Where I’m from, people don’t get housecleaners. Well, they don’t talk about it, anyhow.
It’s as if there’s something sinfully indulgent about having a cleaner around these parts. You’re supposed to be able to do it all, like some Zen master who can multitask while saving the world. “Domestic help is for rich, spoiled people” is how it seems sometimes. That, I’ve discovered, is anything but true.
Once you hire a cleaner, it’s surprising when you discover just how many people you know also have one. They’ll whisper, “Oh, I couldn’t live without mine,” as if it’s some dark lifestyle secret, like in the movie Fight Club. “Whatever you do, don’t talk about having a cleaner.”
Cleaners are a good investment
It took a long time to get over my internal
guilt dialogue to finally hire a cleaner, but it helped me be more productive with work, and that meant I brought in more money. With the intended result acquired, the guilt was gone.
When they say “you gotta spend money to make money,” they’re talking about services like housecleaning. But if that fails, my stepmother’s from the Deep South, and she tells me “Every workin’ person deserves a little help around the home.”
It’s not a sign of weakness, of being spoiled or entitled. It’s about spending your time where it’s best spent. Some people love to clean, but I’m often not one of them.
Some tips to consider
If you’re not a fan of cleaning, here are some tips on how to hire your first cleaner, and how to keep your costs down.
- No I.D., no gig Tell them you’ll need to ID when they’re hired. If they have a criminal record check or are bonded, ask them for proof. There was a theft in my building when I had a cleaner, and upon mentioning it to her, my cleaner suddenly cancelled her next appointment with me and I’ve never seen her since. No one has more access to your belongings, or your neighbors’, than a cleaner has, so get over the “invasion of privacy” in asking for proof of who they are. If they’re offended, then they might have something to hide. It’s them, not you.
- Get someone with their own cleaning supplies, preferable earth-friendly products. You get more bang for your buck this way, but you also save on wasted time. If they have to use all your products, finding your stuff and using something new might slow them down. Keep it simple, let them provide their own. Another aspect is that it shows they’re more serious about the job when they insist on having their own supplies.
- Cleaners are like contractors—easy to book means red flag. Occasionally people are genuinely just AVAILABLE on short term, sure, but if they’re too available, they may just not be good at what they’re doing, or they could be someone looking for an easy target. After all, you literally open your door to them, right?
- Operate with skepticism on “references.” Take a look at their Facebook page and try looking at their “friends” list. Are all their references listed as friends? Maybe they’re not clients after all. (Of course, people do befriend clients on social networks, but not always, so it’s not a glaring red flag, but it’s something to ponder.)
- What won’t they do? Better to find out now than later that they actually don’t clean toilets (like a woman I hired). Many have a list of regular tasks, but the good ones ask you to prioritize what’s most important to get done in the time they’re scheduled for.
- Overbudget at first. The first cleaning is always more expensive. It’ll get cheaper by far afterwards, though.
- They better be insured and/or bonded. If they get hurt on your property, are you prepared for those consequences? It may cost a bit more for the “pros,” but your risk level goes down as a result.
More tips: save dough once they’re booked
Savvy customers do things before the cleaners come if they’re looking to get an efficient service at a budget price. Things like taking the trash out take time and that adds up. It’s fine if that’s what you want, but what do you want?
- Know what’s important to you. Getting everything cleaned every time could be a very expensive proposition. Instead, have a list of must-do’s, like dusting and floors and the toilet, versus things that can wait until the stars align and fate intervenes, leaving your cleaner spare time, like cleaning the oven or the windows.
- Put things away and organize before your cleaner comes. Pile your paperwork together, get all the dishes into the kitchen, hang clean clothes up. These are all things that will slow your cleaner down. You be the tidier, let them be the cleaner.
- Where you can, start projects they can finish. For instance, lay papers on the floor and spray your oven with cleaner the night before so they can clean it quickly. Tear bedsheets off before they arrive, and put new sheets out, if necessary. Sort and bag laundry so they only start loads and fold without wasting time on labels for instructions and such.
- Get out of their way. If they’re bonded and you’ve seen enough references, just get out of the house. Do your grocery shopping, meet a friend for lunch, visit the gym — something you can do and get home within the time they’re booked. I often go swimming or get my groceries. If you trust your cleaner, leave them a key to lock up and then drop through the mail slot when done. Coming home to a clean home you didn’t lift a finger for is one of the greatest joys in life.
Many of us have never been on the hiring side of business, and when it comes to hiring a housecleaner, it’s our first time giving anyone a job. As much as we want to help someone be employed, it’s important to protect yourself and not act in a charitable way. This is your home, your sanity, and your security.
That said, it’s also about doing a good job. If they’re not doing what you need, don’t wait, just let them go. I wasn’t happy after a second try with one woman, let her go, and for a month afterward I kept finding her hair everywhere, confirming I made the right choice.
Fortunately, a lot of people are honest, work hard, and really value their chance to improve your home life. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking that chance. With proper research and informed choices, you can find a great cleaner who can be a life-changing help around the house.