Clutter, junk and a general over-abundance of stuff has prompted storage unit businesses to pop up all over the Charleston area. But what if you don't want to store it? What if you just want it gone?
That's where junk removal companies come in, and like self-storage businesses, they've been growing in number locally and across the United States. Some are small local businesses and others are national franchises.
For a price, they'll come and cart away everything in a garage, or remove construction debris, or truck away everything that's left after a person moves out of a home. Some will help homeowners sort through their things, or demolish a backyard play set or shed.
“Junk removal is very much an industry where a client has items they don’t want any more, typically household items," said Dylan Mullins, owner and manager of Tidewater Junk Removal in Goose Creek. "Over time they have become, instead of useful products, obstacles in their life.
“We remove that stress from their life," he said.
Paul Hayes just got into the business. In April he opened the Charleston-area Junk King franchise. It's one of several national franchises, along with College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving, and 800-GOT-JUNK.
“When people just want to reclaim their domain, they call us," said Hayes. “We say the only thing you have to lift is your phone and your wallet."
Hayes got into the business after 12 years in the Air Force, encouraged by a cousin who owns the San Diego Junk King.
Lots of Hayes' initial jobs involved debris left over from home improvement projects, the sort of heavy material that can't easily be put out for trash collection. At 8 a.m. on a recent Wednesday, he was removing a heavy pile of roof shingles from a back yard in North Charleston.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air when we go to an apartment complex in Mount Pleasant where someone is downsizing," Hayes said. "Our first customer was a guy in Summerville who had a brick wall he had knocked down."
The junk removal businesses don't just pick things up and haul them away. Most sort materials and donate usable items to local charities, which helps the charities and reduces landfill costs for the haulers. Electronic waste, such as televisions and computers, must be sent to specialty recyclers.
“We give most everything that has value to different charities," said Paul Galmitz, owner of Dr. Clutter of the Lowcountry. “The rest gets recycled or scrapped.
"We’ll help people downsize and go through their things," he said. "It might be helping people who are moving to assisted living or a smaller home."
Most of the businesses are small, with a truck or two and several employees. They try to stand out by offering better prices and specialized or extra services, or by having different equipment.
Tidewater, for example, will drop off a collapsible, fabric dumpster that can hold 4,500 pounds. To lift such a thing when it's full they have a truck with a mechanical claw.
“The great thing about those is they get it delivered for free, they have it for two weeks and they can fill it up at their leisure," Mullins said. "Most folks could empty a one-car garage full of debris into one of those."
Hauling the dumpster-bag away costs $225 for up to 2,000 pounds, and $75 per ton after that, he said.
Other junk removers charge based on how much space materials take up on a truck. Hayes charges $75 to remove a single item, and up to $588 to fill up his 18-yard truck.
“That’s essentially six pickup trucks," he said.
Galmitz said he'll help people make decisions about what to get rid of.
"We’ll go through things they’ve have for 40 or 50 years and help them decide what to do," he said.
Elderly residents who are downsizing or decluttering to prepare for a move or just have things they can't do themselves are often customers. Owners of rental properties are also a source of business.
“There are a lot of people who have a couple of homes, and summer rental season is coming, and they’ve got a bunch of stuff under their house that they need gone," Galmitz said.
In some communities, just about anything can be put out by the curb for trash collection, but that's not true everywhere, and even in areas with liberal policies there are restrictions on size and certain materials. For example, a large roll of carpet or the remains of a backyard play set might have to be cut into smaller pieces for curbside collection.
“Where there’s kind of a void, for our customers, is when they have large objects that don’t fit the size and bundling requirement," Mullins said.
“What we find is that older folks, or people who are just short on time, will come to us because we do all these things," he said. “The more the population increases, the more services like ours are needed.”