This red-headed angel of cleaning out people’s homes sparkles when she talks of taking a full basement and placing every item through sales, giveaways, being recycled or trashed. She has huge lists of who wants what and where it should go, and she tries to make good use of what people have accumulated in a life time. It’s not a business for everyone. She calls herself an “eco-conscious downsizer.”
Alison is originally from New England raised in a family where her mother, a potter, was practical about items. “We lived near a potato farm and would follow the trucks hauling the potatoes spilling along the road. She had us there with bags, and we had a lot of nice potato meals.” Nothing was wasted. The family enjoyed nature in Vermont, hiking, biking and skiing with the family almost every weekend. “This led me to a great respect and love of nature.”
She majored in Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. During college she had her first experience matching items to people in need. One super experience sent gorgeous hiking boot samples to a rehab facility which helped amputees. “I liked matching up various items with those people who could use them.” The boots were just sitting there in a warehouse, she says, “and collecting dust – it seemed like such a waste.” The seed was planted.
She moved to Denver 30 years ago to work in the ski industry. “But I felt I wanted a more corporate experience that led to a 20-year career in commercial office furniture. While working a desk job, I carved out time to develop ‘green’ programs for my company and events like the Avon Walk. I started buying and selling outdoor items on Ebay in 1999 and quickly learned what sold and what was worth selling.” The seeds were growing.
After a company lay off, Alison was ready to move on to a life that was different. “I wanted to work in some form of sustainability while I figured out my next steps.” She volunteered with an e-waste recycler (Blue Star), at the SAME Cafe (So All May Eat), and as a farmhand at Ekar Farm (right to west of Lowry). In 2018, a friend asked for help clearing out his dad’s assisted-living apartment. “While helping him, I realized that my selling, recycling, and donating experience could be a business. That’s when Hands-on Help was created.” The seeds all produced a super concept that Alison was good at, enjoyed, and was helpful. Pretty good life plan.
Her Hands-on Help has grown in the last six years. She’s developed great non-profit partners who help keep her clients’ items in use and out of the landfill. “I am blessed with great clients who share my mission of keeping usable items in other’s hands, and I feel we’ve made a sizable difference to our non-profit partners.” She has a team of workers and knows people with trucks. She takes a home from full to finished – emptied and ready for sale. She sells some items on Ebay, donates others, and finds places and people who need what is left over. “I have a great deal of satisfaction when I put some items in people’s hands who need them.”
She does well with rehoming versus liquidating which sounds harsh to her. “These items were once special. I want them to find another home.” It takes time, effort, and energy to move all the various items from a home, but it’s a challenge, and yes, a delight for her. “I don’t usually do estate sales as those items really just need to be sold. I am working with items that need another home whether being sold or given away.”
She works diligently with the families and knows who will take open puzzle boxes, blankets and linens, and a spinning wheel—she’s had two. “There’s a psychology within ‘things’ and why people have saved them for so long. I have to be careful of handling all items with care.” Nostalgic items, family history books and photos, and personal collections hold many people ‘hostage’ with what they own. Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to help them sort, organize, and let go of their treasures. And that’s what I do one client at a time.”
Alison met and married Richard Rabinoff 18 years ago. He’s a chief information officer of Xanterra, a travel company offering wonderful trips of great adventure in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and other U.S. travel gems. They both like to travel and have adventures here in the U.S. as well as a recent trip to Sweden. One day riding their bikes from Park Hill to Lowry, they discovered newly-built eco-friendly home in Boulevard One and settled down after many moves and downsizing. Lowry is a growing neighborhood on the west side, and it offers her many a shopping or dining spot in this diverse neighborhood.
She offers tips to people ready to downsize. Think first every time you bring an item home and put it in the basement. Are you willing to haul it back up for use or is it useless. Start now downsizing books, clothes and unwanted furniture. “Even when I am traveling and thinking of buying a souvenir from a trip: do I really want this in my home forever?” Put names on items for whomever wants it. Put the story of the item on the piece which will make it more valuable to others. Start small with a corner of a room in thinning out items.
You may know a lot of the “cleaning up and getting rid of items” secrets. But there comes a time when the job is BIG and overwhelming and you don’t have family to help then you might need a household rehomer. Let this angel of downsizing help you through the maze of getting a handle on a big job, one of the biggest jobs of your life. You might call Alison for a free consultation. email@example.com 303-999-6087.
Meet Your Lowry Neighbors is a monthly feature written by our intrepid reporter Sally Kurtzman, who knows everyone in our community. If you have a suggestion for a Meet Your Lowry Neighbor, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.