Maid you look!
December 4, 2006 9:08 PM   Subscribe

In an effort to help me de-stress, one of my Christmas presents is a complete housecleaning from a maid service. Now what?

I have never had a cleaning service, and I'm a bit leery of how to deal with it. The knowledge that when I get home tomorrow, everything will be superclean -almost like magic- is a great feeling.

Yet when I consider it further, I feel like a lazy slob. I mean, come on, my house is less than 1500 square feet. And I can't manage to stay on top of the cleaning? OK, it's not putridly rank, but let's say I would not be very comfortable if guests "just happened" to stop by.

My family does not help much; in fact, they usually make it worse. One of the aforementioned stressors is that when I clean, they tend to come right on behind me and mess it right back up again. It's the wasted effort that makes my blood boil. I suppose I feel like they don't give a damn that I JUST VACUUMED THAT RUG, or whatever. It's a respect thing.


Do I tip the maid service personnel? I was told to leave a check for their fee in an envelope, but is more expected?

Do I "pre-clean?" How much?

I almost wish I hadn't booked them. Total strangers will see my cruddy shower- and judge me!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
They've probably seen everything. You can always tip heavily to make up for it though. :)
posted by R343L at 9:18 PM on December 4, 2006

I know several cleaners.

Yes, tip them. Even if it's not expected, it will be appreciated...greatly.

Pre-clean if you want. Not necessary though (especially if you tip) as you are probably not gross by their standards.

Cleaners see so many houses and meet so many people that they don't judge that much. They just want to get paid.
posted by milarepa at 9:20 PM on December 4, 2006

We got a maid service every two weeks in the house that I grew up in. My dad worked and my mom had a bad back and couldn't do housework. I always found it stupid that my parents made me and my brothers clean the house from top to bottom (or so it seemed to us) the day before the maids were coming. But now that I think about it all they really wanted us to do was put everything away, so that floors and surfaces could be mopped and vaccuumed and wiped easily. There was certainly an element of pride involved - my mother would have been embarassed if the house was really sloppy - but I think it would be wise to try to let that go and enjoy the fact that professionals, who you are paying to come into your dirty house to clean it, are going to see your dirty house before it is clean. Whether they judge you or not, they are professionals and they will not make snide remarks to you. Whatever their opinions, you will never have to hear them. You can choose to let this haunt you or you can choose to be at peace with it.

Now, about your other issues. Another long-standing fight between my mother and I. The house would be perfectly clean and she would get upset when I somehow made it dirty. But I never saw things the same way she did. A house is for living in, not showing off, and over the course of its use it will get dirty. Every now and then it has to be cleaned, and then it will get dirty again. Such is life.

Of course I had plenty of bad habits like leaving dirty dishes out that she rightfully scolded me for and I don't blame her for that one. But pick your battles and be logical. Food scraps and dishes left out, newspapers on the floor, dirty laundry in plain view - I can accept the rational reasons why this is bad (i.e. unsanitary, or makes the house look sloppy). But walking across a vaccuumed floor? How else I am I suppose to get across the room?
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:28 PM on December 4, 2006

Tidy up, but leave the cleaning to them. For a one time "big clean" you should tip about ten percent.

There are many things I'm prepared to give up before I give up my maid service. In terms of stress averted per dollar they're my most reliable investment.

(I was once like you and felt a moral obligation to do my own cleaning. It was reading Crime and Punishment that finally pushed me over the edge: the penniless Raskolnikov is months behind on his rent, the landlord wants him out and has long since stopped providing the food portion of "food and board", but the household servant is *still cleaning his rooms for him*. If it's good enough for impoverished nineteeth century Russian fictional characters, it's good enough for me.)
posted by tkolar at 9:36 PM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't confuse "picking up" with "cleaning up". You must pick up so they can clean. A few times I didn't pick up before the cleaning lady came, I was calling her for weeks asking, "Where did you put (item)? I think she did it on purpose...
posted by JujuB at 9:41 PM on December 4, 2006

I hired a housecleaner this year after my car accident. I'd always wanted to hire one, but never got around to it. I was embarassed. Plus my mom worked as a house cleaner when we were growing up, so I had a hard time accepting the fact that I couldn't manage my own household.

However, I really like having a housecleaner. I get her to do my floors and bathrooms and to give the kitchen a good cleaning. She also dusts. I hate doing all those things. I still have to tidy the house before she arrives. It forces me to make sure the laundry is put away and that sheets and towels are clean. The result is that my husband and I have a regular time to get organized.

My condo is much smaller than your place. We have one toddler. I'm at home during the day and I work evenings/weekends as a consultant. And I finally decided that I did not want to spend my freetime doing things I hate. So I outsourced some of that.

I don't know much about maid services other than they tend to pay their maids minimum wage or below. I have a housecleaner who works for herself. She gets to keep the entire amount. After reading Jan Wong's Maid in Canada, I decided to stick with an independent cleaner. Also, I really like my cleaner as a person.

Stop thinking of cleaning as shirking your responsibilities. Do you always make your own meals? Cut your hair? Bake your bread? That's the analogy I had to make for myself. I am still not there 100%, but it really helped when I found out how many other people had housecleaners. Plus I like to know that I'm sharing a bit of my income to employ someone else at a reasonable wage. I think of it as outsourcing, not a moral failure.
posted by acoutu at 10:05 PM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

I am young, energetic, and decidely not rich, but about every 3 months I get someone to clean my house. It rocks.

First, yes, you have to pick up. If you are feeling lazy put random stuff in a laundry basket to organize later, but he/she must have access to all the surfaces to be able to get them nice and clean. For the deep clean I tip 10-15% especially if they do an amazing job. The quality in cleaners goes across the spectrum, so make sure you check the references of the one you got.

BTW, I also send my laundry out, for the two of us it is around 18 a week to have someone else wash and fold everything, totally worth it.
posted by stormygrey at 5:11 AM on December 5, 2006

I would tip the people that cleaned for a maid service. I have an independent cleaner, so I don't tip her - I figure the price she quoted me is the price to pay. (FYI, that's $70 for a 2/2 about 1000 sqft. in a ritzy area.) I will give her a holiday bonus, though.

I always neaten up and frequently clean (just wipe down bathroom and kitchen surfaces) before she comes. The one time I didn't, I blamed it on my boy friend. Perfect! She sympathized - said her husband does a lousy job on their house. I do this because of pride, practicality (better cleaned) and courtesy, but I don't think it's necessary, especially if you tip well.

Anyway, I clean the place most weeks, and then occasionally I work OT, and when I do, I figure it makes more financial sense for me to pay her (who earns less than my OT) to clean my house than me to stay home and clean. And I don't want to give up too much of my free time those weekends. Plus, she and I clean differently, and the combo effect seems to work well.

I think it's a great gift for a de-stressor, for someone who doesn't enjoy cleaning (normally I do, sort of - sense of accomplishment). I agree, it's basically the same as paying someone to prepare your meals (restaurant), cut your hair, repair your faucet, care for your kids/elderly parents, etc. Especially care for your kids/parents bc there is something very personal about having someone see your junk. But just because it's personal, doesn't mean you can't have help with it. It comes down to how you want to allocate your limited time and monetary resources (and in your case it's a gift!)

In the US we seem to have an aversion to household help (I think bc we want to be self-sufficient & bc we are worried about class issues), but I have lived in places were it is an affront to the poorer people in the area to be able to afford household help and to NOT actually employ people to do so. And in my case, our cleaning lady is awesome, and she seems to want my money, and she doesn't speak any English so probably has few great job options....

I still have some nagging guilt about this (see self-sufficiency and class concerns), but I try to fight it because I think the logic outweighs my squeamishness.
posted by Amizu at 6:43 AM on December 5, 2006

If you are working outside the home as well as doing housework, you have nothing to feel guilty about. It's really a lot of work, and our lives have changed to make it worse in some ways. Laundry is easy, so many teenagers would not dream of taking off an article of clothing and putting it away - it goes right in the laundry

I swept up the dried crusty mud that my son tracked in the other day, from a freshly cleaned floor, and showed him how much dirt it is. Explained that there's plenty more in the rugs, and asked him to be more careful about using the floor mat to clean his shoes. Maybe if I do this 1,000 times, he'll learn.

Your kids could be doing some of this work. It's good for them, says I.

Make it easy for the cleaner to get at the dirt & leave a note pointing out areas that are especially important to you. Self-employed cleaners do pretty well, but cleaners who work for cleaning services are often miserably paid, don't have health insurance and worked hard. Tip in either case, and enjoy your clean home.
posted by theora55 at 7:08 AM on December 5, 2006

I used to clean houses. All the "pre-clean" we wanted was to clear out areas the client wanted clean. After all it puts the cleaner in a bind: she can either clean up the area herself in order to get to the surfaces, and then risk the client getting upset that personal/important stuff is out of order/can't be found; or she can leave it as it is and the client get upset because she didn't clean something they wanted cleaned. So clean off surfaces, pile your paperwork, do the dishes (she's not going to know where you put everything), and pick up laundry (and don't expect her to do laundry unless it's specifically part of her service). You don't have to make it nice, you just have to get it all out of the way.

You shouldn't feel worried they'll judge you - it's a job. Not to mention, if you're independent, the compensation is usually okay. It *is* hard and rather drudge work, which is why you're hiring someone else to do it! - but I have always found it easier to clean someone else's house than to clean my own, seriously. I mean, I don't get paid when I vacuum my own floors, hah. And it's great to have the freedom to work for yourself (note: don't be home when the cleaner is cleaning - I never liked that).

I remember one client that hovered over us because her house, neat although quite cluttered, had an extremely grungy shower - not grungy in the dirt sense, but all the grout was stained and moldy. I could tell she thought we were going to think less of her or something for having yucky grout, but she'd specifically asked us to focus on the shower. All I was thinking about, honestly, was that I hoped she wouldn't be upset that I had to spend so much time in that shower and wasn't able to finish some of the other stuff we usually got done in our allotted time.

An independent housecleaner will do a better job than a maid service. Maid services are overworked, underpaid, rushed through houses, and trained to give the "appearance of clean" more than actually do deep cleaning. I don't know if it's worth leaving a maid service a tip, from what I've heard they may not be able to even keep the tips they get, which is too bad, they probably need the extra money more than an independent housecleaner.
posted by Melinika at 9:44 AM on December 5, 2006

I used to have the same qualms that you do. Once you actually meet the cleaner(s) a lot of those uncomfortable feelings should go away. Before that, it's an imaginary person with a huge array of possible traits. A cleaner that takes his/her work seriously is someone you can easily respect, and interacting with them is as normal as talking with anyone else you'd hire for their expertise. You're going to be so happy with the results of a good cleaning that you'll figure out how to rationalize away the lingering doubts. And you don't need to talk with friends about domestic help if you don't want to.

If you find that you still feel uncomfortable after a couple of times, then hire someone else -- just as you would with a hair stylist. You need to be able to communicate in a very direct manner, and you can't do that unless you and the cleaner have a reasonably good rapport.
posted by wryly at 12:27 PM on December 5, 2006

Straighten up the clutter. Many of these services charge by the hour, and you want those hours spent scrubbing floors and scouring toilets, not stacking magazines. Also, make sure the trash cans are empty when the cleaner gets there; not all of them will take out your trash or bring their own trash bags for stuff like paper towels or whatever. Finally, check with your service to see if they will bring their own cleaning supplies or if they will use what you provide (and make sure if you are providing it that you have it on hand.)
posted by macadamiaranch at 2:47 PM on December 5, 2006

Especially from a service, be very careful what things they may have access to. A friend of mine hired a cleaner for his mother in the aftermath of his father's death. The maid service did a great out her jewlry box (including her wedding rings). We aren't talking about wealthy folks, either. She was the child of Italian immigrants.

I have a weekly housekeeper. She's helped me learn to do a better job myself. I have the time but certainly not the inclination to do what she does. She speaks little English, but has a great attitude. Sometimes it's difficult for me not to give her more money. Our worlds are impossibly different. My house is 'modest' by middle class standards. She'd buy a house for 1% the value of this house. I fear what that house would be. (that's literal, the topic came up when I made the mistake of telling what I paid for a lens, and it was what she'd pay for a house)

The biggest thing is indeed, as others said, to pick up. You won't find things if you don't. The less that needs putting away, the better off you are. You may wish to provide some refreshment for the workers. (In South Africa, the law requires me to provide 2 meals for all-day laborers).
posted by Goofyy at 12:40 AM on December 6, 2006

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