Preserving Our Past For The Future

Interesting….life, that is. When you think you have it figured out, it throws you a curve ball…and sometimes it feels like an anvil. The last year of owning a cleaning business has had many ups and downs. Our industry has been one of the hardest hit for many years as customers’ wallets started closing and they scaled back due to the economy and having to tighten their own purse strings. Somehow my own company, until this year, had escaped the scenarios of many of my colleagues. Our business was strong, we were turning business away much of the time because we couldn’t handle some of it. We referred to some of our local “competitors” that have the same standards we do. It was about getting the customer serviced and happy. It also helped keep the money in the local economy and my struggling competitors solvent in many cases. Then…something shifted….

In the last 12 months, the steady flow just cut off like a faucet…running full blast, then not even a drip.We beefed up the marketing, we attended more meetings and sent out more press releases, but to no avail. After almost 6 months of struggling to maintain the status quo, I came to the realization that our company was going through what others had much earlier, and it was not going to get better, no matter how many doors we knocked on or how many neighborhoods we canvassed putting out information. People in our area were frightened. News of “recession” coming out of Washington and foreclosure signs going up next door to them made for emotional responses, and unfortunately the cleaning lady is the easy place to start the budget cuts when you are afraid you may lose your home or vocation.

There was a while when the business was falling off that I was afraid too. Funny, I have been through so many years of so many situations, both personally and professionally, but was caught off guard with this one. I (mistakenly) thought that our company was so good at what we did and customers were so happy with our services that we would escape the huge cutbacks people were forced to make for survival. They had so far hadn’t they, even when many other cleaning companies had closed their doors long before…

We had to make a shift in the internal finances, yes, but more than that a shift had to take place in the very DNA of our company. I had come to the realization of this, but didn’t really know what changes to make and one day something fell out of the sky like manna. A former cleaning customer had her mom’s home they were getting ready for the market. She needed someone to clean it out, and get it ready to sell. This happened about 6 months ago, and today I am this side of several estate clean outs and selling vintage items online, at estate sales and yard sales. The income it has produced has been modest, but has kept the cleaning side of my company afloat, at least for now.

I have been a “junkin’ junkie” since I was a teenager. My only child, Samantha, was given toys for Christmas and birthdays and was dressed from yard sales and always looked like she had walked out of a band box. There is something thrilling, even now, about finding a treasure for a few cents that you can enjoy for a while, then sell for much more than you paid for it. After the first yard sale, “Got Junk In Our Trunk” was born. As a professional organizer by trade (this is how the whole cleaning business began) I knew I could set up estate sales, conduct them efficiently and have a great time helping others disperse of their unwanted items. Many people that I have purchased items from myself have had to sell due to their own financial situation, so I knew although it was a hard choice for them to make, my purchasing was helping them do what they needed to survive a lean time. I also knew that this was something that had always brought me great joy…there is nothing like getting out at 6 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday morning when the air is still cool and crisp, chatting with folks at the sales like they are old friends, running into the same junkin’ buddies that go to sales each week, and then coming back and looking up the treasures, researching and getting things ready to sell. Yard sales are one of the last remaining true community activities, and it is an extra bonus that I am able to make money from the things I find.

I also have always been what I have affectionately dubbed a “Trash Dash” queen. I love driving down the road and coming upon something that is trash to someone, that I turn into a treasure for myself or my family. But, I have upped that activity as well, and go through the neighborhoods several times a week seeing what can be re-purposed and cleaned up and sold, and have had many great sales from these items. I even redecorated my home office with practically all free stuff!

One thing I did learn through all this that I hope I never forget. No matter what is going on around you, you must stay focused and sure of your own special great outcome. Sometimes it takes crawling through a fire on your belly, but you can get through anything with concentration and determination if you don’t give up.You just gotta evaluate after some consideration, but more importantly don’t waste time floundering…just get out there and get the thing going in a new and exciting direction!

In school we had fire drills once a month and their words to us will be the inspiration for me the next time I face a crisis…”Stop, drop, and roll”. If it’s not working, stop it. If it’s not helping you in your life path, drop it. If it is not moving forward the way you are going, then it’s time to roll with it, baby….and head to your new adventure. 🙂

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