A few months ago I asked my dear readers on Facebook if they had a housekeeper or didn’t have a housekeeper.
For those who didn’t have a housekeeper, I asked if they wanted a housekeeper. The overwhelming majority of women who answered either had a housekeeper or wanted one.
As someone who has had the same housekeeper for over 12 years, I figured I would let you ladies in on the secrets for how to hire a housekeeper and then what comes next.
This article is about hiring a single cleaning person, not a professional cleaning crew, which has a bit of different way to go about things.
Before we get started, I would really appreciate it if you checked out my new cooking show called Making It Modern, where I recreate a vintage recipe and then use it as inspiration to make a new dish more suitable for the modern palate!
Now back to the article:
How To Hire A Housekeeper
The first hurdle you have to jump over is finding someone in the first place.
There are a few ways to go about this.
- Ask your friends. If you have any friends who have a housekeeper, see if the housekeeper has any openings available.
- Ask a working housekeeper for referrals. Many housekeepers have friends who are also housekeepers and might know of someone who is looking for a job.
- Referral service. There are companies you can call that will place houseworkers. This usually comes at a premium, but you also get a solid background check, proof of citizenship, and they come with excellent referrals.
- Advertise: Place an ad in the local newspaper or Craig’s List.
One you have a few people that are interested in the job, it is time to interview them. This might seem daunting, but I assure you it is key to setting a good foundational relationship between you and your housekeeper. This is where you both get a chance to assess one another.
Typically the interview is held in your house and starts with a home tour. You will give the potential housekeeper a general idea of what needs to be done in each room, but don’t go into great detail. Remember, you might not even hire this person, so don’t waste your time.
If you are getting a good vibe from the interviewee, sit down with them after the house tour and begin to go into a bit of detail on your expectations. Here are a few things you need to discuss:
- Salary: You need to tell them how much you are going to pay. Always start a little lower than the going starting salary and negotiate from there. *Edit to add: Quite a few of you have mentioned that where you live the housekeeper sets the price. If that is the custom in your neighborhood then you should accept their quote at face value.
- Holiday pay: Which holidays do they have paid leave and which holidays do you expect them to come to work. The big holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas (you need to decide if both the 24th and the 25th are days off) New Years Day, Easter, and the Fourth of July should be paid holidays. The rest are up for negotiation.
- Sick days: Do you pay for any sick days and if so, how many per year? It might sound crazy to pay your housekeeper for a day she is sick, but do you really want her getting germs all over your home because she needed the money and decided to work even though she was running a fever?
- Days you cancel: Inevitably there will be days your housekeeper was supposed to work and you have to cancel. This is usually due to being out of town. Are you going to pay your housekeeper for those days? I would like to state that I absolutely believe you should pay for any day you cancel. Your housekeeper is relying on that job for income and even missing one day can make a huge dent in her month.
- End of year bonus: I believe the standard holiday pay is 1-2 weeks worth of salary. I suggest giving this bonus at the beginning of December so your housekeeper can use it to purchase holiday gifts for friends or family.
- Raises: How often do you plan on giving your housekeeper a raise and how much? Every six months? A year?
- Referrals: Does this person have any referrals? If so, let them know you fully intend on calling the referrals and getting recommendations.
Once the interview is over, it is time to check the aforementioned referrals. Give them a call and let the person you are calling do the talking. You should be able to tell by both the words the referral says as well as her tone of voice if the referral was happy with the work the housekeeper did. You should also ask why the housekeeper no longer works for the referral and any other pertinent questions that might arise during the course of conversation.
Once you have interviewed and followed up on the referrals, it is time to make a choice. Pick the winner and then set up the starting date and time. You have now entered what I call “The Trial Period”.
The Trial Period
The first day your new housekeeper works will be filled more with discussions than with actual cleaning. This is where you need to go through your home room by room and give the housekeeper the details of what needs to be done. If your housekeeper reads English then a list would be highly recommended. You can also use Google translate to write a list in their native language. Then it is time to let them get to work!
Now we are getting into the subtleties of having a housekeeper. Here are the things you probably have never read about before on having a cleaning lady.
Lower Your Expectations
First of all, I think it is really important to acknowledge that your housekeeper is not a superhuman. They can only get so much done in a certain period of time and chances are, that amount is about half of what you can get done. You can’t expect someone to do as good a job as you do, especially when you just hired them and they are green. Give them time to learn how to become efficient at cleaning your house.
You also need to make sure you aren’t expecting too much from your housekeeper. I have heard stories of women who expect housekeepers to get twice as much done is half the time because, “they are professionals”. They might be professionals but they are also humans who can only do so much in a finite amount of time. If you can get your house cleaned top to bottom in four hours, it will actually take a housekeeper about six. You are always going to be able to do a better job in less time because it is your house.
Your Housekeeper Is Not You
Everyone has their own way of doing things. You need to let your housekeeper clean the house the way she cleans it, not the way you clean it. Of course if the cleaning lady needs to use certain products in certain places, such as using Bon Ami on the porcelain then by all means, tell her. But if she prefers to clean the toilet first and then the sinks when you usually clean the sinks and then the toilet, then let it slide. So long as the bathroom is clean when she is finished, who cares in what order she accomplishes the task?
A Cleaning Lady Is Not A Therapist
When you have had a housekeeper for longer than one year, the lines of boss/friend become blurred, especially if you are home while your housekeeper is around. Obviously it is completely appropriate to have small talk and know the basics about one another’s lives. But beyond that it is important to keep firm boundaries. Neither of you needs to relate every small detail of your life. Your housekeeper is neither your mother or your therapist.
Long Term Expectations
Once your newly hired homeworker has gotten beyond the three month trial period, reassess her work to make sure it is up to your standards. If you feel as if she is doing a good job then make sure to tell her. Remember, your job as boss is not only to supervise her work but also to motivate her. Who wants to work for someone who never appreciates the job at hand? I know I certainly don’t. Praise goes a long way towards keeping a good housekeeper happy.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into finding a good cleaning lady. It may seem daunting but I assure you, the first time you come home and your home is spic and span smelling of freshly squeezed lemons and not a dust bunny in site, it will all worth it!
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