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Friday, February 26, 2021
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Recently I completed two jobs emptying one-bedroom apartments for clients whose mothers had moved to assisted-living facilities. I have become a bit of an expert in the field of emptying out a home and deconstructing someone’s lifelong possessions. Children do not want to see their parents’ belongings thrown in a dumpster and carried away as a pile of junk. Countless daughters have told me they want their parents’ things to be given to people who will appreciate them.

The final step in this gigantic project could be to call a junk hauler. Can a junk hauler help arrange for possessions to be given a new home?

Through my connections with NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, I have had the pleasure to get to know several people in various aspects of the world of junk hauling, from business franchise owners to business development managers to the haulers themselves. I am not exaggerating when I say that each person I have met has been friendly, patient, kind and willing to go the extra mile for a customer and an organizer.

I spoke with Tina Mezzina, business development manager for College Hunks Hauling Junk in north Jersey. I was curious to know if there was a more PC way to refer to “junk.” Tina said if there is, she has not yet found it. She added that she tells all prospective customers that “just because it’s being hauled away, doesn’t mean it’s junk. If we can donate, recycle or in some way pay it forward … my company will.”

I asked Tina about hiring a junk removal company versus renting a dumpster. The major difference is a hauler will do all the lifting and carrying away, whereas those who rent a dumpster will probably do their own manual labor. A hauling company will do their job generally in a matter of hours, while a dumpster sits on a driveway or a front yard for a longer period as it is slowly filled. After the dumpster is hauled away, there is generally a collection of mud and fallen garbage for the owner to clean up. A hauler will leave the premises broom-clean.

Everything in a dumpster goes to the dump. Tina says College Hunks and many of her competitors are very green. They bring the quality items back to their warehouses and on a regular basis they invite neighborhood charitable organizations as well as national organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, to select all the items they feel can be given a new life. “We want to dump as little as we can,” Tina said. “It’s so much better for the environment to reuse and recycle. So many people are in need. By keeping our eyes open to identify what is good, we in the hauling business are able to responsibly pay it forward.”

While on various jobs, I have gotten into conversations with some of the workers. In many cases they are college students putting themselves through school. They like the fact the job keeps them active because their college courses require sitting still at a desk in front of a screen. These hardworking young men have always been careful not to damage the walls or the furniture in the house. One summer afternoon, a team of three young men worked at the house I was emptying. One was a minor league baseball player, hoping to make it to the pros. I remember how punctual this crew was in order to complete the job and see that the ball player departed in time to make his game in a distant part of New Jersey.

Of all the experiences I have had with junk haulers, the most significant one involved two distinct types of people who do removals: a man who happened to own a truck and felt that made him important; and a professional franchise owner of a national junk-hauling company. My client was a lovely woman who had been going through therapy for extreme chronic disorganization and had gotten it under control before she hired me. My job was to empty her three-bedroom ranch so she could put it on the market and move down south with her three cats.

The problem was that these cats entered the woman’s home when she was suffering with her chronic disorganization, and she was not able to maintain a clean environment. From the upstairs to the basement, the cat smell permeated the house. Before she hired me, she lined up a junk hauler. She told the rep about the strong smell of cat urine, asking him to alert the crew assigned to the job. My client received an estimate based on the amount she needed hauled away at that time. It was agreed that near the time of the move, the hauler would return to see if there was substantially less junk; if so, the price would be reduced.

In the weeks we worked together, we significantly reduced her clutter. The junk hauler reduced the estimate by hundreds of dollars! My client was pleased not only for the lower price, but also because this company would donate some of her items. A crew would come the Thursday before moving-day Monday. On Thursday, a team entered the house and immediately gave an unbelievable reason why they couldn’t work that day, and left. Their office said an alternate crew could not be arranged before her moving day.

My client called her realtor, who gave her the name of a man with a truck who occasionally removed junk. The-man-with-a-truck said he could take her job but she must agree to two additional charges: work done on Saturdays and work requested on short notice. His price was a few thousand dollars, which was even more than the original price she had been quoted. To top it off, everything would go to the dump.

My client called me almost in tears. She didn’t know why he was asking so much more than the national company. Her realtor declined to get involved, however, she stressed she needed the house empty ASAP so It could be painted and put on the market.

I contacted a franchise owner of a national junk-hauling company, who had proven to be caring and responsive, and told him the entire story. He assured me he had an available crew who often worked in homes of the chronically disorganized. His price met the reduced price of the original haulers. I explained that because I am a Sabbath observer, I could not be there to oversee, and he said that was not an issue. His crew would arrive on time, do their job and clean up.

My client and I were ecstatic—until we discussed how we would address the man-with-a-truck. Maybe the realtor could tell him? She declined the privilege. I knew my client suffered with anxiety issues, so I told her I would make the phone call.

It was an uncomfortable conversation. Yes, the man had a right to doubt my validity. He did not have a right to bully or curse. I explained everything, including what a professional organizer does and that he was free to call the realtor to check on my story. He scoffed that there is no way I could possibly procure a hauler in a mere two days. I held fast to my mantra, “Thank you, but your services are not necessary. We found a licensed and insured junk hauler.” Finally, he said it was my fault that he was losing income because he gave up a hauling job to do my client a favor. (Would that customer have had to pay his Saturday surcharge?) The phone call seemed endless, with me constantly repeating my mantra.

On Saturday, the franchise owner sent a crew who lived up to all their boss had promised. My client let me know after Shabbat that all went beautifully.

My takeaway is this: If a situation calls for removing a large amount of junk as well as usable, unwanted bulky items, interview a few insured, established junk-hauling companies and choose the one that resonates with you, meaning the staff is trained, responsive and customer-oriented.

Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 13 years, she has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” Contact Ellen for a complimentary consultation at [email protected]

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