Project manager, organizer

The Baltimore Sun

Wende Zimmerman

Project manager, Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association

Professional organizer and owner, Saving Spaces

Salary: $54,000

Age: 39

Years on the job: 6

How she got started: After working for the Humane Society of the United States for nine years as a project coordinator, she decided to change jobs and went to work full time for the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA), based in Annapolis. Always being interested in organization, Zimmerman also started attending meetings of the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers. Five years ago, she decided to start a side business, Saving Spaces, offering organizational consultations and services. In January 2005, she switched from a full-time schedule with the PPTA to three days a week. Her off time is spent working as an organizer. "As a child I used to go to my friends' houses and organize their bedrooms. I don't know what it is, but it brings me tremendous satisfaction."

Typical day: Monday through Wednesday Zimmerman works at PPTA, the trade association for the plasma collection and manufacturing industry. She's responsible for managing and reviewing the International Quality Plasma Program, which sets the standards of plasma collection. Her day is spent at the computer, managing, researching and writing about the various standards. She must determine whether standards are out-of-date and whether new standards need to be added. Zimmerman also oversees a donor deferral database and fields trouble-shooting calls from organizations using that service.

Thursday through Saturday, Zimmerman works as a professional organizer. She usually takes on three customers at a time, so she can devote one day a week to each client. She starts with a phone interview to explain her services and then schedules a consultation. Once she is hired, a room or space is selected to begin the process, which can often encompass the whole house and take up to one year. From there they begin to "sort and purge" where clients choose what to keep and what to throw out. Zimmerman will haul away anything - sending as much as possible to local charities. The next step is to set up an organization system. She said she typically starts with the basement or a closet, never with the home office. "Paperwork is one of the most tedious jobs and has the least amount of immediate gratification."

Client niche: Women in their 40s with children in elementary school.

Best tip: Sort and purge first. "Don't buy products until you know what product you need."

Combining jobs: Her office job offers security, benefits and about two-thirds of her annual salary, but Zimmerman said she enjoys the complexity of both. "I do enjoy the diversity of the two very different things. Both of my worlds are vastly different from one another and I enjoy going back and forth between the two."

The good: "The program I run," says Zimmerman about her job with PPTA. She also gets to travel. As far as being a professional organizer, she said she enjoys the satisfaction of helping people.

The bad: With PPTA, she said she works in a basement office with no windows. Also, the decision-making process of setting standards is difficult because so many people are involved.

With Saving Spaces, she said the psychology behind why people became disorganized can be difficult. "People will have been organized all their lives, then a tragedy hits. A lot of times that will come up during this process."

Philosophy on the job: "A gentle guidance, but patience."

Extracurricular: Zimmerman currently serves as the president of the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers.

Nancy Jones Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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