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She'll Move Into Your New Digs and Unpack--for You

May 13, 1988|ELIZABETH BRIGHTON | This is free-lance writer Elizabeth Brighton's first article for Orange County Life

It's the stuff dreams are made of.

You buy the new house or sign the new lease and wash your hands of the whole business--maybe even take off on vacation. And while you're gone, someone else packs your belongings, supervises the movers, lines the shelves, washes the dishes, unpacks the whole shaboodle, arranges the furniture, hangs the pictures, wires the stereo and gets the utilities turned on.

Well, Patty Dakides has taken that fantasy and turned it into a thriving business called the Smart Move, in which she performs all those services and more.

Dakides, 37 and a former model, was separated from her husband two years ago and "needed to work, but I didn't really have any skills to make a decent living."

"I moved to Laguna Hills with my two daughters and that summer I started thinking about all the possibilities and liabilities of starting this business. A lot of people thought it was a good idea. Then I started talking to Realtors."

That is how Dakides met one of her clients, Susan Forrest.

"Patty was visiting an open house I was hosting and introduced herself," Forrest recalled. "The more she talked about her service, the more interested I became. I was thinking about myself. If I was going to refer someone, I'd like to have experience firsthand."

In October, 1987, Forrest contracted with Dakides to unpack and organize her new home after a move from San Diego.

"She unpacked me from sight unseen," Forrest said. Unlike the case with other clients, Dakides did not have the benefit of seeing how Forrest had her other house styled.

"The house was 1,000% in order," Forrest said. "There was even a meal here for me to heat up when I came home."

Forrest took a week off to go skiing with her family while Dakides unpacked. It took Dakides four days. And the complimentary dinner, courtesy of the Smart Move, is standard.

"She (Dakides) is not emotionally involved, so she makes decisions that end up being better than your emotional decisions," Forrest said. Considering "the emotional drain, stress, days and time, I don't think people realize. . . . It would have taken me weeks to get things put away. My time is worth more. With that done and out of the way, you can go forward and do what you like."

What does a service like this cost?

"Obviously, it didn't even make me flinch, because I can't even remember what it was. Now I use her service as gifts to some of my clients," Forrest said.

Dakides said her prices are as varied as the jobs she performs. For most moving jobs, she hires crews to do the major work of unpacking and sorting. A three-person crew runs $400 a day.

"Then I go behind them and detail it," she said. "I'm a picky person, a perfectionist. That's why I have to see everything." Forrest said Dakides even had the cereal boxes all facing in the same direction.

Smaller jobs such as single rooms or closets bill out at $15 an hour per person. Larger jobs are discounted 10% for every day after three.

The Smart Move clients tend to be professional people or people with health problems, according to Dakides. Her client list includes doctors, CPAs, housewives, decorators, real estate agents, salespersons, artists, small and large business owners, some elderly and high-risk expectant mothers.

"They are all people that like organization and don't have the time to do it or don't know how," she said. "It's something that if they don't have it--it affects everything they do.

"I think for first-timers, I'm a luxury," Dakides said. "But once people have used me, I think they would call me back. It is so much more time-effective."

Dakides is in the process of expanding her business by establishing and training crews to work throughout Orange County.

"Once that's done, I want to introduce my service to large corporations for executive transfers," Dakides said.

"A move from one part of the country to another is traumatic," Dakides said. "Combine that with going to a new job, not having friends or even knowing where the post office is and, well, it's a shock.

"My service eliminates the shock and actually allows them to start living and producing right away. And that alone is cost-effective for the company. An added benefit is that clients find their homes more organized than if they would have done it themselves. I'm also hoping to establish a network with moving companies statewide," she added.

While Dakides is busy accommodating the demands of a growing business, happy Smart Move clients keep her name circulating.

"She is just like a wife," El Niguel Heights resident Judy Wahler said. "She's more together than I am."

Her first contract with the Smart Move came last year while she and husband Bob struggled with a long and serious illness he had contracted. Many normal household chores were of necessity ignored, she said, and the clutter grew.

"I had a very ill husband," Judy Wahler said. "I could not get (my act) together. So when a friend of mine referred me to Patty, I called her . . . and she organized my life."

One of the first needs was for more closet space and Dakides got the names of five closet cabinetry companies, interviewed them all, got prices and presented them to the Wahlers.

"We went with the company she suggested," Judy Wahler said. "Patty came back once it was built and organized everything. She color-coordinated my clothes, my sweaters, my shirts, my shoes, everything. She matched my bags from the rainbow down."

"I think it is terrific," Bob Wahler said. "Judy was inspired to get me set up where my shirts and sweaters are all in one place. I have drawers for my socks, underwear, pajamas. They even put in a top drawer for my change and scraps of paper."

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