Who thought organizing could be hazardous? I certainly didn’t. Over the years of working with clients, I have experienced a few unsafe situations and want to share some strategies to keep you and your clients safe when decluttering and organizing.
Safety Points for the Professional Organizer
The safety points below are from Debbie Stanley’s book titled Let Me Show You the Basement. The title is based on an experience that she had with a client who she names Mr. Creepy.
- Take a self-defense class to prepare you for the event of a personal attack.
- Use a separate phone number for your business.
- Have a post office box for your business address. There’s no reason why your clients should be able to have access to you personally by phone or physical address.
- Familiarize yourself with the client’s location.
- Have your cell phone turned on, and on your body, not in your work bag.
- Be able to leave your work bag and purse. Whatever you have in your bag or your purse, you need to be okay to leave behind should you need to. Be sure your address is not on something you might leave behind.
- Wear clothing and close-toed shoes that you can quickly run in should you need to make a hasty retreat.
- Always let someone know where you are. You can do this by sharing your calendar either online or leaving a paper copy at your home office. That’s particularly important for professional organizers who live alone. Should you go missing, it is going be very helpful if there is some type of a trail to start with, and having your calendar visible and accessible is one way to do that.
- Leave something by the entry door.
- Always walk behind your client and locate exits.
- Do not reveal too much personal information.
- Do not accept food or beverages from clients unless you know and trust them well.
- Carry dog treats to ward off aggressive domestic dogs.
- Do not wear excessive jewelry.
- Consider wearing your hair up if it is long.
- Keep your hands free and above your waist.
- Last, but most importantly, trust your instincts. If you have ever trusted your gut to be a barometer for dangerous situations, then that’s something that you should believe in interacting with clients as well. Gavin de Becker, who wrote the book The Gift of Fear, says, “Intuition is knowing without knowing why.” It’s that feeling, and if you get that feeling, then it might be best to say no to that particular client opportunity.
Safety Points for You and Your Client
- Know your and your client’s physical limitations when lifting, reaching, bending, and climbing stairs. Don’t exceed your limitations, no matter how hard someone pushes, and don’t push your client to exceed theirs.
- Eat something and take any medications you need before a client session and instruct your client to do the same. Clients frequently ask me, “What should I do to prepare?” One of the tasks I have clients do to prepare is to eat something and take their medications before our session.
- Every forty-five minutes to an hour, take a break by getting up and stretching. Get something to drink and get some fresh air, and have your client do the same.
- Have a first aid kit in your work bag and onsite with you. If you have any type of medical condition that requires you to have access to medications, have those in your first aid kit.
- Keep the area clear of tripping hazards. I cannot say this enough. I have seen clients trip, and I have tripped. It is so easy to do in the organizing process because things are in motion constantly.
- Wear protective clothing. I do not suggest that you show up at a client session all suited up in a hazmat suit when the environment doesn’t warrant that. You want to be respectful. If you are dust sensitive, simply inform your client you are going to wear a mask because you are sensitive to dust. And you might offer them a dust mask as well.
Speaking of Personal Protective Gear
The following are suggested protective gear for working with clients:
- Disposable shoe covers. In case you do need to stomp on a cockroach!
- A dust mask or higher grade, depending on the environment and the hazards that are presented
- A flashlight because sometimes you can’t see what is behind things, and a flashlight will illuminate those areas
- Gloves—latex gloves, as I mentioned. Also have heavier work gloves, such as garden gloves.
- Goggles—It can seem funny wearing goggles, but sometimes you get in environments where there is dust flying around that you don’t want to get in your eyes
- Hand sanitizer to help in any situation
- A hat, such as a baseball cap or something like that, for areas with cobwebs and spiders. When you are in a basement or attic area, you don’t know what’s creeping around above your head.
- Most situations that we work in do not warrant a hazmat suit, but sometimes having painter coveralls to slip on to protect your clothing is a good idea
- Insect repellant that is DEET-based
- Benadryl, if you might be allergic to insect bites
- An inhaler if you have asthma
What other safety strategies can you offer? Please post below.