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[Ypsilanti] Professional organizers help charity

By Marsha Johnson Chartrand, Heritage Newspapers

Local chapter donates time to SOS

Community Services

Who hasn’t watched one of those "makeover" shows on television and wished that it could be their own place that got a slick new look — usually including some great ideas to better organize the home or office.

Professional organizers from the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers donated their time last Thursday and Friday to help SOS Community Services organize a supply room, food pantry and staff person’s office.

In addition, the group helped design a plan to organize a records retention room.

These somewhat daunting tasks were tackled with enthusiasm and efficiency by Betty Huotari of Fenton, Logical Placement; Sara Bassett of Freedom Township, Organizing Concepts; Alana Martin of Ann Arbor, Winged Pig; Sherri Traylor of Novi, Ideal Organizing Solutions; and Debbie Tebbe of St. Clair Shores, Organized Happy Helper.

GO (Get Organized) Month is an annual event in January to raise awareness about professional organizing in residences, home offices and commercial settings. SOS Community Services provides food distribution, housing and other assistance in Washtenaw County.

Professional organizers can help residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations de-clutter their homes, workspaces and even their computer files.

"There’s a variety of things professional organizers do," said Bassett. "It ranges from residential work to home offices to huge commercial businesses — and from paper management to organizing their computer files."

At SOS, the group explored low cost solutions to equipment, storage and records retention problems by establishing priorities, then forming a plan to create a rotation that maintains order as new records enter and expired records are removed, according to Rick Katon, Administrative Services Supervisor.

Bassett added that people often feel stressed and overwhelmed when disorganization surrounds them.

"Paper is a huge contributor to clutter," she says. "I think that’s probably why I became a professional organizer — I can relate to that feeling in my own home."

The services of a professional organizer often can help people function better, whether in their home or their business surroundings.

"They feel more control over their lives and this can help to reduce their stress," she adds.

Often, when people first hear of a professional organizer, they think of someone coming in to put everything away.

"It’s not really like that," Bassett explains. "It’s to help people function better — the ‘organization’ may even be somewhat messy, depending on that person’s own style.

"It’s not real dictatorial — we help them decide what method works best for them."

Bassett said that during "GO" month, professional organizers try to benefit the community by donating their time to a charitable organization, while raising awareness of their own skills.

"I thought of SOS because I spent several years volunteering for the organization," she said. "I really wanted to help them out."

SOS human resources associate Michael Waite said, "Sara offered several suggestions on how to organize and maintain a filing system with three color-coded sections. The task of filing the rest of my papers is much easier, thanks to Sara. She also offered to follow-up on my progress at a later date."

Bassett said the project went well, creating more space for SOS by consolidating items and clearing some floor space.

"I think it will help them to function and work a lot better, find things more easily and retrieve them when they are needed," she said. "And it was great working with them; they have wonderful staff people over there."

Bassett said that the labeled system the group of professional organizers developed for the SOS office should be a workable solution.

"A lot of times, just setting up a system will help people be able to follow through with it," she said. "They’re not going back for maintenance all the time.

Marcos Anders, Director of Human Resources for SOS, said he was impressed by the time and effort involved in the project, and agreed that it would be easy to maintain.

"I was especially pleased with their approach," he said. "First, they made a conscious effort to understand the diverse needs we had and second, they got a feel for the personal work style that people have.

"Rather than imposing a ‘perfect’ organizing system from the outside they helped create systems that were logical but easy to maintain."

Jacque Dusseau, SOS Volunteer Resources Coordinator, said, "These projects will have a lasting impact on the services we provide to homeless consumers. We are truly grateful for the professional skill and expertise in helping our agency to run more efficiently."

More information about professional organizers in the Southeastern Michigan Chapter can be found at www.napomichigan.com. To learn how SOS Community Services supports those in need in Washtenaw County, go to www.soscs.org.