These books really stack up

Another post about books? Yup.

I love books. I read books. I love flipping through their pages.

I’ve made books. I’m credited in books. I’ve been encouraged to write a book.

I have friends who work with books for a living as librarians, teachers, editors, conservators, and booksellers.

I wish I knew how many books I’ve handled physically as an organizer, and how many pounds of books have been loaded to my car and delivered to donation centers.

Once a client mused about reshelving her books by the colors of their spines and had her personal assistant do it. Spines say a lot. When waiting for someone to return to a room in which I’ve been left alone, I’m drawn to whatever books are on the shelves, seeking a common interest, a familiar title, or an addition to my future reading list.

I’m grateful nobody has ever asked me to shelve books backward as was (and may still be) a trend of sorts in minimalist monochromatic interior design and organizing. That said, I’m grateful I once made a date with myself to go view 3,500 books stacked against a wall in this fashion: all fore edges facing out. Continue reading

Before, DURING, and after

I know this sounds harsh and will rub many people the wrong way but it’s a truth: I hate before and after photos. Why? They are kind of boring and formulaic. They show someone is capable of cleaning up and making things look nice. Absent are context, process, and transformative learning moments for clients that often occur between points A and B.

To be clear, ninety-five percent of the work I do is done with and not for my clients. Getting organized and being organized looks and means something different for each of them, and the beginning and end looks incredibly different from one to the next. For the vast majority, it’s not about making every nook and cranny of their home photo shoot-ready for a magazine spread. The most powerful and lasting changes are more invisible and internal.

I do take photos while working and always ask permission; however, I’m drawn to capturing the more offbeat in between moments. Documenting from beginning to end is seldom a priority. There are always exceptions, and that’s what this post is about.

In correspondence prior to beginning the project that follows, the client’s spouse mentioned that it might make a good before/after. It’s common for clients to get excited and start an ambitious project only to become overwhelmed and let the momentum fizzle while defeat takes over. I took a few photos in the beginning just in case. I’m glad I did. The results surpassed expectations.

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A basement full of books

Goodwill book donation signThe lure of the current occupant of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in San Francisco brought me back for my third visit in a year-and-a-half. Here I was, again, at the processing facility for Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties. The more I learn about the incredible ways this organization is serving the community at large, the more I want to help them shout it from the rooftop.

This time the majority of my visit was as far from the roof as you could get. There in the basement – once the restroom, locker room, and shower for the plant workers – lives the department of e-commerce. What brought me here was books, and a desire to explore another piece of the recycling puzzle. (Read about my previous visit when I explored and documented textile recycling at this facility.) For here is a place where you can recycle encyclopedias, textbooks, novels, dictionaries, how-to books…you name it! Continue reading