In this series of posts, we’ll be interviewing professional organisers who’ve undertaken additional qualifications or training and finding out how their businesses have benefitted.
Becoming part of the Home Sweet Home network of professional organisers
Lou runs Clutter Freedom which covers south-west, south-east and central London. Lou herself lives in Battersea in south-west London near the Thames. It’s a very densely populated area but with a villagey feel. There are old Battersea residents, people who’ve moved to the area to bring up children, and a lot of people moving in and out. With its good transport links to central London, easy access to open spaces, family-sized houses and good schools, it’s a popular choice for people moving to work in London for a few years.
What’s Home Sweet Home and how did you get interested in being one of their contractors?
When I did APDO’s introductory training I met Louise Muratori of Be Clutter Free and we hit it off straight away, supporting and mentoring one another. It was through her Lancashire network that I heard that Marie Bateson, of Cut the Clutter, the APDO Director of Volunteers and UK co-ordinator for Home Sweet Home, was looking to build up the network of professional organisers who are APDO members.
Home Sweet Home was set up in Los Angeles in 2004 to simplify corporate moves and save companies money. Originally helping with internal USA and Canada moves, Home Sweet Home now operates in seven countries, serving Fortune 500 companies and their employees. I’ve worked with people from companies like Amazon, Apple, Netflix and American Express, for example.
I’ve always been interested in homes and moving so I love this work! I also believe in recycling and reusing and I’m keen to help my local community, so that fits in too.
Tell us a bit more about Home Sweet Home
There are two main programmes:
- Discard and Donate is for people leaving the UK to relocate to another country. In normal times, pre-COVID, we would help them declutter their home, working out what they would take with them and what they would leave behind. These are usually pieces of furniture and items with UK plugs like lights, hairdryers and tower fans. But it could be anything and often includes children’s toys and equipment. I then decide where the items can go, to charity or elsewhere. I like the challenge of getting things out there into the local community.
- Quick Start is an unpack and put away service for company executives moving to this country. We will work in a team, unpacking all their belongings quickly and efficiently and organising their new home. When the executive and family come to their new home to find it ready for them, they’re thrilled! It not only makes the move to a new country less stressful, it also saves them a lot of unpacking time.
Marie organised a team of three APDO members to complete a Quick Start service for a family relocating to London from Spain who had to quarantine on arrival. I worked with Susanna Drew of Home Review and Gill Ritchie of Declutter Dahling, unpacking for a family of five into a large central London apartment. It was hard work and a logistical challenge but, yes, it was good fun too and it gave me a chance to meet other organisers.
Home Sweet Home services are offered as part of the relocation package and paid for by the transferring company. The company benefits because staff are happier and less stressed. They also save money as the number of goods transported is reduced and the amount the company saves on shipment covers the cost of Home Sweet Home.
The service also helps the environment as less is transported, less packing material is used and there are fewer fuel emissions. And for every tree saved, Home Sweet Home makes a donation to plant three trees. The aim is for as much as possible of the donated items of furniture, household equipment and clothing to make its way back into the community to be reused or recycled.
I worked with a couple who were moving from a fantastic ninth floor apartment near the American Embassy in London to Tokyo. Almost all the items they left behind were donated to a grassroots organisation working to help get homeless people into new homes and other vulnerable people.
What makes a good Home Sweet Home contractor?
- Being helpful, friendly and efficient while keeping a professional edge. I’m there representing Home Sweet Home and not promoting my own business.
- Being a hands-on kind of person.
- Being able to supervise, if required – packing, cleaning and so on.
- Having a car is very useful.
Having the ability to think on your feet and having a certain amount of flexibility. There might be a suddenly remembered or discovered item to be dealt with immediately. Like the forgotten bike shed – which very quickly went on NextDoor. Or the two storage boxes of shoes found under a very low bed that the packers had missed – definitely wanted and needed by the transferee, who was in Frankfurt by then – that I was able to drive up to the shipping company at very short notice to join the consignment heading for Frankfurt.
Being resourceful with a good network. Covid has pushed us all to dig deeper and rethink our networks now charity shops are often closed. I’ve developed new contacts with Big Local SW11 and Wandsworth Mediation Services which supports very vulnerable families and gets homeless people off the street. There’s also Little Village, a children’s and babies’ clothes and equipment bank, which is great for children’s clothes, cots and buggies. I use my local NextDoor and a WhatsApp group and things go very quickly through them. I use a waste removal service for broken or damaged items, furniture without UK fire rating labels, mattresses and other items that charity outlets cannot take.
Tell us about training
Marie Bateson, our co-ordinator, trained with Home Sweet Home in Los Angeles so I was rather hoping that I could too! Unfortunately, I had to do it over Zoom…
The training is done by Jeff Heisler, Home Sweet Home’s President, and Marie. It’s free and takes a couple of hours. It’s very straightforward and there’s no commitment. There’s an introduction to Home Sweet Home and what it does, and then a description of the nuts and bolts of how it works.
When you join the network, you get all the help and support you need from Marie. Paperwork is straightforward. The Cost Saving Report, for example, is in an Excel spreadsheet which includes lists of household items, categorised by room/garden and their average weights. You simply list the number of items of a particular thing, for example, 1 three-seater sofa, 6 hand kitchen appliances, 3 large bags of clothing, and Excel calculates the overall shipping weight saving.
What are the benefits to your business of being a Home Sweet Home contractor?
It’s helping me to have a better knowledge of my own area and community and to build up a wider network of contacts. It’s really nice to get to know people. We’re all rubbing along together and are very loyal to the area. I’ve lived here for 20+ years. It’s like an extended family.
What’s your advice to someone thinking about joining the HSH network?
I’d say give it a go. You’re under no obligation, and you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any job you’re offered. It does help in quieter periods of your own business.
Clients are professionals who are friendly and appreciative of the service Home Sweet Home offers them. It does take a weight off their minds that the possessions they’re leaving behind are going to a good cause to help people in the area where they’ve lived for the last couple of years.
I’ve been to some amazing properties and recently it’s been nice to have an excuse to zip about London. I’m off to a house in Notting Hill next week. The transferee has provided a list of items so I can plan how to distribute them efficiently. There are always last-minute items, though, that the family decide to leave behind once the packers begin their job so there may be a few surprises.
Training is usually carried out twice a year but if you’re an APDO member and you’d like to get on the books, email Marie as she can often get you on board before the next training session.
Thank you Lou for sharing your work with us and explaining more about the Home Sweet Home network and its services.
We are delighted to welcome Home Sweet Home as Key Sponsor of the APDO Conference 2021: The Future Is Re-Organised. For further details head to the Conference page!