Second Career – Home Organizer! by
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Prompted By Get Organized

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Second Career – Home Organizer!

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 after retirement organizing would actually become my second career.

My first career – my real 30 year career – was spent as a high school librarian.  Over the years I ran several school libraries,   started one from scratch,  and lived through the technology era that revolutionized how libraries functioned.  (See My Snowy Year in BuffaloThe Diary of a Young Girl,  Library Lesson,  Magazines for the Principal and Shelf List)

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 its strictest sense.

And of course all those years in schools I loved working with the kids,  but as much as I loved being in the library world,  when the time came to retire I was ready to hang up my keys.

But I knew I wanted to I keep busy and I joined the board of Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, a youth advocacy organization.  (See Good Causes)

And I played more tennis,  went to Wednesday matinees,  lunched with friends, and even planted a garden.  (See Tennis Woes and Wisdom in the Weeds)

But I still had a lot of time on my hands,  too much it seemed. And then one day I was speaking to my friend Babs who was still working as a busy lawyer while caring for an aging parent and trying to find time for her many interests.   She said she and her husband had too much stuff they no longer needed –   clothes,  linens,  books,  sports equipment,  kitchen gadgets,  and things their kids had left behind.

They wanted to declutter,  but didn’t have the time or know where to begin,  and knowing I’m an organized type Babs asked me to help.  I did,  and found it so rewarding I decided to make home organizing my second career.

I founded Rooms for Improvement,  built a website,  joined a trade association of fellow organizers,  and told friends to spread the word that I was now a home organizer.

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

One client showed me where he kept his pornography,  another where she kept her mother’s ashes.  And my elderly client Judith wanted help going through boxes of old photos and memorabilia.  In one box we found a packet of love letters an old beau had written to her over 60 years ago.  Delighted to have rediscovered them,  she asked me to listen to her read  them aloud.

I knew helping people get organized would be very satisfying –  but hearing Judith’s happy voice as she read those old love letters was an unexpected delight!

– 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!

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Tags: Organizing, Libraries


  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.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Still a wonderful story, Dana. But like Marie Kondo, do you encourage people to throw away anything that does not “bring them joy”?

  7. Dana:
    Your support is so necessary for us retired folk. We have a house keeper who comes once a month. Fortunately, she has some of your skills. We have funneled through many boxes, filled large garbage bags, and shared my history.

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