Why do it yourself, when you can so easily get someone else to do it for you? Lifestyle solutions for a stress-free existence.
In the frenetic 21st century a new servant class is emerging. Not white-gloved and head-bobbing but hard-headed and entrepreneurial, ready to perform all the trying tasks that the time-poor but cash-rich have neither the energy nor inclination to do themselves.
THE LIFE ORGANISERS
ten uk (07000 10 1999) was launched in 1998 by Alex Cheatle and Andrew Long to help organise the private lives of hard-pressed professional people and their families. Members pay £1,000 a year to be allocated their own personal account manager, who will deal with any project that the member has neither the time, experience or inclination to perform.
‘One member asked us to find both a break-dancing teacher for her 12 year-old son and someone to train her dog not to pee on the carpet. Another wanted us to find a birthday present for her husband, who was a Man United fan. In the end, we got Dennis Law to write a birthday greeting on a photograph.’
Most of ten uk’s customers are aged between 28 and 40 and working in high-stress industries like banking and law. They have money to spare but no time and need a little bit of extra help with life’s many ongoing inconveniences – among the most common tasks that ten uk is asked to sort out is the setting up of holidays, finding builders, getting financial advice, and finding home help.
THE CLUTTER CONSULTANT
One of modern life’s most stressful pressures is the baggage we carry round with us. Many of us have a spare room, loft or garage, packed with ten-year-old skis and all the paintings that our children did in primary school. Often the mere thought of trying to edit or organise it all sends us into stressful despair.
This is why, in 1999, Annya Ladakh set up Clear Space (0207 233 3138), to be to the home what colonic irrigation is to the body – a life-enhancing purge. Annya will travel to your home and take you round your personal space to help you devise a strategy to cleanse you of the excess of your past.
‘If you’ve split up from a marriage and are moving into a smaller space, or are elderly and moving out of a family home, it may be a problem to know what to hold onto and what to let go of. My object is to help people get rid of what is not appropriate, to help them live in the present.’
With a list of charity shops that collect, and advice about car-boot sales, she eases her clients through the trauma of transitional objects. ‘Afterwards my clients have raised self-esteem and reduced stress levels, and are better able to focus on the rest of their life.’
Annya works mainly in London and the South-East, but will also undertake work in the Glasgow area. She charges a minimum of £200 for the first four-hour consultation – which is usually sufficient – and £50 an hour thereafter.
THE HOME HANDYMAN
At one time we bought furniture from shops, it arrived in a van and two strong men brought it in and put it in the exact position we needed it. Then came the flat pack – and the distress and the tears and the half-finished chest of drawers and the terrible rows between husbands and wives. But fortunately one man found a solution to all that. Jack Bock set up Screwdriver (0800 454 828) to assemble the furniture we’re supposed to know how to assemble ourselves.
‘I’d just got back from living in Ireland, and I’d bought some office furniture from IKEA. I got it home, took one look at the instructions and called in the handyman.’ He felt immediately that there must be others who would want to do the same.
He now employs hundreds of retired engineers and carpenters countrywide to assemble any piece of flat-packed furniture from IKEA, House of Fraser, Habitat and other major stores. The assembly time of most items of flat-packed furniture is logged onto Screwdriver’s computer and they will give you an estimate of the assembly time.( A Habitat Lisbon wardrobe, for example, will take about two-and-a -half hours to build.) The cost: £34 for the first hour, plus £7 for every 15 minutes thereafter.
THE PROPERTY FINDERS
If moving house is one of life’s most distressing experiences, then trying to find a house must soar off the Richter scale of stress . But one certain way to reduce the pressure is to consult property search agents Property Vision (0207 808 8388).
Property Vision was set up in 1983 to help prospective buyers, both in London and the country, to find their dream flat, vicarage or stately home. Not only will one of their 35 employees sift through estate agents’ details, visit properties and use private sources to identify the home of your dreams, but once they have found it they will hold your hand through every step to completion. Most importantly of all they will help you negotiate the lowest price possible.
But for many people the really stress-relieving part of the service is the comforting sense that their search for property is being intelligently understood. ‘We like to think,’ says founding director Willie Gething, ‘ that if we are listening properly our clients will never arrive at a property and think, ‘What am I doing here?”
Property Vision charges a registration fee of £1500 in London and £2,500 in the country, plus a finding fee of 2.5 per cent plus VAT.
BOOKING THE COOKS
For over thirty years now domestic employment agency Lumley’s has remained utterly calm in the face of disaster. ‘We once even managed to find a chef at half an hour’s notice when a housekeeper dropped dead just before 20 people were arriving for lunch.’
In general they prefer slightly longer notice. ‘On average it takes about two weeks to find a good cook, but many of our customers – who include members of the Royal family – book their staff for villas and shooting lodges several months in advance.’
As well as cooks, Lumleys will supply waitresses, butlers, chalet girls and ‘spare pair of hands’ – ‘We have a lot of girls who work for us in their gap year, and who are happy to undertake anything around the house from peeling carrots to distracting children.’ – for anywhere in Britain and abroad, for both short- and long-term appointments.
A top cordon bleu cook will cost £500 a week, plus the agency’s fee, which varies from £42 plus VAT for a weekend to £140 plus VAT for a month’s booking.
Image courtesy of Valentin.Ottone