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Episode 60: From Corporate to Closets: Melissa Klug of Home By Eleven

Nov 11

Welcome to Episode 60: From Corporate to Closets: Melissa Klug of Home By Eleven

This episode of the podcast features an interview with our new cohost, Melissa Klug of Home By Eleven. Melissa is a full-time professional organizer and business coach for pro organizers, and she joins us to talk about her story. She went from working on global marketing & strategy for a major Fortune 500 company to working with clients on decluttering and organizing their homes–and never looked back. But while she made the major leap into entrepreneurship full-time, which could have been scary–she realized it was the best move of her life!

We are thrilled to announce Melissa will also be joining the Pro Organizer Studio team as our new Program Director for Inspired Organizer®. IO is our premier course + community for professional organizers in all stages of their business. She will be launching new programs for us and be a big part of our team as well as the podcast!

Related Links:

How to take your pro organizing business online

Streamlining Your Workflows with Kate Jones


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Jen Obermeier: I’m so excited to share this brand new episode with you today. Melissa Klug of Home By Eleven professional organizing has joined my team as a co-host of the podcast and Program Director for development of educational resources at Pro Organizer Studio. I’m thrilled to have her on the podcast today to share more about her business story and background prior to joining the professional organizing world. 

Melissa and I have been hard at work, creating new content and program ideas for our entire audience. So thank you so much for welcoming us back so warmly from our short hiatus this fall. And thank you Melissa, for joining our team. Enjoy you guys. 

You’re listening to the Pro Organizer Studio podcast with Melissa Klug and Jen Obermeier.

Thank you so much for joining in our mission to broaden the horizons of savvy businesswomen in the organizing industry by instilling confidence and inspiring authenticity. You’ll gain new insight into strategies designed specifically for professional organizers. So now let’s get started.

Melissa. I am so excited to interview you today on the podcast. Welcome. 

Melissa Klug: Thank you! Happy to be back here. 

Jen: So, Melissa did a guest, a guest host spot with me earlier this year. We interviewed Laurie Palau together about her work with the Enneagram in clutter. First of all, it was really fun because I enjoyed the fact that Melissa, you know, she brings a totally different type of experience to the table. So it was fun for the three of us, because we were talking about personalities and clutter and organizing styles in each one of us is a different number.

So that was a really fun episode. If you guys have not heard that one, that was probably one of my favorites. And so, what’s really exciting today is that I get to interview Melissa one-on-one and really present her as the new permanent guest host on the Pro Organizer Studio podcast. 

Melissa, I’m really just so grateful that you have joined me in this endeavor.

Melissa: Well, I’m grateful to be here. I love talking about organizing and I love talking about business and I feel like as long as people are along for the ride, I am super excited to be able to bring people a bunch of new topics. And I just, I am so thrilled to be here. 

Jen: Well, that’s awesome because I definitely, you know, I really value like all of the ideas that you and I’ve just discussed privately. It’s like, oh, we can do this. We can do that. We can, it’s going to be really, it’s going to be really fun. And I just really want to, mark this exciting time, because, I really feel like this brings a whole new energy to the podcast and, and new ways. The new directions. So thank you guys for listening in today.

If you did not meet Melissa before on that previous episode, we are going to dive deeper into her business story, which I always find interesting with most of my guests. So I really want Melissa to be the guest today. Even though she will be a new host in the future and so that we can get to know her even better.

So, Melissa, you are actually a Certified KonMari expert. However, in addition to the Marie Kondo method, you also work with clients, you know, on, your traditional organizing projects in a variety of other things. So I know that people are always fascinated, I think, by other organizing styles and, and what the KonMari certification is like.

So I would love it if you would just sort of take us back to day one, at some point, when you knew that professional organizing was a thing, and how you made your way into this business and where you are today. 

Melissa: Yes. So, I, like you said, I am certified in the KonMari method, but I love all kinds of organizing. I’m a big fan of you have to meet a client where they are, and it may not be the right thing for everybody. And so I have tried to be really fun and flexible about what works, but, KonMari was what worked for me personally. 

So part of my story is I have always called, depending on the day I call myself either a recovering trash panda, or recovering clutter goddess, but I spent legit, legit 40 years of my life extremely disorganized. And, so I really, I grew up in a house that was very tidy and very organized, and I went the other direction and I was like, I’m going to do whatever I want to once I left my house. So I spent 20 years in corporate America in different positions, marketing, and sales, and all sorts of positions at very big fortune 500 companies.

And I will not bore you with all of the stories, but I found myself in a position where my company merged with another company. I had always been a super high performer and I loved my job and I worked like a thousand miles an hour. And I found myself in a position that I never thought I would, which was, I did not have a job after this merger. My job was eliminated. 

Jen: Sorry, this was in the end… 

Melissa: It was Merry Christmas, Christmas of 2017. So, yes. And I found myself in this position that I never envisioned ever in my entire life. And I had that moment of, “Well, I, I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”  But I was very fortunate. I was given the luxury of a little bit of time to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up at age 40, whatever.

Which, you know, it’s, it’s one of those things that you go like that Rolling Stone songs. Sometimes, you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need. And I looked around my house and I was like, this place is a disaster and it was the dead middle of winter. I live in Minnesota. I don’t know if you’re familiar, but winter in Minnesota, it’s not very pleasant. So yeah, there’s a comedian that says we don’t have weather, we have emergency conditions in Minnesota. 

Jen: Right. 

Melissa: So I looked around my house and I said, I really, I need something to change. And I have this time. And, this is one of my favorite parts of my story—I said, oh, I have that like Marie Kondo book around here somewhere. I’m going to reread that thing because I had read it and like, not literally not done anything with it. 

Um, I could not find my copy of the book anywhere in my house. So I said, well, I guess I have to buy another one, which is the classic story of all of our clients. I’ll just buy another one. And I read it.

And for some reason that book just clicked with my brain at that moment. So it wasn’t like a certain even line or concept that she had. I, well, I think that I had struggled with, for so many years, I just kept accumulating more things and I was accumulating things. And I think this is just part of my life, being, you know, I traveled all the time for work. And I think part of my life was if I had kind of a tough week, then I would say, I’m just going to buy a new sweater or I’m going to buy a new, whatever. No, I constantly was accumulating things. So if I had, if I had a bad day at work, then I would maybe do some emotional shopping.

If I had a good day at work, I might do some emotional shopping and I just kept accumulating things. 

And I think maybe it was part of it that I didn’t know what my future was going to be at in terms of my career. And so then I said, Oh, well, I need to stop like, buying so much stuff! And I just connected with her idea that you should only have things in your house that really deserve to have a place there. 

So I know everybody talks about like “spark joy.” I know sometimes, you know, people either like that or they don’t like it, but what really connected with me is it’s not about what you’re choosing to get rid of in your house. It’s what you’re choosing to keep. And. Also I like rules. And so whenever you say, like, here’s what you do, step one, and here’s what you do, step two. I was like, okay. Yeah, I can, I can totally do this. And I just knew that I had to be different. And so I just said, Hey, why don’t I do this book faithfully?

And I just dove all in. And when I say faithfully, I did it faithfully. I started with clothing. I went to books, I went to paperwork. I really did it in order of the way you’re supposed to. And I can’t explain it, but something in me just went—Oh, my gosh, like, I really love this. And like I woke up every day would drop my kids off at school and go, “what can I do today in my house?”

And somewhere along the way, I just said, boy, this is the only thing that is exciting me right now. Like the thought of, the thought of going to search for another corporate job, you know, like to go look for another marketing job or project management. 

I just said, well, what do I actually want to do? And I said, I love the organizing thing. Like, can I make this my job? And I knew it was a job, but I was just like, well, can I do it as a job? But anytime someone would ask me, what are you going to go do? What are you going to be when you grow up? And this was the only thing that I kept coming back to that actually excited me.

And very coincidentally, I happened to see on social media that Marie Kondo was certifying people and I looked at it, and I looked at it again. And then I told my very patient and kind husband that I had this really crazy idea. And he said, he could have said a lot of things, but what he said was “that is not a crazy idea at all. And you need to go do that.” 

And so I went to a seminar in New York city and I have never looked back. So I got certified. So that was in, uh, March of 2018. 

Jen: Wow. That was fast, real fast time. 

Melissa: Yeah. Very compressed period of time in between, “Well, I should probably go look for a job back in some, you know, huge company” to—“you know, I think maybe entrepreneurship is the thing for me.”

And, and the funny thing is, so, I went to get my MBA many years ago and one of the things,  they actually made us take an entrepreneurship course. So one of our classes was entrepreneurship. And when I tell you, I hated every millisecond of that class, I was mad that they made us take it every time I had an assignment for it.

I go, I can’t stand this. And I think about it to this day. 

I remember I had to pitch the class an entrepreneurial idea, and I remember getting like bright red and like sweating and like just hating it. And so it’s really funny to me now that I’m like, I’m so all in, on entrepreneurship that I’m doing all these other things now.

So it was a very short leap between I need the security and the stability of a company to “I’m going to do it on my own.” Right. 

Jen: So, okay. So that’s a really interesting part of your story right there, because I know we talk on the podcast all the time and I know, cause I’ve heard from all kinds of women out there that have their organizing business, that what’s great about it is that it can be a very flexible, sort of make your own hours.

You know, if you, if you really only have like a part-time, you know, availability right now, it can work for that. It can work in different stages in different seasons of your life. You can take it with you if you move, like it’s, so flexible for so many things. And I do recognize like there’s a lot of women out there that have a side hustle, a lot of women out there who are growing a big company that have a big team.

So. No matter, no matter how somebody wants to make a career out of it. I think that that’s very doable. What I love about your story, and I’ve heard you say this to me privately, if you don’t mind sharing, is that what was different about you? Was that regardless, regardless of if you’ve never been an entrepreneur before you were in it on day one to replace like a, you know, corporate income, like this was not something that was going to be a like, ah, just do it when I have time.

Or like, if it’s a great client, you’re like, ah, I’ve got serious goals, actual like actual, you know, needs, you know, for my family and this, you know, I’m looking to replace what formerly was my corporate career with just organizing clients. And I think that for a lot of people out there who might have, have faced that possible, you know, scenario that they think to themselves, Oh my gosh, can that be done? How can that be done? And you have done it. 

Melissa: I have. 

Jen: Can you speak to what you believe made you successful in getting the business up to that point so quickly for you?

Melissa: Yeah. So I, I think part of it was, you know, if you get thrown in a tank with pirhanas, you’d just better swim. 

Jen: Right. 

Melissa: So I think for me, I just, I went all in and I said, okay, if I’m going to do this. I am really going to do this. And I applied, you know, probably the, I guess this is good and bad, right? Like I worked so many hours in the jobs that I had in these corporations. They were very demanding. They were very stressful. And so I think that I created kind of a work ethic of like, well, yeah, it’s 10 o’clock at night and I still have my laptop on.

Jen: So you’re kind of used to it in a way of what was going on a little bit. 

Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. And so, and I don’t want to scare people like, “oh my gosh, it’s so much work.” That’s not what I’m trying to say. I just was like, I have to go a hundred miles an hour to go make this happen. And what I was very grateful to discover was there was an, there was an audience for what I had to say.

And there was an audience of people who needed my help. And, I, I’m very grateful. I have, my undergraduate degree is in psychology and I have done a lot with, you know, kind of psychology. So I’m not a therapist, but for the record, but I was able to say like, oh my gosh, I am able to merge, you know, that background of clients sometimes need a lot of care and you know, there’s a lot of emotion around organizing.

Plus I have my business background, so I was able to say, okay. What do I need to do from a marketing standpoint and a sales standpoint and how do I get clients and how can I get the word out about this? And part of it was just hustle and I know that hustle can sometimes be a bad word, right? Sometimes. There’s a little bit of backlash against that word, but at the same time, I said, I have to pour my soul into this. And I gave myself, I said, I’m giving myself one year to make it successful. And if I can’t make it successful in that year, I a year to me is, uh, an enough time to say, I can make this work or not, because I think sometimes people don’t give it enough time.

Jen: Right? Sometimes people go like, well, it’s been four weeks and they don’t have any clients. So. Got to give it up. Right. And so then they start to question, like the question, like, is this, is this a viable business? You know, am I, you know, do people like you would not want me, is there something wrong with me?

It’s like, they, they pin it on all kinds of things. But like what you’re saying, sometimes you just have to go and plant those seeds faster until, until they start to come up. And then you’re like, Oh, now I’ve seen that the entire cycle, what it takes for someone to come back around and be ready to commit.

Melissa: And to me it was like four seasons, right? Yeah. They talk about that in relationships. Sometime you should see someone through four seasons before you decide how you feel about them. And I was deciding how I felt about my career and, and I think that that year to me was just the right amount of time.

It wasn’t too little time and it wasn’t too much time. I do think on the flip side, there are people that could go up and trying to make this work for six years any day now it’s going to happen. And, um, but I think what you’re asking is. You know, how did you, how did you get there? And, yeah, my thing was, I didn’t have a choice, but to do it.

And so I would say to people, I don’t care whether it’s a side hustle, a part-time gig, a full-time gig, it doesn’t matter, but just pour your heart and soul into it for the amount of time you can, and you will see the dividends. 

Jen: Well, that’s, that’s really good advice. And I think it’s, you know, good news and bad news for the people of the world who don’t wanna be out on a limb is that sometimes being out on a limb and being, you know, you were, uh, the main breadwinner of your family and it’s like, you know, you don’t, most people don’t want to take that, especially when they’re not naturally entrepreneurial.

Like when you said, when you were standing in front of your class, you’re like, please don’t make me ever do this again. Ever. I don’t want to do that. And people don’t want to take that risk, especially. Actually when that, you know, yeah. It’s like, no, I have, like, this is not just a side business for extra fun money.

Can be, but for you, this was something that was driven from a completely different place. 

So what I really love is that, you know, your, my background or my story of how I came into it and your story, how you came into it are so are, are diverse. And I think it does more accurately represent, of course, that there’s more diverse, um, ways that people, that people make this successful. Um, so I, I really enjoy too that like, yeah, you’re, you’re, you’ve got the Minnesota stuff happening and I’m like a Southern girl, like, so we’re in completely different areas of the country. Um, and that has, that brings a whole new perspective too. So I’m, I’m just, I’m, I’m thrilled that you are my co-host in this venture because I think, you know, the questions that you ask and the, and the tips that you’re drawing out and, and sharing with our audience are going to be, just even more full and, enlightening.

And then there are, people are going to have a lot of questions for you too, about, um, not just the KonMari, but the, you know, you, you made all this work and you did not, you know, build out some huge team. Like it was you doing solo organizing. 

Melissa: Yeah. And that’s the thing. I applaud people who build teams because I just made a decision for me. Let me back up and just say, I. What I love about this business and this industry is you can make it whatever you want. So if I had wanted to have a team of 10 people, I could have built that. And I applaud the people who do do that. Um, for me, I just like being a sole operator. I like being solo. I like being able to do what works for me on the days that works for me.

I like not having to rely on other people all the time. So it’s just, that’s what worked for me. And that’s how I grew my business. But I love that we can have every single thing from me by myself to a huge team of people, all existing in the same industry and all thriving. 

Jen: So totally. So let me ask you this, in your, in your, in your business journey so far, can you share like just a favorite client moment that you have had that you really felt like, wow, I am, you really felt that your impact was like, it was there and he could see it. 

Melissa: Yeah. So I have one that I always come back to. Like, I have so many client stories. Like I could probably do like an entire podcast just of my awesome client stories. Because I really like that’s one of the things I love most about this business is I have met some truly amazing people and I am grateful that they share.

So much with me, you know, like our clients get very close with us very quickly. And, so I have a ton of client stories, but one of my absolute favorites hands down, she was one of my very first clients. And she didn’t know that she was one of my very first clients, which is another thing I love about this industry is you can start a business and like just get clients right out of the gate without very much experience.

But she was one of my very first clients and she is an amazing woman. She is a single mom to a great kid. And she really just felt like, like so many of our clients, her house was just kind of in control of her versus her being in control of her house. And the first few times I went there, she was really struggling with this process and struggling with, you know, saying goodbye to things and really thinking about what did she want her house to look like?

And what did she want her life to look like and struggling with some feelings of, um, you know, like all clients do guilt and shame and all sorts of things. And, but as we work together, I was able to see it happen every time that I went there, she was a different person. And so, you know, the first time I went there, it was, it was very challenging for her.

Then the second time it was a little less challenging and a little less challenging. And then it went from me talking about, “hey, here’s what we’re going to do today” to her saying, “here’s what I want to do today.” And I want to do this and this and this, and I really want to get this playroom done. And I, and really kind of taking charge of her own house, which is actually awesome.

So we’d spent a lot of time together, many months getting her house in order. And, um, it was a couple months after we had gotten done working together and she had a very similar experience to me that very unexpectedly found herself without a job. And she told me that if that had happened, before we started working together that it would have just devastated her and that she wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed and she wouldn’t have been able to handle it, but because she felt like I was in control of my house and I was in control of my life that this was not a devastating experience for me.

And what she ended up doing, which I love is, she decided to start her own business as well. So she took it as her metamorphosis and took it as her sign that she needed to start something. So she started a very successful business of her own. And it was just one of those things that you say, like everything came full circle.

And that’s incredible. It is just one of those stories. And I don’t want to say a whole lot more because I don’t want to violate any of her privacy, but it just, she is still to this day, someone that I keep in touch with, and I just absolutely adore her, but I love the fact that all you have to do sometimes is organized your flipping house, just declutter and organize your house and let go of the things you don’t need anymore. And it truly turns you into a new person. And I absolutely love that we’re able to provide that for people. So I don’t care if you’re just organizing your closet or if you’re just, you know, doing your garage, you can have one little project in your house that can really change your whole outlook on your house. And that’s why I love it. 

Jen: Gosh, that is incredibly inspiring and, you know, inspired, inspiring, and inspired, or some of my favorite words. You know, it really embodies like, you know, with the Inspired Organizer program, it’s like, we’re, you’re doing this because you, you want to, you know, we’re giving a lot, but, but feeling, feeling that impact and really helping others, like that’s like what we’re in this for and like creating a business that. It works for you in order to do, in order to do that is just incredible. 

Melissa: So. I feel like the greatest, well, I think I’ve, I feel like I’ve probably said like 10 times, “this is the greatest thing about being an organizer,” but I really, I truly, I feel like it, there are very few industries and because I have had so many roles at other companies, I never felt like I was contributing anything that was like changing anyone’s life. Right? Like I did things that helped people do their jobs better. Or I did things that were good for customers or whatever. It’s not to say I didn’t impact anyone, but like now being able to say one, I can write my own ticket and I can take time off when I need to. And I can, you know, this year has been a little bit of a weird year.

I was able to pivot with that too. Um, But I’m also able to genuinely change people’s lives. And to have people say the work that we did together was so important to my life. And maybe they found a new job, or maybe they decided that a relationship wasn’t for them, or maybe they decided they just needed less shoes, or they were going to spend less money on who knows why it doesn’t matter.

Like there are so many outcomes that people can have, so it fulfills me, but it also fulfills them. And that’s why I love it. So. 

Jen: Well, I am incredibly grateful that you shared that. I know our listeners are too. So as the new, not only co-host of this podcast, but program director for Pro Organizer Studio, when I think about it, and I hope that you hear this is the ideas and the directions that I know, like organizers want to continue growing in terms of their business education, the, the, you know, potential new programs in development in order to help meet those goals so that they can better do what you just said. Said that you did for that person, like so that they can better find those great clients that they are like, Hey, I’m, I’m in my zone of genius.

This person is being completely changed. 

And then thinking about how that impact radiates to their families, their children, their coworkers, it’s like. You know, organizers everywhere. I hope recognized like that chain, like that chain of happy, that starts to happen, like when they feel freer from their stuff.

So I, I really appreciate that you are, joining me in the, you know, in the, in the mission of creating more business resources. In order to help organizers do that. Like, I can’t think of a better summary of like what, I mean, you know, we can hear it, like we can hear in your, in your career, in your career path that like you are very clearly qualified and bring so much to the table that I know is going to help, like continue, continue our mission and really positive direction.

But we’re mainly just excited that we got this awesome introduction into you and who you are, through the episode today. Thank you. 

Melissa: Yeah, we have so much good stuff coming up. And again, it does not matter whether this is your full-time part-time side hustle. Just contemplating it. We are going to have resources for you in whatever season of your business you are.

Jen: I love that I am so excited. I cannot wait until we can share more details about that, but for now. So, Melissa, we never mentioned that, um, that your, your, your organizing business is Home By Eleven. Can you please tell people where they can follow you at Home By Eleven? 

Melissa: Yes. So my Instagram is and 11 is spelled out.

And then I’m on Facebook as Home By Eleven Professional Organizer. And you can find me online at Home By Eleven. And again, eleven’s all spelled out. 

Jen: So. Absolutely love it, Melissa. Thank you so much for, for sharing your story today. And I cannot wait to start, start getting all those, brand new content that we have been working on out for this fall, getting people ready for the new year, which is like right around the corner.

I know we’ll be super ready to dust off 2020 and like embrace it. Embrace the joy of, 2021. So, um, thank you again for coming on today and we will talk to you guys next week. Thank you. 

You so much for listening in to the Pro Organizer Studio podcast. If you’d like to get our roadmap for success as a pro organizer, head straight to

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Photos of jen by ANGELA ZION