The Ideal Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 10:13 am

Where You’re At & Where You’re Going

The interview is most important. Many maids feel that they should not move things. It is important to discover if this includes dust.

Send Eco-elegant flowers
Does your maid:

  • Feel that under the bed is an expanse that should not be explored by mortals?
  • Think you enjoy games of hide & seek so she should hide your husband’s crucial tools in places like the utensil jar on the kitchen counter?
  • Think the furry cucumber in the refrigerator is your child’s science experiment?
  • Think your child’s science experiment – labeled DO NOT THROW OUT – is trash?
  • Think that as long as she would never dream of stealing anything, it doesn’t matter if she vacuums out your drawers & accidentally vacuums up the contents of the jewelry box?
  • Neglect the streak of chocolate on the wall right under the cobweb she was on the ladder to clean. (This blog does not cover how it got there. You don’t want to know.)
  • Think you will have no problem finding the books she replaces on the shelf because they are in backwards?
  • Think running round the house chasing dust bunnies with the hose in the blower end of the vacuum is the best way to deal with dust? (My mother swears her first maid did this.)

Are you suffering a slow burn every time you come home & find something amiss but aren’t really ready to fire your maid?

Most maids are honest, hard-working people that neglected to take the course in mind-reading that they really needed for the job. Minimal English is often dispensed with if a friend or child can be used to communicate.  Often they are supporting a family on a very low hourly income. They’re working long hours to try to give their families good lives and they’re tired.

Don’t want to pay attention to your maid and just want to pay her a minimal amount for a minimal job? Any number of people will be happy to oblige.  But YOU don’t have to have the maid of the mediocre job.


Why isn’t Your Current Maid Perfect?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 7:33 am

You can give your maid clear instructions and expectations (within limits) that will make your home run smoothly and keeping it cleaner than you thought possible unless you did it yourself. Limits, there are limits?

“Just move the 50 lb. crates of computer equipment out of the closet, dust, mop and put them back.”

Not all requests go over well with your 4’10” helper. Maids, unless they are very . . unique . . . aren’t looking to star in the local slave movie. These aren’t the kinds of limits, I’m talking about.

But I paid her for 5 hours and she’s leaving after 2 . . .
Every employer knows that a house is never completely clean and that there is always something that needs doing. You try to contract for an hour more than a quick clean of the house in hopes that the new maid will know to clean a major something each week.

Every maid knows that she didn’t choose this job for the joy of cleaning – she needs money. She’s shown a house, she estimates how much she can charge for cleaning it. The employer divides the amount by the local ‘going rate’ and says something like ‘ So you’ll be here 5 hours?” The maid – who really needs the job – says yes. She may or may not have really understood the question. She does know she will clean the house for the amount she said.

The first couple of weeks the maid is there for the full time, maybe even longer. She is finding where the supplies are, cleaning some really obvious dirty spots and developing her routine for the house. She hits her stride, cleans the house in two thirds of the original time. She cleans places every week she expects her employer to check like the kitchen counter and the master bedroom. If she is asked, she does an ‘extra’ job. The kid’s bookshelves may only get dusted when they’re visibly dirty – perhaps when a ‘dust me’ is scrawled by your child. She leaves to do the next job she must do to survive economically, confidant that she is doing a good job.

Her employer feels gypped any week she forgets to ask for a special job and doesn’t understand why a professional cleaner doesn’t know that a refrigerator should be cleaned periodically. The kids start to develop a postnasal drip from the dust mites entrenched under their beds. Your husband, oblivious to the socks he has left under his desk, his clothes on the floor in the bathroom, and the trail of plates throughout the house, asks why there is dust on his golf trophy. The house is not happy.

Sometimes the maid is allocating you the number of hours promised. It just shifted a little to include her travel time. If her clients change and she travels farther or there is traffic, you get less cleaning time.


Why Is My Maid So Bad?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 10:18 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen slower motions when wiping a counter . . .
Quality time isn’t just for kids. If your maid is working 6 to 6 1/2 days a week, 10 hours a day, she’s not going to have the energy to move the furniture to dust under it. You’ll be lucky if she moves the items on the bathroom counter.
Your maid is not looking for a star grade in the local school for butlers and maids.  She is not researching the best way to clean so that she can start a maid service. Your maid’s performance is primarily motivated by being able to feed her kids. If you are asking her to spend twice as much time at your house as she does at everyone else’s home, for the same money, she won’t. Similarly, if she is so exhausted that she can’t work long enough to pay her bills, something will give.


How to Have the Best Maid

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 12:05 pm

Should I adopt one of her kids or sign over my paycheck?

Your goal is to get your house clean, without having everything in it thrown out or hidden, preferably at an affordable cost.

You’re going to give very precise, written instructions that can be translated by her friend and be checked by the two of you together, for every room in your home. You are only going to obsess about one or two rooms a visit. (If you have a small apartment, it will only be about one or two chores a visit.)

You’re going to make choices about where you really want your maid to spend her time. Were you asking her to do the laundry just to ensure that she stayed a minimum number of hours or do you really hate laundry?  Maybe it’s just the folding you hate.

You’re going to do your best to make your maid worth twice as much an hour. With luck, you’ll be able to convince your friends that your maid is worth more so that your maid gets rid of 2 clients for every new client she takes on.

This last point is a stretch. She might be tempted to dump the person she likes the least, but to give up two people and only get one is scary. It makes her more vulnerable to terminations and she may feel its more important to bring more money home than to spend more time with her kids – even if one of her employers is only paying half as much as everyone else.


What do You Want From Your Maid?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 3:07 pm

Time – Definitely

Anyone hiring a maid is purchasing time. If you have to do things over yourself because they weren’t done properly or you spend more time looking for lost items than it would have taken you to clean in the first place, you wasted your money.

 First, determine how much cleaning time you really need.

 Deep cleaning – A thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning of one room takes 3 ½ to 4 hours.  In practice, each maid is going to be able to deep clean one room per visit. To keep dust mites under control, every room in your house should be cleaned every three weeks. Even if you and your guests don’t have a severe dust mite allergy, you will be more comfortable in a room with fewer dust mites.

Ultra light cleaning – For the rest of the house time yourself: Race through the rest of your home, doing a cursory cleaning of the kitchen & bathrooms, making the beds and vacuuming the visible floors. Mop only the floors that need it. This time, plus 3 ½ hours for a deep cleaning, plus a 15-minute break, is the minimum time you need.


Laundry and the Maid – not

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 8:04 pm

Laundry – Maybe Not

Laundry takes up an incredible amount of time. To maximize the life of your clothing and keep them looking their best, you need to sort by colors, wash in the appropriate cycle and not over-dry. Items to be hung should be taken out of the drier as soon as it is dry and immediately hung up. The rest should be folded. Actually, I prefer to stuff underwear and socks into drawers, but some people I know keep a terrible maid because the maid makes the socks look like ‘little soldiers.’

What are your alternatives?  Throwing a load in the washer while the kids are brushing their teeth at night and into the drier as soon as you get up will generally reduce your utility bills (night time usage is cheaper than during the day – check your bill for the rate-reduction times) and doesn’t take a large block of usable time. Dressing kids with clothing straight out of the drier makes them very happy in winter and saves folding or hanging time.

 Alternatively, you can let the maid do it.

 First, do you ever ask how do they live at home when something unbelievable (to you) occurs? Most people on very low incomes (maids) are stuffing as many things into the washer as they can at the Laundromat and washing on one of two cycles that might be available. They are then drying their clothing on the highest setting available  (which isn’t very hot) to get out as fast as possible.

 If your maid has to get through the laundry she isn’t checking the pockets. If your husband left his wallet in the pants she collected, too bad. He’s not yelling at her. If your child left a roll of lipgloss in her pocket, again, the maid really isn’t spending time to make sure the whole load isn’t covered in wax.

 Sorting takes time. If she is not doing more than whites and everything else, you’re not going to know until all the blues come back a shade of pink.

 Maids in the game of speed drying are dangerous. Most maids don’t want to find that they under-dried the laundry and will have to wait another 10 minutes for the contents of the drier to be ready.  To avoid this, they use the timer feature and high temperature, usually for 40 minutes.  This setting isn’t disastrous for a large commercial drier.  The loads are big and machines aren’t set for a very high maximum temperature. Home driers are another story.  Sheets can be dry in 20 minutes when done with a cool down period to minimize wrinkles. Forty minutes at the highest setting will shrink them, dry out the elastics in the fitted sheets, probably cause them to shred prematurely and set wrinkles in them at the end of the cycle. Just imagine what it does to delicates or woolens.

 If you’re lucky your maid is standing by the drier for the end of the cycle to minimize wrinkles.  She almost certainly isn’t cleaning the laundry while she waits.

 Folding, at least, is a straightforward task that won’t kill your wardrobe if it’s not done quite right. It might need you to go through and sort, which defeats the purpose of saving you time. (As soon as I figure out a foolproof way to get the maid to separate my 6-year old son’s t-shirts from my husband’s I will let you know. I have no hope of figuring out how to teach my maid the difference between my daughter’s oversized tees and my husband’s.)

 Unless you have a live-in housekeeper, laundry is almost never the use of a maid’s time that will result in the most saved time for you. If, despite all of this, you still feel you want the maid to do the laundry, your best bet is to time the time you spend doing the laundry in a normal maid workday period and adding that amount of time to your cleaning time. Hitting a chess clock every time you walk through the laundry door over the course of a day that you devote to laundry is one way to figure this out. Be careful to only count laundry time in a period that the maid could reasonably be expected to be there.


How Often Do I Need A Maid?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 9:02 pm

Budget & lifestyle determine how often you get a maid. (Did you need me to tell you that?) A single adult in a pet-free apartment on a low budget will probably want a maid every two weeks. A large house, with kids and pets, will probably need two and would be happier with three visits a week from a team of two maids.

To figure out how much you will ultimately be paying, take the going rate and multiple it by 1 ½.  This amount, multiplied by the number of hours you have determined you need is the amount you will need to pay to keep your maid once you have found one who really deep cleans on schedule.


What Kind of Maid –
Cleaning Services?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 12:09 pm

Cleaning services are of two types. One is for after construction where they will clean every surface in your home with special equipment for getting fine dust. This is the type of service you want. The other is for residential cleaning where they wipe some visible surfaces (generally not the wall with the chocolate on it) and include a limited list of other tasks. Training may consist of sending a new person out with an employee who has been with the company a bit longer. The service takes a cut of the wages so your maid is under even more pressure to rush. This is closer to the bill you’d like to pay. The two are mutually exclusive.

 A Cleaning Service Story

My favorite cleaning service story involved John, who could have been a foreman at a major factory if he had been taught to read in his ghetto school and hadn’t been an alcoholic. John could figure out everything that needed to be done, he could do it and, if given a staff of trainees, he could efficiently put them to work and effectively check them. You just couldn’t count on him showing up.

One day the service sent him with their newest girl. He asked her to clean the pictures and he went for the rest of the cleaning supplies. On his return he found her going round the house squirting each picture in the center with a squirt of Windex®. After looking at her dumbfounded for a moment, he grabbed the cleaner, explained that it was necessary to wipe the glass completely before the cleaner dried and to not get it on the wooden frame. He then rinsed the bottom of every frame in the house. 

John was great. It would have been better for the new girl to sit in the corner. I paid the same rate for both.         



Which Maid to Hire – The Family Service?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 7:47 pm

There is another type of ‘service’. This is the enterprising immigrant who can speak English with a number of her friends who can’t. Five or more may descend upon your house and in a short period of time they’re done.  One might dust, another sweep, another vacuum, another mop, one does the bathrooms and one the kitchen. If they come when you’re home it’s best to go sit in the car – otherwise you’ll be in someone’s way. If light switches aren’t someone’s job, slimy switches are not going to be noticed and taken care of.
Service employees aren’t flexible. You’re not going to be able to work with them to get things done your way. They may be an option when you first move to town, while you make the contacts you need so that you can network your way to a good maid.

Which Maid to Hire?

Posted in Hiring A Maid at 8:57 pm

The stellar maid who shows up on time, cleans everything, puts everything in it’s place, and does not burden you with stories of her kids acting up at school is fully booked and being paid anything she asks so that she won’t leave her current employers.  She is probably working for Bill Gates after studying for years at an exclusive English school for maids and butlers. Unless you inherited this paragon on the death of your mother or other close friend, you are not going to find her.