General advice about housekeepers?

I’m finally getting a housekeeper after years of wishing for one. Today she comes in to clean for the first time under my supervision so she ‘does things right’ (her words, not mine). I’m not really sure about the rules and etiquette surrounding this service, so:

Should I tidy up a bit before she gets here? I’m talking magazines on the table and such.
Can I ask her to do things like clean and organize the pantry? I ask because her minimum time is four hours and I don’t know if my house will take that much time.
Have you ever had problems with a housekeeper?
Do I tip her?

I’m so excited, which is silly, but this is going to free up a lot of time for me. Not to mention I have a broken hand so haven’t done a good clean in three weeks and it’s starting to bother me.

I tend to tidy before the cleaning lady comes, primarily because I’d rather not pay her to pick up the magazines and such. But I’ve never had one with a minimum time like you have, so maybe you don’t want to bother.

Does she bring her own cleaning supplies? If not, I suggest coming up with a place where she can write down what she runs out of. I keep a grocery list on the fridge, and that’s where any cleaning supply needs get written down.

Don’t have them clean anything that you value highly. For me, that’s things like delicate wine glasses and a couple antique ceramic pieces. Even the most careful cleaning person breaks things every once in a while, and I’d just as soon clean things I really care about myself.

Once she has a routine down, take a few minutes and write it down. That way, if you ever need to change cleaning people, you have a list of what you want done.

Most cleaning people I know will do anything you want them to do. So yeah, go ahead and ask her to clean and organize the pantry if you want.

Think about how you want things done; not everyone cleans the same way. I’ve had people who don’t consider things clean unless they move the furniture and vacuum under them each week; to me, that’s a once-in-a-great-while thing, and I don’t want to pay for it to be done weekly. Don’t feel bad about criticizing; if the person can’t take being told not to do something, or that something needs more attention, or whatever, that’s a bad sign and you probably should just change cleaning services at that point.

When I had a housekeeper, I didn’t tidy before she came (we had very young kids, which is why I had a housekeeper). What I did was had laundry baskets scattered throughout the house. She’d throw toys into one, laundry into the ones upstairs (and toys into a different one). Mail into a basket on the counter. She did and put away dishes, would throw in rugs, towels and/or sheets each week and we’d get those washed. If I asked her to clean the fridge she would.

An independent will generally do whatever you ask - within reason. If you hire someone like Merry Maids, they stick to their script and their processes.

We didn’t tip, but we would give her a weeks extra at Christmas.

We usually straighten up and put away clothes, shoes, CDs, books, and other stray items. We make sure that we have cleaning supplies available (in part because a lot of commercial supplies kick up my asthma, so brand and composition are important). Don’t underestimate how long it takes to clean the bathroom(s) and kitchen. After someone’s cleaned a few times and has taken down the ambient level of grunge, they may have time to add other tasks (organizing, inside cupboards or appliances, for example).

We had one bad experience with an agency. Though the jewel cases were left in place, 10 CDs were stolen, all with high resale value. We know it was one of this pair of cleaners because we knew when we’d listened to one of those CDs before and it was during a heavy workload period when nobody but us was in the house for a few months. We had no reply when we complained to the agency. Since then, we have only hired friends’ house cleaners, with whom they have long-term relationships, to clean our place when they have cancellations.

Dang, I’m drooling with envy here.


I hate housework.

I called Merry Maids to get an estimate. They have a flat rate (it was more than I wanted to pay) for X, X, X, and X. If you wanted other things done periodically, they charged more. I like the sound of your set-up much better. If you don’t mind my asking, what do you pay for four hours? Are you using an agency? What will she actually be doing for you?

She’s a friend of a friend’s housecleaner and is an independent. She charges $25/hr, minimum 4 hours. She’s doing the main floor, plus, if I need, she’ll do laundry and all that as well. She’s here right now and she’s going to do as much of a clean as possible in the four hours.

What was always recommended to me was that you let them use your vacuum so that they don’t introduce flees to your house from cleaning other peoples houses who have pets in case you don’t have pets. I’m not sure if that is true or not but I provide all the supplies for my cleaning lady and let her go with what she wants to do every other week. This time she did my closet and some other things. In the beginning she came more often to start a deep clean and now it is just maintanence. She has a key to my house and I prefer not to be home when she comes so that I am out of her way.

Yup, she uses all of my stuff, including the vacuum. She’s here right now and doing a very thorough job!

I am a housekeeper. I’m independent; I charge $20 an hour, and although I occasionally take small jobs, it’s almost not worth it for less than three hours.

My main regular client has me come in for three hours weekly. Some weeks there are a lot of obvious tasks; other weeks I just do the routine stuff extra-thoroughly. He’s an engineer/ scientist type, so his environment is a bit atypical. (For instance, getting to learn all the spots of solder on the carpet by the workbench so I don’t waste time wondering why the vaccuum won’t pick them up… :smiley: )

It does my heart good to see how enlightened and practical you all are on the topic. I love Dangerosa’s idea of the laundry tubs for houses with kids. Very practical and clever. Much tidier than mere heaps, heh heh.