Tag Archives: cleaning

Breaking Up With Your Housekeeper

I always feel conflicted when someone else cleans my house. On the one hand, there are times I’m sidelined due to injury or illness, or just plain too busy to keep things looking tidy. On the other, it feels much too “Lady of Leisure” to be lolling about while someone else does the scut work, regardless of how much they’re being paid. Ideally, I’d be out of the house but it’s not always practical.

This feeling of guilt makes it even more difficult to fire someone if they’re (OK, she – because, let’s be honest, it’s usually a woman) is not doing a good job. Admittedly, this is a “high end” problem that won’t get you a lot of sympathy from any friends and family who clean their own homes.

Nevertheless, whether and how to do it is a legitimate quandary.

I hate to generalize, but I’ve found that even the best cleaning people become complacent after a while. If you really like your housekeeper but are becoming unhappy with the quality of work, here are some suggestions before you pull the plug:

  1. Make sure you’ve given clear direction, such as “Please clean under the bed.” Leave a pair of shoes under the middle of the bed and if they’re still there after she’s finished, well, there’s your first clue she’s not too motivated.
  2. Give her several chances to do better if you really like her, without letting her know she’s on probation. Each time ask for specific chores to be done and notice whether she added these to her to-do list or skipped other tasks to make time.
  3. Ask her to help plan her schedule and make sure you set reasonable expectations. Maybe she only needs to clean the oven or guest shower every two weeks or once a month, whereas she must do the master bath every time. Make sure she actually has enough hours to do what’s needed and adjust accordingly. And of course, make sure you pay the going rate for your neighborhood.

After a few weeks, one of two things will happen: Either you’ll be happier with the work or it will be time to part ways. Needless to say, never break up with someone if they still have your keys!

This is one of the few instances where I believe fibbing is in order.

  1. Say you’re going on vacation. Then try a cleaning service.
  2. If the service does a noticeably better job, it’s time to cut the cord and trot out your best excuse. My suggestion: “I have to cut back on our spending. So I’m going to have to clean the house myself. I’ll never do as good a job as you do.” There is absolutely no percentage in telling someone she’s not up to your standards.
  3. Wait until after she’s done for the day. You don’t want her to be simmering with resentment while she’s dusting the breakables.
  4. Pay severance if she’s been with you for a while – at least the amount of one or two service calls. She counts on the income and it may take a few weeks to add a new client.
  5. If you’re letting her go because you’re moving, make sure to give her plenty of notice. An extra bonus is a nice gesture.

All things considered, I prefer using a cleaning service. You always get new people, so you don’t develop an awkward relationship. And I think they try a bit harder.

Remember: Be fair. Be firm. And line up your next option before you quit cold turkey.

7 DIY Cleaning Hacks

We’re in the middle of closing up our summer house, and I stumbled on some great cleaning tips you can do with stuff you probably already have on hand: lemon, baking soda and white vinegar.

1. FAUCETS

To get rid of hard water stains on faucets, wipe them with vinegar to dissolve calcium deposits. Stains will wipe away much more easily.

2. DRAINS

Here’s an easy 3-step drain cleaner: Start by pouring boiling water down the drain. Immediately follow with 1/2 cup of baking soda. Finally, pour a mixture of 1 cup vinegar + 1 cup hot water on top.

3. CABINETS

Combine one part vegetable oil with two parts baking soda. Then work it into the wood with a sponge or cloth to get rid of the gunk that accumulates over time.

4. SINK

Is your sink looking a little dull? Sprinkle some baking soda in the sink and use a lemon wedge as a scrubber to refresh the shine. (Note: I only had limes in the house so I used those, which made the kitchen smell nicely tropical.)

5. GROUT

Mix up a paste of baking soda and water and spread it on kitchen or bathroom grout. Leave it on for a few minutes; then spray with vinegar. After it fizzes, scrub lightly with an old toothbrush.

6. FRUIT FLIES

This is a great solution to a pesky problem. Put two lemon halves in your oven and leave the door slightly open overnight. The next morning, close the oven and turn on the broiler for a few minutes. Turn it off and let the oven cool. Toss the lemons and wipe off the bottom of the oven. (I have no idea why this works!)

7. ROOM DEODORIZER

Simmer some vinegar on your cooktop to clear the air and neutralize odors.

OK, back to packing!