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Professional Organizer Fulfills a Mission

Carol Jensen

by Mary Campagna

For Carol Jensen, 62, divorce was really a new beginning. She had followed her ex-husband around the country while he pursued his career as a Lutheran minister; moving twenty times over the last six decades.  But when she came to Roanoke in 1998, she knew she was home.

“By the time I got to Roanoke, I had a Special Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and I’d honed some marketable skills,” Jensen said. A mother of twins, her son and daughter were grown and she wanted to utilize her talents.

She had been a Special Education teacher at an elementary school in St. Louis, Missouri, Director of The Senior Services Center in Glen Ellen, Illinois, as well as a school health aide – all in addition to excelling in her responsibilities as a full-time mom and an active minister’s wife.

“When I came to Roanoke, I found it hard to re-invent myself,” Jensen said. “I did some work in the schools that I enjoyed and even worked weekends in an upscale gift shop, but I really wanted to start a business of my own.”

Jensen began to realize that her best talent lay directly before her. Her many moves; including the sale of the house that she and her ex-husband owned in Hunting Hills had prepared her for organizing and packing up a large household in no time flat and for turning a complex ordeal into a seamless, relatively stress free adventure.

“I was inspired by the book, Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring, by Michael A. Tompkins and Tamara L. Hartl,” Jensen said. “The book emphasizes the fact that there’s usually some trauma in an individual’s life that gets the ‘over-accumulation’ of things started, and forgiveness is required; but I also knew that my Special Education degree gave me the ability to individualize, in terms of the needs and challenges of my clients.”

Since her epiphany, Jensen founded Jensen Services, LLC. She has packed up entire estates for elderly clients and families that are moving due to a life change; she has dealt with clients whose collections and acquired possessions have mushroomed out of control; clients who have trouble focusing and can’t find their checkbooks, much less their tax preparation papers; and clients who just want to improve their quality of life by creating a more organized, simplified environment in their homes or offices.

“I color code to help my ADD or ADHD clients,” Jensen said, “but really, that just makes sense, whether you have difficulty focusing, or not.”

Jensen even color codes at her own home, using red tabbed file folders for clients, black for business, and pink for personals.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have taken hundreds of classes sponsored by The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) and I am also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO),” Jensen said. “I learned to carry a laptop that will produce a spreadsheet containing identification of items, combined with organizational codes; and I also use lots of three-ring binders.”

Keeping a calendar and writing down everything are two of Jensen’s keys to success. She says that keeping a ‘to-do’ list is not enough unless the list is tied to a calendar.

“I’m a minimalist,” Jensen said, “I don’t think that new cabinets and space savers do much good if clients have no place to store them, so we begin by choosing the items that are most loved and used, and saying good-bye to the rest.”

Some clients find saying good-by to things extremely hard.

“I’ve been able to use my skills as a Special Education teacher and mother of twins to help clients calm down and focus,” Jensen said. “Sometimes there are panic attacks, so I let clients know that everything is in their control at all times. I never step over those personal boundaries.”

She has recently spoken before audiences at The Heart Rehabilitation Group at Lewis Gale Medical Center, The Virginia Tech Women’s Center, Bentley Commons in Lynchburg, and many other venues.  “I want people to know that there is no shame in asking someone with credentials, understanding and life experience to come into your home to help you manage your paperwork, downsize, or just make your environment more balanced and simplified,” Jensen said. “It’s the essence of freedom, and I realize that when I pack, de-clutter or help clients eliminate household items, I am packing ‘memories’ and touching hearts. That’s a mission that I love.”

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