Hey can you come help us move?
Can you help us move? You will get this request from your house cleaning clients. The first reason is they trust you implicitly with their stuff, their home, and the awkwardness of all their belongings being shifted and moved around.
The second reason they will ask you to help them to move, is because they are expecting to pay house cleaning rates for the odd job of packing and hauling boxes around. A move usually includes lots of packing, wrapping stuff in bubble wrap or newspaper, labeling cardboard boxes, unearthing hidden things, and cleaning up after yourself as you go, and of course heavy lifting.
Clarify the scope of the move
When you are asked to help with a move, clarify upfront what the expectations are. Are you coming after everything is packed up and in the truck — and you will be doing one final cleaning? Or will you be expected to help pack boxes?
I recommend that you don’t charge by the hour for this job, because it’s impossible to know how long the job will take (If you do charge by the hour, the going rate across the country is between $30-$50 per hour based on experience) Just realize that you will not be moving at the same speed as cleaning, and when people move, they uncover lots of things that have been hidden for years that have emotional attachments to them. During a move, your clients will be deciding if they will be keeping their stuff, donating to charity, giving it away to family or friends, or tossing it in the trash.
The day of the move is going to be a rough day
Realize too that people move for different reasons – some of which you may, or may not know. They could be getting divorced, just found out they are pregnant and need more space, are downsizing due to aging or ailments, moving for a new job, or moving because of school problems with their kids. Maybe they can’t afford their current location. They may have an elder parent moving in with them and need ground floor accommodations, they may be moving to be closer to their kids, and a host of other possibilities.
Take control & stay emotionally un-involved
If you are actually helping with the move, you may be working right alongside the client as they pack boxes. Take control and keep the project moving along. Do things that need to be done that don’t require micro-managing like emptying the food from the pantry and packing it up, emptying the fridge and freezer into coolers. Packing up china cabinets or toy boxes, coat closets, broom closets etc. Pack up supplies under the bathroom sinks and books and DVD’s from the shelves. There are lots of things you can do that won’t require the client to give you step-by-step directions. This will also free the client to make the more emotional decisions without involving you.
Bring some Boxes, garbage bags, packing tape and a magic marker
My favorite two options for free empty boxes are:
- Swing by the local recycling drop off bins and pick up stacks of free empty boxes that have been dropped off for recycling. (Heck, recycle them one more time before they go back to the dump. My local recycling technician explained they are thrilled when people re-use perfectly good boxes and it saves them money from recycling them so soon, and they are there free for the taking if you need them.)
- Another good place to find empty boxes is on the neighborhood app like NextDoor or your neighborhood Facebook page.
“Hey, I’ve got a move coming up, anybody have some empty boxes you are not using that I can have free of charge?”
- A roll of packing tape will ensure you are able to tape the boxes closed and keep stuff from falling out. The client may have a tape gun, but if you have your own tape, you can work twice as fast.
- A roll of garbage bags is also super helpful. Again, the client may have some, if not, you are prepared.
- Of course a magic marker to mark the boxes is wise.
In all the years of helping my house cleaning clients move, I’ve brought along these supplies, and have used them all every time. If you have to buy a tape gun, and garbage bags, build the expense into your quote. But don’t show up without supplies that will allow you to do the job you were hired to do.
Make the move easy on the client and on you
Sometimes the client is just moving down the street and you may still be their house cleaner when they move. If this is the case, pack stuff so it can easily be found and put away. Mark the boxes so anybody carrying stuff in knows where it goes. i.e. “Kayla’s Bathroom, under sink”, “Ronnie’s toy room, toy closet”
Who knows, you may be the one unpacking the boxes as well and putting stuff away.
Bring your own cleaning supplies and step ladder to a move
I always bring all of my cleaning supplies to a move. My mop bucket, my mop, vacuum, step ladder, cleaning caddy and an outdoor gas blower to blow out debris from the garage and porch as we finish the job.
I never know what I am going to need, but I have my own supplies just in case. The client may have a step ladder, but if you both need one at the same time, and you didn’t bring one, somebody will have to wait.
(I also bring my lunch smoothie in a cooler – I’ll need to keep my energy up while working without stopping to go out for lunch.)
Help with Heavy Lifting
If you have agreed to carry boxes out, make sure you use proper lifting techniques. You don’t want to injure your back by lifting stuff that is too heavy. It’s a good idea to stretch before lifting boxes so you don’t pull any muscles, and when you lift, squat using your leg power and keep your back straight. Turn with your legs and feet rather than twisting at the waist. Working too fast can also add to injury.
If boxes are too heavy to lift by yourself, ask for assistance. Two people carrying a heavy item is easier than one.
Cleaning the obvious
If a client is moving out there are obvious things that need to be done. When the client is going through the last of the packing, you can start defrosting the freezer, clean out the fridge, oven, burners on the stove, clean the bathrooms and dust the blinds and wash the insides of the windows. The baseboards will all need to be dusted along with any crown molding. Remove any cobwebs and then vacuum your way out of every room. Bathrooms and kitchen, entry ways and laundry rooms will need to be sanitized and floors need to be mopped. You can finish up about the same time the client finishes the packing.
Making tough decisions
There may be tough decisions that need to be made about junk that is left behind. Example, during one move, a woman had three big boxes of empty shampoo bottles that all had a pinch of shampoo left in them. Keeping these bottles suggests she was afraid of running out, and thus would never allow herself to fully run out, toss the bottle and get a new bottle. She just got a new bottle and saved the old bottle for a rainy day. She obviously was never going to use these again, and keeping them was not an option as they wouldn’t fit on the moving truck. Every time during the day I asked for guidance on what to do with the “junk” she would get emotionally upset. Getting rid of stuff was a problem for her. She had hired me to do a job which was to help her move as seamlessly as possible. When she wasn’t looking, the boxes were tossed in a community dumpster. And no one was the wiser.
An elderly man who was downsizing had a garage full of tool magazines dating back to the 60’s. Garden equipment and lawn mower magazines with items no longer for sale and at prices we’ll never see again. The magazines had been warped due to heat, humidity, spills, and weather, and many of them had been chewed apart by mice. The pages were stuck together and nobody was ever going to (or ever could) read them again. They too disappeared in an *authorized dumpster when no one was looking.
* An authorized dumpster is one that is designated for the trash on that property for homeowners to use, or ones that have been rented by a moving/cleaning crew. Please don’t throw trash in an unauthorized dumpster. It is illegal and somebody is paying to rent it. If you are not paying for it’s use, either through your home owners or landscaping dues, you don’t have permission to use it. If you are not sure, ask the home owner if they are granted access before you toss in moving trash.
Take care when tossing someone else’s stuff that it is just junk – that it can be replaced if necessary. (Worst case scenario, I buy the woman a new bottle of shampoo to replace all of the next to empty jugs tossed out, and I subscribe to a new Harbor Freight Tools Magazine with recent pricing for the older gent.) Toss stuff that will never be thought of again after the move, and stuff that won’t be missed.
Stuff you can’t get rid of without permission: Books, dishes, clothing, trinkets – they all have sentimental value. The home owner will have to make those decisions.
One of the reasons I encourage you to stick with homes that are new to 15 years old, is that if somebody moved 15 years ago, it is unlikely they’ve got crap dating back 40-50 years. Every move encourages a purging if you will, and newer homes have less of this type of stuff to sort through and pack.
Download my detailed Free Moving Checklist so you don’t forget anything while helping your client’s move and as an added service to your house cleaning client – give them a copy as well. It’s broken down by weeks (i.e. here’s what you do 8 weeks before you move, 7 weeks before you move, 6 weeks etc.)
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