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Cleaning house: Woman helps seniors clean, organize and downsize living spaces

March 17, 2017 - 1:00am

PAAUILO — Jen McGeehan first felt a calling to help the elderly when she started a reading program at a hospital in Big Bear, California 10 years ago.

In line with the downsizing trend that most baby boomers often go through once their children leave the nest, in 2011 she and her husband moved from their 3,000-square-foot, custom-built home in California to a 450-not-so-square-foot vintage yurt more than 2,500 miles away, settled in an ohia forest in Paauilo on Hawaii Island.

Downsizing was something she was forced to do.

“To make the move, we followed a system I developed to map out the rooms in advance, knowing which furniture would fit and what we needed to get rid of. It’s all organizational,” McGeehan said.

Last April, she used what she had learned to start Room2Room, a company that helps clients from the Hamakua to Kohala Coast clean, decorate, organize and downsize.

“Joyce Reed, the founder and director of College Goals who lives in Waimea most of the year, was the impetus for me to start the company,” McGeehan said. “She told me, ‘Anyone can clean a house, but you are extremely organized, very personable, 100 percent responsible and people need this.’ She gave me the courage to do this.”

“Jen is a gift to older women, who they can respect,” Reed said.

Most of McGeehan’s clients range in age from 60 to 80.

“The interesting thing is that the majority of my clients are seniors or have serious health issues,” she said. “There are so many in need, and as the average age of people increases the need becomes even greater.”

Aida Marquez, an 83-year-old woman who lives in Kamuela Senior Housing in Waimea, is one of her regular customers.

“The elderly are usually very frightened of bringing people into their homes,” McGeehan said. “I first met Aida after her daughter contacted me in a panic. She lives on the mainland and was very concerned with the condition of her mother’s home. She hired me to reorganize the unit, add rugs, racks in her closet, clean it up and hire a part-time registered nurse to help her. She is one of my regular clients now. A lot of times people just need someone there to encourage them and help maintain it.”

Some of her other clients live in secluded areas where most women won’t go.

“My clients and I become good friends,” McGeehan said. “I’m willing to do whatever they need to make their lives easier.”

Her newest service is senior moving.

“The most difficult things for people to give up are their possessions, which translate into memories,” McGeehan said. “It’s a layering process. The easiest things to give away are clothes and books.”

Moving can be most challenging for seniors downsizing into smaller homes or assisted living, without any family living on the Big Island to help.

“They look for someone they can trust to help them through the moving process. I’ve lived through a lot of situations and had a lot of challenges. One of the important elements I believe I bring is tenacity,” she said. “There’s always a way to get the job done. I don’t give up.”

McGeehan finds her work mutually beneficial.

“This work also gives me a sense of purpose, knowing we’ve been brought to each other. This job was an answer to my prayers,” she said.

Room2Room rates begin at $35 per hour for cleaning, $50 an hour for decorating and a flat rate for senior moves, based on the specific job.

Info: Call 747-2365 or email

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