25 Questions to Ask if You're Hiring a Cleaner
I never regret deciding to get a cleaner. If you can at all afford it, I highly recommend it. The only thing that's truly yours is your time.
Getting a cleaner will work out fine if you're good at delegating. And if you're reading this blog, then I'm going to assume you're a successful working woman and pretty good at delegating to colleagues. It's the same set of skills.
To make the process as smooth as possible, here's a round up of the 25 questions to ask when getting a cleaner, distilled from Wikihow, AngiesList, Lifehacker as well as my own experience.
What do you want from your cleaner?
1. What's your budget? This will dictate frequency and scope of the cleaning services. Make a list of the things you hate to do, from most hated first, and take it from there.
2. How often should they come? If you are lazy and poor, you can get creative. Our cleaner comes once every two weeks and does the laundry. Initially I thought I had to do laundry in between. But no! If you buy at least 14 sets of underwear then you can go two weeks without doing laundry. Brilliant. We have also gone with once a month during leaner times.
3. What special services you do need? Should they do the laundry, ironing, hand-washing? Do you have pets that need clean litter bins? Should they use eco-cleaners?
Find a good cleaner that you can trust
4. I leave my cleaner to come when I'm at work, so I have to trust her. Being at home with the cleaner in a small Manhattan apartment is untenable. If you can't find a recommendation through friends or neighbors, you can find one through online recommendations. I found mine online through a discussion board for new mothers.
5. Do they have references you can talk to? Call them and talk to them.
6. You'll need to choose between independent or corporate cleaners. Corporate cleaners have the necessary insurance and bonding. They may send the same person consistently (which is better) or different cleaners each time. For independent cleaners, you are the employer.
7. If the first cleaner fails, try again. The first cleaner I got wasn't great. I let her go and found another one. Be resigned to the fact that you may need to try out a few.
Ask Questions and Negotiate
8. How long will it take and how much will it cost? How do you pay? Are there any extra fees? Doing it less frequently will cost more per visit.
9. When can they come? I don't recommend Mondays or Fridays - when there are holidays on those days, you have to hide out somewhere else while the cleaning goes on.
10. Do they provide their own cleaning materials and/or cleaning tools? If they use yours, then what state will they leave them in? For example, are cleaning cloths left to dry in the sink when they leave? Do they prefer you supply certain types of cleaning products?
11. Do you want to trial them out just one time before committing to a more regular schedule?
12. Is there anything they wont do? For example, when hiring a corporate cleaner, they can have policies like not climbing up ladders.
13. For a corporate cleaner, ask what happens if a worker is injured in your home, or something is damaged or stolen. Ask if they do background checks.
Prepare for your cleaner
14. If you're supplying the cleaning equipment, make sure you have it
15. Put labels on things. It helps the cleaner put things away for you.
16. Find a way to lock up your valuables, if you have concerns.
At the first meeting
17. Discuss how they should get in and out of your house.
18. If they are using your cleaning materials, show them where they are and what should they do with the dirty cleaning equipment. Make sure they are happy with your cleaning materials. If they are using their own, discuss your preferences.
19. Talk about the scope of work. If you want to, you can write it all down, so there's no confusion. However, that's a lot of work in itself. Part of what I want from a cleaner is that she or he knows what it means to have a clean house. I shouldn't need to spell everything out. For me, a discussion as you wander in and out of every room should be enough.
20. Discuss any things that you are particular about. For example, how your marble should be cleaned, or if you want your house plants dusted and upholstery vacuumed.
21. Talk about how often to do special things like vacuuming the drapes, cleaning the oven and washing the windows.
22. If you don't remember everything at the first meeting, don't worry. I keep a notebook where we can write notes back and forth, and leave it open on the kitchen counter. Just make sure you're being reasonable and not adding to your cleaner's workload every time.
23. Give feedback. Let them know when they are doing a good job and when there's room for improvement. It's not nasty - it's just a professional relationship. I treat my cleaner the same way I treat my employees at work.
Tips & Courtesy
24. In the U.S., it's customary to tip around the holiday season. One month's worth of fees is normal.
25. If you hire an individual, keep in mind that they depend on you for a regular income. That means I don't cancel any of my cleaning sessions, even if I haven't been in the apartment at all in between cleans.
If this is all too over-whelming, don't worry. Just get started, give regular feedback, and remember that you can always get a different cleaner if this one doesn't work out.