Choosing good staff for your home is not easy. There are potential problems that need to be addressed from the start. The most important thing is to think about and communicate your expectations as clearly as possible.
- Consider which parts of your house you wish to be cleaned. Write a list of the rooms, objects and any special parts that you want cleaned. Think about how many hours it takes you to clean these things and that'll give you a good idea of how many hours you will need to ask a cleaner to work for.
- Think about the products that you want to be used by the cleaner in your home. Many people prefer environmentally-friendly, non-toxic products. If this is what you want, you need to be clear about this from the start.
- Decide how you want to hire the cleaner. You can do it directly or through a cleaning service. Both ways have advantages and drawbacks.
- Hiring your cleaner directly enables you to be in charge of the products they use, the hours they come and you will often develop a good working relationship with this person. On the downside, if they quit, you are left with a big job of finding someone again yourself. If you choose to hire a housecleaner directly, you are an employer and have tax and accounting responsibilities as such (see the Tips for more information). Also, if there are problems, it may be difficult confronting them yourself. And then there's the interview process, too; it can be hard to choose the right person unless you are smart about people.
- If you use a cleaning service, it will probably cost more but you have the security of quick replacement in case of illnesses or resignation. You are also free of any accounting and tax responsibilities. On the downside, besides cost, the agency might not let you use different products and the cleaner may complain that she or he is being paid very little and won't do any extras for you.
- Be clear about your needs. Whether you interview directly or use an agency, make sure your needs are made clear from the beginning. Using your sheet of paper that you wrote out in step 1, make some dotpoints about each room/object and your expectations and give this to the new cleaner. For instance, "I want the stairs vacuumed every week," "I want the knick-knacks cupboard dusted every week," "I don't mind the blinds being dusted only once a month," etc. It is much easier to get what you want if you make it clear at the start.
- Be aware that cleaners are people and treat them respectfully. They will respond in kind. However, also be aware that it is human nature to be nosy. If you leave piles of bills, papers, or other confidential material around, you give them a chance to peek. So put those papers away, under lock and key if necessary!
- Develop a relationship of trust and security. Should you be home when the cleaner is there? It is up to you. Often it makes both you and the cleaner uncomfortable unless your home is so big that you don't cross paths. If you choose to be out, or you work during the cleaning time, be careful with security. Provide your cleaner with a key that states clearly it cannot be duplicated. If he or she must use a security keypad, give a number that is only used by the cleaner. That way, if anything does happen and that number is the cause, you know who keyed it in. Ask your cleaner not to divulge your personal information such as phone number or street address to anyone, not even family members. Some cleaners will gossip, especially if you live in a well-to-do neighborhood and drive a luxury car, but you can at least request this much from them.
- Communicate with your cleaner. If you feel that he or she is not doing a good job, say something. Like any person, each cleaner has pride in his or her work and some honestly don't understand all that is expected of them. Explain how you would prefer things to be done and ask if this is manageable. Watch to see if the performance improves. If it doesn't, or if the cleaner doesn't agree with your request, then it might be time to part ways and find someone who fits in with your needs.
- Realize that there are things that your cleaner will not do. Many cleaners have limitations on the type of cleaning work they will do. For instance, many do not clean windows. That is usually considered a special job for window-cleaning professionals. If you ask, they'll let you know. It is also sheer politeness to pay extra money for any additional tasks you ask your cleaner to do beyond normal duties. Don't ask your cleaner to babysit your kids or your pets - he or she has a job to do upon arrival, and this is both distracting and very unfair! Get the right person for the right job.
- Be careful of the person's background when hiring - ask for references from previous people, including the referee's phone numbers, so that you can ring them directly and check for your own reassurance.
- If you have children, make sure that they are okay with having someone being in their room. Many children like their room the way it is, and cleaners often move things around to make them tidy.
- Provide the cleaning products unless you are asked not to. If you want environmentally-friendly products, you may need to educate the cleaner on how to use them. This usually works. If the person refuses, look for another cleaner. If the agency refuses and you are adamant, look for another agency.
- Something to watch for if you are a non-smoker is a smoking cleaner. If the smell on their clothes bothers you and fills up your home when they are there, then you may wish to request them to either change into clothing unaffected by smoke; or more likely, you may need to reconsider hiring this person in the first place. It is your home and the way it smells is as important as the way it looks.
- Around the holidays, give a small gift or bonus to acknowledge the help the cleaner has given your household. A generous tip for a tough job well done (i.e., cleaning up after a party) is always a plus.
- Unless a prior agreement is made, housecleaners that you hire directly expect to be paid on the day of service. Housecleaning is a tough, physical job and many cleaners do it because they really need the money. Think about how you would feel if you spent several hours cleaning, only to be told upon completion that the person can't pay you that day. Similarly, don't give a housecleaner sob stories about how you will be strapped by paying them that day. Don't do to housecleaners what you wouldn't want done to you. This just comes down to respect and consideration.
- The biggest issue to address if you are hiring someone directly is that you are legally responsible for ensuring the individual is legally able to work in your country, as well as for filing, withholding and/or paying certain taxes on behalf of the individual you hire. Some of these taxes are flat fees per individual; some are based on the wages paid; and some must be matched by the employer. Contact your local Small Business Administration organization or equivalent for information on the forms you must file and the records you must keep.
- Unfortunately, some people will steal. Be aware at the beginning of a cleaner's employment but also some months later when some people think you have stopped being vigilant. Check regular things like money, jewelry, small objects of value, etc. Help yourself by minimizing temptation. If you suspect a cleaner of stealing, you should write down a list of the things that you think are missing and then contact the agency or the police. Confronting the cleaner directly might prove dangerous or unwise if the cleaner never returns again and your things are gone forever.
- If you use an agency, check to see that they are insured - for your protection and the protection of the cleaner.
- If you find the TV channel changed, dust bunnies still piled up in corners and things left undone, you need to talk with your cleaner about what is happening.
- Make sure that you're not being too fussy before accusing your cleaner of bad work. Sometimes our own personal expectations are very high. Could it be something that you can meet the cleaner halfway with, such as she does a good job mostly but that final swish can be done by you to assuage your own neuroses? Or is the cleaner truly doing a rotten job? Ask other family members and friends before you go on the warpath to gauge their ideas and feelings about it.
- If you hire a cleaner directly, find out who is responsible if the cleaner has an injury in your home. In some cases, your homeowner's insurance policy will not cover the injuries of someone you have hired to work in your home, and independent cleaners may lack sufficient personal health insurance to cover all their expenses in case of an accident.
- If you hire a cleaner privately, and you use their services frequently, you may be responsible for employment taxes. Consult a tax professional if you plan to use an independent cleaner frequently to ensure that you will not be responsible for unanticipated expenses.
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