Pack a trunk, make a buck.
Dayna Brandoff, founder of Chaos Theory, Inc., a New York-based business, admits that packing kids up for summer camp is a niche segment of the professional organizing business. Most of her upscale clients live in Manhattan, Long Island or Westchester County and can well afford the thousands of dollars charged by the best summer sleepaway camps – but with the growth of organizing businesses comes a new demand for camp-packing services.
It doesn’t surprise her, really. “Packing kids' bags for sleepaway camp was one of the first items on my menu of services when I launched my business seven years ago,” she says. “I included it to differentiate my company from other professional organizers.” She adds playfully, “I’m a camper at heart. Nothing pleased me more when I was growing up than packing my own bags to go away.”
Now she finds joy, passion – and plenty of profit – in organizing the trunks of other camp-destined kids.
Brandoff charges $500 for the planning and packing for one summer camp-bound child. Beyond that, if shopping services or special projects are needed, she charges $125 an hour. She has a staff of organizers as well.
“A lot of parents lead very busy professional lives,” explains Brandoff, who has a degree from Cornell in policy analysis and management. “In the weeks leading up to a child’s departure, they’d rather leave the stressful work to someone else and really enjoy some spare time with their children. For every job to be done in this world, there’s someone who doesn’t want to do it – so we do it.”
The first time is, generally speaking, the charm. “We get a lot of calls for the first-time camper’s needs, and then it’s much easier the summer after that,” she says. “At that point it’s really just about repacking, because the groundwork has been done. Kids have outgrown clothes from the previous summer, but we have all of the basics at the ready. When people send their second child away, we add the next child” to the task.
Can anything go into a trunk? No. “Camps put limitations on what kids can have in terms of volume, so nothing too outrageous or crazy goes into the trunks,” she says. Still, “a lot of girls want to take a Zara Terez stuffed pillow with them to camp,” she says. “I also pack toys and games, things like bubbles, Mad Libs, balloons – things that parents might grab in a toy store later in the summer and mail to their kids. Now those things are going in the trunk,” as some camps are cutting down on the number of packages kids can receive during the summer.
Brandoff is all business: She belongs to the National Association of Professional Organizers, a 4,000-member group that shares networking, educational opportunities, and tech developments – such as an organizing app called Evernote, which Brandoff says is one of her favorites because it keeps all key information in one place.
Clearly, though, her passion for organizing is personal: “Whenever I was stressed in the past, I found myself redoing a closet that did not need redoing – so it became my outlet for handling stress. I turned that into a business. It gave me a lot of joy to see a reorganized space – and today it brings me joy to see my clients’ spaces reorganized” - even when those clients are tow-headed kids heading for bunks, boating and bug juice wherever their parents’ money can take them.
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