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Cleaning is an interesting subject. I hate housework myself but, at this point in my life, I could never have someone in to clean because I would not feel comfortable paying a stranger to clean up my mess. I do have friends who will candidly admit that they have a 'woman who does' often because they have a debilitating illness such as ME or because they have a stressful job that makes them work all hours.
I have had cleaning jobs from the age of 16 on and off. I needed cash for various things - including the fees for attending a Pregnancy Clinic. I don't do a cleaning job now because I teach but I never would rule one out in the future - no one knows how life will go.
I started out a terrible cleaner and got slightly better as time went on. My experience of my own terribleness prompts me to warn against choosing an excessively young cleaner without references. However, I was very glad to get the work even though I was crap at it.
In fact, I thought I'd share with you some verses of a song I wrote called 'Duff Job'. The tune to sing it to is 'Germ Free Adolescent' by X Ray Spex if you fancy a go yourself:
I was a sweet chambermaid
At a large Blackpool hotel
With flashy clientele)
I left the hoover running as I lay upon the beds
Reading all their magazines
While I filled the air with tons of Pledge!
I cleaned up in a private house
This time in desperation.
I needed some extra cash
For a round of inseminations.
My employer found me nosey -I admit to being beaky
I tried on all her dresses and I
Valued her antiq-ues
I spent some time trying
To make a hospital clean
Wearing unattractive hairnets
Shapeless overalls of green
The job was somewhat arduous -I tried to hide away
And now I think that I alone
Am responsible for M.R.S.A.
So, no, I don't fit very well into the stereotype of a woman who can clean well.
I did have a very interesting employer/servant relationship with the well-to-do woman whose private house I cleaned. It almost prompted me to write a play about it but I think Jean Genet has done this already.
Getting Employment as a Cleaner
Having said that you need to be suspicious of employing young people as cleaners, I have been researching jobs in Cleaning Agencies on behalf of my daughter who is desperate to get work and money in her year out. I have discovered that to hire a cleaner from an agency costs between £8 -£10 an hour but some agencies have special offers for a cheaper rate if a separate carpet clean is booked. Cleaners themselves are paid at around £6 an hour. The jobs that are covered can include ironing but sometimes oven cleaning is a separate job. You can apply on line in some cases. There is generally a telephone number that you can use to call the agency too.
The local paper classified ads and jobs pages nearly always have cleaning jobs - but finding one to fit your available hours might be a problem as many cleaning jobs can start early in the morning and this might pose problems with transport.
Getting a Cleaner
Search engines are awash with cleaning agencies if this is the way you prefer to do it (more anonymous) but cleaners can also be found by looking in the local paper classifieds and on newsagent notice boards.
I personally think getting a good cleaner is a difficult process. I also think that getting a good cleaning job is also a bit of a minefield. Some people who get jobs cleaning really don't know how to clean well.
I have had the grand total of four cleaners since I left home. Sadly I now don't have a cleaner and I do really miss having one. (So does my skanky house but that's another confession I mean story!) These have varied in every way it is possible to imagine from the great to the well...read on(if you dare!)
NUMBER ONE (Lucy)
So the first one was the daughter of my local newsagent. She was fifteen and after a small part time job. This suited me as I only had a smallish flat and wasn't at home that often so it didn't get too bad. Also, I was at home at odd times and really didn't want anyone during the day. She only did three hours a week which suited everybody. Her studies weren't affected and the extra money came in useful and it didn't cost me too much! The other good point about having Lucy was I was pretty young (ah memories) and really wouldn't have felt comfortable with an older "proper" cleaner.
This arrangement worked really well initially, however the downside was that she very quickly realised that I was often at home during the day and took to popping in for chats, not a problem in itself but sometimes I felt under siege! Our arrangement came naturally to an end as her exams kicked in and I got some work which involved being away from home for twelve weeks.
NUMBER TWO (Mrs West!!!)
Oh my God what can I say. My then agent(he was a rubbish agent as well!) brought Mrs West into my life. I guess he thought I didn't have enough trauma and misery in my life!
Mrs West(think her name was Eileen-was never formally told it) was a nightmare in every way. "Highlights" included her throwing out all my "old" (they weren't honestly!)herbs and spices; keeping the phone (MY phone) off the hook when she was in the flat as it "disturbed her" (I didn't know about this as I tried to keep out of her way as much as I could) binning various half full toiletries as they were going bad(I suspect they went home with her).
I couldn't get rid of her either(being a 100% grade A wimp-well I was young) and felt utterly miserable. She made me feel uncomfortable and stupid. Anyway, my lovely mum came down to see me(she was coming anyway but I think she was fed up of me whinging about the dragon) and told her her services were no longer needed.
I had learnt my lesson and for ages did all my own housework! When I bought my own house I again needed help.This was the busiest part of my career and I was barely at home. I had moved quite close to the hospital my mum worked at and was determined that she wasn't going to "do" for me. Hence needing number three.
NUMBER THREE (Cath)
Lovely girl, good cleaner. Fond of my Lp's(was once left a list of albums to tape for her as she didn't have the time to tape what she wanted!) and VERY fond of my (then) boy friend. He wouldn't come round before checking she wasn't due!
But she was funny rather than intimidating. Cath lasted for three months (I am not THAT bad honest) leaving as she got a job doing refreshments on Inter City Trains.
NUMBER FOUR (Mary)
Dear sweet Mary. A lovely lady. Worked fantastically, very quiet slightly nervous woman. She did the impossible. Sorted my chaos and brought order into my home. I could find things! She was perfect in every way. She was a whirlwind, didn't tut at me and didn't make me feel stupid!
Mary was the main breadwinner in her house her(bit creepy)husband having a "bad back" (although I didn't know that when I paid him to decorate my bedrooms and saw no evidence of him being anything other than fully able bodied) Mary got on well with my mum and I saw a lot of similarities, both were Irish and worked far too much. Mary had eleven houses that she cleaned and also offices in the evening.
I was very lucky to be told about her and never had any fears about her having a key to my house. I never had a seconds worry when I was away from my home.
Sadly it didn't last. Mary wasn't too well (not surprised given how hard she worked) and gave up half of her clients. She was really honest and operated a last in first out. So I had it. No more Mary. Chaos again(well not too much really as I now had systems) I used to see her occasionally and she was very kind when my mum died.
ARE THEY WORTH IT?
Yes yes yes. I wish I had a cleaner now although my husband would rather eat his own foot than have a cleaner.
If I were to look for a cleaner then there are various things I would do.
1) Personal recommendation. A great way to find someone you can rely on. You can get a first hand idea of how your potential cleaner operates.
2) Check references. Remember they are comming into YOUR home.
3) Are they insured?
4) Do you feel comfortable with them? Whilst you probably will not have much day to day contact with your cleaner you will still need to have a relationship with them. Also it is likely that they will be alone for long periods alone in your own home.
5) Beware agancies that do not provide a landline number or an address. We recently had a flyer through the door advertising an agency(both offering and trying to recruit cleaners) that were ofering very low rates of pay and only had a mobile number on the advert. What would happen if there was any kind of problem with your cleaner?
6) Relax. I used to feel guilty and somewhat lazy by employing someone to clean my house. If you are lucky enough to have a cleaner then don't feel bad just feel LUCKY!
I've had a cleaner, or should I say a series of cleaners now for about 10 years......plenty of experience, both bad and good and even very good! As a single mum who now has to watch the pennies, friends have questioned why I still have a cleaner......part of my reasoning is that as long as I'm tutoring, I can earn enough in 1 1/2 hours to pay someone to clean for 4 hours.Sadly this is not the case for my work with social services, where I earn less for an hour's work than my student lodger who was cleaning for me could command for cleaning or babysitting for people! At least in this area of the country, good cleaners can be hard to come by. Personal recommendation is usually best, but the good cleaners rarely have spaces and are highly priced - if it was just money I was looking for, I'd give up working for social services tomorrow! A suggestion is to look at getting someone from a local language college (if you have one nearby) you won't get the best or most experienced, and there's not a lot of continuity, but the girls I've had clean for me have all been surprisingly thorough, and are very motivated to earn the money to go out and enjoy themselves while they're over here! Meet your prospective cleaner before starting him/her and make sure you've clearly explained what you want and what's important to you. Everyone has different things which really matter to them, and your cleaner won't neccessarily be as keen to protect your wooden floor from water spillage, or hoover as thoroughly under your bed as you are! Although I've become less fussy about many things, i've become a lot surer about what really does matter....but you probably won't know what things matter to you until you've had someone else clean your house! Whatever those things are, it's well worth being clear and upfront about them early on, because it will make for a much happier relationship all round. My other reas
ons for having a cleaner are health ones...I'm allergic to dust mites and changing the bed can trigger an asthma attack, and I have a bad back.... A final warning - I've had friends clean for me, and it's had variable success, approach with caution!