For years, would-be entrepreneurs have been advised to “find a need and fill it.” Sometimes those needs are hiding in plain sight. A couple of summers ago, I decided to spend time uncluttering my life. I planned to go through every file, drawer and closet and get rid of anything that no longer seemed useful or fit my current lifestyle. If I told people what I was doing, there was an almost unanimous response. “When you’re done would you come to my house and start in on my stuff?” I was repeatedly asked. Clutter, it seems, is a nuisance that afflicts nearly every one of us.
Helping others get clutter under control is, it would appear, an opportunity whose time has come. The motivations for leading a less cluttered life are varied. Some people hope that more order will lead to increased serenity and efficiency; the environmentally conscious are motivated by eliminating human wastefulness; for others, a life transition means a change in priorities and reassessment of their material wants and needs. Whatever the reason, living a less cluttered life may require the services of others to bring about the order and balance we seem to crave. If organizing is a strong point of yours or you share concerns about a crowded planet, creating a business that helps make a dent in the problem may be a natural for you.
Reduce. Forty years ago, efficiency experts were all the rage. The new version of that occupation is the professional organizer. Although most organizers develop a specialty (i.e., law offices, home offices, personal environments), their aims are similar: to bring order out of chaos, to help their clients work and live more efficiently, and to reduce the accumulated clutter.
How does one get started as a professional organizer? Michele Hockersmith, owner of Creative Business Consulting International, says she began offering this service because it came naturally to her and it also fit in with the other services her business offers to small and home based start-ups. Eventually, she developed a very intentional science that she uses to help clients systemize both the tangible and intangible aspects of their business. Hockersmith emphasizes that she does not impose a system on her clients; rather, she watches a person to get a sense of their own natural organizing process and then fits the system around the client. The result is an organizing system that makes sense to the client and is easy to implement and maintain.
Whether it’s a business or a home that’s being organized, being a professional organizer involves a twofold approach. Initially, the organizer’s work may be hands-on — sorting, purging, filing. The client also needs to be involved in the process and educated about keeping order once the consultant has gone.
Reuse. There’s another huge opportunity growing from our desire to live less cluttered lives. Reselling unwanted or unused items is an increasingly popular enterprise. Clothing, books and antiques have long been the staples of consignment sellers. In our Reuse It culture, the idea of reselling items has taken on a wider scope. Toys, computers, records and compact discs, as well as sporting goods are showing up in stores devoted to selling previously owned goods.
Christine Fontaine ran a consignment shop for home furnishings. Her funky and eclectic store acquired inventory in a variety of ways. One source was what Fontaine called “decorator faux pas,” meaning special-order furniture that didn’t work out in the space for which it was intended. She also stocked samples from sales reps, as well as goods purchased from the general public. “I aim for furniture that is too good for garage sales,” she says. Also unique to her shop were handcrafted decorative items made by local artisans who recycled materials to create new and beautiful things for the home.
Another variation of this type of business are those which specialize in organizing and holding estate and/or household sales. The key to success in this kind of business seems to be having a tight focus, both in merchandise and market. Although eclectic antique and junk stores are still popular, reselling merchandise with a newer history seems to work best when the product line is narrow and clearly defined — such as baby goods or exercise equipment.
And, of course, eBay has made this an easy profit center for anyone to start.
Recycle. While most of us think of recycling as being environmentally responsible, businesses devoted to recycling the throwaway clutter of our lives are also enjoying renewed popularity. A story on the evening news featured two college-aged brothers who started a business recycling newspapers after their community program was abolished. Using rental trucks to pick up the papers and hiring college friends to staff the business, the brothers are earning thousands of dollars weekly, in part because the price of newspaper has skyrocketed from $20/ton to $150/ton. At the same time, their business fills a necessary void in community service.
The new interest in environmentally conscious businesses is reflected in a poll that cited that a third of all Americans said they would buy recycled products if they had the opportunity. As more people rethink their buying habits and experiment with simpler ways of living, the market for used and recycled goods continues to expand. There’s also a growing opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to apply principles of sound environmental management and saner technologies to their work. This, too, opens the door to numerous new business possibilities.
So whether you’re a committed environmentalist or a person who wants to relieve the stress caused by clutter, finding your business niche should be easy — at least until we have the entire planet cleaned up and running smoothly.
There’s more where this came from.
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