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Busy families give rise to organizing businesses

February 05, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

candiceb@herald-mail.com

June Cleaver would be appalled.

The perfect homemaker on the late 1950s-early 1960s television show "Leave It to Beaver" also probably would be mystified were she to be handed Sharon Womack's colorful business card.

"Adventures in Organizing," it reads. "Partnering in your adventure from clutter to freedom."

Simply put, Womack, 53, of Hagerstown, goes into people's homes and does what members of working families often are too busy to handle: light cleaning and, more importantly, organizing rooms, closets, basements, garages, attics, children's rooms and offices.

"People just don't have time and energy," said Womack, who described herself as a professional organizer.

Children are more involved in after-school activities and often, both parents in a household work.

"And women have more money now," Womack said. "If they don't like organizing and cleaning, they can pay someone who does."

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These days, cleaning is a big business.

Thirteen of the 100 fastest-growing franchises in the United States - including four of the top 10 - are cleaning-related, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

Womack said it's possible the trend of wanting homes that are cleaner and less cluttered could stem from the number of home improvement shows on television. There are shows in which rooms are redecorated, entire homes are rebuilt and junk is removed.

Seeing people on television make their messy homes look better might be an inspiration, but mimicking those shows isn't for everyone.

"I'm not a 'Clean Sweep' person," Womack said, referring to a show in which arguments often erupt between spouses over what items should be kept and what should be thrown away. "I want to work with their goals."

Getting rid of what one member of a family views as junk and another considers a memento can be difficult. Taking a photograph of the item can help, as can donating it to charity.

Womack has been there.

After her mother died, she kept many of her possessions, but later purposefully cut down the number of keepsakes.

Womack obtained her LLC designation on Aug. 31, enabling her to run her home-based business, named Adventures in Organizing.

"I know I'm helping people to do the things that are important," she said. "Keeping organized is a stress-reliever for most people."

She gives an hour-long consultation to potential clients, discussing their problems, attitudes and goals.

"What do the people really need?" Womack said. "They may not need a Home Beautiful where everything's in place. That may be more stressful than it's worth."

So far, Womack has worked with a woman who wanted her paperwork and cookbooks organized and another who had a house full of clutter. One person needed a home office organized and a family wanted to turn their basement into a new room, but were challenged by the years' worth of items that had accumulated there.

A network could be established, with Womack directing her clients to interior designers who have a specialty, such as Feng Shui, and to junk-hauling businesses, she said.

Charles W. McClister III, owner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, could come in at the end of the organization process to take away items people willingly or hesitantly have agreed to get rid of.

"No one knows how to remove their clutter," McClister said. "We try to give back the customers their space. It's the cheapest way to regain space."

The international junk-hauling company sponsors the show "Clean Sweep" and has helped with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," McClister said.

Like some fleeting television shows, businesses that focus on home organization might not last forever.

Last month's phone book for Washington County listed two home organization businesses. One phone number no longer was in service, and there was no answer or answering machine at the other, despite several calls throughout the day.

The phone number for a closet-reorganizing business in Charles Town, W.Va., also had been disconnected.

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