Confessions Of A Professional Housekeeper

I've worked at cleaning homes for a professional cleaning company and on my own. These days I am a mixture of nanny, housekeeper and cook for one employer.

Housecleaning is literally a tough job that someone has to do. Here are some of the dirty little secrets of the trade that will help you get better service and less snooping from your cleaning person.

First, to a greater extent than you might imagine, the person who cleans your home knows the real you. They know how clean you are, what you like to eat and drink and your preferences in undergarments-for both work and play. The fact is, a person doesn't even have to go into your closets or drawers to find out stuff you'd rather they not know.

So, lesson one: If you hire a housekeeper be aware of what you leave lying around. Cleaning a house means going through the entire house dusting, vacuuming and straightening. While most housekeepers do not pilfer or steal while they're working they can gain a lot information. Sometimes they can't help it-clients really leave their lives wide open-and sometimes they're kind of nosy...oops, I mean inquisitive.

Some housekeepers cannot control themselves when it comes to reading anything they come across. I have worked with people who know what a client pays for utilities, when she had cosmetic surgery or plans to, and what type it will be. A housekeeper like this will know if you received a traffic ticket, have been in court or received a summons. I found out without really trying about a man who, along with his girlfriend, took his wife to court for stalking him.

People routinely leave medications lying around without thinking about it. Most of the time this isn't a big thing, although it might be embarrassing to realize what it tells the housekeeper about your personal life. For example, most housekeepers know which male clients are on Viagra.

Additionally, a lot of people leave pills lying around outside of their containers on counters and sink tops. This is a bad idea. Cleaning products have a lot of chemicals. Housekeepers who are trying to work quickly probably won't move stray pills out of the way of their spray. For the same reason, it's a good idea to put toothbrushes away before your housecleaner comes.

If you use a service that provides the cleaning equipment, keep in mind that a worker will use the same equipment for several homes. Some homes are filthy! I cleaned one home that had 12 cats and four large dogs-that's a lot of stray hair. Another had food on the kitchen floor that had to be scraped off with a putty knife; it would never have occurred to the owners to wipe up spills as they happened. In short, you never know what a cleaner is bringing into your home via the dusters, vacuum bags and rags he brings with him, so whenever possible ask him to use your own cleaning products and equipment instead.

One way to break up the tedium of cleaning is to try on the client's clothes when she is away. This is especially true if items are left out. My cleaning partner and I cleaned one home where the lady of the house would leave out dress-up costumes. We couldn't resist looking at them and having a good laugh.

Another coworker always helped herself to food, candy or chips that she found around the house. Some clients invite housekeepers to help themselves to the fridge; most do not. But if you can't quite keep certain foods in the house and you can't figure out why, well, maybe your housekeeper is hungry.


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