I had the honor to coordinate a volunteer project recently for a disabled Veteran, his service dog Patrick, and his new partner Lisa and her two children.  When my colleague, Linda Blick, co-founder of Tails of Hope Foundation, asked me to lend a hand, I said I’d be happy to lend a hand and give a little time.

Then I met him, Veteran David Kist, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, respect, compassion and a desire to give back a lot took over my body, mind and spirit. Maybe I had a preconceived image in my head of what a Veteran looks like… an older gentleman wearing a cap with an American flag, maybe even in a wheelchair. David was younger than me, sprite, grateful, appreciative, open to help and an awesome hugger. I was hooked as a volunteer.

When his girlfriend Lisa showed me around his new home and her existing home during our organizing assessment, I knew even one full day organizing from me wasn’t going to make that much of a dent in the disorganization which I attributed to “transitional chaos” including botched and unfinished construction projects, a new family member, a new pet, two growing children, a recent divorce, a full-time working mom, health and disability challenges etc. The list goes on, we all know how tough it can be to find the time, physical strength and mental mindset to power through organizational challenges.

So, as I was accepting the reality and severity of their daily disorder, I decided to ask humbly for help and just sent out a white flag email to my database believing that the right people would come on board. And they did, a couple dozen of them ready to lend a hand or a donation in this big scope of project.

It was a full Saturday from 9-5 in Veteran David’s house where I lead a team of 6 other professional organizers, a contractor, a junk removal company, a restoration company and lots of friends, family and neighbors who all wanted to give back to this one man who gave selfishly to our country.

We had two goals for the day. The first one was to collect all the clothes (and there were many, many clothes) from all over the house and build two closets in the basement as well as to create an off-season system of shelving and bins. This was a huge endeavor because there was a tremendous amount of “clutter” that needed to be gone through just to get to the newly designated closet area in the basement.

This is the “before” area of the closet built by JM’s husband, son and daughter’s boyfriend.

This is the after area of the basement. Jean Marie’s lead organizer, Linda Gabler, whips the clothing into perfectly containerized categories. Not one article of clothing escaped her sorting, hanging or containerizing and labeling!

The second goal was to find a good home for David’s prized possessions; his baseball cards. And for each piece of clothing Lisa and the children owned, David had a baseball card! When we arrived, all the cards were sitting in a gutted bathroom which needs to be renovated… by the end of the day they were carefully transported to the basement after an entire wall (including pegboard) was designed and built so David can sit and truly treasure his treasures.

This is the “Before and After” of what is bound to be the Future David Room starting with his new Baseball Card Wall…

Jean Marie’s neighbor and awesome contractor, David Heitman of Ramapo Renovations did everything from securing beams, to closets, to rehanging doors to curtains to the baseball wall…

While these two major projects were taking place, there were other organizational miracles happening…

Professional Organizer Carrie Cooper and her daughter Natalie were “working the lawn” helping Lisa decide if the item was a, “Toss, Donate, Recycle or Keep”

Professional Organizer Stacey Agin Murray was in Toyland, Paramus, NJ as she was in charge of swapping out a dining room for the new playroom area…

Professional Organizer Ann Bishop literally created a Home Office Hallway in this house that didn’t have one paper process in place and even donated a desk, hutch and filing cabinet from her own house! Above is the “before.”

And here is the Home Office Hallway “After.”

Professional Organizer Eileen Moynahan never left the kitchen as she organized Craft Central, an integral part of the kitchen so mom Lisa and daughter London can always have craft time together.

Professional Organizer Linda English totally maximized the Master Bedroom Closet space utilizing her own client’s donations of two 7’ shelving units

Besides people donating their time and talent, we had some wonderful companies partake too.

The co-owners Derek and Alex of Sir Junk, as well as Derek’s son Sam, were a huge help in the de-cluttering of this home. They even made two separate pickups for us.

We then only had to leave about 30 contractor bags of bulk garage at curbside for the town to pick up! I was given special permission to leave the garbage out until the town-wide pick up so our homeowners would not incur a summons.

My colleague and friend Karen Centauro not only donated garbage liners, masks, gloves and boxes from ServPro of Northwest Bergen County, but even came to help with her daughter Alexa.

So sorry that I don’t have a photo of my colleague Mike Mehos from Skyway Technologies because he was the Flat Screen TV King all day!

I would be remiss not to thank the many other people who donated time, organizing products, cash and gift cards that helped me to purchase closet supplies, shelving, bins and other organizing supplies. The generosity from my one email was ASTOUNDING.

Now I know what it feels like to be on an HGTV show and say, “Welcome Home”. It’s pretty special.


One More Time

There will be a second follow-up volunteer event that I will be coordinating with the Scouts and the Northern New Jersey Chapter of NAPO. Another one of our incredible donations is from Deb Stone of NEAT Storage Designs. They have donated a garage system like the one here: http://www.neatstoragedesigns.com/. I will train the Scouts on my organizing recipe SSPOE and then with the help of other professional organizers we will declutter the garage and attic for Veteran David and his family.