Meet the Start-up that Wants to Tidy Your Room

Meet the Start-up that Wants to Tidy Your Room

What you need to know

Ten questions with the founders of Tidy Man, a Taipei-based startup fighting against waste, clutter and, sometimes, heartbreak.

Do any of the following symptoms sound familiar?

"I have difficulty using spaces in my home for their intended purposes (for example, eating with others at my kitchen table, sitting on my sofa to watch TV, or sleeping in my bed)."

"Getting rid of my possessions causes me anxiety, whether I'm throwing them out, donating them, or selling them."

"I often have a hard time finding what I am looking for because my place is always cluttered with possessions."

If any of your answers is a “yes”, then you are probably suffering from “hoarding disorder,” a "disease of affluence" listed in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013.

“A person’s room reflects their life”, says Cheng Boyuan (鄭博元), co-founder of Tidy Man, a start-up that tackles hoarding by rearranging your possessions for you.

The News Lens International (TNLI) interviewed Cheng and his fellow company founders, Tzeng Chi-yun (曾紀昀), Kuo Shih-chieh (郭士傑), Lai Ting-ho (賴庭荷) in Taipei.

TNLI: What is the origin of Tidy Man and when did you come up with the idea for the business?

Tidy Man: Our plan originally was to deal with the things people throw-away by turning them into new products. Later we met Closet Visitor, a team that helps people arranging messy closets. We found that both of our teams wanted to reduce waste in homes. So we merged in July and Tidy Man was born. We interviewed 19 people from different age groups and formed study groups to learn more about cleaning tips and people’s mental health issues. We realized that people’s mental issues are reflected in their living style and the condition of their rooms. We also found out that it is a problem which nearly everyone has. Therefore, we decided to establish the business.

TNLI: Can you briefly describe what the company does?

Tidy Man: There are three phases in our service. First, we ask customers to send us pictures of their rooms so we have a basic knowledge of their lifestyle, usually this takes 30 minutes. And then we visit the customer's house to rearrange their possessions with them. We clean up the items not by areas in the room but by their usage categories. This makes it easier for the owner to see the excessive number of their belongings. We also ask them where they got the items, and the reason to keep it. If they feel like throwing it away, we will keep it for them and dump it if they do not ask for it back after two weeks. Last, after rearranging the possessions with them, we teach them how to maintain the order in a room and how they should change their hoarding habits. We also cooperate with other platforms to sell or reuse the things they have thrown away.

TNLI: What is the target market in terms of age and gender?

Tidy Man: Everyone needs a clean room so our service meets the needs of all kinds of people. But, in our survey among different groups of people, we have found out that most customers are female aged from 25 to 35. This may be attributed to the pressure in the society that people tend to expect women to be tidy. Women also face more stress when they are about to get married. However, many women do not know how to keep their rooms tidy even when they are adults.

TNLI : What is the current status of Tidy Man?

Tidy Man: There are seven people in our team and we were selected by the NTU Garage, a start-up incubator, to be one of the teams they support. We meet up at least once to twice a week to discuss the customers’ situations and the ways we will consult with them. Currently, we are helping 100 people cleaning up their rooms for free to collect case experiences.

TNLI: Are there any competitors in Taiwan? What makes Tidy Man different from other how cleaning service businesses?

Tidy Man: We found that there have already been plenty of home cleaning service providers. However, most of them focus on “cleaning up,” which basically means just throwing away the garbage from a room. Comparatively, what we provide is a living style. We do not just clean a person’s room, but teach them how to do it themselves instead. We give tips for housing and figure out shopping and hoarding problems with them. It is always harder to throw something away than buy something new. And there is always a reason behind one’s hoarding habit that needs to be figured out.

TNLI: How does the team plan to evolve in the future?

Tidy Man: After our first 100 cases we will come up with a reasonable price. Through this process, we can also develop our reputation in the market. In addition, we will start to pitch the business model to investors for further support.

TNLI: If you plan to expand the business, how can you solve the problem of your staff being based in Taipei.

Tidy Man: We view our company as a hospital and our customers as patients. By visiting them and providing consultation, we cure their illness and solve their problems. The 100 cases we select will fall in different geographical areas in Taiwan. We will train new consultants by bringing them along when visiting the customers’ houses and this model will be adopted in all cities so the training process can take place simultaneously, which is efficient.

TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges so far?

Tidy Man: Since our team is still evolving, the hardest part is to gather more people to join our team. We also want to expand the team by building up our reputation so more people can join the development of Tidy Man, and even speed it up.

TNLI: Are there any special cases that are worth of sharing?

Tidy Man: In one of the cases, A Yuan (阿原), a 25-year-old guy whose room was a mess, did not realize he was still obsessed with a five-year relationship that had ended months ago until our team helped him clean up his room. He realized that he had been hoarding things relating to the ex-girlfriend. He avoided going home and refused to clean them up because he did not dare look at them. We were glad to help him make his room tidier and help him to move.

Another case was a girl who loved collecting books. She said “I do not want to throw any of them away” upon our visit. In the end, she got rid of dozens of books out of more than 200. She realized that she bought some of them not because she liked them, but because they taught her how to become someone her dad wanted her to become. All these happened after we asked her to take them all out of the shelves, telling us stories behind each of the book. What we did most was just listening but it made her understand herself better.

TNLI: What does Tidy Man hope to achieve in the long-run?

Tidy Man: We view our business not just as a profitable system but a social movement to improve people’s living condition. Also, by reducing waste in everyone’s home, the environment can be improved. We want to build a business that improves the lifestyle of everyone in Taiwan, not just in Taipei.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole