Open Thread: Hiring a Cleaning Lady

Cleaning supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by AnnieGreenSpringsReaders, have you hired someone to clean your house or apartment? What are your best tips for how to hire a cleaning lady?  When did you first hire them? (Right out of school, after you reached a certain salary, after you got married or had kids… when?) What have you learned about the process, such as how to be a good boss, how to communicate your wishes, and how to get what you want?

You see, for years, I’ve ignored the advice that every older working woman gives every younger working woman: hire a cleaning lady. It makes returning home after a long day spa-like! It saves marriages! It is the easiest thing to outsource! (Pictured: Cleaning supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by AnnieGreenSprings.)

And yet, I thought: I don’t like people touching my stuff. Or, God forbid, “organizing” my stuff. Particularly while I’m not home! And then if I am home while someone else is cleaning my house… gee, where are the palm fronds and the four buff guys to carry me around?  Also, I thought, I don’t have time to “clean for the cleaning person” — if I did then I would just go ahead and clean the apartment myself.

I finally broke down and hired someone just recently, asking her to only focus on the kitchens and bathrooms.  Rookie mistake number one:  I left too much stuff out in the kitchen, thinking she could just move things (e.g. the drying rack for the dishes) and then replace it once the area was clean.  Oh no — she “organized” it.  We’re still finding stuff weeks later. By the time she got to the bathrooms I knew enough to run over and clear everything off the counters and floors if I didn’t want to find it, weeks later, in the depths of a cabinet.  (As predicted: it felt very weird to be home while she was cleaning, but I can’t imagine letting someone come and clean when I’m not home.)

That said:  man, our kitchen and bathrooms have never looked cleaner.  It was brilliant, really, and we can’t wait to have her back on a semi-regular basis.

Readers, back to you — have you hired someone?  Are there any “I’ll clean my own place, thanks” holdouts like me?  


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  1. I desperately want to, just on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to wash the floors and scrub the bathroom and things, but I’m having a hard time getting over the mental block. Surely a single woman with no kids should manage to keep a one-bedroom apartment clean but . . . .

    • I HIRED a cleaneing lady in my BUILDING, and she ate all of my CORNED beef that my father brought me from the delli! Can you imageine?

      So it is VERY important to get a cleaneing lady that is slim and will NOT eat everything good from your refridgerateor. FOOEY!

    • Why? Do you like cleaning? If you don’t like cleaning, and you can afford it, why not pay someone else to do it? You can then spend that time doing things you like. Life is too short to choose scrubbing your tub over something you like.

    • phillygirlruns :

      i really struggled with this as well – my husband and i don’t have kids, though we do have two dogs that shed like crazy. i grew up in a family where things like cleaning services just weren’t a thing, and i felt like hiring someone to clean my house was somehow a sign of complete failure. i finally got over it and had someone come clean the house before a party i threw for my mother – and i was sold. since then they’ve been coming back every two weeks, and it’s easily the best investment we’ve made. the fact that my stairs are vacuumed, floors swept, and bathrooms scrubbed regularly has done a surprising amount for my general stress level.

    • I’m married with no kids, but it is fantastic to come home to a clean house. We hired a service to come every other week and only have them clean the first floor of our house (which includes master bedroom & bath), but not the second floor because it gets less use. Most of my firends have hired individuals. I actually prefer a service. I travel a lot for work and with a service I can cancel if gone for a while or change days and not feel like I am disrupting anyone’s schedule.

    • I have a cleaning service for my studio apartment. I felt the same way, but frankly, I don’t have a lot of free time and I hate cleaning, so my apartment was just a mess. Now the cleaners come once a month and it’s clean enough for me.

      It drives me crazy, though, that they move my pictures and knicknacks all around. Obviously it’s good that they clean under them, I just wish they’d put them back exactly where they were before. My friend told me that they probably move them so I’ll know they cleaned…

      • phillygirlruns :

        i feel this way too – our service always puts the bath mats in the master bath in different places and “organizes” whatever might be left on my counters or bureau. talk about first world problems – but it drives me nuts.

    • Single, no kids. Cleaning service comes once every two weeks to my one-bedroom apt. Four ladies spend an hour cleaning my place to shining perfection (they change the sheets and fold laundry, too!) for $50. Four hours of my time is definitely worth the $50.

  2. I have been holding out, but now that we have our first child on the way… I may just break down and hire someone. Mostly because my perspective on what is considered dirty has recently gotten much stricter (nesting, perhaps?).

    Besides, I have been told by just about everyone I know – from single friends to those with multiple kids – to just do it and I won’t regret it!

    • You won’t regret it. I have someone come every other week. When I get home on those days it’s like Christmas morning. There is no better feeling than coming home to a clean place after a long day of work. My husband and I both work full time (and by full time, I mean about 70+ hours/week, including weekends). A cleaning lady keeps our power in balance. I couldn’t imagine working as a full time professional and still having to come home and clean up after his mess.

      • Do it! :-) I enjoy the clean house for approximately 30 seconds before my 5 year old walks inside. ;)

  3. Love them! :

    I hired our “ladies” when I was pregnant with my daughter (who is now 3). I love them. They don’t do as great as a job as I would do, but their rate is reasonable ($70 for a 2700 sq foot house!!), they are consistent, and I trust them.

    They clean all my bathrooms, vacuum with a really good vacuum (mine sucks; well it doesn’t suck – making it a bad vacuum), will make beds if unmade, cleans floors and take out the trash and recyclables. They come every other Wednesday and I love walking into a clean (an clean- smelling) house.

    I found them through Craigslist and I called every single one of their references. Everyone loved them, so I took a chance and hired them.

    Highly recommend it for everyone who can do it, regardless if you have kids, no-kids, married, single, in an apt or in a house. It is well worth it!

    • I started when my first child was born. They have always done a much better job than I know how to do. I have had a total of seven women in four cities, all honest, all excellent. Currently I pay $75 for a house that can be done in 4.5 hours – every two weeks.

      I think you can’t be selective about what is to cleaned – have to let them do the whole thing. The only thing my person re-organizes is the shoes, and thank goodness for that.

      I only hire through personal referals. Be prepared to buy the cleaning products tyhey like and to give generously at Christmas.

      Don’t micromanage, but I occasionally point out areas that need emphasis on a given day.
      Be prepared for occasional breakage – it will happen.

      It helps if you are quite well organized to begin with so that your person doesz not have to move lots of “stuff” around. I always spend 5 minutes picking up – especially the kids’ stuff.


      I only hire throu

      • Vegas Baby :

        Are you in the north or south? How big is your house? I was using a bigger company (Merry Maids) and they were charging me twice that much to come once a month and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the work. But, I’ve been considering hiring a cleaning lady and could use a recommendation.

        • I also noticed that the Vegas area companies are much more expensive than the ladies with business cards. I’m sure much of the price difference can be accounted for in overhead, but I don’t feel like the extra money for bonded workers is worth it. In my experience, the sole proprietors do a better job and, frankly, I feel more comfortable having them in my home when I’m not around. It’s not “just a job” to those ladies…it’s their *business*. In any event, ask around to your friends/co-workers and they are bound to give you a good recommendation. We have only hired people who also work for friends and have been very pleased.

      • Anonymous :

        I luv this posted reply. This is the most sensible.

  4. After I had my second child and went back to work, we finally gave up trying to do it ourselves and hired someone. We asked friends and got a good recommendation for a local woman (not with a company). We originally had her come every other week, but now with three kids, she comes once a week. I was very weird about it at first, but now it is wonderful. It helped with the awkwardness that she started while I was on maternity leave, so I was there and got to know her. Now, she comes and goes while we are at work, and we completely trust her! She even leaves little baked goods and treats for the kids when she leaves! One of the best decisions we ever made!!

  5. alexandra :

    When I was around 24 week’s pregnant with my second child and still working full-time, I hired one. The first week I was so happy I was dancing on air, the clean house was superb and she was doing all the jobs I’d been ignoring. But, the next week she was 10 minutes late and not so much was done. This got worse and worse until she’d simply not show and when I’d call she’d say she was sick. Very frustrating to be sat at home waiting to let someone in. I let her go after approximately 8 weeks in to the arrangement when she was now only “working” 2.5 hours (of 4), leaving major things – e.g., kitchen work tops not wiped down, but the thing that really got to me was the constant ‘I saw your photo of x, you must be very rich’ and ‘I saw your vacuum in the shop, you must be very rich’ – I just got the impression I was easy money.

    It sucks doing my own cleaning again, but it was a good reminder that it *can* all be done in 4 hours or fewer!

    • This is basically what keeps happening to my mom, which is why I haven’t even tried. She’ll hire someone who has great references and at first it’s great, then she starts slacking off on pretty basic stuff, until finally my mom feels like she’s just the cash cow. My mom’s really nice and gets taken advantage of, so this is at least partly her fault for not setting boundaries, but I’ve seen some of the work her cleaning lady did and it was terrible. If you’re coming to work and getting paid, the most basic work ethic should have been better than that!

      • I think it’s better to hire through a service, where there’s a manager in charge who will take your complaints seriously and send someone to clean again if necessary. If it’s just one person working for herself, I can frankly understand why she’d slack off – I can’t imagine having to clean other people’s houses in order to get by.

        • Oh, also, they’re usually fully insured and bonded, which is non-negotiable for me (since they’re in my home when I’m not there).

    • Anonymous :

      I had basically the same issue — the straw that broke my back was once I came home early (pregnant, had doctor’s appt), and not only was the cleaning lady there, so were her mom and her 7 year old daughter. Grandma and child were sitting on my couch, watching Univision TV and eating the caramel apples I’d purchased the day before and left unopened on the counter.

      • Magdeline :

        Wow, that is awful!!!

      • My mom was a housecleaner when I was little and she brought me along since I was not yet school aged… I sat in their houses watching television but did not eat their food, promise!

      • My cleaning lady brings her baby. She never brought her older girl though. She stopped cleaning for a few months last year when the baby was born (and we had someone else temporarily who was nowhere near as thorough). When my regular lady was ready to come back she asked if she could bring the baby b/c she’s still nursing. My boyfriend wasn’t too keen on the idea, but what better job to bring your kid to than one where no one else is there to be bothered by the baby if he gets fussy? She usually stays for about 8 hours and does a super thorough job, and my boyfriend has always told her to help herself to anything she wants for lunch. We originally found her through her cousin, who was a nanny to one of my sister-in-laws.

    • Your experiences sound awful! You should hire a cleaning service rather than an individual if you can. They will be much more professional.

      • I don’t have any personal experience on this front (yet…) but would imagine that an agency/service/company would be preferable if you are looking for someone who has been vetted (no criminal record) and insured.

      • Not necessarily true. I’ve had a service, had different people sent each time, and pretty lousy work done. I have three women work for me in three different cities, and they all have done a very good job. My current cleaning woman has brought her son once or twice during school vacation, but she always told me in advance, and as far as I could tell, all he did was play video games on his handheld.

      • I’ve tried services a few times, and I’ve never been impressed. They always send 1 or 2 people who finish so quickly but never clean very thoroughly. I’ve had much better luck with individuals.

        • I hired a cleaning service last summer. Originally it was only going to be for two months while I recovered from surgery. But even after I went back to work I kept them because I work very long hours and really like coming home to a clean house. It’s also nice not stressing out all weekend about needing to clean instead of resting or spending time with family/friends.

          I did not have good luck with my original service. They only did an ok job, not a good one, and their rates were considerably higher than what an individual charges in my area. I looked through my neighborhood newsletter and found an individual. She’s bonded and insured which I really liked and all her customers have been with her for a while. I met with her before hand to talk over what I wanted and the things I’m particular about, plus introduce her to my cat, who’s a little high strung. She’s great! Even though I do work from home a lot, I go into the office on the days she cleans. It’s easier for both of us that way. Also, my cleaning lady cleans my house right before lunch so she brings her lunch and eats at my house before going to her next client. She asked if it was ok, and I don’t have a problem with it. If she hadn’t said anything, I never would have noticed, as she cleans the kitchen after she eats.

          On the flip side, my mother hired a cleaning service when my brother and I were both in high school and she and my father both worked. She tried individuals first but couldn’t find one that worked out. She used a service for years and loved it.

          If you don’t have someone to get a referral from, sometimes it’s just luck that determines what you find–good or bad.

    • This is similar to my story as well. We gave up after several different ladies/services and are back to doing our own cleaning. My mom on the other hand has a fantastic cleaning lady. I’d hire her in a heartbeat if I lived in the same city.

      • My sister-in-law discovered that her cleaning lady was siphoning her liquor bottles in her liquor cabinet. After she told me the story I always keep an eye on my bar since I have a college freshman as a dog walker!

  6. Think of it like this: How long would it take you to clean your house top to bottom (scrub, mop, dust, vacuum, change sheets). And what is your hourly rate at work? Now how long does it take a cleaning lady to do the same? Ours comes in with a team of two other women and cleans our 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in about an hour. It would take me about 6 and based on my rate, I pay her a fraction of what I’d have to “pay” myself. Monetarily it makes more sense to outsource this work. It means I can either be at the office billing 6 extra hours (in theory, right?) or doing something I enjoy with that extra time (in theory…).

    Also, our cleaning lady is self-employed so I tell myself I’m supporting a small business owner and the local economy.

    Don’t feel bad! Support your local small-business woman and get yourself some extra time to do other things!

    Another way to look at it: Everyone has their coping mechanisms to deal with being short on time. Some eat dinner our every night (instead of shopping/cooking/cleaning, they let someone else do the work so they have time to spend with loved ones/do other stuff), other people send their laundry out, whatever. This is a coping mechanism. And a good one!

    • I’ve been thinking about this – I’m struggling with the mindset of being a person who hires a cleaning lady when we have no kids. But we cook 95% of meals at home (eat out maybe twice a month) and when I think of what we save on that, it seems clear that I can afford to not clean so much! I freaking HATE cleaning but love having everything clean.

      I am soooo excited to read about what people use their cleaning people for, and how much that costs (and size of house?). This might be my favorite thread of the month.

      • I do very well at putting things away, but deep cleaning just doesn’t happen, ever. But it not happening stresses me out a lot. So I finally broke down a couple of years ago and hired someone. I have them come every 2 weeks, and just do things like mop, vacuum, dust, etc. – things I never seem to have time for. That way I don’t have the problem of them putting things in places where I can’t find them, etc.

        It is only me and my husband, but I don’t care. Hiring someone to clean the house was the best thing I have ever done.

        • I’m with May–I had someone clean a few months ago when a new roommate was moving in, and it was great. Roomie turned out to be a bit messier than I am (I can put things away, but rarely sweep or mop), so we agreed to have someone clean once a month. She just came and it was great! Plus it DOES force us to clean ahead of her in terms of putting things away, which is good to do, and if we have to do it monthly might get us in better habits?

          My place is around 1800 sq ft, and it’s going to be $125 a visit. There’s probably cheaper out there, but this company uses green products, which is a bit nicer–smells clean but not as chemical.

  7. Still a hold-out here, though my hubby and I share cleaning chores (and we have a 1BR condo with no pets or kids). Doubt I will ever be able to get over the control freak thing, as being home isn’t an option. Also, even though it’s not THAT expensive in the grand scheme, I have a mental block that starting to rely on “staff” to keep my house running is a downward spiral into the golden handcuffs.

    • hear hear :

      I agree- plus for me part of it is that I keep my living space small enough that I can manage to clean it myself. Different strokes, and no judgment, but I don’t want to have so much space that it owns me, ditto for my possessions. Staying in a smaller place means I cannot shop so much (right? hopefully!).

      • I wish I had learned this earlier in life, rather than later. It’s so true.

      • May(be the First) :

        I agree!
        I lived by the same policy, and it worked fine. Caved in after baby, though!

    • Business, Not Law :

      Another hold out and Agreed re: the golden handcuffs. And coming from a comfortable, yet modest upbringing I feel kind of “ashamed” of letting my lifestyle actually catch up to my income. I don’t know if that makes any sense but I often feel guilty admitting that we hire someone to do seasonal cleanup of our lawn (i.e. blow leaves, etc)

    • karenpadi :

      I’m kind of the opposite. I don’t look at it as having “golden handcuffs”. I look at it a luxury I can afford because I work hard. I can fire my cleaning lady anytime and immediately reduce my expenses.

      • Exactly. We cut out the cleaners when I cut back to part time but recently hired them back when I couldn’t stand the filth any longer.

  8. And we were no kids, double-income when we hired our lady. We were both so busy with work that neither one of had the time and I would get really upset about coming home to a disaster every night. It’s also saved us a lot of disagreements over cleaning standards…his clean in the bathroom is just never going to live up to my standards…sorry, Husband.

    • Yup. We are dinks (well, he has teenagers, but they live with their mom, and I have no kids) and when he moved in I knew from viewing his ‘upkeep’ at his own place that we were in for some MAJOR fights if we didn’t get help… we ended up hiring a co-worker’s husband (who is in law enforcement)’s brother’s wife’s daughter (does that make any sense? lol!) Interviewed the two of them, gave them a key, and viola! Every other Weds, my 1200 sq ft house is clean for $50! They mop, vacuum, dust, change sheets if I leave clean ones out, clean the bathrooms, take out the garbage, and even clean the doggy nose smudges off the patio door… priceless!!

      • Co-worker’s husband’s brother’s wife’s daughter – isn’t that just a really convoluted way of saying coworker’s niece (or step-niece)?

        • Lol! Yes, I guess so… except now brother has divorced wife, so it would be ‘ex-step-niece’, I suppose… and she’s nearly as old as step-father/brother… so calling her any sort of niece feels a little odd…

  9. Ooh, this is a really good topic. Here are my holdbacks . . . did anyone get over these?

    *Security concerns–she would have a key to my place, so I’m worried about what that means.

    *Cleanliness standards. I can tell when the floor was just wiped down versus actually being cleaned (you know, with hot water and proper scrubbing and removal of all traces of detergent/cleanser). I’m afraid most cleaning people wouldn’t meet these standards.

    *Liability. What happens if she falls down and breaks her back while she’s cleaning my place?

    *Taxes. I’m uncomfortable paying cash to someone who probably isn’t reporting it as income, and who isn’t getting credit for it as wages when it comes time for her to collect social security. I’m not planning on running for political office or anything, but the concept still bothers me.

    *Concerns with cleaning companies. If I did take the plunge, I’d prefer to go with someone independent over a big-name company that is probably only paying its workers minimum wage and is focusing on quantity/volume rather than quality/cleaning standards. But, hiring an independent person versus a cleaning service seems to present more risk with respect to all the other things I am concerned about (security, liability, etc.)

    *Like Kat, I would not want to be present while the person was cleaning, but also would not want to leave them alone.

    Maybe I am just a little too uptight to have a cleaning lady, but please let me know if you have addressed the above issues.

    • karenpadi :

      *Security: most independent cleaning ladies get business via word of mouth. They won’t risk their reputation by stealing stuff. My lady’s husband also comes over some weeks to help out. It’s cool.

      *Standards: I’ve never had an issue. I did have an issue with her scrubbing my seasoned cast iron. I just mentioned it to her and now she just sticks it in the oven when I forget to do it myself.

      *Liability: should be included in your homeowner’s/renter’s policy.

      *Taxes: she’s an independent contractor, not an employee. The onus is on her. I am fairly left-of-center politically but this is one of those things where she has to decide.

      *Leaving them alone: eh, I do it all the time. I was home once while she cleaned (over a holiday–I wasn’t expecting her). She started with the front of the house and I stayed in my bedroom and when she starting moving to the back of the house, I moved to the living room. It wasn’t an issue.

      But then, my cleaning lady has seen me naked. She was there early and I had woken up late–my pants are in another closet across the hall and I unwittingly streaked by her. We were both shocked and have never mentioned it again.

    • Totes McGotes :

      I use a local cleaning company – found them by searching my local Better Business Bureau website for small companies with high ratings. The phone # and email address go directly to the owner, and he provided me with a copy of the company’s insurance certificate upon my request. A smaller company, rather than a behemoth or an independent, may be the sweet spot you’re looking for.

      Re: security, I wouldn’t mind them coming when I wasn’t home (if I was home I would feel like I should be helping), but BF did. He felt better about it when he found out that our alarm company would set up a second, different alarm code for us, which we could give to the cleaners. The company can tell which code is used if something were to happen.

      Re: standards, I absolutely love my cleaners. There are some things that aren’t 100% perfect, but lots of things are, and they even clean things that would never occur to me, like the inside of the toaster oven! (What kind of wonderful, magical psycho cleans the inside of the toaster oven?)

    • The joke in our house is that whenever something goes missing, “The cleaning crew probably took it.” But it’s truly just a joke. They are super consciencious–on the rare occasion that something is broken, they are so apologetic. I’ve used the same small company for over 15 years and went with a company to avoid any tax withholding concerns. The crews rotate, so the same couple of people are not always cleaning, which is actually a good thing, because I’ve noticed when the crew is stable for too long, the same things tend to get cleaned–and not cleaned. They don’t do the kind of job that I would do, but they DO it regularly. Best decision ever.

      • I grew up with a cleaning lady and we always had that joke in the family too.
        It’s mostly funny because 1. We don’t really have much of anything worth stealing and 2. My mom has the most hilarious habit of hiding everything when they come so deeply that we find it months later in the most random places.

    • *Security concerns–I completely agree with the word of mouth deterrant. The cleaning lady I use is also employed by several of my neighbors and a handful of people in my firm. I really don’t see her jeopardizing her livelihood over $50 or a necklace. If that’s not enough for you, search for a cleaning service/person that is bonded.

      *Cleanliness standards. I found my cleaning lady by walking into my neighbor’s house and noticing that her iron staircase was so much cleaner than mine. I’d been struggling to dust it properly for weeks. When I asked her about it, she seemed embarassed to tell me she used a cleaning lady but I pounced on the contact information. When I notice something isn’t done exactly the way I want, I write a little note the following week “Please focus on the baseboards this week” or “I noticed a stain on the tile, can you please help?” It’s not perfect every single time, but it’s significantly better than what I was doing on my own. Along these lines, I don’t understand the theme of guilt in this thread. I’m married without kids and I have no shame about this. I now spend my weekends with my husband rather than dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing toilets. I’ll never go back.

      *Liability. Homeowners insurance.

      *Taxes. If this is really a concern, I’d encourage you to look for a cleaning service or an individual who happily accepts checks.

      *Concerns with cleaning companies. This seems like the same as your Security concern above. My cleaning lady has a key to my home and a separate security code to disarm my alarm but I didn’t give her either until she worked for me for about 6 months. First we gave her a key, then a security code and now she has full reign. We leave out jewelry, cash, etc. without any concern.

      I never pre-clean. Occassionally, I’ll intentionally fail to do dishes for the day or two leading up to her visit because I know she will take care of it. Aside from the dishes, we operate an “everything has its place” household so there is not much to tidy in the first place.

    • Our cleaning lady comes once a month. She doesn’t have a key. I just meet her in the morning and let her in on my way out. We exchange pleasantries, I make any special requests, pay her, and head out. She just closes the door and it locks behind her when she’s done.

      I don’t like being present when she’s cleaning the place, but the first few times she came my fiance stayed home while she worked. It was half to make sure she knew where everything was and half to establish that he had a good feeling about her and trusted her. We found her through a neighbor and she had several clients in our building, so that made her pretty easy to trust since she had a lot of business to lose if she did anything shady. And she never has. She’s lovely.

      As for cleanliness standards, I find that our housekeeper (and prior ones I’ve hired) don’t just meet my standards–they get my apartment cleaner than I could if I had 3 days to do it.

      I was also worried about injuries, but our renter’s insurance included a rider that covers injuries to temporary employees in our home.

      As for taxes, I know she will take a check (although I usually pay cash) so I don’t assume she’s not reporting it. She only comes once a month. If she came more often, I’d probably look into whether we should be doing some kind of “nanny tax” style reporting. But for once a month, I think of her as an indy version of Merry Maids and feel it would be kind of paternalistic of me to assume she doesn’t take care of her own taxes.

      • Anonymous :

        I am fine with the fact that my cleaning service (once a month) is not up to my standards. I love that at least once a month, every room in the house is neat and clean – something I could never achieve. The cleaning ladies give me time to deep clean the other areas of the house, or to clean out a closet once in a while.

    • I have a few suggestions regarding security:

      1) At our house we have deadbolts and doorknob locks on our front and back doors. The deadbolts use the same key and the doorknob locks use the same key, so I always carry two keys for the house but one is silver and one is gold so it isn’t hard to keep them straight. We gave our house cleaner the key to the doorknob but not the deadbolt. On the days when she comes, we only lock the doorknobs, so that she can get in. But otherwise we always lock the deadbolts.

      2) This obviously won’t work for everyone, but we have a security system that we can arm or disarm remotely using our phones (actually my husband does it so I couldn’t even tell you the manufacturer of the alarm). The house cleaner texts my husband when she is on the way to our house and he turns the alarm off. Then she texts him when she is done and he turns it back on.

      Of course, we still need to trust her when she is there and we aren’t, but for that we relied on her referrals. At least we know she won’t be able to get into our house other than the days she is scheduled to clean.

      I work full time and have three kids, and I wouldn’t go back to having no house cleaner. I actually don’t mind cleaning, but my husband and I found we were spending so much of our weekends cleaning and since it’s really the best (and sometimes only) time we have to spend with the kids (and each other), it is so worth it.

    • Thanks for all these comments. Will look into word of mouth referrals from a few people . . .

    • Why not hire a small local cleaning service that’s still fully bonded and insured and has vetted its employees?

      My service keeps the key in their main office and only gives it to the cleaning ladies on the day of the job, is fully insured and bonded, would be on the hook for worker’s comp if the cleaning lady was injured, and handles the payroll and (presumably) any tax issues. And my place is always clean enough for my standards.

    • If you did hire an individual and pay cash, wouldn’t you just given them a 1099 at the end of the year? That way you’ve done your part, and whatever they do is between them and the IRS. Of course, you’d want to make sure whatever you were paying was reasonable once taxes are figured out.

    • Security concerns–she doesn’t have to have a key. We arrange to wait for ours and let her in. She lets herself out when she’s done (we have doors that lock behind her without a key).

      Cleanliness standards. Explain what you want. If the person can’t meet that, hire someone else who can.

  10. I have never hired one, but am strongly considering doing so on a monthly basis when my husband and I move into a townhome that we’re purchasing this summer. I feel like since it will be OUR house that we will need to re-sell someday, my standard of cleanliness should increase. I think it would be a big help, even if it’s only to tackle the especially tough jobs.

  11. I hired someone when I’d been practicing for about a year. We found her through a flyer at our local coffee shop, and called all of her references. The big thing for us was that she was legally able to work in the US – we weren’t comfortable hiring someone who wasn’t. Also, that we didn’t trip the IRS threshold for handling the W2, withholding, etc ($1700/year).

    She came about every 3 weeks/once a month. The key is to make sure you’re very clear on your preferences and expectations – do a walk-through of the house together and talk about every little thing. Will she clean the oven? The shower? Will she organize your clutter, or just move it so that she’s able to clean? Will she use normal chemical-y cleaning stuff or natural stuff? Etc.

    It was a really, really great arrangement. I don’t use her anymore because I sold my house and moved into a small apartment where I don’t need the help, but I highly, highly recommend it if you feel at all burdened by cleaning.

  12. Woods-comma-Elle :

    I am never going back to cleaning myself – here’s why:

    1. The cost is minimal – we gave our cleaning lady a big tip at Christmas but beyond that, paying $50-60 a month for a clean flat is totally worth it.

    2. I can never get it as clean as she does – this is with the caveat that I recently moved house and the cleaning lady in the new place is nowhere near as amazing as my old one, but it’s still CLEAN and I don’t have to do it.

    3. It takes so much time to clean. I’m either too busy to clean and then feel crap because the place isn’t clean, or I spend half my Saturday cleaning and then feel crap because I don’t have time to do anything else.

    It just is worth it. The current place already had the cleaner organised, but previously we got our cleaner via a recommendation. She was a foreign student and she was just amazing and really diligent and totally trustworthy. Because we couldn’t be there when she came over (and to be honest I wouldn’t want to be there as I would just feel weird that she was cleaning with me there not lifting a finger, despite the fact that I was paying), we gave her a key and for this reason it was vital that she was through a recommendation so we knew she wouldn’t steal stuff.

    • LinLondon :

      Are you in London? If so, does your former cleaner do East London? (Wapping) None of my friends that I live near have a cleaner, so it’s hard to get recommendations.

    • wow, wherever you are is way cheaper than seattle…

  13. My boyfriend and I recently gave in and hired someone to clean our place (well, it’s technically his, but I’m there 95% of the time and hired the cleaning lady, so I feel I can comment on this).

    I got a referral for a cleaning lady through my good friend, who uses the same person and loves her. Our service comes bi-weekly for $60 each time and it was the best decision we’ve made in awhile. We’d been putting off doing it forever, but finally he (we) moved into a gorgeous new place with brand new everything (appliances, floors, counters, the whole shebang), so we wanted to keep it looking pretty but realized we needed professional help to do so. She comes again tomorrow and I am so excited to walk into a freshly cleaned apartment after work!

    One of the things I liked was that she came over prior to the first cleaning to walk through the house with me. It gave me a chance to meet her and show her around as well as talk over what we expected and how we wanted things done. I feel like it really started things off on a positive note.

    • The day I come home that the cleaning lady has come is the best day of the week. I can never straighten my duvet as perfectly as she does.

      • I love the perfectly straight duvet. I can never get it to look that way either. Oh, the magic of the cleaning lady…

  14. karenpadi :

    Oh goodness, I love my cleaning lady! She’s at my house right now…alone. I hired her when I was living with a boyfriend who was very dirty, had to be nagged to clean, and never cleaned up to standard–even after I tutored him. That boyfriend is long gone and I can’t bring myself to fire my cleaning lady.

    First, ask for recommendations. My cleaning lady also cleans the house of a co-worker. I was “lucky”–one of her clients had just died, so she had a bi-weekly Monday morning opening.

    Re: my stuff and having her in my house alone. I used to hide my jewelry box etc. before she came but I don’t anymore. Honestly, she’s the only one with a key and I trust her. If I had a service, with different people every week, I’d be more nervous. But I’ve had Maria for over a year now.

    Re: “cleaning” before she does. Yes, I do it. First, I recommend coming up with organized storage and at least one “dump” spot. This involves just plain getting rid of stuff you don’t use. My “dump” spot is a basket in a hall alcove. It’s clearly a “dump” spot and I’ve never had her touch it. Then, the night before, I go around putting things away and throwing out catalogs. It takes all of 15-45 minutes and is really stuff I should have been putting away all week anyway. I don’t wipe, dust, or vacuum anything.

    I’m in San Jose CA and I pay $80 every 2 weeks. 2 cats / 1200 square feet/ 3bed / 2bath.

    • karenpadi :

      Oh, I should add re:security. My cleaning lady has a system where my key and my address are not stored together. She showed it to me and it’s a pretty nifty color-coding match-up. Only her and her back-up cleaner (who I was introduced to, too) know how the system works. So I’m confident that a random person who finds her keys won’t be also able to find my house.

      If it does happen, and bad things happen all the time, I have locks that are easy to change (I found them at home depot). Basically, I would just buy a new key and use a “master key” to reprogram the lock.

    • Hi karepadi, I recently moved to San Jose, CA and am looking for someone. Our household situation sounds exactly the same. Do you think you could give specifics? Thanks so much.

      • karenpadi :

        Sure! I will ask if she has an opening or if she knows someone who does–her back-up is also pretty darn good. Email me at karenpadi at hotmail so I don’t forget.

      • Karenpadi,

        I’m in Palo Alto and looking for someone. Can I email you? She sounds great. Thanks so much.

        • karenpadi :

          I don’t think she’ll go all the way to Palo Alto. She’s pretty local to South San Jose. I can ask her though. Yes, email me.

          • I see that SF bay associate recommended a service that has an office in PA, so maybe i’ll try them first. Thanks!

        • Meaghan and ML: When I lived in Sunnyvale and then San Jose, I had a great cleaning lady. Veronica Aparicio 510-407-1279. She lives in Fremont and works on the peninsula and south bay. It’s been 7-8 years since I’ve used her, but thought she was the bee’s knees.

          • I can’t believe you just put her full name and phone number on the internet. How would you feel if she did that to you?

          • I’m sure she’d like the business but I’m hoping you have her permission to share her information on a public forum.

  15. Oh my god this is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. About a year ago I moved to San Francisco and started a better paying, yet busier, job – I had to be at a lot more corporate events, worked later, traveled more and – as someone new to the city – wanted to spend my precious free time either relaxing or exploring, not cleaning. But at the same time I’m a bit type-a and a messy home seriously ruined my mood. After hearing me bemoan the situation *again* my mom gave me the best advice ever – she said “figure out how much you make per hour (approx) and then decide how long you think it would take you to really clean the way you want to – if you can get a housecleaner for less than that you’re saving money and buying your sanity so it’s worth it”

    She was so so right. I used a site called Red Beacon to find a housecleaner. You just post the job you want and local businesses respond with a quote and a description of themselves and you pick which one you want. I selected a woman who runs a small cleaning company with her daughters and couldn’t be happier and I’m glad I went with her rather than a corporate company like Merry Maids. She comes once a month and does a deep clean of all the rooms (vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, generally tidying up, etc.) In between I find I can keep it up fairly well just with a quick pass of a vacuum sweeper or duster every now and then. I don’t have her do laundry or anything like that, but I’m considering hiring that out as well. The nice thing about her is that it’s easy to talk to her and explain what I want, so if I don’t want her to move something or whatever it’s not a big deal to mention that. She’s also great because she sends me an email once a month to ask if I’d like her to come in – so I don’t even have to remember how long it’s been or if it’s time!

    I admit at first I had a mental block about it, but then I just let it go. I’m busy and I know the value of my time, if there’s anything that needs doing and can be done cheaper by someone else then it’s worth hiring out. The key is knowing how much your time is worth to you so you can make that calculation with confidence. I know professional women who hire out grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, yard work, and more – and we all hire drivers (taxis or ubercabs anyone?) but it’s all relative. If I took a lower paying job this is admittedly one of the first luxuries I’d give up – in the meantime I really enjoy it!

    • Katie, can you share your housecleaner’s contact information? I am looking for someone new in San Francisco. Thanks!

    • I’m looking for someone in SF too– would LOVE contact info for yours, if you’re willing to share!

  16. I’ve tried three different organizations/individuals and haven’t had good luck. Every single time the cleaning person/crew missed things I consider critical or no-brainers. For example, with one person, my baseboards never looked better, but the tv was still full of fingerprints. Another time, the kitchen counters were not clean. I hate paying someone good money when I feel like I have to come home and finish the job.

    My sister recently hired someone who is super, super cheap, though. I might give her a try. Maybe I’ll feel better about a half-finished job if I’m only paying her half the amount of money!

    • Did you address the unfinished things with the services? I’m not saying that you’re picky, because your expectations sound reasonable, but I would go through what you expect to be done each visit (or once a month, etc.) with the cleaning service and see if it is realistic that they will finish everything on the list within the time covered by the cost.

      I wouldn’t fault someone in this kind of situation without giving them the opportunity to correct the service going forward. If you say something and things aren’t better, by all means, change services.

    • Interestingly, my company could not do TV screens! It was specifically prohibited by my insurance. On that note, though, I did always mention the few exclusions on the walk-through.

  17. On the guilt aspect: I felt very weird about hiring a cleaning company when we first did. I grew up solidly lower class, and although I now have the money to outsource, it felt very wrong to me. However … my aunt cleans houses for extra money, and when I spoke with her about it, she told me to get over myself and hire someone. The money she makes cleaning houses allows her to buy her kids birthday gifts and healthy foods, and she is so happy to have regular and new clients. So I keep in mind that my outsourcing supports a small business owner and her staff who are likely all trying to make ends meet, and I don’t feel guilty about it any more. (I do dislike it when my husband calls them “the maids” though. Gr. He doesn’t understand why I find it offensive, and I don’t really either, I guess.)

    On the competency aspect: The women who clean for us (it’s a small rotating staff) are SO much better at cleaning than me. They can get my stove clean when I can’t. They can get mold out of the edge of the shower after I’ve already given up. And their cleaning supplies smell a lot better than mine, too. Even if I had the inclination and energy to clean, I know I could not do as good a job as they do.

    • As to the specifics: I live in the DC area. We pay $60 every 2-3 weeks for a 1200 sq ft, 2 br apartment. Every once in a while, we ask them to shampoo the carpets or scrub the patio and they charge an add’l $10 or so. We live in a condo, so we use the same service everyone in our building uses, and everyone is very happy with her. Because we use her so infrequently and because she has a staff (we hire the company, not her), we do not have to worry about immigration and tax paperwork.

      • Do you feel comfortable giving the name of the company? I’m thinking of hiring someone and would love a good recommendation. One of my friends uses Jiffy Maids, but they quoted me $115 per cleaning for my 1000 sq ft apt, which seems high.

        • I just checked and the company does not have a web presence, but I’m happy to put you in touch with the owner by email and you can see if she works in your area or knows someone who does. You can email me at corporettemargaret at gmail dot com.

    • I subscribe to the idea that there’s dignity to just about any kind of work (provided that it’s both legal and ethical, no assassins included in my list, although I suppose that is a very skilled trade…)

      So there’s something good about creating a job for someone, especially if one doesn’t have any time to do said job.

    • Totes McGotes :

      This – my grandmother used to clean houses. Think how many more jobs could be created if people didn’t feel so guilty about hiring someone. Most of us don’t cut our own hair or fix our own cars. I could make my own lattes and my own dinner, but I frequently go to Starbucks and restaurants instead. Why is outsourcing house cleaning so touchy for so many of us? Is it because it sort of speaks to personal habits – almost like, “I’m too lazy/extravagant to shower on my own, so I hired someone to bathe me”?

      • In still developing countries, its considered the height of social impropriety NOT to hire help if you can afford it. Its just expected (in India when you rent a house, I believe the help actually comes with the house). They would consider the fact the people with means in the US don’t employ at least a couple of people weird and unseemly.

        So its all about perspective.

        • True. My Army Dad was stationed in Taiwan back in the 60s, and we were expected to hire local gardening and cleaning staff. There was a no-so-veiled threat that our home would be targeted for burglary if we didn’t.

          So for two years as a kid, I had an Amah. I hated her and I suspect she hated me, but the house was clean. My mother was a SAHM, too, so having someone living in our home doing domestic work was really weird for her!

        • True. I have grown up having cleaners every step of the way and I don’t get why westerners are so against the idea or feel so much’s a service like any other. You could be keeping a family above water that way.

          And in Asia, we also are concerned with live in help, they’re like family in that you do tks care of them etc.

      • I’m glad to see these last few comments. I’m a bit sad about all the concern re: stealing, etc. Do you hide your jewelry the first time you have a new friend at a party? I think hiring via word of mouth, calling references, etc., is smart, but cleaning ladies are probably not going to steal from you. Also, they have a skill: a good housecleaner is better and more effective at the job than you are. I think respecting cleaning ladies and what they do is the key to hiring them without guilt.

      • TCFKAG is right (as usual). My husband’s family is from India. His uncle has commented to me before about how they are in effect supporting two additional families and that this is a serious but important responsibility.

      • I also wanted to add in response to Totes McGotes that I have struggled myself with the question of why it is so guilt-inducing to so many of us to hire household help.

        I think part of it is the ‘extravagance’ and social class implications: I am hiring a person who is uncomfortably in a different income bracket and social circle than me. Though this is true of a mechanic, etc., a housecleaner feels more personal. S/he is in your home, cleans your dirty bedsheets, knows how rarely you scrub your own toilets. It feels exploitative to “use” someone with less money to take care of what feels like it should be personal.

        I also suspect that there are gender implications. My husband sees no issues. I see it as a sign that I am not accomplishing the tasks of running a house on my own. Our household is not self-sufficient. And I feel personal guilt for that, for not wanting to clean my own house. Of course, I know it’s not the 1950s anymore, and I WOH, but that mindset is still ingrained in me.

        • Also, I would add, cleaning feels like something we all *should* be able to do. It makes sense to hire out car repair or haircuts because we could seriously screw something up and those are skilled trades. On the other hand, not cleaning my toilet really feels like laziness — there is no doubt I could get that done. Of course, as Margaret and others point out, many of these women are really GOOD at cleaning. They can make a stain disappear or a countertop sparkle. All evidence shows that I, on the other hand, cannot clean for sh*t.

        • Totes McGotes :

          I think you are spot-on with the class issue – I had seen it more as something people just assume isn’t on the table for people who aren’t super-wealthy. I find it more understandable that people might be uncomfortable with the class implications. Re: the gender issue, I think that that is present, but it also made me laugh because BF is the one who said it seemed wasteful because we should be doing it ourselves, and yet he is also the one who gets annoyed about having to pick up his detritus before the cleaners come!

  18. Oh goodness, if anyone has any recommendations for the Los Angeles area, I am in desperate need of a reliable and thorough cleaning person. Thanks in advance!

  19. Cleaning Company :

    My parents had a cleaning lady/after-school watcher when we were little. These days, they hire a set of middle-aged male siblings who come through once a week or two (with their kids when home on winter/summer break) and do the major cleaning of floors, bathrooms, etc. They are very fast and do a great job. I don’t have any objections to hiring one in theory, although in practice I am too cheap, plus I don’t mind cleaning (and I don’t have kids, and I live in a one-bedroom).

    Just want to say that I recently read Nickel and Dimed, and based on the author’s description of her experiences as a cleaning lady working for a cleaning company (along the lines of Merry Maids), I would never considering having my house cleaned through a service like that. First of all, the maids are treated terribly. Second of all, their techniques may make things look clean, but they don’t actually effect cleanliness. (More broadly, I’m glad that I finally read the book, and it has affected my thinking and actions to some degree, although I found the author a bit too self-righteous for my taste in some places.)

    If I ever do hire a cleaning person, it will be someone independent, and I will pay that person a good wage, and I will also provide cleaning supplies and instructions so that I know what the “cleaning” entails.

    • anon prof :

      That book made me never want to hire someone. The possibility of cross-contamination is just horrifying to me.

      • Katherine :

        Amen! I have a hard time with people bragging about how little they are paying their cleaner, and then assuming they are doing a good job. News flash: they are probably cleaning your counter with the same rag they used to clean the toilet!

  20. Just one quick suggestion: if you hire someone as your employee who is not an independent consultant and you are trying to stay in compliance with tax laws, be sure to check your state requirements in addition to the federal requirements. The federal government has a higher threshold for reporting than do many states. In addition, laws on domestic employees have recently changed in several states, including NY, to require things like pay stubs. I’m no expert, but I do recommend doing some research to ensure that you’re in compliance with state law, which is harder to figure out and sometimes more rigorous than fed. law.

  21. falnfenix :

    when my dad was 3 hours away for 6 months for work, my mom and i hired a local company to come in twice a month. they handled the big stuff in the main areas – vacuuming, cleaning surfaces, dusting – so we could be relieved of that massive chore. at the time my mother had a broken wrist and all major cleaning duties fell to me, which neither of us felt was terribly fair. we finally broke down and hired the company to do it for us. they left the house cleaner than i’d ever seen it up to that point. my parents’ house is rather large, and just having someone else vacuum really, REALLY helped.

    now that my dad’s retired and i’m no longer living there, they don’t use a floor in the house and my dad handles all the housework. they can’t wait to downsize.

    • falnfenix :

      er, that last line should have said “they don’t use the bottom floor in the house.”

  22. I asked about this a few weeks ago, and we’re still hoping to hire a housekeeper “some day.” I really, really want to do this.

    But I’m curious about those of you living in New York, what do you think about the new laws? I’m really curious about the $10K fine for “retaliation” if a current or former worker complains. If someone is in your home and you terminate their employment for any reason, can they call that retaliation? Very strange concept. I also find it interesting that it would be a fine vs. compensation for the person who was retaliated against.

    My biggest concern is the insurance. That, and a family friend was sued by a housekeeper over something. I don’t remember the details other than they said it was a scam of some sort.

    • Presumably the new law will work similar to existing civil rights law – if you have your paper trail in order, you won’t run into problems if you fire your housekeeper. I don’t think it’s an insurmountable problem.

  23. I use a service in NYC. It means I don’t have the same person every time, but I don’t have to worry about taxes/insurance and there is someone to hold accountable if anything gets broken or is missing. So far, I’m really happy.

    It did take me a while to “get over it” but after about two cleans, I did. It helps that my husband grew up with a cleaning lady – same one for 25 years. It also helps that we are naturally “neat” people and all of our stuff is normally put away. I hate having anything on surfaces. My cleaning for the cleaning lady takes about 10-15 minutes, tops.

    • Oh and the service doesn’t have my key, which is both good and bad. Someone has to let them in, or you can leave the key with the doorman or someone else. They do have rather early hours, so usually my husband, who leaves for work later than me, lets the cleaner in.

  24. I hired a cleaning lady a few years ago when my boyfriend and I moved in together. She was a referral from a friend. For several years, I had her come once a week, but later, we cut down to every other week.

    When she came to inspect the house and give me a quote, I was able to get to know her personality. I explained my priorities- like vaccuming the couch (we have two marathon shedding cats)-, and we arranged a flexible but regular schedule. I am not normally home when they clean, so if I have any requests, I either leave a note or call her in advance. I’ve had no reason to regret giving her our house key, and I’ve referred her to several other friends.

    For us, as finance and legal professionals without children, it wasn’t about the “need” or “expense”. As it’s been mentioned above, it takes me ages to clean as well as they do in an hour, and yeah, it cuts back on arguments relating to the definition of “clean”. We do, of course, pick up before she comes otherwise, yes, she will reorganize… but I kinda feel like I deserve that if I don’t make the effort to put away my laundry or something.

    • karenpadi :

      “but I kinda feel like I deserve that if I don’t make the effort to put away my laundry or something.”

      This. 1000x this.

  25. I hired a maid service several months ago after changing jobs for a position with more demands on my time; I tried out several maid services using Groupons/Living Social deals before settling on the service that I felt did the best job. I am married with no children, but I can tell you it has made a world of difference just to have them come once a month. They do the nitty-gritty detail work that I never seem to make time to do, which makes a world of difference if you are committed to just picking up around the house before they come to clean. I make sure the dishes are done, counter tops cleared, and the assorted junk on my dresser is put away, but that is about it. Completely, COMPLETELY worth it.

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