Organizing a brighter future

Organizing a brighter future

Kimberly Mason of Vernon has turned her talent for organizing into her own business

  • Sep. 27, 2017 1:30 a.m.

Editor’s note: This month, WorkBC is celebrating Disability Employment Month in British Columbia, which provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce, and the employers and communities who support their success. Following is the first in a three-part series highlighting success stories.

It all started the day Kimberly Mason’s sister, Leslie Battersby, left town. Battersby had asked Mason to housesit her farm in Prince George for a week, and Battersby knew Mason might get bored. As Battersby reached for her keys, one hand on the back door, she said, “You know, if you’re looking for something to do while I’m away, you could organize my closet.”

Mason took the challenge. Five days later, the closet was immaculate. White long-sleeve shirts, then short-sleeves, then camisoles, then dresses rested perfectly on hangers before giving way to all the other colours, fabrics and types of clothing. Belts, scarves, and purses were tucked away in labeled boxes. Shoes were ordered by occasion and colour. Mason even took the time to reorganize her sister’s dresser drawers.

By the week’s end when her sister returned home, Mason was ready for the reveal. Her sister gasped.

“Kim, that’s what you should do, you should organize closets!”

The tingling arrow of a path that felt exciting and right hit Mason in the chest.

For years, she’d struggled to find work. Ever since her husband’s passing in 1992, and then the stroke she suffered a year later that paralyzed her right side, she’d barely been able to make ends meet. The thought of not just having enough work, but work she loved, had felt like a distant dream until a few months ago.

Mason works as a noon-hour supervisor at a local school, but she was always trying for other roles in the district, and being passed over.

“I was getting frustrated,” she says.

Eventually, someone suggested she try Community Futures. There, during a strengths and interests test, she discovered she liked to organize. She and her case manager thought she might be able to combine that skill set with her experience she had as a hairstylist before her stroke, and apply for positions as a salon receptionist.

“I loved doing hair and I loved being with people, but nothing ever seemed to pan out. No one wanted to hire me part-time,” says Mason. “It got really hard.”

Even though Mason has since regained movement on her right side, save for a few fingers, “thanks to physiotherapy, family, good friends and a lot of hard work,” her energy levels best suit part-time work.

“The list of all the things I can do keeps getting bigger,” says Mason.

Still, after a disappointing round of sending out resumés, Mason felt stuck. And then her case manager had an idea.

“Why don’t we look into you creating your own work?” he asked.

“I thought that was just perfect.”

And then, just a few months later, she was at her sister’s house, and her sister had the idea about the closet (Mason’s sister quickly convinced her to do kitchen cupboards before she left as well).

“I just thought, ‘I really enjoy this.’ It felt very cool and everything looked so neat and tidy and organized,” says Mason. “There isn’t anything I can’t organize. I found my niche.”

When Mason returned to Vernon, she began Community Futures North Okanagan’s Self-employment Services. Advisors were quick to recognize they could modify the schedule to suit Mason’s needs.

“I was a little overwhelmed at first, but they adapted it so I could participate and that was great.”

Through the Employment Program of BC, they were also able to tap into funding to access technology that would help her succeed: a tablet with software that translates her speech into text for emails, and a digital camera to photograph spaces like closets on a first visit so she can plan the process for organizing it.

Organized with Kimberly is now a viable, operating business that often sees her helping seniors downsize or busy families declutter.

“A lot of people don’t have the time to stop and make their space organized. It doesn’t mean their things have to be minimalized; it just means organizing them so they can enjoy the space and make the most of it again.”

“I will forever be thankful to Community Futures for setting me on the path to starting my own business.”