Imagine moving to a new home and finding flowers on the table, food in the refrigerator, dishes in the cupboards, linens on the bed, clothes in the closet--everything in place.
No shelves to line, floors to clean or boxes to unpack.
It might be the dream of everybody facing what to many is a nightmare, but it really happened to about 40 families in the San Diego area, thanks to Gloria Booth and her team of women workers.
And now that Booth has given her Poway-based company, Royal UNpacking Service, a three-year trial run down south, she's training more workers and expanding her operation--first to the north, into Orange and Los Angeles counties; then maybe to Phoenix, where her parents live; then perhaps to Washington, D. C., where she lived for many years, and then--who knows?
Her goal is to make moving as pleasant as possible for as many people as possible while putting older women, whom she calls "the hidden treasures of this country," to work.
"I'm going to put mature women to work all over this country," she said, "and if I can put them to work in an environment where they feel comfortable, I'll feel great."
Booth, a grandmother, is 56, but has an energy level that Maria Morris, assistant director of the Small Business Development Center of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, termed "phenomenal."
"She's a great example to all businesspeople but especially to older women," Morris said, "because she shows that being able to take an idea and move it forward, being an entrepreneur, has nothing to do with age."
Once an Actress
Booth didn't even get the idea for her company until long after her husband retired as a Navy captain. Her father is a retired Army colonel. In her lifetime, Booth has done her share of moving.
Except for a stint as an actress (under her maiden name of Gloria Doman) in the '50s as a co-star with Virginia Bruce in the movie "Istanbul," Booth devoted her life to her family and volunteer activities until she started her company.
She raised five children as a commanding officer's wife, was responsible for handling the affairs of more than 200 officers' and enlisted men's wives. She was, she likes to say, "the head mama."
Most of the 25 women she currently uses from one job to another never worked outside their homes before joining Booth, either.
"Some are younger than I, and some are older, but they're all used to doing work in their homes, and they love it," she said. "After 20 years of being a housewife, some women don't think they amount to anything, but they have talents even they don't know."
Using their talents, even on a part-time basis--which is how most of Booth's workers work, gives the women a sense of self worth, she says.
What kind of talents do her workers have?
Some have a talent for organizing linen closets so that king-sized sheets are neatly folded on one labeled shelf, twin-sized sheets on another.
Some have a talent for cutting and laying white vinyl tiles for kitchen shelves--"so when the molasses spills, all you have to do is take a wet cloth and wipe up the mess," Booth explains.
On Job Three Days
Other women who work for her have talents in arranging books, placing indoor/outdoor carpeting in cupboards where pots and pans go, getting utilities and telephones hooked up, making beds, and doing whatever else it can take to get a house in order after a move.
For three days, generally, after the moving van arrives with a shipment of household goods, "six of us become that home's housewife," she said.
Kathy Shilkret, director of media relations for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, said, "The closest thing I've heard to it is 'Rent-A-Yenta,' which mainly does errands."
Morris, of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said, "To my knowledge, the kind of service Gloria provides is unique, because it is one step beyond what the normal packing/unpacking service provides. And if moving companies would recognize it, she could complement what they do, because she puts in place what they move. Gloria even has a designer who decides where a family's beautiful things should go."
Interview With Client
Booth's work on a home begins before moving day with a client interview. "We make an effort to put things where they want, but we also want to go by their life styles. Are they left-handed? Do they do a lot of formal entertaining? Such things can make a difference in knowing where things go."
After the interview, she gives the clients a few packing instructions and some colored labels to put on boxes. "We use a color-coded system to make it easier for the movers--yellow for the kitchen, blue for the living room, black for the garage, green for a bedroom and so on," she explained.
If the client has a pet, Booth will even take care of it during the move--"to avoid kennel trauma," she says. "We'll pick up Poopsy Babe, and she'll sleep on the bed of one of our women so it will be as homelike as possible."