There are websites devoted to virtually every notion the human mind can conceive. So it is hardly surprising that someone looking to sell a home or find a new one can, in a heartbeat, find any number of places online offering advice and lists of things to do to take the stress out of getting the job done.
But even reading the lists can be pretty stressful although much of the advice does appear to be padding.
Is it really necessary, for example, to remind people not to be afraid to ring the doorbell and say hello to your new neighbours? Does turn the lights and cooker off in your house before you leave really deserve a spot on a to-do list?
But, statements of the obvious aside, it is a universally acknowledged truth that moving house is pretty hard work and a task routinely compared to a divorce or a bereavement when it comes to stress levels and upheaval.
Moving at the best of times is tough but it can be made a whole lot harder when emotion is added to the mix in abundance as it is when people are downsizing and moving on from a home that raised a family or generations of families or when the sale is a result of a bereavement.
All the grief attached to losing a family member can be compounded weeks or months after their passing when the inevitable time comes to go through their personal belongings and decide what is to be done with it all.
I then helped my parents to downsize and really my business has grown from there
The contents of the suddenly empty home of the departed can trigger memories – happy and sad – while the decisions that need to be taken – whether to keep something or send it to a skip or to a charity shop – can be tough to take.
Making such decisions were certainly tough for Wicklow native Arabella Page and her family when they were sifting through the belongings found in the home of a great aunt a couple of years ago.
But in a way the experience was the making of Page. It set her on the path to a new business venture which she hopes will take the pain out of house clearance for others while ensuring – at least to a degree – that valuables that might otherwise end up going for a song realise their true worth.
Earlier this year she set up a business called ClearMove which sets out to take the stress out of moving on. “My great aunt passed away and my family were overwhelmed by the house clearance process,” she says.
So, the former wine merchant stepped in and sorted things out. "I then helped my parents to downsize and really my business has grown from there," she continues. "I am what is referred to as a move planner and, as far as I am aware, I am the first in Ireland. "
And what is a move planner? She says it is someone who will sort through your belongings, arrange movers, box things up, deliver things to auction houses and charity shops, and ensure utilities are switched over in a timely basis. The only thing she won’t do is say hello to your neighbours for you.
She says that as the Irish population ages and more adult children are working and raising families, people are becoming more time poor. “I feel there is a clear demand for a professional to provide this kind of practical and trustworthy service.”
All shapes and sizes
Her clients come to her with projects of all shapes and sizes.
“I might be dealing with a family with a house that has been with them for generations and they will have accumulated a whole lot of stuff,” she says. “So I will work with them to get their house ready to hand over to new owners. To do that I need to get through so much clutter.”
She pauses for a moment. “Actually, I use the word clutter but it is not really clutter, it is history and it is life and many times it needs to be preserved and needs to be taken care of, whether it is going to an auction house or a charity shop. It needs to be minded and that’s one of the things that I do.”
She describes it as “a real privilege to be able to wander into people’s homes and look at all of the things that they’ve collected over many years and over many generations”.
Surely the business model is limited by the relatively small number of Big Houses – the ones that have been in the same family for generations – that need to be cleared in any given year.
But she says she has clients with properties of all shapes and sizes. “Size doesn’t matter to me at all. I’ve worked on one-bedroom apartments and country houses and there are families who are clearing a home after a bereavement or are downsizing. Sometimes it can be very emotional for them and overwhelming so I look at myself as a personal assistant for the time I’m with those people.”
She says her first job is to meet the prospective client to talk through their circumstances and to draw up a list of options from which they choose. “I couldn’t find any pricing models in Ireland to follow so I just decided to charge a day rate and offer a range of services that people can pick from.”
She works with valuers and auctioneers to ensure valuables do not get dispensed. “It is always worth getting items valued as it gives a clear view of whether they can be re-sold or sent to charity and we often uncover interesting, valuable pieces.”
Among the unusual things she has found have been a kitten stuck in the engine of a client’s car, memorabilia from the first World War and Famine stir-about pots.
She has uncovered a Belleek breakfast set which sold for €3,000 and grandfather clocks, Edwardian paintings, Georgian furniture, old toys and train sets which have ended up on auction house floors.
“We avoid skips as much as possible and move furniture on to auction houses or charities. Even sheets and towels are donated to animal charities so there is very little waste involved and the process is as environmentally friendly as possible,” she says.
She will even take the heartache out of changing service providers although she admits that the hardest part of that task is “listening to the hold music and waiting for them to answer the phone”.