Start a Business
Clearing Out Basements and Garages

(Last updated: April 22, 2010)

This page shows how to start a business clearing out basements and garages. This refers to removing trash and other unwanted items and hauling them away.

Use this information together with the Business Plan for Simple Services page.

The methods and procedures described on this page can be used to help satisfy your needs, and the needs of likely customers.

Here are the topics:

Introduction to idea
Estimated startup costs
Putting idea to work

Other useful information

The Vital Guidelines for Novices page helps beginners who want to start a business. These guidelines provide focused advice and useful insights.


Before using this information to start a business be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer

Introduction to idea

This topic provides an overview of the business idea so you can decide if it suits you.

Basic idea

Homeowners or tenants pay you to remove trash and other unwanted items from their basements and/or garages. (As a related activity, you could refurbish some of the items you haul away and then sell them to the public.)

With the hard times we're having, people are staying in their present homes longer. Thus they tend to accumulate items that are no longer wanted.

Getting these jobs usually is just a question of making yourself known to potential customers, being qualified to do the work, and quoting the right price for the job.

This activity is performed by the job. Once one job is finished you will have to find another job.

This is an indoors and outdoors activity that can be performed year round (roads and weather permitting).

Suitability of idea

This idea is best suited for people who are physically fit and enjoy working with their hands.

Skills and equipment required

Primary skills and equipment -- You need a pickup truck or van, driving skills, and a valid driver's license.

You will use the pickup truck or van to haul rubbish and/or the equipment, supplies, and protective gear needed to perform the work.

Other skills -- You need only everyday skills or skills that can be easily learned on the job.

Other equipment -- You need to own or purchase other items, such as office equipment, job equipment, and protective gear. These items are listed under the startup costs on the next topic.

Profitability of idea

In order to show a profit, you will have to sell enough of your services to cover the startup costs and operating expenses. The more fees you collect over a certain time period the larger your profits. So you want to have substantial sales, along with low startup costs and operating expenses.

The fees you charge are for the use your vehicle, equipment, and services. These hours include the time spent clearing out the basements and garages, performing any additional tasks, and hauling the trash to the dumpsite. Your fee also should include any out-of-pocket expenses you have, such as dump fees.

The fee you can charge depends on how well off the customer is and how anxious both you and the customer are to make a deal. The economic conditions of the local area might also influence these negotiations.

See the Setting the Sales Price page in another section for more detailed information.

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Estimated startup costs

This topic discusses the estimated startup costs for this business idea. Startup costs are what you pay to be ready for actual business operations. The amount of these costs also helps you decide if the idea suits you.

List of items in startup costs

Note: I am only showing one month for certain expenses. You should be able to get your first job or two in a month. Then these items become operating expenses, not startup costs.

The assumed startup costs for this business idea consist of the items described below.

Advertising and promotion (1 month) -- Small classified advertisements in the local newspaper and/or flyers delivered to likely neighborhoods.

Business insurance (1 month) -- Business liability insurance. (Talk to a local insurance agent to see if you need this coverage.)

Governmental requirements -- Local fees and business license. (Note: You might also be subject to state and federal deposits and registration fees, but these will vary. So I have not included them in these startup costs.)

Job equipment -- Broom and dust pan, claw hammer, electrical extension cords, flashlight, portable work light, pry bar, step ladder, utility knife, water container (for drinking), and wide shovel.

Job supplies -- Pads of sticky notes, and trash bags.

Office equipment -- Business telephone, desk accessories (stapler, paper clips, pen and pencils, etc.), and listing adding machine.

Office supplies -- Check blanks for business checking account, file folders or large manila envelopes (for filing papers), lined writing tablets, pads of accounting journals and ledger, and pads of standard job bid forms.

Other operating expenses (1 month) -- Business telephone expense.

Protective gear -- Dust mask, goggles, and work gloves.

Reference book -- Bookkeeping for Dummies (Paperback) available from or other online bookstores. (Note: The "for Dummies" series of books are easy to read manuals for normal people, not dummies.)

Dollar amount of startup costs

Here are the dollar amounts for a frugal business operation:


Estimated Startup Costs

  Advertising and promotion (1 month) $ 75
  Business insurance (1 month)   50
  Governmental requirements (local fees and business license)   50
  Job equipment   160
  Job supplies   15
  Office equipment   120
  Office supplies   100
  Other operating expenses (1 month)   50
  Protective gear   50
  Reference book   15
       Total estimated startup costs $ 685

Note: See the Planning costs and expenses subtopic in the Business Plan on another page for ways to reduce these startup costs.

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Putting idea to work

This topic satisfies the Starting business operations subtopic in the Business Plan page.

Preparing for business operations

Completing the startup requirements -- This is the last step needed just before you start business operations. See the Listing the startup requirements subtopic in the Business Plan for the items remaining to be completed.

As a minimum, you should have discussed the business idea with your family, set up your business entity, and satisfied all governmental and insurance requirements.

Local information needed -- You need the location of local dumpsites, fees charged for dumping, restrictions on materials allowed to be dumped, and rules for hauling trash.

Find out what materials are classified as toxic wastes. You probably want to avoid these materials.

Operating the business

Soliciting customers -- Place classified advertisements in your local newspaper and/or deliver flyers to likely neighborhoods (where rich people live). Use a simple, honest description of your services. Once you become well known in the community, you should benefit from word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers.

For additional ideas on soliciting customers, see the Sales Methods page in another section.

Qualifying customers -- Hopefully, some of the people who read your advertisements and/or flyers will inquire about your services. During this initial telephone conversation, you should determine:

  • If you are willing and able to provide the desired services.
  • If you will need to bring a helper.
  • If you and the customer can agree on an hourly fee, unless this was stated in your advertisements.
  • If you and the customer can agree on any extra charges, such as for hauling the trash to the dump.

Getting jobs -- For a small job, you may be able to come to an agreement over the telephone.

If this will be a big job, the customer may want a firm bid for the job. If so, you probably will want to inspect the job site first. If you both agree on the terms for the job, you can record them on the job bid form. Then both parties can sign it.

I recommend that you meet with customers in their homes or offices, or at the job site. Your neighbors may object to having a stream of strangers arriving at your home. Also, meeting with customers in your home may violate the zoning rules in your town or city.

See the preceding Profitability of idea subtopic for my thoughts about setting your fee.

Before taking on any dangerous jobs, you should have adequate experience and workmen's compensation coverage.

Determining needs of customers -- To insure satisfied customers, you need to determine what they want from you. You need to replace assumptions with specific instructions.

For example, do they want you to knock down any cobwebs and sweep out the areas formerly occupied by the trash? Do they want you to move any furniture or other remaining items?

You also need to determine when and where to perform the services and receive your fee.

Job procedures

Preliminary job activities -- Ask the customer to show you the areas to be cleaned out and identify any items that aren't trash. Leave these non-trash items alone or move them somewhere else, as directed by the customer. (You might want to have a pad of sticky notes with the word "SAVE" written on them. Then you can put a warning note on every item that is not trash.)

Main job activities -- Haul the trash out and put in your vehicle. Use the wide shovel to put small items into trash bags for easier handling.

Final job activities -- Collect your agreed upon fee from the customer. Haul the trash to a dumpsite.

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