Cleaning Pair Strive to Whip Homes into Simple Shape By Diane Dietz – The Register-Guard
When Ariel Jones decided to earn money while her children were in school, picking up a dust rag and starting a housekeeping business was as natural as wiping off toothpaste splatter from a bathroom mirror. As a single mother, Harris raised self-reliant kids who aren’t afraid to cobble together employment opportunities. Harris told them that all work has honor. Housekeepers may get little respect from society at large, but the work has all the autonomy and reward that Harris and her self-starter children look for. “I can help somebody make their life easier,” said Harris, who with her daughter owns Mom & Me Clean Sweep Team. “What more sense of satisfaction do you need?” Julianne Harris cast the die for her future family at age 13, when she said goodbye to her nine older siblings and lit out on her own moving in with her older sister 90 miles away from the rest of the family to help her sister by babysitting her nephew and helping out where she could. She had her first child – Ariel – when she was 16. And she was unable to complete her high school education. She learned her lessons the hard way. “When you are in a self-reliant mode you figure out how to do things and how not to be taken advantage of, and I certainly was when I was young,” she said. Eventually, Harris started the Busy Bees cleaning service in Tucson. She learned to set a fair price for her labor. She developed a confidence that she would always keep food on the table. “I never worry about that. It’s just amazing. I know all of my needs will be taken care of,” she said. Harris remarried and settled in Eugene in the early 1990s.
For five years, she and her husband operated a satellite television franchise. It grew, but also overwhelmed the couple’s financing, Harris said. “We kind of imploded on ourselves.” The couple declared bankruptcy, and Harris later went back to her independent work. From her home, she began marketing Pre Paid Legal Services, a business that provides legal help as needed to consumers who pay a regular monthly fee. She coordinated the 26th annual Senior Holiday Dinner sponsored by the Lane County Human Services Commission. She threw herself into volunteer work for the American Cancer Society and the Ribbon of Promise anti-school violence organization. She helped organize breakfast for 1,000 during the last Relay for Life. “She’s a scrapper,” said Lori Macedone, a colleague in the Women’s Business Network, a Eugene-based nonprofit group that helps women meet to discuss business opportunities and issues. “She just does not fear any kind of hard work: physical, mental, organizational.” “She’s one of those kinds of women who’s quite a multi-tasker, or multi-taskette. It’s incredible: She gives so much of her time,” said Emily Evans, president of the Women’s Business Network. Harris lives by her cell phone. At a Springfield Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting earlier this year, she made a trip into the restroom, where her cell phone – containing all her important numbers – slipped into the toilet just as she flushed. A woman in the next stall rushed to her aid and used her own cell phone to call Harris’ number – but no sound emanated from the porcelain font. Then Harris remembered she’d switched the phone to silent mode in preparation for the chamber meeting. “That was a bad day. It was a really bad day,” she said. Still, Harris landed on her feet. She bought a new cell phone and was able to re-create her phone book from numbers that were stored online. “I was able to retrieve my messages and call them back in a timely manner,” she said. Harris’ daughter, Ariel Jones, started up her cleaning business on her own in 2000. Her brothers found their own way, too. One plays professional disk golf and coaches children’s sports for a living; the other is an artist who blows and sells glass wine goblets. Jones lured Harris back into the housekeeping business. After four years on her own, Jones was overrun with cleaning clients. She called on her mother to help her get through her jobs faster. Then she notified her clients: “My `Mom & Me’ are going to come clean.”
That’s how their company began. Now, “Mom & Me Clean Sweep Team” is the official name listed on the Oregon Business Registry. The pair does basic cleaning, organizing and room makeovers. Harris and Jones didn’t worry about family frictions getting in the way of their company. They said they see each other every day. The cleaning just gives them more time to talk. “We talk and gossip and complain, and we can whip through these houses,” Harris said. “All of a sudden we’re done and moving onto the next house.” Jones and Harris are fans of the TLC network “Clean Sweep” reality series, which challenges ordinary people to simplify and organize their homes. People do get overwhelmed by their stuff, Harris said. And it’s rewarding to help them divest and relax into streamlined surroundings. “We’re opinionated,” Jones said. “We say, `That looks terrible. That needs to be cleaned up. What is this? What is it for? This has got to go.’ ” The team strives to be full service, so they bring in other family members when weeding or pressure-washing are required. Some clients, like rental owner B.J. Hurwich, lean on Harris and Jones for all kinds of services. “Harris has great color taste and I have blah color taste,” Hurwich said. “I tend to do everything in off white. I’ve come to rely on her to make things look really attractive and beautiful.”
MOM & ME CLEAN SWEEP TEAM
Owners: Julianne Harris and Ariel Jones
Years in business: started in 2003
Number of employees: 07+ for cleaning a basic three-bedroom house. It does organizing and room makeovers on a bid basis. Family members involved in the business:Julianne and Ariel; Julianne’s husband, Justin; and Julianne’s sons, Kyle and Andrew and their partners Shauna and Daniel.