Imagine you must leave your home and fear for your life. You are thrust into living in a 10-foot-by-10-foot room shared with three strangers. How would you manage your space and possessions?
I was recently asked to consider lending my expertise as a professional organizer specializing in closet design to improve the closet system at a women’s shelter. Since the summer is a busy time for my business, I was hesitant at first. But I could not refuse this request, and it turned out to be a worthy cause.
I met with two employees of SARC, a shelter providing services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking. They described in detail what I was to expect when entering the rooms to measure the closets. Although it is preferable that clients keep their rooms tidy, it was not something that the shelter enforced.
Many of the women come from controlling, stressful environments, and shelter workers want to provide relief from this. Most of the rooms were in good shape, though one in particular was disorganized and cluttered, making it difficult to get to the closet to take precise measurements. I entered each room and quickly and quietly took the necessary measurements for my design.
The closets themselves are rather small and are usually shared by up to four women or children. I came up with the most functional design possible, giving each occupant her own hanging space and cubbies for folded clothes and accessories. To make the project affordable, I donated my portion of the fee to the shelter and asked Mark Loewner, owner of Closet Innovations, to consider giving a further discount. Thanks to our combined discounts and with the help of some funding, the shelter was able to afford the closets.
I walked away with the utmost admiration for both the staff, which provides a safe environment free from abuse and fear, and the women who seek shelter. Their attempt to leave abusive relationships and thus provide a better life for themselves and their families is commendable. It feels good to know that the closets I have designed will improve the lives of these women, if only in a small way. The work we do as professional organizers helps many of our clients take control of their lives, one drawer, one shelf, one closet, one room, one step at a time.
My profession, like many, is specific and specialized, such that I often contemplate how I can utilize my skills to benefit our community and its many needs. Walking out into the brightness of the summer sun after spending a day inside darkened rooms with women fearing for their lives, I realized that sometimes even the most specific professionals have the capacity to create light and hope in the lives of fellow community members.
With the High Holidays quickly approaching, I challenge you to use your professional expertise to benefit our community. I promise that you will be the one whose soul truly benefits from this experience.
Nadine Sachs, owner of Organized2Succeed, is a professional organizer and custom-closet designer. She serves as programs director for the National Association of Professional Organizers-Baltimore.