Advice about Having a Housekeeper

Parent Q&A

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  • Shoe covers for housekeepers?

    (3 replies)

    Has anyone had success asking house cleaning services to wear shoe covers when they come into your home?  We are a no-shoes home and while I obviously can't ask a house cleaner to remove their shoes to work, I also don't love the idea of them tracking stuff into my home.  The last time I had a cleaning service come in, they left black streaks all over my bathtub from standing in it.  Having to re-clean after they're gone is a little disappointing, so I'd like to just provide shoe covers next time, but is this a reasonable ask?  If you have made similar special requests for the particulars of your home, do you find that larger companies or self-employed individuals are more likely to accept them?  I'm new to this, so I'm not sure of the best way to find the right person/team who will go along with this and not think I'm being too demanding...I am otherwise not very picky about cleaning, but the shoe thing does gross me out.  (If you have a person/team to recommend, I'd love to hear recs, too!)  Thanks, BPN!

    We are also a no-shoes inside household. Our current cleaners have separate shoes they wear indoors only. I told them that not wearing outside shoes in the house is very important for our culture. I offered to buy them shoes that they wear in our house. We have had several cleaners over the years. Some have taken their shoes off. Others wore shoes that we bought. One lady (I miss her so much!) had her own shoes that she wore when cleaning and would clean those shoes, too. We have never used a large company. Our cleaners have always been 1 lady or 2 people team. I don't recommend shoe covers because I think they can be slippery especially working on wet surface. 

    We are also a no-shoes household. Our cleaners have always been very respectful of this. They bring their own "house slippers" when cleaning. I have tried a few shoe covers from Amazon when we used to use cleaners from a big company (who frankly are more difficult to work with because they just follow their company rules and don't do a great job) but they are not strong enough for outdoor shoes to be worn continuously inside, especially not if they are inside wet surfaces like a tub.

    Our cleaning team has no problem removing their shoes while in our house. All of our past cleaners have done it too. I don’t think it’s a strange ask. Our current cleaning company is family-based and wonderful:

  • Helping house cleaner get insurance

    (2 replies)

    Our house cleaner comes 1x a week, and she recently told me she stopped paying for her health insurance because it was too expensive. When we hired her, she said she was an independent contractor and handled her own tax and insurance things. I'm concerned about her, and I don't want her to be uninsured. I don't know the other people she works for, so I don't have a way to do something collectively. Obviously we can increase her pay/week to help her out. Just wondering if there are other organizations that help with this. In SF, when we lived there 8 years ago, I knew about La Colectiva, but I'm not sure if there's something similar in the East Bay. 


    Love that you're thinking about this and concerned. Here are some resources I have used:

    Alia Insurance:

    Paying her more is the most direct way to help her afford health care coverage. You could also point her to, it is a platform that allows domestic work clients to contribute to benefits. Also check out about how to be a good employer. 

  • House cleaner and COVID-19

    (29 replies)

    With social distancing, we are realizing we need to tell the cleaning lady not to come. 

    We are wondering what other people are doing in terms of their pay.

    I feel bad that they aren’t earning wages but with no end in sight and our business’ revenue being severely impacted, we can’t afford to keep paying the lady while she does not perform work. 

    I was thinking of letting her know that I will pay her   for one week and let her know that we will pause until the authorities state it is safe to engage in social interaction again.

     Looking forward to hearing how others are handling this. 

    I intend to keep paying my housekeeper every week even though she is now prevented from leaving her home to work at my home.  My husband and I are both being paid while we work at home, and it doesn't seem fair to take away the housekeeper's pay when she has no other recourse.  She has bills to pay too. What is she going to do?

    I think all of us who can afford in-home services like housekeepers and nannies have a duty to keep paying them, especially if we ourselves are still being paid by our employers. If the fairness argument doesn't work for you, consider that a good housekeeper is hard to find, and if you cut her off now, you might not get her back after this is all over.

    We’re cutting other more “frivolous” expenses before we get to the housekeeper. We’re going to pay her and not have her come for at least a month. After that we will revisit the decision but will try to continue paying her as long as we’re not going into debt.

    As much as this could hit our finances, we have an emergency fund and can “afford” it. Our housekeeper is a low wage gig worker who will be hurting much more than us without the income.

    I am the original poster writing to clarify that I am self-employed and currently experiencing dramatic reduction in revenue and faced with the grim reality of running out of rainy day fund in 3 months and not being able to make mortgage payment. 

    I am kicking myself for deciding to start a business recently. I wish I had the protection of continued payment from an employer or unemployment benefits. 

    I am also self-employed, but we were able to get an exemption because we manufacturing x-ray panels used in diagnosing COVID-19. 

    Since you are self-employed and experiencing a reduction in revenue, I think you should pay for one service and see if the federal government comes through. The latest talk is that payments may be made directly to individuals and those that are self-employed. Good luck!! 

    My husband and I are both able to work from home, so we still have income for the foreseeable future. So we are paying our every other week housecleaning service so that they can keep paying their employees.

    However, if your income is being severely hurt by the epidemic and sheltering in place, you can only do what you can do. I’d pay them for as long as you can (hopefully at least a few weeks), and give them lots of notice that you can’t keep paying them indefinitely. I think the mindset has to be, however, not that you can’t pay for “work that isn’t done” but that with the economic slowdown from the virus hurting your business, you can’t currently afford a cleaner.

    I think we’re morally obligated to do as much as we can to support our employees in staying safe and paying their bills during this crisis. That doesn’t mean putting yourself in a situation where you will lose your own housing and be unable to pay your own reasonable bills.

    I was wondering the same thing and did the same thing you suggested.  I told her I'd pay for this week (she comes every two weeks) and then see how things look. One of us is self-employed with no sick leave and feeling the economic impact immediately. I don't think we can keep paying. My friend who is more wealthy and not immediately impacted uses the same cleaner and said she would probably keep paying her without her coming. 

    I too have been wondering what to do. Until recently I was having her clean and just staying away from her (my protection and hers).  Given that she's disinfecting everything it didn't seem to me to be dangerous (or at least, not more dangerous than going out to get groceries or pick up takeout).  I will pay her (my husband still has income) but I am really hoping it won't be too long before she can clean again.  

    I agree with other posters that you should continue paying your house cleaner during the crisis if you can afford it. My husband and I are both still working and have seen no reduction in pay, so we will continue to pay her the bi-weekly rate.

    Also, don't kick yourself for starting a business! This crisis was not foreseen nor was the magnitude of it. Good for you for having the guts to follow through on a dream. Good luck to you with everything!

    We will continue to pay our cleaning people as long as we have jobs ourselves. My wish is that everyone who can afford to will continue to support these workers. Of course if it is a financial hardship for you then you must reconsider. 

    I think this is a very individual issue depending on your finances.

    I think if it hurts but doesn't kill you financially then you should continue paying all housekeepers, nannies, tutors, camps etc you would normally use.  Our situation is one of us has a business earning no profit due to coronavirus and one has a job he can do remotely.  However, we have some savings we don't want to use but will, enough to get us through the year.  But everyone is in a different situation.  If you have no income and not a lot of savings you may need to stop paying.  But if you can you should.  I know so many agonizing choices these days!  Stay well.

    If you can’t afford to pay her for the weeks she doesn’t work, your plan of giving her one week’s pay is good. We are paying our gardener and house cleaner even though they can’t come. We can swing it and it feels like the right thing to do. 

    My housekeeper right now is through an agency, she's an independent contractor I believe and will be quite impacted by this whole thing. I talked with her about how I anticipate her missing 3 visits (~ 2 months of time) because she was sick and now on regional lockdown, I decided to give her yearly bonus extra-early. It is the take-home equivalent of 3-4 visits, depending on her tax situation which is none of my business because she's not my direct employee. I expect us to be economically impacted as well, but I had already budgeted that money for her. If we manage to get out of this unscathed, I might still have a little extra funds come Xmas for her even still, but if not, at least that will get her through some of the losses she will certainly have right now. I don't think there is really a right answer though, we have to take care of each other, but we also have to take care of ourselves. If you don't take care of your own finances, you may not be able to retain her later, which is another important aspect of helping her remain financially sound!

    With the shelter in place and the extra time spent at home, you might need a cleaning lady even more than before. Is it possible to arrange a time where she can be there while you are out for a walk (while maintaining social distancing with others outside), or be not the pack yard, during your next planning trip to the market? With the lines now, she could clean your place twice before you get back home! Everyone is facing tough times right now. If you can financially afford to keep her on, perhaps flex the schedule a bit. We gotta help each other out. Best of luck!

    If you decide to let your cleaner go for the time being, and it's all right with her, do post a referral for this lady here (and on, if you're a member), including the areas where she works. Good luck to you and yours.

    This is so hard. We have our house cleaner come ~once per month and had asked her to come this week, but decided to stop having her come until it seems safe to do so. Since we don't have a recurring time with her, I paid her and asked her not to come this week. I let her know we would be in contact when we could continue again.

    If people have resources to continue to pay people for their services during this time despite not actually receiving those services, that's great and very kind. My husband had to file an unemployment claim this week due to COVID-19, so we had to make the best decision for our family.

    Because my husband and I are are still getting paid, we're paying our house cleaner.  Since the same is not true for you, you need to make a different calculation.  I think your idea to pay her for one week sounds reasonable, or maybe you could offer two.   It would be kind to explain your situation to her and tell her you hope you can hire her back soon.  This is also a great example of why the rest of us who can afford should make doubly sure to keep paying people who work for us, since not everyone can right now.  

    I agree that if your income is unaffected by the COVID-19 crisis, the ethical and practical thing is to continue paying all employees (housekeepers, nannies, hair stylists, etc) for canceled appointments and work not done. However, in your situation, it doesn’t sound like you can afford to pay your housekeeper indefinitely and I don’t think you should feel guilty about that. My family is in an intermediate position, where one partner’s pay is unaffected and the other’s is greatly reduced. We are planning to pay everyone as long as we are able. Keep in mind that the more we flatten the curve, the longer this drags on.

    I would separate the two issues - your financial crisis and whether or not she can actually clean. If your business were suffering but it was still OK health-wise for her to come and clean, would you keep paying her to work? If yes, then I would keep paying her even though she can't work right now for safety reasons. But if you can't pay her regardless of whether she can or can't clean, then you can't pay her. In that case I think paying her for one "bonus" time and then giving her notice is all you can do.

    These are trying times indeed. I appreciate your concern and thoughtfulness. Each of us must make a choice that fits our circumstances. I believe those who are able, should continue to pay their housekeepers, nannies, gardeners, etc. while requesting they stay home during the shelter-in-place order. If that would put you personally into a precarious position financially, then you have different circumstances that likely requires a different approach. It sounds like you have thought this through, and feel what you can manage is one week's notice. These are hard times and we must balance caring for others and caring for ourselves.

    And vote! We need stronger public safety nets in this time of increasing gig work and income inequality, now more than ever.

    Yeah, we're facing the same thing. We definitely want to keep our nanny in our nanny share paid but our dual income just got slashed and we're trying to figure out how we'll make some other bigger payments. We now have 7 day old twins to think about and to pay for some more stuff. I think if your means allow for it, great. And it might be worth considering stretching yourself to make it work out. But if you don't have the money, then you don't have the money. Tough decision being made all around.

    Hi everyone - PLEASE pay your housekeeper. Your relationship with your housekeeper is personal. He/she depends on the wages you pay them. They deserve sick leave like anyone else. And in this case the sickness is nationwide. They are protecting you and your family by not coming to work. We, their employers, owe them these lost wages as they can't collect unemployment checks.

    These folks live on the financial margin and they can't afford to miss a paycheck. They can easily be pushed into homelessness or bankruptcy or be forced to forego paying a utility bill.  The Federal Reserve did a study in 2019 that showed 40% of Americans don't have $400 in cash reserve to pay off any kind of emergency. Here's a reference to the study from ABC news  

    We are paying our housecleaner even though we have asked him not to come. Even though this is hard for us financially, we know he has no protections- sick leave, unemployment, or anything else, so will keep paying him and hope others do the same. Even though this is very hard, we are privileged to have a home to shelter in and want to do everything possible to help people who have less resources. 

    I just saw your follow up post, after posting to definitely keep paying. I am sorry you are in this difficult situation. Depending on your relationship, maybe you can have a frank conversation about the tight spot you are in and offer to pay her a reduced amount, and then give her a bonus when things return to normal?

    I'm continuing to pay my house cleaner, but I am also continuing to receive my salary! Given your financial situation, that doesn't seem feasible for you, though you mentioned that you could resume paying her once she can start coming again, which makes it sound like your financial situation isn't all that bad. Or maybe you think your business will rebound... But if you are not sure you will be able to resume paying her, I think it would be better not to tell her it is a pause - instead give her the one week and tell her you probably can't afford her anymore, but that if you can, you will call her in the future. That way you free her up to look for another client!

    This is such a dilemma! Its hard bc kids arent in school, yet were expected to pay their expensive monthly tuition (preschool/private schools etc) anyway. Other business are closing their doors but still demanding we pay as well.

    The general attitude for services around here seems to be that we should continue to keep everyone else afloat and almost made to feel embarrased if we dont find that reasonable.

    What about people who work on commission who can no longer produce their projected outcomes and will take a big financial hit later this year? Hourly workers? Small business owners who cant work right now? People in manufacturing who cant do their jobs without being in the office? People who cant work to their full potential bc they dont have childcare? People who make $ from property investments to which renters cant pay? People who may down the road lose their business for contracts they couldnt fulfill bc our area is shut down while others are not?

    Almost everyone is taking hits so its unfortunate to be made to feel like we will lose our spot in the school next year, or lose other services in our lives (like housekeepers) if we feel like that extra $1K+ per month (cumulatively) for services we arent receiving for the unforseeable future puts a ding on our income. Especially when were already taking other financial dings we werent anticipating.

    Its very black or white to expect "you should still pay x, y, z because in general you make more $ than them." Or statements like "well im still getting paid so I should still pay others." Arent most people who are still getting paid from their employer still working from home? Why isnt it the responsibility of everyone to take this social distancing seriously and if that involves not being able to filfill your obligations (i.e. housekeepers) you dont have an expectation of others being obligated to lessen that gap?

    So, I dont have the answer, but food for thought bc I think a lot of people are quick to suggest "you should pay them" without thinking about many other various factors.

    Pay her for at least 2 weeks. She's not going to be able to find another job at this point.

    I'm not answering directly your question, and I am not a cleaning lady, but the way my boss handled it was a layoff without notice.  If you "can't afford to keep paying the lady while she does not perform work" then give her the one week's pay and let it be what it is.  If you can afford to pay for another week, then give her 2 weeks' pay.  It's no one's fault, but the burden falls heaviest on the cleaning lady.  

    It might make sense for your cleaner to continue to clean your house while you are gone or keep your distance.

    Just treat her as you would want your customers to treat you! And I think she can file for unemployment or a (forgivable) small business loan -- depending on her business status.

  • Assistance for housecleaner

    (1 reply)

    The woman who has been our biweekly house cleaner for over a dozen years, has been struggling the last couple of years.  Her work has suffered and we have loaned her money several times.  She does not work even close to full time nor get any assistance from her adult child.  Does anyone have any recommendations of community organizations which might offer her support in finding affordable housing and more stable employment?  I have tried to help her but don't seem to be getting anywhere.

    Suggest she apply to get on a subsidized senior housing list. There are many of these buildings all over. Look at senior housing under her county or under SAHA or HUD subsidized senior housing. It's tight right now but worth getting on a list 

  • We are looking into hiring a part time cleaning lady (4-5 hr per day) for 3 days per week to help with chores now that life is busy with a new baby!

    Does anyone know if such a person would be considered an Employee or an Independent contractor by the IRS?

    It's the first time we are doing this so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    This is a great resource page/link below. I believe the advice applies to any type of in-home help.

    As an FYI, I went with Intuit Payroll for under $40 a month versus paying a service to do the payroll for paying my in-hime care. It's not super simple, but it is moderate complexity and they have good customer service.

    Also, if your home insurance policy doesn't have workers comp you will need to add it as part of California law. I had to add to my renters insurance.

    See The housekeeper is most likely an employee, which means you need to handle state and federal employment taxes.

    As I understand it, the difference between an employee and a private contractor depends on who sets the hours to be worked. If I ask my housekeeper to come once a week, and she tells me she can come on Thursday mornings, then she is a private contractor because she is telling me the hours she will work, so she reports her earnings to the IRS and pays self-employment taxes, etc. If on the other hand I tell her that I need her to come on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 8-12, and she agrees, then she is my employee and I'm responsible for the withholdings and reporting. This is usually the case with nannies - you are the employer.

    So I think your housekeeper would be considered your employee, and you would need to set it up with the California EDD to pay SDI, workers comp, etc. (and federal withholdings like social security).  I recommend using an online payroll service such as which should be around $20/month. They will figure it all out so you don't have to.

    I'm not an expert, so google it. But I think it comes down to who dictates the hours to be worked.

  • We're getting ready to hire a housecleaner again after a 7 year break. I want to set it up right from the beginning and be very clear with the cleaners about what we want cleaned, how to do it, what products to use, etc. etc. We have two little kids with incredibly messy rooms, and my thought is to not have the cleaner do anything in those two bedrooms. Is that weird? Not only do I want the kids to not get used to "maid service", but I don't want to scramble around their rooms the night before the cleaners come, cleaning so that the cleaners can clean!

    The second question is when we get cleaners to come over and give us an estimate, we'll have the list of what we want done weekly. Do we want to ask them to give us an hourly price to complete the list - the time of which may vary weekly depending on how messy the family was that week, or a task price to complete the list weekly? And how do those of you who use a cleaner accomplish things like blinds, baseboards, fridge cleanout - stuff that doesn't need doing as frequently? Do you do it yourself, or have the cleaners in on one-off occasions to tackle those items? I am estimating that for our smallish 2bd/2bath (not counting the kids rooms!) weekly will be around $60, or 2 hours at $30/hour. Now that I'm writing it out, that seems low...?

    Appreciate any advice as apparently I've forgotten everything about having a cleaner. Thank you!

    This feels like way overthinking to me. Don't expect perfection from the get go - just ask for their references, check them, make sure you get along, and get the person started. Then figure out how to work with them over the next few weeks. 2 hours sounds too low to me. You can probably pay $25/hr but expect 3 hrs. Add in special tasks like windows or other things that don't always need to get done if you have extra time. Laundry. Etc. Have them do *something* in the kids rooms to at least improve them, and have the KIDS routinely pick up their rooms before the cleaner comes. It is NEVER too early to start that. Even a 3 year old can start! My cleaner does all the things you mention when she notices they're dirty or if I ask if she can stay 30 mins more and clean fridge or whatever. Use someone smart, pragmatic, hardworking, proactive (and funny and nice) like my cleaner - Grisel - and it'll all work out. Feel free to contact me for her number - sarahvwatson [at]

    Most housekeepers who contract with you long-term will quote you a per-visit amount, the same amount every week, not an hourly amount. They will look at your house and talk to you about what you want done every week, and then they will estimate for themselves how much time it will take them, on average, to keep your house clean and maintained. Professional housekeepers will be fitting your house into their existing schedule. They aren't picking up an hour here and an hour there.  My housekeeper does either 2 big houses or 3 small houses each day. Then she also has to factor in the every-week houses vs. the every-other-week houses.  Her goal is to have a predictable, regular income and a stable work schedule as much as possible.

    Regarding sporadic projects. Blinds, baseboards, ceilings, window sills -- those are things my housekeeper does every week, so the dust doesn't build up. I think all good housekeepers are doing that kind of maintenance every week, and it's included in the price. Once-in-a-while jobs like fridge and oven cleaning I don't ask my housekeeper to do, but you could discuss this with your housekeeper.  My housekeeper might do it if I offered to pay an additional amount for that job, but I doubt she would be able to fit it into her schedule. 

    Kids' bedrooms. If my kid's room is a total wreck, I close the door and tell her to skip it this week. I don't want her to spend 15 minutes picking up toys and socks off the floor instead of spending more time on the kitchen or bathrooms. Same for washing dishes or unloading the dishwasher - I'd rather do that myself so she can focus on the stuff that I don't want to do!   Over time it all works out.  Some weeks my house takes longer than usual because we have teenage house guests, or a messy house sitter.  Some weeks it's faster because my kid didn't pick up, or I'm busy in my office and don't want her to clean it, or the painters are here. The goal is to settle in to a regular, predictable maintenance routine.

    The answer to your first question is no, it is not weird to tell them not to clean a particular room.  I frequently tell my cleaner not to clean my teenage son's room.  It looks (and smells) so awful I just find it totally embarrassing for her to deal with.  And like you I don't want to clean it for the cleaner.   But I don't think cleaners are nearly as judgmental as we think they are, so I wouldn't worry about it too much either way.

    As to the second question, every cleaner I've dealt with has only been willing to quote a fixed (flat) fee for a cleaning job.  Cleaners (like us) want to know how much they can expect to earn in a given week, and not be subject to too many ups and downs.   Yes, sometimes it may take a little more time to get through your list, or sometimes it may take less, but I think you just have to decide what is a fair price *on average* for the work you are asking him or her to do.  And if over time it seems like they are skipping tasks or rushing through, then you have that conversation. 

    As for stuff that doesn't need to be done that often, I'd just tell him or her what it is and ask what it would cost to add that on.  Usually it is very reasonable.  Another way to handle this is to save that stuff up for when you go on vacation. You can then tell the cleaner you'll be gone, so they don't need to do the regular tasks, but if they could wash the front steps, or empty and clean out drawers, or whatever (enough things to fill up their time), you'll pay their regular rate for that visit.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Am I too picky about breakage & damage?

Jan 2009

I am pleased with my house cleaner work but I am irritated about her what I judge to be lack of care and honesty. I had her for 6 mo and she managed to break/chip about 5 different things(the last ones she didn't even tell me about them until I confronted her). Also, she is hard on the corners with the vacuum cleaner, the paint on the wall corners is rubbing off or is chipped. She does occassionaly dry her cleaning rags in my dryer although she did not ask for permission to do so. I asked her not to do it anymore but she still did it, even though now she uses my rags.

Am I too picky? Should I put up with the inconveniences? Are other housecleaners this way too and you kept them employed because they clean very well? PLease advise. Unhappy customer

We've had similar situations with our housecleaner where we've found things (nothing major) broken or chipped. We've decided to continue with this housecleaner because she is very reliable. Previous to our current housecleaner, we had a history of incredibly unreliable housecleaners which would cancel at the last minute. I just remind myself that it is difficult to find the perfect housecleaner and that she gives us relatively consistent service. It will be hard to get your housecleaner to change so if it really bugs you, switch but realize that you could be changing for better or for worse. Jennifer

Periodically I am annoyed with my housecleaner over similar stuff (like when I spend $7,000 to have the floors refinished and they put a big scratch in the hallway) but unlike you mine are always honest about the damage and don't try to hide things. They used to break small stuff but I instituted a new policy - I'll pay for the replacement but they have to go buy it. That happened after I spent 3 hours traipsing around to stores trying to find a $7 soapdish the same color as the one they broke. I decided I would happy to spring for the $7 but THEY could spend the three hours!! Since I put that policy in place there have been no breakages, amazingly enough! I also keep them because they are very careful with my cats - not to let them out accidentally or lock them in a closet (which isn't easy). It is a tough decision - I wouldn't fire them unless you are sure that the replacement will be better.

- Doesn't sound like you are happy with her service. Given the list of complaints you have about her work, I don't see the satisfaction you claim to experience. You are paying her to do the work, if it doesn not meet your standards what's stopping you from finding another cleaner? Time to find another cleaner.

Here's another way to look at it:

I suppose you could say I'm somewhat unhappy with my housekeeper, but I love her and love that she makes my life better, because I come home and am not overwhelmed with the mess. In the balance of things, I'm paying a very good price. You get what you pay for. If I were able to pay more, I would expect her (and tell her) to slow down and be more precise. As it is, she accomplishes three times what I could accomplish in the time she spends here. She could not possibly get the same amount done if I had her be precise (even though I'm a perfectionist and it's been a big lesson to get me to be flexible and adapt to the somewhat-mediocre work she does).

I will also say that if I had a ton more money, I might need to get a different cleaner. My cleaner's strengths are that she is a generalist and gets a lot done imperfectly. I don't think she could do things painstakingly carefully, which is how I do things, and which is why I need a cleaner - I don't have the time or patience to personally clean up to my standards. So I've learned the chips in things and occasional broken glass, along with clothes folded quickly and not expertly are the little prices I just have to pay to have an otherwise good working relationship. In her defense, she also puts up with my many quirks, and I know the grass is not always greener. I had cleaners before her who WERE perfectionists, and got hardly anything done at all - I ended up paying through the nose, or not getting all the help I actually needed. Let things go, or pay more

I went through the same thing. You are not being picky at all. You are paying this lady to clean your house, not destroy your property. We had the same problem, made worse by having the woman for nearly 10 years---we were like family. I just had to ''let her go''. Chipped heirlooms, cracked servingware, new vacuum cleaner beaten up within 3 years (she only came twice a month!). She continually dropped bleach on bathroom rugs and I kept having to buy new bathroom rugs. She was costing me more than just her wages. You need to be pleased for your money spent. We're much happier now. There are a lot of housekeeper listings in BPN. Good luck. No more chipped crystal, etc.

I think you should expect more from someone who works for you, but at the same time it's good to try to work things out with someone you know than start over with someone you don't. That said, I have a great house cleaner who follows my directions closely. I asked her once to (I know this is weird) to put two pillow cases on each pillow. She remembers to do it every time. Steve

There are plenty of other housekeepers out there. If you are not satisfied with her care of your home you must get another. I don't really get the ''honesty'' part but it seems she does not meet your standards. ??

Housekeeper's lax cleanung and frequent no-shows

Nov 2006

Since having my two kids, I find I spend an enormous amount on housework. This work is boring and thankless but needs to be done. My husband works about 60 hours a week and although he helps with clean-up, does not do the mundane routine stuff (i.e. doesn't see the spills on the counter, toothpaste on the basin, etc.).

I find the domestic overload make me furious so we decided to hire a cleaning person to come in one morning every other week. I felt very conflicted about this because my part-time (creative) job pays poorly, certainly less than we pay our cleaning person, although hopefully I will get more money before too long.

We found someone who charged $90 to clean our house. She currently takes about 90 minutes and works with an assistant (don't know how much she pays her assistant but as she's clearly the one in charge, I'm guessing the split is pretty uneven).

Over the months I've become disappointed. One problem is she's become a bit lax -- leaving fingerprints on the door, visible parts of the kitchen floor unwashed, food under the cushions of the couch to cite a few examples (and my standards are pretty low by the way).

Worse she calls in sick -- about four times out of the previous 20 potential visits. She offers alternative dates, such as one week later, but then doesn't answer the phone when I call to discuss it -- until the day of her proposed visit. She also tends to come at different times, which affects my work schedule (she wants me to leave when she arrives).

I'm kind of irritated with the whole thing but also realize how absurd I sound when I articulate this. I think one of the reasons I've worked myself up into such a lather is that cleaning has become an emotional issue for me.

So I guess my question is: How to deal with this situation? Is it a given that cleaning people expect you to leave your house when they clean (I do not have a small room where I can work while the cleaner cleans, by the way). And what's a good way to handle frequent no-shows? Can I preface this by saying I'd really prefer no preachy posts about how privileged I am. Having been a cleaner myself in my younger days, I do realize what a miserable job it can be. Thanks In a tizzy

For me it is a red flag if you are asked to leave the house while they clean. I have never been asked to leave my house during housecleaning. They should be able to work around you being present (granted, corral the kids). Based on your description they are grossly expensive and very unprofessional and it is time to get someone else. Anon

The service you are getting is sub-standard. You should fire them and find someone else.

Additionally I would say you are accepting sub-standard work because you feel guilty. You feel guilty about the ''tough job'' and about the fact that you are paying for help. I would say free yourself of this! You are paying recent wages, treating people with a basic level of respect and providing a decent job. You should expect some quality work in return. I also think that you can give yourself permission to value your own happiness and the quality of your relationships. For me and my family that means paying for cleaning EVERY WEEK is a high priority. There are times when this seems insane financially but trust me it will be the LAST thing to go. For others this won't be true but for me that tidy clean house once a week is critical. My husband and I don't fight about cleaning, I enjoy my kids more (for example when baking cookies and the flour goes everywhere- I clean it up but don't stress about every inch knowing the cleaning team will come on Thursday). There is still constant cleaning right??? It is that someone does the once over once a week to keep things up.

This said I am never fully satisfied with the cleaning job I have gotten from several cleaning people over the last 15 years in 3 different cities, so one does have to manage expectations. I value reliability and trustworthiness highly. I find that most people have their strengths and I try to leverage that (for example some are better at picking up but not the deepest cleaners, some don't do a good job unless things are picked up well). To be clear I wouldn't keep the people you have AT ALL, but for the future.

Wow this is more than I ever thought I could write about cleaning services - and in fact I could go on! Get somebody better to clean your house (up it to every week if you can!) and enjoy it! happy to pay for help

Seems to me that you are not getting what you are paying for and your cleaner is a bit confused about who is in charge. Calling in sick 20% of the time? telling you to leave? $90 for 90 minutes? I'd say it is time to find another cleaner.

My husband and I have a home based business and at least one of us is almost always home when our house cleaner is here. When it is time to clean our home office, we move to another area. We close the door to block out the noise of the vacuum, or go out to do errands and such, but seems to me that any cleaner who insists that you be gone may be trying to hide something.

Our cleaner has also only rescheduled maybe 6 times in 4 years, mostly when her kids were sick, and always offered to come the next day. She also does a fantastic job and spends the time it takes to get the house really clean. Her name is Ana and she actually has a few openings now that her kids are all in school full day, so feel free to call her at 685-7973.

Could it be your feelings of guilt that aren't allowing you to deal with the situation? I say take it as a gift that you and your husband can afford to hire a cleaning person, decide what you want your cleaner to do and when, and find someone who will do it your way. Happy when the house is clean

Sounds like you need a new cleaning person whom you feel more comfortable with, is more reliable, and does a better job. And yes, you should be able to stay in your own home while it's being cleaned. good luck

Have you expressed your displeasure to the cleaning lady? If so, and things haven't changed, fire her and hire another. Housecleaners seem to be readily available in this area. If you haven't told her you are disappointed in the quality of her work and the frequency of no-shows, and you REALLY want to keep this lady, let her know what's bothering you and give her another chance. Or, you could just let her go even if you haven't already told her what needs improvement. Dislike housecleaning too

While I personally do not employ anyone to clean my home, I have hired people to clean my 84 year old Aunt's home, and have several friends who have their house cleaned. No, you should not have to leave your house because it's easier on the person cleaning. I would think she should not have to work around you in a room, but I fail to see why when she's done with one room you can't simply 'exchange' rooms. don't want to leave my house

Oh my gosh, if I didn't know better I'd think I wrote your post a couple of weeks ago. Here's what I did (and it wasn't easy, but I'm very happy with my decision.) We were given a year's worth of housekeeping after my second child was born by both of our famiies - such a great gift. Anyway, we had a company we didn't like so fired them and hired another. She did EXACTLY the same thing as yours - and we had a friendly relationship so it was hard for me to act like her boss, which I was since I was paying her for her service. I got so frustrated, I fired her. She didn't seem surprised, which made it easier. I then did some research, hired another company for less money and am vowing NOT to change our relationship from boss/employee to friendly - and I do stay here while they work. The company I chose also has a policy whereby the housekeepers leave satisfaction surveys so that I can point out what I was unhappy with. I'll find out tomorrow if they actually make changes based on these surveys. (They are Maid Brigade, by the way.) -Time for a change.

Hey girlfriend, I feel your pain, and have no preachy response. With a big house, kids, and a home business, I just don't have time to clean all the time either. I've been having someone come once a month or every other week for several years now, and after about 6 months, I always notice the types of things you describe. Because it's happened so often, I think housecleaners just get too used to my house and (like me!) start overlooking the small stuff. But it bugs the heck out of me, and I'm awful at confronting these things head-on with the housecleaner, particularly since there's almost always a language barrier. I've started switching cleaners every so often, and usually I just tell the old one that I can't afford it anymore. Then I find someone new. If you can have a candid conversation with your housecleaner, it may help, otherwise I'd just find someone new. You shouldn't have to put up with diminishing work quality. picky too

The calling in sick thing + rescheduling at the last minute would drive me nuts. So would the slacking off. Say goodbye to this lady and call Natural Homecleaning Professionals for an estimate ( They've been cleaning my home for over two years and I am very satisfied. They've never missed an appointment and have worked with me when I needed to reschedule due to visiting family or vacations. I have my appointment and I get a call the day before telling me what time to expect them (it rarely varies by more than two hours). Hate housework too

Hey Tiz, I don't think you're absurd, and like you, I used to clean as well.

Let's get to facts: You're paying $30/hour (2 people at 90 minutes; $90). For $30 per HOUR, you should reasonably expect things to be spic and span, and a professionalism with few if any missed dates. I say get someone else.

Yes, though, it is common for cleaning people to reserve a day for you, but not a time (they may do another house before yours that day instead), and also common for them to want you out of the house. Bottom line though - you're paying. It shouldn't be totally miserable for you, and there are many nice people who will work with your needs more. I think if they want you out of the house, then they damn well better be there on time. And if they want to shift around the hours (but still the same day), they need to deal with the idea that you'll be around.

This is how I'd handle it were I hiring out cleaning (which I would do in an instant if I could squeeze out the extra dollars) Don't put up with this

Get a new cleaning person! There are plenty of people who want this work. No one is calling you spoiled but by the same token you don't need to worry about how the assistant gets paid and/or how long they take, since you are not paying by the hour. anon

First, don't feel guilty about having a housekeeping service. It is helping you to keep a lot of balls in the air at once. Second, don't feel guilty at all about firing these folks and finding someone reliable. Not doing the job, not showing up for the job, not communicating about rescheduling the job, etc. = not doing the job. Find someone who will. happy housecleaned

Gosh, I think if i were you, I would try to find another housecleaner. We have someone come in every other week for about 2 hours (two people actually) and we pay them $75. I am often here when they come although I try hard to stay out of their way (as well as to declutter before they come so they can better do their job). I am sure it is a bit harder for them when I am here (not to mention my baby!), but they seem to enjoy interacting with both me and the baby, and certainly never imply I should leave. I have found them to be very responsible and reliable, as well as to be competent cleaners. So I would say keep looking-- I know it's a pain to hire someone new, but you are entitled to get your money's worth. anon

Your pre-emptive defensiveness about people criticizing you for being able to afford help is a clue to your problem. Don't get waylaid by guilt, or by feeling solidarity with her because you also used to clean houses.

You have every right to have a cleaning person if that's what you want! And you also have a right to expect her to do the job the way you want it done. My neighbor always says this about people she hires for different services: *** They are there to relieve your stress, not cause it.*** If she is sloppy, calls in sick too often for your needs, is unreliable about setting dates, and insists that you leave the house before she starts working (!!!! not the norm, by the way), who exactly is in charge in this situation? You can calmly and politely let her know what your cleaning needs and expectations are, insist that she be more responsible about setting dates, and ask that she at least try to accomodate YOUR work schedule. Isn't that the absolute minimum of what all OUR bosses expect?

If this is too much for her, find someone else. You are paying for a service that's necessary for you, so don't settle for shoddy work Good luck

I think the solution to your problem is pretty clear. You are an employer, she is an employee. Tell her you expect her to show up when you have arranged for it unless there is an emergency or illness. Tell her also that if there are too many missed appts due to illness you will have to let her go. Explain to her that she needs to communicate well before the scheduled time if she is not going to come and must also follow up and speak with you (no messages) to re-schedule.

If she doesn't meet these guidelines, let her go. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

I have had to do this several times, flakiness can be a real problem with housecleaners. But I find that if my expectations are clear, it usually works out. BTW, I have found a stellar housecleaner through BPN. Call Nancy at ''Clean House Clean Soul'' 510-685-3318. She is great and VERY responsible! Anon

I hope that I don't sound too preachy in response to your post! As a therapist, I understand that issues related to one's home can be very emotional, provocative and upsetting. It's really not a frivolous issue. It sounds like your home and you are not being taken care of well. My guess is that you have some guilt feelings (paying for something that you have ambivalence about) coupled with some legitimate business concerns (no shows, poor service and lack of response).

I can go on and on about the guilt feelings part of this equation - my thought is in general it is a good thing to put money out there in order to get services that help and support you. (That's my preachy stance). We tend to hold guilt feelings based on our relationship to money

My suggestion is to re-evaluate this particular service relationship. First and foremost, you deserve to have excellent service! There are many other cleaning services out there that will show consistent reliability and respect for your home care needs. These principles will be a given for them. One option is to just end the service and start with another person (I am sure the BPN community can recommend some excellent people) or see if this current one can be turned around with a heart-to-heart discussion. I know that either option means having to confront them with your concerns. This is best done when you feel confident and calm in your feelings. Best of luck! - Amy

Hopefully someone will recommend a new cleaner for you. Sorry I don't know one anymore. Yes, it is normal to leave the house so you need someone you can trust. My former housekeeper worked with other neighbors and people I knew, this helped. Or get solid references.

For $90 you should be getting a thorough job (mine was $80 for whole house in 4 hours by 1 person every 2 weeks). You should also be able to communicate comfortably with this person about your expectations for cleanliness and scheduling, and don't settle for anything less. Frequent no-shows are no-good. A good cleaner will understand the impacts to you and your family and avoid this problem unless an emergency comes up for them.

I found that a good housecleaner improved my quality of life and it's worth it if your family can afford it. My husband and I worked many hours. The service helped us enjoy what little personal/family time we had at the cost of an affordable monthly household expense. currently unemployed

This is the second post I've read about bad housecleaners. It seems like you're paying this woman and her assistant quite a lot for only an hour and a half--I used to spend 3-4 hours on one apt. when I cleaned. Do not hire her again! Find someone who will spend some time, and let her know exactly what you expect, and don't be shy about it. This is a business relationship and not exploitative if you're paying her well so don't feel guilty.

I don't think having her back over to clean more for no more $$ will work with independent workers. Also, make sure she cleans with soap and water, maid services (highly expoitative) train women to only ''wipe'' and they don't really clean anything. Also, don't be too uptight about your cleaning standards with your family--toothpaste on the basin is not toxic waste. former scrubber

Ok, we are lucky to have house cleaners - no two ways about it. But, your person sounds expensive and difficult to deal with. My cleaner has worked for us for two years and changed her day maybe 4 times (comes every two weeks) and has been late maybe twice - both times has called/apologized (car issues etc). I can be home - I try to give her space - but she has said over and over I don't need to leave. Cost is $70 for 1000 sq feet, 2bedroom/1 bath house. Her and another woman -about an hour and half or so. House looks great when we get home. Fire your person and find someone new love my cleaner

I think you should find another housekeeper. There are so many hardworking people out there that are in need of work. Housekeepers need to be professional also, it is their job and that means being consistent, on time, thorough, communicate, what you would expect from any good employee. It is rude not to call back. I don't think you should have to leave your house at all when she is there. Of course it is important to stay out of the way if they are doing a deep cleaning of a room but there is no reason to leave. It is your house and you are paying, so you should get to set the ground rules. Also, it is totally reasonable to tell them if there is something they are doing wrong or you would like done differently. It takes time for a housekeeper/employer relationship to become established. After some time, you will both know what needs to be done, what to expect. My mom has cleaned houses for many years and she is very professional. I also have someone who cleans my house. L

sounds to me like you need a different housekeeper. anon

Find a different housecleaner. Just keep trying until you think you're happy. Who needs an unreliable housecleaner? It's supposed to make your life easier, not harder. I've had many housecleaners and none have ever told me to leave, and if they had I would have said no. Of course, you can also just tell them when they do all those things you don't like, and see what kind of response you get. It's irrelevant how hard a job housecleaning is; and if you're paying and treating them fairly don't expend any guilt everybody works

I've changed house cleaners twice in the past 1.5 years for some of the same reasons you are unhappy with your current cleaner. I was always pleased with the work they did when they started working for us, but over time I felt that they became less meticulous. I've never had a session canceled, but they often arrive late, which is irritating to me because we stay in the house while it is being cleaned, and we won't leave until they finish--the sooner they begin, the sooner they are ready to leave. If you feel at all uncomfortable with services in your home, there is no reason to continue using that service! BPN is a great resource for finding a good cleaning service, so I'd check out the newsletters and call references to find out how thorough, efficient, and trustworthy the service is. happy with a clean house

i think some of your gripes may be overly picky (crumbs in couch--unless you specifically request they do that) but others are completely reasonable (showing up on time and when she says she will, needing to not leave when she is working). with the seeming zillions of housecleaners out there i would think you could find one that fits your bill better than your current one! just tell them upfront what you want! good luck.

fire this housecleaner. Your comment that the housecleaner wants you to leave when she arrives set my alarms off. why does she need you to leave? She can clean around you. I'm often in my office when my housecleaner works, if I can't get out she just doesn't clean it. works for me. there are plenty of good housecleaners out there who will show up as scheduled and do a great job. I pay my long-time house cleaner $80 for my 1800 sq foot house. It's probably time for another raise. It takes her about 4 hours, sometimes she does less if she has an appointment. since she works well w/ minimal direction and often does extra, i've got no complaints. annon

I have never had housecleaning services but my kid's nanny, who also worked for another family with cleaning services, once told me she noticed that when her employer was home (only occasionally), her cleaning person did a good job dusting and cleaning. However, when her employer was not home, the cleaning person would spend 15 minutes the most, getting the minimum dusting done. My nanny even complained to me once that she had to help clean up the kitchen and living room after the cleaning person left because the person did such a poor job.

I asked my friends who have had housecleaning services what they thought about $90 for ~90 minutes of cleaning, and all of them said it's expensive and a lot more than what they paid, especially if the person(s) didn't do an outstanding job.

Sorry about bringing such bad news to you, but if you've already had a housecleaning dilemma, perhaps you'd feel better if you look elsewhere and consider hiring someone who can truly do an outstanding job of cleaning with or without you being at home, and is highly professional -- always on time and never call in sick. Good luck Hope things work out for you

Are we unreasonable to expect better service?

Jan 2006

We've been having some trouble with housekeepers for quite some time (having gone through 3 in 3 years)and are wondering whether we are just too rigid, or whether some housekeepers just push the limits. We've had housekeepers who chronically break things, pull the towel bars and toilet paper holders off the walls, break mirrors, break collectibles, ruin things and even those who've been caught alone in our bedroom in compromising situations (they were fired immediately). So you can see we've developed some sensitivities around housekeepers. Nonetheless, we really appreciate the regular help, and wonder whether our new housekeepers are pushing the limits. We have a company now, that provides 2-3 people on a given day to clean our 2+ BR-BA home in Berkeley. Question is, is it unreasonable to expect to know what hours they are coming? And exactly who will have access to our home? Sometimes more than two (up to five) converge at our place for lunch and the place turns into a cafeteria of sorts. They use our dinnerware and good knives, appliances, etc. Then they leave everything clean, but out on the drainboard for us to put away, hence we know exactly what's gone on, in addition to coming home ourselves for lunch and being displaced. They also feel free using our telephone, and recently left the handset off the charger and in the 'on' mode, so when we came home, the battery was dead and the home 'station' was beeping looking for the handset. They also repeatedly torture the window blinds, leaving them dented and in a disarray (this has been an issue with every housekeeper.) Are we being unreasonable to expect better service? Unreasonable?

Have you complained to the housekeeper's employer (the one who sends them to you and I presume, the one you pay money to)? If so and you still have trouble, stop using them! You shouldn't have to put up with anything like what you described in your post. I work for someone who went through several housekeepers and nannies before she found a gem in each dept. Your stories are unfortunately not uncommon. Keep looking and make your needs and wants a priority (while being sensitive to the housekeepers needs of course but not letting her run the show). I wish you the best of luck. used to be a housekeeper who knew how to do it right

I'm sure you'll get many responses to this one. Your current housekeepers' behavior doesn't sound acceptable to me. I wouldn't want service people eating in my house or using my dishes and flatware, especially without asking first. If they asked I would say no--it just doesn't seem appropriate to me. It doesn't seem like a big hardship for them to eat their lunch in the car or at a park or restaurant--I've done it many times for my own jobs, because I knew I couldn't bring food into my workplace. Also, using your phone is unacceptable.

We have a company service (Cooperative Cleaning Company) which we've used for many years, and none of the cleaning people has ever done any of the same type of thing, as far as I know. When we've had (minor) issues, the management has always been very responsive and, no pun intended, cooperative. I hope that's not the same company you use--if it isn't, give them a try. Glad I don't have your cleaners

I've found that agencies or housekeeping businesses generally provide much worse housekeeping services, than an individual. Seems that in the Bay Area you do not consistently get the same person from the agency, instructions are not passed from one house cleaner to the next, hours are inconsistent, etc. My mother lives in another state and always gets the same team from Merry Maids, I got a different crew each week. I went ballistic the day I came home and found a stranger Hoovering my antique Persian carpet, high powered upright vaccuuming being contrary to my very specific instructions. I tried working with the management, without much success. I've have much more success with individuals. I get the same person every time, at the same time, they follow my instructions, and breakage is rare. I'm committed to my housecleaner and trust her enough that I have her clean when we're away, the extra stuff that doesn't get done on the weekly cleaning. After all, she's counting on the income. The downside is no insurance, some rescheduling to accommodate appointments, and they leave for entended trips to third world countries to visit their families. There is also the language issue, but I've had both agencies and individuals, and overall I've been much happier and my house is cleaner with an individual. ''let me show you'' helps with the language differences. My housekeeper does eat lunch when she arrives, but doesn't leave her dirty dishes for me. happy with my housekeeper

You are not nuts.You have every right to expect and get good service. I have had the same housekeeper for 12 years but I went through a lot of them until I found what I wanted. I finally put an ad in the paper and interviewed a ton of people. I also asked anyone I knew for a referral. I offered the benefit of paid sick days after a certain period, vacation days etc. I clearly set out expectations as well....(and none of what you have put up with would be included). My housekeeper turned into my nanny/housekeeper and I ended up hiring her full time. I have been very blessed but I had to kiss a lot of frogs first! Hang in there and wait for what you want! the wait is worth it

You do not sound unreasonable at all! That is ridiculous to have someone you hire to take advantage of you like that. We are really happy with our service ''Molly Maids'', there is 2-3 women who come out and although they pass the time while chatting with each other, are very efficient and clean very well. We were using another service which had 5 people come and we were very disappointed with the results, it seemed they cleaned in a way that would require a quick return visit (probably to ensure work for them). Whoever you chose I think it is important to tell them that you have gone through serveral houskeepers and state your expectations and ask them if they are willing and able to meet those expectations. Tell them that you want their best people (if using a service), I would get names if you are uncomfortable (besides you are letting them into your home). I ask for approximate times and ask how many jobs are before you to give you a better idea. I hope this helps. anon

Never use a housecleaning company. We have ALWAYS had bad experiences with them. They pay their employees a fraction of what you pay and have high turnover. Hire a single individual that you can develop a relationship with and pay a reasonable rate. Treat them fairly and with respect, but be clear and firm on what you expect. Your requests are not unreasonable or rigid. Hire someone based on word of mouth, not from a flyer. We have had excellent relationships with housecleaners hired in this way -- for many years! Good luck.

Sounds like you've had really bad luck! We've had the same housekeeper for about 15 years. In that time I think she's broken something twice. She would never let a bunch of people eat at our house and if she did we would never know because everything is put away when we return. I think you should keep looking. If you use a service you might tell them about what happened and ask them what you can expect. I would suggest you find someone who comes recommended or interview different services. Amy

Oh my goodness, I can't believe the experiences you've had with housecleaners! I do not think that using the phone is ok, and the damage to the blinds is terrible service. Why would you continue to employ them?

You mention that the cleaners are part of a service. So the cleaners have a boss that is someone other than you??? That sounds like a bad deal for you and for them (since there's a middleman.) Do you know if they make a living wage?

Have you ever hired someone on your own? I have only had two housecleaning teams (one a husband and wife, the other a mother and daughter) ever, and they were both referred by close friends. I negotiated the pay with them, and they work for me. I tell them what I want and expect, and give them feedback on their work. If they were to intentionally do the things you mention, I'd stop employing them. But they wouldn't, because we have a relationship with communication.

(BTW, BPN has many recommendations for housekeepers in the Household Digest newsletter.) happy with clean home

It sounds like the company you hired is still quite unprofessional. I would not accept this kind of behavior. We have had two different housekeeping companies over the past 7 years (we also live in Berkeley), and neither of them did things like this. We now use Natural Home Cleaning ( and have been quite satisfied. They are a worker-owned cooperative and use non-toxic cleaning products. They have been very responsive to any requests or concerns we have expressed and are extremely professional. They come every two weeks and still call the night before to let us know when they are coming, even though we have a regularly scheduled day and time. If I were you, I would either be very explicit with your current cleaners as to what you would like (or not like) them to do, or hire someone else. Kara

I would say that you have gone above and beyond! I had the same wonderful housekeeper for about 6 years, she is now doing a mission in another country. For the past two years, I've had about 5 different people/agencies. After carpal tunnel surgery, I tried a new agency that charged by the hour. While cleaning a worker asked me to come clean up some glue that spilled in my daughter's room. I promptly called the agency and pointed out the situation. The next time they cleaned all the on/off decal markings off the gas stove. We didn't think it was a big deal, until the babysitter (a college graduate student) almost blew up the house because she left the gas on! That was the last straw! We are now with a better group, although not perfect, much better. I never have them clean when I'm not here and they arrive at the same time every two weeks. anon hardworking mom

Hi- I've never used a housekeeper before (too picky about the way things are done to turn it over to someone else), but what you describe sounds like bad service to me. I do not believe it is unreasonable to expect your home to be respected, feeling displaced if you come home for lunch because there are 5 people using your home as a cafeteria/using your dishes, bent blinds, wanting to know who will be working in your home, etc. I wish I had more advice for you, but I would look for a new housekeeper/service. Try the BPN network/newsletters as a place to start. I really don't think you are being unreasonable. kukana

Pushing the limits? I'd say YES. Are these people crazy? I've never heard of such a thing. Fire this company immediately and call the women at Natural Homecleaning Professionals. They have been working for me for over one year and I love them. I get a call the day before my appt telling me exactly what time to expect my cleaners (and they are the same ones each and every time) and the ladies arrive exactly at that time. (And, no, they do not use my dishes to eat their lunch!) Happy mama

Try not hiring someone through a company. We hired a housekeeper who we found through our neighbor. She has worked for us for over 2 years and we've never had a problem. Word of mouth recommendations are often the best. Good luck. anon

I am totally appaled to hear about your experiences. we have had a housekeeper for over 7 years and tried to use ''independent contractors'' who were women that basically advertised for themselves. I wasn't throughly satisfied, sometimes I would find things broken and then left there or places completely ignored (like the shower!!). When we moved to our current house, I started using Vickie's Cleaning Team. They are fabulous! I have the same housekeeper every 2 weeks who arrives at the same time on the same day of the week for the last 4-5 years. You should be notified when someone is coming and no, it is not unreasonable to have them come at the same time every time (unless they made prior arrangement, say a bigger job before yours that lasted longer). She comes in for 3 hours, brings all of her own supplies, rags, and vacuum & mop, she never uses my supplies unless I specifically ask her to. If she fell ill on my scheduled day I have the option of having someone else sub or having my regular on a different day when she is back to health. The housekeepers get benefits and vacation time. We have never had an issue with them breaking anything. She does all the regular cleaning of my house and then if time allows, she finds a different ''special needs'' area to concentrate on each time. They are quite pricey - $88 for 3 hours every other week, but I am very happy to pay for a consistent clean house every time, with no surprises. By the way, she even puts away all the things on my sink drainboard so not one item is left there when she is gone. I recommend you call them. they had a change in ownership last year (or was it two), and I am sure it hits some bumps in the road, but I never noticed. They are really easy to work with. Kerri

Wow- I am stunned by your report of what your housecleaner is up to and how your house is treated!

I have been cleaning houses for 2 years and have never even considered using any of my clients household items or taking a lunch break inside the home. My clients know the exact time I will arrive and leave at. I never bring anybody else into the home. I treat and clean their homes as if they are my own.

Get rid of your current service! A responsible cleaner

I have had a housekeeper for 3 years and haven't had near the problems you described. Just had one or two small things broken. Also, think you would have better luck with one person as opposed to a service. Would expect that providing feedback on issues would be acted upon more promptly if you found the right person and kept the housekeeping group to no more than two. If you want contact info on my housekeeper please let me know.

PLEASE tell your housekeepers THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE and find yourself a new crew to clean your house. Are you kidding me!! THis is absolutely ridiculous. Why do you feel like you should be accomodating and ok with such unacceptable behavior. Remember, YOU PAY THESE PEOPLE TO CLEAN YOUR HOUSE - that is it. They can eat their lunches in their car or in the street, not in your kitchen. Annoyed

You are not being unreasonable at all! We have never used a housecleaner ''company'' but have always hired individuals. So we don't have any issues about knowing who is coming, although the person we have now does sometimes bring different helpers -- we don't know ahead of time if it's going to be her husband, her sister, etc., but she is the one responsible for them and we've never had a problem with a crowd. Stuff gets broken once in a while, but no more often than we break stuff ourselves, or would if we were moving stuff around to clean. I can think of only two or three things in the last 7 or 8 years, nothing too important. I doubt our cleaners ever eat lunch in our house; if they do they certainly don't leave any trace. And while there are sometimes last-minute changes in the time they are coming, they do let us know more or less when we can expect them. Feeling fortunate

Do I get a nanny or a housekeeper?

July 2002

My husband and I currently share childcare responsibilities -- I stay home with our 4-month-old in the morning and he's on duty in the afternoon. My husband's studio is behind our house, and my studio is 10 minutes from home. We are both self-employed and consider ourselves pretty lucky to have flexibility in our schedules to allow this, which helps to make up for not having a paid maternity leave.

With project deadlines recently, I've been working swing shift hours -- 1pm to 9pm-ish. The total number of hours I work is not likely to change, although I can usually get in an hour in the morning when baby is napping and put in one or two hours at home in the evening. This schedule actually suits me okay, but it means that hubby and I don't really hang out together since we're both trying to work whenever we can. It also means that there isn't a whole lot of laundry and cleaning getting done. It can also get pretty stressful when we both have meetings or such and we have to pass the baby back and forth. I will sometimes bring my son to my office -- but it makes for a very unproductive work day.

We need help, but I don't know what kind of help. Neither of us wants to give up our designated childcare hours. I don't want to hire someone to be with our baby just so that I can catch up on the laundry. I *think* that hiring someone to do the chores sounds like a better solution. But aside from my middleclass guilt, I don't know whether this would work.

I understand from a recent thread here that some nannies are willing to also do chores. So, a combo is a possibility. How is a ''mother's helper'' different from a nanny or housekeeper? I would love to hear from anyone who has been in a similar situation. Hae

A dear friend taught me to delegate to my babysitter some of my load of light household chores (laundry, setting the table, grocery shopping, making a salad, making kids lunches for school days) so I can spend my non-working hours with my kids. I would much rather pay her to wash my dishes than to stand there at the sink doing dishes while she enjoys playing with my darling kids. After all, they are my kids. I do not think it is okay to ask a sitter to do ''heavy'' chores or cleaning, but you can hire a separate cleaner every other week to do that, or set aside a non-babysitting day, and pay the going rate for housecleaners, if your sitter is willing and good at cleaning. The most important thing (other than getting over the middle- class guilt) is to be clear up front what the job will entail. Some sitters consider it below them to do any housework that is not directly connected to the baby (like they'll fold baby's laundry but not adults'). Best to find this out before you hire someone. Be clear that the job is going to be 25% or 50% or whatever light housekeeping, and spell out the chores you'll be asking her to do. Especially if you pitch in once in a while when the sitter can see, I think it's perfectly fine to ask your nanny to do tasks that otherwise take you away from your kid(s) when you are caring for your child. Suzanne

My situation was slightly different than yours, but my husband and I had the same desire to do as much as we could on our own during my daughter's first year. Our daughter was a high-need baby & a catnapper, which meant there were no reasonable or reliable stretches of time to get stuff done when we watched her. We went the mother's helper route, hiring a college student who would take turns doing chores and holding the baby. The student would do straightforward chores like laundry, changing sheets, running errands or washing dishes. My daughter would only nap in the sling, so sometimes I would get the student to wear her down and nap so I could do other kinds of chores. My daughter didn't really put up with being with anybody besides mom or dad when she was awake, though, so having the flexibility to trade off like that was ideal. -- Ilana

I think what you need is a housekeeper who can do a little childcare, rather than a nanny who can do a little cleaning(or a mother's helper, who doesn't do big cleaning stuff). When my baby was born, I discovered my housekeeper (who was already working for me) was great for ''pitching in'' with childcare - I wouldn't have hired her as a fulltime nanny (her English was almost non-existent and my Spanish totally non-existent) - but she loved babies and filled in here and there on more than one occasion. I happily left the baby with her while I ran errands, or when my nanny had to leave work early for a doctor's appt, she could take over. She also did evening sitting for us. If I were you, I would interview housecleaners and ask them if they would be willing to do some childcare sometimes. Your housecleaner might not have the childcare experience you'd want from a nanny but if she has children of her own and/or some common sense, it should work out fine. You may even find a housecleaner who would love to gain some ''professional'' childcare experience. The big rule in hiring anyone, a nanny, a housecleaner, a marketing director, etc. is to make your expectations VERY clear in the INTERVIEW. Stuff may still go wrong but at least you can tell yourself (and the employee!) ''I told you!!'' FYI, my housecleaner charged $10 per hour for housecleaning and that's what I paid her for sitting too. That may be a little low - this was a few years ago. I made it clear she didn't have to do both jobs at once - if she was cleaning, she didn't have to watch the baby - and if she was watching the baby, she didn't have to clean. A few times it worked out that she would clean in the morning and then mind the baby and while he napped, she napped. I was happy to be able to go out, and both she and the baby were happy to sleep, so it worked out great for all of us! Fran

What should be expected in a housekeeper?


I have an awkward situation in which my housecleaner has become a friend, and yet I'm not completely satisfied with her work. I'm new to having a housecleaner, so I am hoping to get some advice from others who have had more experience, and can help define what general expectations should be. I would like to know this before deciding whether to say anything, as I don't want to seem demanding or petty. I like this housecleaner because I trust her (she works at the building where I live), she is really friendly with my child, and if she sees me with too many grocery bags she helps carry them, etc.

In the last 2 months I've had her clean the floors once a week, and the rest of the place once a month. She does a good job on the floors except that I find areas she's missed. This past time she didn't shake out the bathroom rugs or clean under the portable pantry. Am I being picky or looking too closely after she leaves? However, she did a wonderful job on the inside of our fridge. If this info. helps, we live in a 1,050 sq. foot loft -- it takes her 1 hour to do the floors, and 1.5-2 hours to do the overall (incl. floors). I pay her $20 for floors (vacuum and mop), and $50 for the overall. She will not accept tips, and tells me instead to take the tip and buy something for the baby. Thanks in advance for any tips on what should be expected from a housecleaner.

If you're paying by the job you might have to pay more for deeper cleaning. If you are willing to do that, your discussion with your housekeeper about doing a more thorough cleaning shouldn't be taken as criticism. Since I pay by the hour, I have never hesitated to ask for something to be done differently and no one has ever taken it as criticism. As far as being picky: everyone has their own level of tolerance for dirt (for some people, it's a real health issue) and it's your right to ask for something to be cleaned the way you want it. -Fran

I don't think you are being too picky or cheap. I have done a lot of researching of housekeepers in the area, and you are being way more than generous. I've found that, if you break it down hourly, they charge about $10 to $16 per hour. Most want to do it by the job. Mine cleans a 3000 sf house (the bottom floor being all hardwood) for $80, every week. It takes a good person about six hours to do the job right (or two people three hours), which is about $13 per hour. I give her very detailed instructions on what I need to have done, and, if she misses something, I just ask her to do it. She is not offended--she wants to do a good job. Paying someone what is, in essence, $20 to $25 per hour for housecleaning seems incredibly steep. Heck, I might clean your floors for that kind of money! -Lawson

Have you tried writing a list for your housekeeper of what you'd like done each time? She may need to have something visible in front of her as a reminder. My housecleaners sometimes run out of time and can't get everything done. Some weeks they do a better job in the kitchen, other weeks a better job in other areas. If I have to say something I usually make it sound like I'm really picky, rather than that they aren't doing the job I expect. Good luck. She sounds like a kind and caring person. June

I would suggest being honest with yourself first. How important is this to you? If your known for being nit picky, demanding or petty, you should consider your motive before you would speak to her. If not, then feel guiltless in your approach. Be honest with your housekeeper, and keep in mind it is not always what you say, but how you say it. :o) Oh and don't leave out the prayer, prayer before a tough situation and belief in prayer working makes a good comfort to a difficult situation.