I Have a Dream

The house cleaning industry unfortunately has a very high turn around rate. This is a result of different factors: people looking for temporary work, the low pay, no benefits, uncertain hours, the physically demanding work taking its toll on your body. As a result, I often find myself reviewing resumes; lots and lots of resumes.

The industry would be happy to simply put a warm body into a customer’s home, but I have higher standards for the people I want to employ. In fact, my critique of one particular resume had someone comment, “you sure do have high standards for house cleaners!” 

You’re damn straight I have high standards for house cleaners! My employees are entering into homes and trusted with the customers’ possessions, memories, health, pets, etc! Whether people want to recognize it or not, cleaning a house is a very personal service. If an applicant doesn’t care enough to capitalize their name on their resume (a basic of elementary school grammar), are they going to care enough to do the best job they can do in someone’s home? Maybe, maybe not, but your resume is going to be the first impression I’m given.

I dream of being part of a house cleaning industry that values more than just a warm body to scrub a toilet. I dream of an industry where the house cleaners are valued members of the service industry and they feel like they are making a contribution to society. I dream of being part of an industry that goes beyond the assumption that even the lowest IQ among us can be handed a manual and thrown into a house. I dream of an industry that looks upon their service as a skill that requires an investment in training and constant continuing education.

And so, I’m trying to rewrite the industry standard. I’m looking for people who show me they care about the details from the first time they make contact with their resume, to their jobs in customers’ homes, to how they take care of their equipment and our office. I’m looking at my own training and asking how can I make this better. I’m looking at my employees and asking what can I do to increase their skills and make them feel like they are a part of something worthwhile and valued; that they are important.  I’m looking at profit margins in a substantially flooded marketplace and wondering what do we have to do to pay these employees justly and convince customers that the price is worth it?

Are my dreams too big?

 

 

 

Responsibility

As mentioned in a previous post, beds that are pushed up against the wall are difficult to make. The other day while cleaning a teenage boy’s room, not only was his bed pushed up against the wall, but his bed was turned around so the headboard was where most people’s feet would be. Not only did I have to try and make his bed with it pushed up against the wall, now I had to figure out if his pillows should go by the headboard or the other way around. I opted for putting the pillows at the headboard.

Frustrated by this disruption of my “groove”, I thought to myself, if he had to make this bed himself every day, I bet he’d put his bed in a more logical position. But that’s just it, he doesn’t have to make his bed; I do.

I see this a lot where we’re called in to clean because none of the kids are made responsible for the upkeep of the house, or their rooms at the very least, and poor Mom gets overwhelmed. So now Mom and Dad are shelling out hundreds of dollars a month to have their home cleaned when there are several able-bodied young adults in the home doing nothing except watching T.V., playing games, or looking at their phones.

Don’t get me wrong, these people pay my bills and for that I’m grateful, but I firmly believe when you’re made responsible for your possessions and your actions, you start to make smarter choices. If however, someone is always there to clean up your messes, what do you learn?

A friend of mine has a step-daughter in her 30’s who continually makes unwise choices that land her in various troubles. She’s definitely old enough to have learned from her mistakes and make smarter choices except, her mother always comes to the rescue.  And instead of learning, the step-daughter goes about her life as usual oblivious that she needs to make changes.

Do you want your kids to be in their 30’s and constantly having you are someone else come to the rescue or do you want your kids to learn from their mistakes and make smarter choices? Do yourself a favor, even if you have me come clean your home, give your kids responsibilities like making their bed. Little things like this will help teach them responsibility and help them to develop better decision making skills for their adult life.

Types of Houses: The Hopeless House

“With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Houses have energy that you can feel. Some houses feel bright and cheery and some houses feel dark and depressing. Some houses feel calm and serene and other houses feel angry, chaotic, and stressful. I’m going to devote a part of my blog to describe the various vibes houses give off and my experiences in them. This post will talk about the houses I hate to be in the most: The hopeless houses.

I find hopeless houses share some common elements.

  1. Hopeless houses are usually dark inside but not always. There are houses that allow for plenty of natural light but still have a shadow hanging over them that gives a feeling of darkness.
  2. Clutter – Hopeless houses are usually very cluttered with some bordering on hoarding. Things are often out of place. For example, you might find nail polish or outside tools on the kitchen counter and piles of shoes (50 or more) on the hearth of a fireplace. Many things that are empty and should be thrown away just sit in random places. Stacks of papers collect inches of dust in whatever space is available. Miscellaneous items of clothing appear throughout. Nothing has it’s proper place. There is no sense of order
  3. Dirty – Most hopeless homes are dirty. Bathrooms look as though they haven’t been cleaned in years, cobwebs hang off of everything, kitchens are full of dirty pots and pans and piles of dishes. Bags of trash are next to the overflowing trash can. Dust is thicker than you could ever imagine. And this is even after I’ve cleaned on a regular basis.
  4. Falling Apart- Many of the hopeless houses I’ve encountered are in need of major repairs. Carpets are ripped and stained, walls are dirty and in need of repair. Broken blinds hang from windows. A lot of these repairs are not huge projects that take a lot of time or money, but the fact that they aren’t done speaks to the overall sense of despair and hopelessness. The people in the home have given up. The words “WHY BOTHER” come to mind.

Why bother? I often wonder why they bother to call me to clean. What work I can do in my limited capacity and time doesn’t seem to make a difference. I feel so helpless and worthless with no sense of accomplishment. Why not spend the money you pay me to make repairs or hire a professional organizer?

I leave feeling frustrated, depressed, and overall icky. I wonder if the bad energy was there before the people or did it move in with the people. A glance around the neighborhood usually provides the answer and all I want to do is get home as quickly as I can and take a sage bath to remove the lingering negativity.

I hate hopeless houses.

 

Make Your Bed!

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. William H. McRaven

The bedroom. The place where we go to be relieved of the day’s stresses and renewed in our body and mind through sleep. The bedroom is your sanctuary and should be regarded as such and kept with the same amount of reverence as a church or temple. And what is the focal point of a temple? The altar. And what is the altar of your bedroom? The bed.

When cleaning a bedroom, the first thing a professional house cleaner does is make the bed. No matter how dirty or cluttered your bedroom is, a freshly made bed can make it look clean. (or at least hopeful)

To start the bed making process, use a fitted sheet that fits your mattress tightly. A loose fitted sheet tends to bunch up, leaves wrinkles, and comes undone with a restless sleeper.

Next comes the flat sheet. The instructions below will show you how to achieve those crisp hospital corners that will also help keep your sheets from bunching up and coming undone during the middle of the night.

Making-Bed-Guide-2

Now that you’ve laid the foundation of your bed, you can throw on your comforter or bedspread and your pillows. And this is where as a professional house cleaner I’m going to get on my soapbox.

  1. Beds with one side pushed against the wall – This makes bed making difficult and the more difficult it is to make your bed, the less likely you are to make your bed. I highly discourage this! I WANT to make your bed and make it look crisp and clean, but I don’t like crawling on people’s beds to tuck sheets down the wall because I feel as though I am treading on personal territory, plus it’s very difficult to achieve a great look while messing up your sheets as I try to scoot off the bed. If your bed is pushed against the wall, please consider rearranging your room so that your bed can be accessed on both sides.
  2. Duvet Covers – Duvet covers are a great concept for not having to wash your comforter all the time, but…not only do they cost almost as much as a comforter, but they are a pain in the rear to get on to a comforter and they never lay as neatly as just a comforter.
  3. Bed Skirts – Another great idea in theory, but when trying to make a crisp bed, they tend to get in the way, get all “whopper-jawed”, and UGH! Not to mention the amount of dust they collect. It’s my professional recommendation to avoid these.
  4. Pillows – Pillow cases do a pretty good job of keeping your pillow clean, but after a while, your pillow does get dirty and starts to smell a little funky. You may not notice it because you’ve become “nose-blind” to it, but a professional house cleaner isn’t in your home that often and trust me, your pillow stinks. PLEASE WASH YOUR PILLOWS! But if your pillow cannot be washed, please buy a new one! PLEASE!
  5. More Pillows – Home decor goes through trends and the latest trend seems to be pillows GALORE! Why??!! How many pillows do you actually sleep with? How many decorative pillows do you really need? All you’re going to do is toss them on the ground before you go to bed and you’re not going to want to pick all those pillows back up. Trust me! Do you know how much time I spend trying to figure out how to put 10+ throw pillows back onto a bed in a purposeful, artistic manner? A few pillows looks cozy, too many pillows looks messy. I recommend a maximum of 4 pillows for you and your significant other’s heads and 4 throw pillows. Personally, I don’t use throw pillows because if I’m not going to sleep with it, why have it? Guess that’s the pragmatist in me, plus I don’t like doing more work than I have to.

OK, I’m off of my soap box and back to the original point of this blog…making your bed. Once you have your fitted and flat sheets tightly secured and your comforter and pillows nicely arranged, making your bed in the morning should be as easy as taking your pillows off, pulling up your sheets and smoothing them out, pulling up your comforter and smoothing it out, and laying your pillows on top. 5-10 minutes tops! Then stand in your doorway and look how lovely a freshly made bed is. Think about how nice it will be to slip into those soft sheets and drift off into dreamland. Think about how that simple act made your room feel like the sanctuary it should be. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…isn’t that nice?

Now, GO MAKE YOUR BED!

When You’re Having a Bad Day, Scrub it Away!

Cleaning is therapy for me. I’m not ashamed of holding the duster or broom. Amisha Patel

We’ve all had those times when we start the day in a bad mood. Maybe you’ve had a fight with your significant other, or maybe you’re kids were dawdling, you’re stuck in traffic, and now you’re late for work. Maybe it’s just “that” time of the month and you don’t know why you’re feeling cranky.

It happens. We’ve all been told to leave our problems at the door when we get to work, but sometimes you can’t seem to shake that bad mood. You ruminate on the unkind things said, or the jerk that flipped you off and how you wanted to get out and give him a “what for” and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

I used to have days like that, but not anymore. Why? Because now I scrub it away. Literally, I scrub it away!

I discovered this one day when my husband and I had an argument the night before that spilled into the morning. Things were so bad that I wondered if I would be married by the time I got home. I drove to work with a pit in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I “sucked it up” as best I could before walking into work. Thoughts of the argument filled my head and it was obvious to my coworkers that I was distressed. I briefly vented to them, but I’d have to somehow manage through being in the customer’s home without crying.

At the customer’s home, I put on my stone face and set about cleaning this particularly disgusting bathroom. I scrubbed at mold, I scrubbed at soap scum, I scrubbed at urine and who-knows-what.

How can people live like this? (Scrub, scrub, scrub) How can you get clean in a place this dirty? (Scrub, scrub, scrub?) How many grown-ass adults live here? Is NO ONE capable of wiping off a toilet seat? (Scrub, scrub, scrub) I’m DEFINITELY going to need a shower after this! (Scrub, scrub, scrub)

I scrubbed, I dusted, I picked up and made things presentable, I vacuumed, and I mopped my way through the house. It wasn’t until I was heading back to the office that I realized the entire time I was scrubbing, I had forgotten about the argument. Likewise, although dirtier, I felt calmer and lighter. The pit in my stomach was gone, I didn’t feel like bursting into tears at any minute, and divorce didn’t even seem like a word that existed. Everything was OK and everything was probably going to be OK.

Years earlier, (before I was a house cleaner) a therapist had suggested to me that I clean when I was in a bad mood. She said that the gross motor action would help me to better process things and I’d have a clean home as an added bonus. I took that suggestion and threw it right out of my mind. After all, who wants to clean when they’re in a bad mood? Having to clean, PUTS me in a bad mood! Why would I want to make it worse?!?! But years later,  I have to conceded that she was right and as it turns out, there’s plenty of evidence  to back up her advice.

So, the next time you’re in a bad mood, take it from the Diary of a House Cleaner, when you’re having a bad day, scrub it away!