photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK
Finding an amazing cleaning person is hard work. Are they trustworthy? Is the price right? Do they do a good job? And when you find the right match, the bond is as sacred as it is with your waxer or hairstylist (your entire home is in their hands after all!) so odds are, you want to keep them around for a long time. On the other hand, maybe you can’t keep a housekeeper to save your life (in that case, you better keep reading.) We talked to Katie Shea, co-founder of New York-based personal cleaning service Slate, to get the details on what you should and shouldn’t do—and 12 things your cleaning person is dying for you to know.
1. It’s all about access. Meaning, literally tell them how to access your home. “One of our biggest pain points is when a customer doesn’t let us know how to get inside the house,” says Shea. “So proactively share info about how and when we can get in, along with any information like if a doorman has an extra key—so when we get there, we don’t have to bother you."
2. A walk-through is encouraged. A home and goals assessment is helpful so your housekeeper knows what to expect upon arrival. “Consultations are great because we walk you through a typical cleaning and you walk us through your home,” says Shea. “We’ll discuss your goals and make sure your housekeeper is properly on-boarded and ready before they come in and start cleaning.”
3. Supplies are nice. If you’re particular about cleaning chemicals, consider supplying your own. “A lot of people have preferences about safe cleaning alternatives, especially around children,” says Shea. “If you have specific supplies that you want to use it’s no problem. Just make sure to leave a note about where you keep them.” Need options? These yummy-smelling ones are nice.
4. Communicate! Speaking of notes, it’s great to keep a rapport. “Communicating about pets is especially important,” says Shea. “Just communicate that you have a pet beforehand so we can plan accordingly—in case of allergies or other issues. You can also always write tasks down for your keeper so when she gets there, she can check them off as she goes.”
5. Please, don’t hover. Sticking around during a cleaning may be tempting, especially during the first session, but don’t. “Hovering during an appointment makes it extremely difficult for the housekeeper to do her job,” says Shea. “If you’re nervous or on edge, you can check in every 45-60 minutes, versus following your cleaner from room to room.”
6. Pre-tasks help. No, we’re not saying clean your entire place beforehand. But completing these two simple (quick) tasks can save your cleaner a ton of time. “There are two tasks that the user can do before the keeper comes—pre-soaking dishes and separating laundry,” says Shea. “Soaking the dishes can be a huge time-saver, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. Additionally, if you’re asking your keeper to do laundry in your home, separate it beforehand rather than force your maid to play the guessing game. It keeps everybody happy because there’s a less chance of screwing up important items.”
7. Ditch dust. Here’s a tip so your cleaner can spend less time dusting that bookshelf and more time focusing on important tasks. “I don’t know what it is about certain houses, but they just get dustier than others,” says Shea. “A tip I picked up is to invest in an air purifier. Personally, I notice a huge difference in the amount of dust that accumulates.” Try the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link Air Purifier Heater & Fan, $599.
8. Don’t assume they know your pet-peeves. If you don’t share them, they won’t know. “Different people have different rooms that they spend more time in, right? So those rooms being spotless matter a lot more than, say, that unused office,” says Shea. “Also, many people have different opinions about how much access they want to give their housekeeper. If you want yours to put your clothes away, speak up. If you’d rather them leave the clothes at the end of the bed, that’s fine too.”
9. There’s a difference between cleaning and organizing. For example: “If there’s a stack of papers on your desk or personal clutter laying around, it’s probably best to organize that so nothing important gets tossed,” says Shea. “Otherwise, leave the dirty stuff to us.”
10. Give feedback. Constructive criticism is essential for getting the results you want.“Positive affirmation is a big motivator for your cleaning lady,” says Shea. “Sometimes people think they’re being too pushy, but there’s so many ways to give feedback. And if you’re worried about language barriers, leave a note that someone can google translate.”
11. Tipping is discretionary. There’s no right or wrong answer, really. But small acts of kindness go a long way. “We don’t necessarily expect tips,” says Shea. “But with that said, we definitely have people that will leave a 10-percent tip every week. We also have people who never tip and then on holidays gift $100 and a thank you card. I also see a lot of people doing seasonal detoxes, purges, and cleaning out closets. Your housekeeper may benefit a lot from that.”
12. And lastly, your cleaning person is not Mary Poppins. Don’t expect a miracle! “If you live in a multi-bedroom apartment with a bunch of 22-year-olds and nothing has been cleaned in a year, a standard two-hour session is not going to cut it,” says Shea. “So just be realistic about what results are feasible.”