nashville and informed me of things in this town I didn’t know existed even though I’m from here and had been back living here for years! Melissa- as for your newly organized, enlightened self- you go girl!