Meet the dy­namic clut­ter-busters

Ce­real bowls un­der the bed, old jelly moulds and smelly socks will all be ban­ished to bin-lin­ers as this trio over­hauls your home, says Can­dida Crewe

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Inside Track -

Be­fore mov­ing house last sum­mer, I was or­dered by a friend to call in Home­s­traight UK. Their ser­vices are many and var­ied but in­clude help­ing peo­ple to de­clut­ter their old home be­fore they move out and then settle into their new one. My friend as­sured me it would be the best money I ever spent.

I won­dered. Did I need this seem­ingly rather lux­u­ri­ous ex­tra bur­den on the al­ready over-stretched bud­get? But, re­moval men gone, hus­band abroad, boxes ev­ery­where and de­pres­sion rapidly set­ting in, I wel­comed Home­s­traight’s founder, Julie Ri­ley and part­ner Kate Hunter, with open arms. The pair ar­rived with their magic box of tricks con­tain­ing elec­tric screw­drivers, laser lev­els for pic­ture hang­ing, plate stands, sticky la­bels for the stair and air­ing cup­boards, and so forth. With their sleeves rolled up and their fire­crack­ing ef­fi­ciency and hu­mour, they got stuck in and set me straight in just three days. Beds were made up, pic­tures (that had never made it to a wall in nine years at our last house) were beau­ti­fully placed, cup­boards im­pec­ca­bly sorted, and when they were done, there was not a card­board box in sight. They proved them­selves to be a con­tri­bu­tion to my san­ity that was both unique and priceless and I know I will en­joy the ben­e­fits of their legacy for years to come.

Yet Julie and Kate and their part­ner, Sim Hughes, don’t just help peo­ple to settle into their new homes. From de­scrip­tions of re­cent jobs, it is clear that they, as Julie puts it, “help peo­ple move on with their lives”. She cites the ex­am­ple of the young wi­d­ower who, fol­low­ing the death of his wife, needed the house trans­formed into a more male do­main for him­self and his son. (Kate and Julie restyled the kitchen and threw out the things they knew would never be used again, such as the Christ­mas cookie presses and jelly moulds.) They found it quite a har­row­ing job in some ways, but es­sen­tial. The place be­came brighter and more cheer­ful and ef­fi­cient so the man and boy could cope with­out their wife and mother.

An­other ex­am­ple is that of the des­per­ate mother of a 16-year-old who called upon Home­s­traight to ad­dress the ur­gent mat­ter of his bed­room.

“She couldn’t get into it for fear of be­ing at­tacked by alien crea­tures or lost,” laughs Julie. “She wanted us to sort and style it so he’d think it was a cool place to be but which wouldn’t cause ar­gu­ments be­tween them. As we were im­par­tial, we could come in and work with him with­out it turn­ing into a bat­tle! You can imag­ine, we found a ce­real bowl from last month un­der the bed, piles of smelly socks and shoes, crum­pled home­work as­sign­ments “eaten by the dog”, lay­ers of posters and Blu-Tack stains on the cream walls. Af­ter about 15 bin-lin­ers, which he helped us fill, the desk was found and ev­ery­thing or­gan­ised into a study zone, mu­sic zone and bean­bag zone. We put teenage colours on the walls – deep blue, and that cool sort of brown-y sludge colour. The re­sult was a de­lighted mother, de­lighted son and an end to all their ar­gu­ments.”

Julie, 46, is from up­state New York but has lived in Eng­land for 18 years. She had the idea for Home­s­traight UK hav­ing no­ticed a gap in the mar­ket, namely in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion and re­design but with the added spin of sourc­ing and styling as well as the al­limpor­tant prac­ti­cal sup­port and re­or­gan­i­sa­tion thrown in.

“Not least,” says Julie, “for fam­i­lies mov­ing from abroad who have the job, the house, the school and car but haven’t a clue where to mend a vase or buy a lamp­shade. They’re in a new coun­try. The re­moval men plonk their things in the house, close the door and go. A study in the States last year found that the min­i­mum cost of the failed place­ment of a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive is $1 mil­lion (£510,000). Of those which don’t work, the rea­son, eight times out of 10, is that the fam­ily weren’t able to settle.”

This statis­tic was one of the fac­tors which prompted Julie to start the busi­ness. She had been a banker in the City but gave up when she had chil­dren. She trained at the Inch­bald School of De­sign and de­cided to do some­thing she had done all her life with­out know­ing it – start­ing with end­lessly re­ar­rang­ing her child­hood bed­room, and cul­mi­nat­ing in set­ting up Home­s­traight UK last Fe­bru­ary. Her co-founders bring their own tal­ents to the busi­ness. Sim, a for­mer City col­league, is good with the fi­nances and mar­ket­ing. Kate, a for­mer Roux-trained chef, doesn’t take any non­sense and has years of hands-on prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The trio dis­cov­ered with im­me­di­ate ef­fect that peo­ple have been cry­ing out for their all-round ser­vice and Home­s­traight hasn’t looked back.

“There are,” Julie says, “lots of pro­fes­sion­als and ex­perts who say paint the walls yel­low, who choose your sofa and cur­tains fab­ric, and de­velop an in­te­rior scheme but then leave it at that. A room has other things in it that need edit­ing, de­clut­ter­ing, styling. There’s a huge mar­ket in the States for ‘re­design’, mean­ing us­ing what you al­ready have and im­prov­ing on it from an in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion point of view. We all have things that are pre­cious to us, that have mem­o­ries. I am not an in­te­rior de­signer who likes a client to throw ev­ery­thing away and start all over again. We can start again, but we also very much like to work with peo­ple’s things and or­gan­ise them so they can get on with the busi­ness of liv­ing. I find it sat­is­fy­ing help­ing a fam­ily to be in a po­si­tion to, say, cook Sun­day lunch with­out the hus­band say­ing: ‘Where the f---’s the fry­ing-pan?’”

This is pre­cisely what she is look­ing for­ward to achiev­ing with a re­cent client. The com­pany re­ceived a call from him the other day. He was tear­ing his hair out be­cause his wife was over­whelmed by her own do­mes­tic chaos. He told Julie the house was a mess and not re­motely cosy and his wife, who didn’t know what to do or where to start, needed se­ri­ous help with re­or­gan­is­ing, re­dec­o­rat­ing, and gen­er­ally over­haul­ing the place.

“The best present I could give her,” he told Julie, “is a gift voucher of you guys. If you come in, even for a few days, it will change her life.”

Home­s­traight UK charges £60 an hour or £300 a day, per per­son. They are on 07766 027549; 07766 055118 and 07766 310024 or www.home­s­traigh­tuk.com

Tal­ented team: from left, Home­s­traight’s Julie Ri­ley, Sim Hughes and Kate Hunter

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