It was Fiona Hill‘s dad who got her into the business of downsizing.
“All of a sudden he couldn’t live at home anymore,” Hill told YourMississaugaBiz.com, citing a health issue. “As the daughter who was between jobs it was up to me to get the house ready for sale.”
The process was long and a lot of work, but Hill realized there had to be a need for this kind of service for other families with aging parents and she thought she could help fill it. “There was a part of me that found it very satisfying to impose order and treasure hunt,” she said.
Not long after working for another Toronto organizing company, she started Fiona Hill Downsizing last November.
“Basically, the phones started ringing fairly quickly,” Hill said.
Hill estimates about 35 per cent of her clients are from Oakville and Mississauga, including two cases this past week.
While approximately one-third of her business comes through word-of-mouth referals from her mostly female clients, Hill has also received a lot of references through real estate agents.
“I’m one of the things they can use as tool or a value-add,” she said, noting the popularity of “free-staging” services. “The smart ones are starting to offer downsizing.”
In addition to providing part-time employment for six people, much of Hill’s business is about connecting clients to other local companies, contractors and charitable organizations, including antique shops, movers and collectors.
In Oakville, Hill uses two local consignment stores, “It’s a Steal” and “The Millionaire’s Daughter” for high-end clothing items.
For other goods, Hill often makes large drop-offs to local branches of Value Village, The Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, the Humane Society and other charitable organizations.
“If I have good quality, clean sheets and towels, that goes to the women’s shelters,” she said. “If there’s stacks of laminate flooring in the garage, or tools or construction material, that goes to Habitat for Humanity.”
Despite her three years of experience, there have been times Hill and her team have been caught by surprise. On two separate occasions she found guns and had to call the RCMP for advice on their disposal. “I opened the cupboard and there’s a Remington rifle, bullets and all,” she said.
Still, while the market for organizing and downsizing services is certainly growing, Hill strongly warned that good professional organizing requires a lot of experience and is definitely not a convenient part-time job.
“It’s very hard work and not always profitable,” she said, estimating she works anywhere from five to seven days a week.
“People who have literally taken a course online and they think they can just jump in and do it, both they and the client are going to get a nasty surprise when they finally get in there.”