Her Nana’s rabbit’s foot is a lucky token for Forest Parker Jacquelyn Weiner-O’Shea’s new life-inventory business. Weiner-O’Shea rescued the fuzzy little tschotske when family members were cleaning out the Del Ray Beach, Fla., home of her grandparents which was for sale, so her grandfather could move to an assisted-living facility.
“This was important to her,” Weiner-O’Shea said holding the rabbit’s foot at the Forest Park Community Center Health Fair last month. “I was upset to see how many of my grandmother’s possessions were destined for the Salvation Army because our family was in such an emotional state and in such a hurry to empty the house.”
With eBay expertise and a soft-spot for vintage items, Weiner-O’Shea collected some of the things that reminded her of her grandparents: an autograph book from the 1940s, an antique hairbrush, a miniature baby doll, a photo of the couple from early in their marriage. One Egyptian-style necklace, purchased on a visit to Cairo, was worth more than $100 on eBay, she discovered.
Then she started thinking about how many other families were going through the same thing.
Weiner-O’Shea, who formerly ran an independent record label, was with the Navy Individual Ready Reserve, and worked in business, said she saw how families could use help to inventory and organize items before a crisis occurred.
“Going through the possessions of someone you love is emotionally difficult,” Weiner-O’Shea said. “It puts strain on families. Everyone wants the Lladro or the diamond engagement ring and all the rest becomes drama — or junk.”
Weiner-O’Shea, 48, said she’s always had an entrepreneurial mindset. She currently teaches Music Business at Triton Community College. The economy’s turndown led her to do some soul-searching about starting the kind of business that would fit the things she already loves: family relationships and vintage items.
Weiner-O’Shea chose the name “CLEAR-A-PATH” for the business because she believes that removing clutter and organizing belongings provides a practical benefit and a spiritual one as well.
“It’s a spiritual thing to know your possessions are organized. That clears a path; that’s comforting,” she said.
CLEAR-A-PATH offers inventory, organization, sorting and storage services.
Starting at $30 per hour, and using a handheld microphone, Weiner-O’Shea will inventory important possessions, like the collection in a china cabinet or a jewelry box, creating an Excel document for clients. Her clients then can make a list of who gets what, or Weiner-O’Shea can tag each item with its background.
“It might be a pair of opal earrings, but how much more important they become when you find out your grandfather gave them to your grandmother on a special occasion,” she said.
She identifies with older people and likes to hear their stories.
“I understand the Depression Era mindset that people have about their things,” she said. In today’s disposable culture, she said, “people don’t realize how hard people really struggled economically to acquire those objects.”
“I’m a very sentimental person,” she added. “Legacies are part of me.”
She has some clients she works with for as little as an hour a month. A repeat foster parent, she also said she loves family relationships and understands the importance of a sympathetic ear.
“I like to hear the stories,” she said. “Spiritually and emotionally, I think this business is the right thing for me.”
She said “sandwich generation” Baby Boomers are sometimes afraid to talk to their parents about what they want to do with their possessions. It’s emotionally draining and upsetting.
“They’re having the conversation, just not with their parents.”
The service Weiner-O’Shea thinks will catch on is to inventory these things before the stress of a hospitalization or nursing home admission is upon a family, i.e. taking time to do it right.
She offers valuations of items based on Internet searches and can give families an eBay tutorial to sell items online by setting up a store. She also inventories objects for commercial clients and coordinates storage for clients who are moving or downsizing.
“This business encourages people to take care of this before they pass away, so their children aren’t left with the chore,” she said.