How Not to Be an A-hole When…

… Hiring Someone To Clean Your Home

I’m hiring a house cleaner for the first time and I’m a little nervous about it. I’m not used to strangers being in my home or having access to my stuff. I can also be neurotic about how I want things done. I don’t really know how this is supposed to go. Is it rude if I insist on being home? Is it okay to ask them to do something a certain way? Is it weird if I clean while they clean so we can cover more ground? Do you tip house cleaners or do they make enough already? For example, the lady I hired charges $30 an hour which is more than I make an hour with a master’s degree. Is it like a Canada thing where they charge that much so you don’t have to tip? Or if I am supposed to tip then what is the correct percentage? I went with a lady from Guatemala who owns her own business, rather than a big agency, because I’m hoping to potentially develop a good working relationship and have her come on a regular basis. That and I just like to support women entrepreneurs. The first day she is coming is June 2nd.

Letting people into our homes is an intimate thing, for sure. Especially when we’re paying them to perform a service for us. I am also lucky enough to be in a position where I can pay someone to clean our house, and I had some of the same questions you do.

Being home
It isn’t weird to insist that you be home; you should talk with your contractor to find a time that works for both of your schedules. However, please don’t hover. I’m going to assume that you are not the first person who has hired this woman to clean their house, so you should respect that she knows how to do her job. If you feel the need to tidy some things up before she arrives to reduce the amount of time she’ll need to clean your home, feel free, but once she arrives, let her do the work she hired you to do (so no, don’t clean while she cleans).

At the start of their first visit, set aside time to walk through some of the areas that you like cared for a certain way. This shouldn’t be every single thing in your house, but if you have a china cabinet with some special items that need to be delicately cleaned, or your hardwood floors must only be washed using vinegar, share that. Again, you should be hiring someone who has good references and who you can trust to know how to clean your house, so please don’t point to every part of every room with specific, detailed instructions. They are the professional.

The person you hire should be charging you the full cost for their labor, time, and supplies, so tipping each visit is not necessary. However, if they are someone you hire on a regular basis, I suggest paying them something extra once a year. We choose to tip the person who cleans our house the full amount of one cleaning (so if they charge $50/visit, for one visit give them $100).

If you are concerned about costs — say, your budget only allows you to spend $60 a month on this service — talk to the house cleaner about how much time she expects it to take to clean your house. If your home has a lot of rooms or is especially dirty (maybe you have multiple pets who shed a lot), she might say it will take her three hours, which is above your budget. At that point you can figure out if you can adjust your budget, or if perhaps hiring someone to clean your home isn’t how you want to spend your money right now.

Finally, I did want to throw out there that her per-hour fee likely is what it is because she is incorporating many costs. For example she may need gas to get to every location and pay for parking at each home; unlike someone who works in an office and just has the commute there and back, she might be visiting three or four homes each day. That fee also may account for cleaning supplies and equipment; insurance / bonding; and business license and taxes. In addition, it also has to compensate her for her time and actual labor.

I only point this out because I picked up on a bit of judgment in your choice to mention that she charges more per hour than you make with your master’s degree. Manual labor is not more or less deserving of a living wage than a job associated with a college or graduate degree, so maybe dial back the incredulity at the cost.

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