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Saturday, January 28, 2023
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Writing this column has made me realize I am a storyteller by nature. Each of my clients has a fascinating story and sometimes as I work with them, I live out a story worth telling. I like to share the heartwarming stories, the funny stories and in this case, the empowering ones.

Recently I was helping a beloved client declutter her husband’s office. The room, which was a good size, had become a storehouse for bookshelves, outdated office equipment and a large, impressive desk. There was also a sofa bed which she told me was comfortable, but was covered with too many books and papers to use as a couch or a bed. My mission—and yes, I decided to accept it—was to transform the office into a den/guest room. The closet, which had been expertly fitted with grid shelving to hold office supplies, binders, boxes of copy paper and all things related to a home office, was quickly reorganized. I took everything off of the sofa bed and together we decided to toss, keep or donate each item. Once the sofa bed was clear, we celebrated by sitting on it. I said, “This is your couch. Use it and enjoy it daily. Don’t wait until you have a guest.”

Next, we took inventory of the technology in the room, apparently from several different decades. To begin with, there was a full-sized computer on the desk. Next to the desk was a small bookcase that stood in front of more bookcases lining the wall. Perched atop this bookcase was a printer too long for its base. Walking space was taken up by two more machines. Too bulky to place on the room’s furniture, a second printer (very large and old) sat on the floor along with a photo printer. A real tripping hazard. Can’t get these out of the room too soon!

My client, eager to do just that, had recently offered some workmen any of the machines. One of them said he would like the smaller printer and the computer, but he couldn’t pick them up for two or three weeks. This kind of situation happens frequently. The client and the organizer have a timeline when they want or need to be rid of something, yet the beneficiary has a totally different time frame. The wait to get the item out of the room can be excruciating. If a client believes, as I do, that it is better to give away working items than to throw them on the landfill, we just hang in there. If the client is happy to trash it, I don’t argue and I arrange for its disposal. Either way we breathe a huge sigh of relief when it is picked up.

We turned our attention to the photo printer. The future owner of this printer would be given a generous amount of photography paper as well as other related accessories. Not too shabby! Since printing your own pictures is less popular these days, I thought it might be difficult to find it a new home. I posted it on my community chat, and almost immediately a young woman starting her own photography business claimed it. What a perfect match!

The last item was the dinosaur of a printer. No one on my neighborhood chat responded to my offer of a free printer/copy machine. Since it looked like this printer was destined for a landfill and my town was having its bi-yearly bulk pickup the next day, I said I would take it home and put it at my curb. No small feat for two petite women to get it from this room, through the hall, down a flight of stairs, another hall, out the door, down a long sidewalk and into my car. Would we be able to do this? What’s the worst that could happen? Probably that it would remain somewhere in my client’s home with no identifiable person to pick it up and take it away. That would be pretty bad.

I felt a deep responsibility to succeed. I placed the machine on a thick piece of cardboard and dragged it. As I dragged, my client pushed, and it did not feel heavy. We reached the stairway. It was wide with about seven stairs, a landing with a turning and then another six stairs. I realized if I kept it on the cardboard it might slip in the wrong direction and nick the walls, or I might lose control and it would come down heavily on me. I held the machine from the bottom as I slowly went down one leg at a time and one step at a time. I got to the small landing. My client asked if I wanted to stop. I replied that I absolutely was not going to leave the copy machine on her landing. Thank God, we made it down without scratching the wall.

We had to change our methods for the long hallway leading out the front door. My client remembered she had a small dolly. This dolly was actually too narrow to hold the copy machine, but we ignored this and carried on. We ever-so-carefully lifted the machine onto the dolly. There we both were, hunched over while holding the machine as firmly as we could to keep it from slipping, taking baby steps down the hall, stopping at the front doorway to gently coax the teamed-up dolly and printer downward without separating them. They did separate. We stopped to catch our breath. Although when I was dragging the printer on the cardboard it did not feel heavy, at this point it certainly did. I looked around the parking lot for a strong-looking individual to help. There was not a soul. We continued moving in our hunched-over manner. Mouthing a prayer and concentrating not to hurt my back, I lifted the machine into my hatchback. It was at this moment that a group of people, including two young, sturdy men, stepped out of a nearby townhouse. These were the people I was looking for just a few minutes before.

Instead of saying, “What? Now you come out! What lousy timing!” I said, “We did it! We put our minds to moving this thing to my car and Baruch Hashem, we got it done. Not only that, we didn’t hurt ourselves in the process.” What a feeling of empowerment we both shared! The closest I can compare this feeling to was the time I completed a ropes course with my family. After doing our happy dance, we filled my car with donations.

My next stop was Green Drop, a donation center. There are a number of reasons I like bringing donations here: They are located close by in Metuchen and the always-friendly employees come out with a cart and take everything out of my car. What a great business model! It hit me that this could be a better place to dispose of the printer than my curb. Although it had seemed like a great plan to add it to my own bulk pickup, the thought of bringing it home and asking my husband to lift and carry it made me reevaluate. It was worth asking if Green Drop accepts old printers. Without hesitation, the employee said yes. I can still picture the back of the young man wheeling away the bulky machine in his cart. In my mind I did another happy dance, as once again that day, I felt empowered.

When you are facing a difficult challenge and you feel unsure, don’t throw in the towel before you begin. Make a plan; be confident that you have it in you to at least begin the task. You will feel your strength grow. That’s empowerment!

If you are interested in giving the gift of organization this Chanukah, please contact me. Happy Chanukah!


Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” See her work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected]

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