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Consumers : For a Price, Relocating Made Easy

June 21, 1989|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Times Staff Writer

After two years of snooping through other people's houses, Marilyn Katleman says nothing surprises her: "I could see grand-dad hanging in the closet and I'd say, 'Hi,' and close the door."

Still, there were those 20 identical red wigs on 20 wig stands. . . .

"There they were," she recalls, "all lined up like little soldiers." And the owner of the house? "She was wearing the 21st, lying in bed."

It was moving day, but the red-haired mistress of the house didn't have to lift a finger. Katleman and her aproned crew from Inside Moves had taken over.

For a hefty fee, the Beverly Hills-based Inside Moves does everything movers don't do. That includes tossing out fuzzy green things from pantry shelves at the old place and hanging pictures at the new one.

On moving night, Katleman says, "People hardly know they've moved. Their towels are hung, their beds are made. There is soap in the soap dish, food in the fridge."

Homemaker to Homemover

Inside Moves, which in two years has helped move 50 clients, among them Sandy Duncan, Anne Archer and Richard Dreyfuss, was an idea born when Katleman, a divorced homemaker and dedicated SHARE charity volunteer, felt the need to tackle a real job.

"I was just itching to get out there," Katleman says, but she wondered, "What can I do?" Her domestic dossier wasn't going to open doors to executive suites, though she insisted on calling herself a "domestic engineer," not a housewife. "I raised four children, ran a big household, was married to an executive in show business (Harris Katleman, president of 20th Century Fox television), all that. . . ."

She had lived graciously, knew and appreciated nice things--and, she says, "I knew I had great organizational skills."

Then inspiration struck. At moving time, the person who has everything needs one thing more: someone to pack and unpack it all.

Inside Moves isn't the only service of its kind but, Katleman reasoned, "There's always room for another chocolate chip cookie."

Movers are essential, she explains, but, "they're men. And once they dump the boxes, that's it. You're left with it."

She observes that, as a life experience, "moving is right up there with death. It upsets your life."

Initially, Inside Moves was conceived as an unpacking service, but she realized after the first moving job that her crew should be in on the packing up as well, so they'd "know where everything goes."

Since then, she and partner Julie Ellis have refined it. From the time the client receives a supply of change of address cards until the last book is dusted and placed on its shelf at the new house, householders are carried painlessly through the trauma.

Ideally, Katleman says, the client gives her 30 days' notice. Inside Moves makes all those arrangements with the telephone company, the cable television service and the gas company, and, if necessary, books the elevator in the high-rise for moving day. And "we Polaroid everything," Katleman says, so, if the owner wishes, the setting can be duplicated in the new home.

She says, "The one thing we can't do for our clients is throw their things out." Rather, the householder is supplied with color-coded stick-on dots to identify boxes destined for the dumpster or the Salvation Army.

Occupational Hazards

Katleman is not afraid to get her cream-and-purple apron dirty. Once, tossing a client's trash down a chute, she inadvertently sent down the keys to her Mercedes. Wrapping her legs in trash bags, she plunged into the depths of a 40-family dumpster, groveling by the light of a flashlight. She found the keys.

Skeletons in family closets are run-of-the-mill. Consider an Uzi submachine gun found in a suitcase, a collection of porn videos. "Wouldn't you think they'd put those away?" she asks. For a woman with an Imelda Marcos complex, Inside Moves packed hundreds of pairs of shoes individually. One client sent a box of dishes from Chicago with pizza scraps intact. For a bachelor client, the worst task was to sort and match 400 stray socks.

For another bachelor, it was a race against the clock. He was due back from Europe about midnight on moving day. Inside Moves left moments before he arrived, leaving the lights dimmed, the wine chilled and every suit in place in his closet.

On moving day, Katleman and crew take over where the people with the moving van leave off, arriving in the afternoon to supervise the loading of boxes of hand-packed treasures atop the furniture. Some fragile items will be hand-carried. Her admonition to check and double-check every room for items left behind resulted once in the garbage being moved.

Items and Oddments

Another time, Katleman carefully packed what she thought was a dining room centerpiece, only to learn it was a pampered cat's food dish. One client--she recalls him as "the biggest slob I've ever seen"--insisted that everything be moved, even though it was useless junk and litter. In desperation, the Inside Moves crew dumped it all into boxes labeled "STUFF."

"It's amazing," Katleman says. "Some people never throw anything away. The hypochondriacs! The medications! . . . I can understand two blushers, but a dozen? And it boggles my mind, how can anyone wear 100 pairs of nylons or 75 bras?"

Inside Moves is not a cleaning service. "Our clients are people who have their own housekeepers," Katleman explains. But, for a fee, they'll do that, too.

What does all of this pampering cost? About $35 per crew member per hour. With a crew of four or five women working an eight-hour day, "that's about $1,000 a day," she figures. It may take five days to disassemble a very large house, two days to totally move the client into the new one.

"We'd stay" late into the night of moving day, she says, "but a lot of the time the clients want to get to bed."

Not long ago, it was Katleman who moved into a new apartment in Beverly Hills. Collapsing at day's end, she said to herself, "No wonder people hire me."

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