Second Career by
50
(84 Stories)

Prompted By Get Organized

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I must admit I take little pride in my culinary skills,  am not a fashionista,  and may not be up on pop culture or as knowledgeable as I should be on world events,  but one thing I am is organized!,   Yet over the years little did I know that organizing would actually become my second career!

My first career – my real 30 year career – was spent as a school librarian.  Over the years I ran several school libraries,   started one from scratch,  and lived through the technology revolution when the old card catalog – the wooden one we remember with all the little drawers – became a thing of the past.  (See The Diary of a Young Girl,  Library Lesson and Magazines for the Principal )

And the truth is when I was in library school the course that my classmates found dry,  but I found to be most exciting,  was cataloging.  In library parlance that means putting books in their proper classifications by subject – organizing in it’s strictest sense.

Actually in the past when librarians ordered books from book vendors,  they came pre-cataloged,  each labeled with it’s proper classification number,  and accompanied by a set of catalog cards  – author, title, and subject/s –  ready to be filed into the card catalog.  And then when library catalogs became online servers,  those paper catalog cards were replaced with computer disks.

Yet in both those cases,  I often tweaked the classifications,  re-organizing them to better match the school’s curriculum and class assignments.

I loved my years working in libraries,  but when the time came to retire I was ready to hang up my keys.  I joined the board of a literacy advocacy group,   played more tennis,  went to Wednesday matinees,  and lunched with friends.   But I still had a lot of free time.

Then one day I was having coffee with my friend Barbara who was still working as a busy lawyer while caring for an aging parent and trying nevertheless to find time for her many interests.   She complained that she  and her husband had too much stuff,  much they no longer used or needed –   clothes,  linens,  books,  papers,  photos,  files,  sports equipment,  kitchen gadgets,  things their kids had left behind,  and more.  They knew they wanted less clutter and more breathing room in their apartment,  but they didn’t have the time nor did they know where to begin.

Knowing  I was an organized type,  Barbara asked for my help.   Of course I said yes,  and I so enjoyed helping her and found it so rewarding,  I decided to make home organizing my second career..

I founded my company ROOMS FOR IMPROVEMENT,  created a website,  joined a trade association of fellow organizers,  and told friends to spread the word.

And I soon discovered that when people let you into their homes,  they often let you into their lives.   Once I had gained my clients’ trust,  they would share their stories,  their memories,  their guilty pleasures,  dare I say even some of their family secrets.

My elderly client Judy wanted help going through boxes and boxes  of old photos and memorabilia.   In one we found a packet of love letters an old beau had written to her over 60 years ago.  Judy asked me to listen as one by one she read them aloud.

So this new year resolve to get organized and declutter your own space,  you may be surprised by what you find!

Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!
www.WorldThruBrownEyes.com

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Tags: Organizing, Libraries

Comments

  1. When can you come over?

    I actually did a little online search for organizers in my area. I have a fantasy of someone standing there handing me one thing after another as I quickly and without too much sentiment decide whether to save it, donate it, or toss it. I truly admire your skills and I think it’s very satisfying to keep things organized. After all, it’s one of the few things we CAN control. At least most of my memorabilia is in plastic bins. I think for now I’ll just label them. Maybe I’ll use the Dewey decimal system. And by the way, I love the name of your business!

    • Thanx Barbara, the name for my biz came to me in a flash!

      Were we not on different coasts (you are in California, yes?) I’d be delighted to come help you organize your stuff a bit,
      and would love to see your art work!
      Keep those creative juices flowing!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    A born organizer – it’s great that you’ve made two careers out this trait, Dana!

  3. Suzy says:

    This is great, Dana, good for you for making a second career out of something you love to do! I just checked out your website and read the testimonials from your clients. Sounds like you are the perfect person to organize my house! I do have lots of old letters, which I would never throw away; I love reading them over again every few years. But probably a lot of the other stuff could go. (Don’t ever tell my daughter that I admitted that!)

  4. Of course keep the letters Suzy, but as you said yourself, some of the other stuff could go and I won’t tell your daughter!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Dana, I need you! Too bad you don’t live in Chicago. An empathic organizer is a wonderful thing. When we had to move my mother into a senior living facility, we found a group of women in Detroit who called themselves (I think) Gentle Movers. One took care of the actual move and where to put things. I’m not sure what the second woman’s role was, but she took photos of my mother’s condo before the move. The third woman was a social worker who sat with my mother and me for hours asking her what various things meant to her, what she must keep, and what were things didn’t “spark joy” and could be discarded. To be a good organizer for someone else, you need to be a caring and patient listener. Thank you for being that person.

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