The following story first appeared on xojane.com. I've worked as a housecleaner to supplement my income for over a decade in Manhattan. Over the years I've experienced everything from a celebrity trying to pay me with a bounced check to a woman giving me a microwave she said she no longer needed only to call me a week later and ask for me to bring it back to her. (Which I did, even though it took me an hour to get to her by bus.) When I arrive, I do so with a smile and cleaning supplies, expecting to put in a hard day's work. What I get is often hours of psychological games where clients will do everything they can just to try to save themselves $10 or $20. Sorry, but buying me a cup of coffee does not mean you get an extra two hours of work for free.
If I could, I would not work as a housecleaner. But I need to, and I wish people would treat me with the same dignity they would hope to be treated with if they were in my position.People spend thousands of dollars on clothes and possessions I see in their homes, but when push comes to shove tell me they cannot afford to pay me $80. "I understand," I say. When really I am just sad. I'm sad that people think they can treat other people this way.
I have experienced a variety of clients who think that they can manipulate and humiliate me. They use certain words to try to get me to do what they want because they think I am not smart enough to understand what they are saying. These are the things people do to try to save a few bucks.
Don't get me wrong: I am grateful for every single client. But there are certain clients who give other clients a bad name.
Here are the top six ways not to be rude to your housecleaner.
1. You should have better respect for yourself, and for the maid, by taking care of some things ahead of time. I do not need to see your bodily fluids: mucous, menstrual blood, saliva, urine, feces. Why would you leave your underwear everywhere for me to deal with? Or used tampons on the floor? If you are on your period, please do not ask me to Shout it out for you. Consider that I am a human being here to clean your house, not a doctor here to perform a medical exam.
2. I do not work for you full-time. I understand that you want me to come over when you want me to come over, but I actually have my own personal life and other clients. Sure, sometimes I can come over at a moment's notice, but most housecleaners are juggling complicated schedules. If you want me to be available at any time, then hire me full-time.
3. Last-minute cancellation is not, I repeat, not ever okay. I'm glad to hear that you are suddenly going on vacation, but there are others like me who do not have a vacation in sight. One of the reasons? People like you who are costing me my livelihood by canceling at the very last minute.
4. If ironing takes you a long time, why do you think it will take me any less time? Here's a common scenario: I am shown a pile of laundry and told it "should not take me a long time." Running a washing machine and dryer and ironing piles of clothes takes me the same amount of time as it takes you: hours. I have had clients say, "Oh, and will you do this laundry, too?" as an afterthought, after I have quoted them an initial price. Then they get angry when I adjust the time and quote.There is no magical ironing fairy who suddenly makes the job easier when I do it. This needs to be considered in the cost estimate. Just because you think your time is more important than mine, does not mean that it takes me any less time.
5. Your organic products do not work. Some individuals have an obsession when it comes to the word "organic."
"You have to use Simple Green," one woman told me. Then, after I used it because that's all she would let me use, she got upset at me because the place was not as clean as she would have liked it. When it comes to food, buy whatever organic veggies you want. When it comes to cleaning products, organic doesn't do anything. [Editor's Note: Non-organic white vinegar cleans as well as most name-brand cleaning supplies and is less expensive and far less toxic.]
6. If your place is disorganized, no matter how many hours I spend, it is still going to be disorganized. Please do not call me later and ask me where something is. If you don't know where it is to begin with, I can't suddenly come up with an organizing system that you don't have. I've even had clients call and ask if I had stolen some item of theirs, and when I ask where it was originally, they have no idea. Of course, I have to apologize and say, "I'm sorry." Why? I need the work.
7. You can have a good cleaning job or a cheap cleaning job, but rarely both. If you want to pay me cheaply, you are not going to get the same results as you would with a longer job. One is a deep clean, one is a quick clean. Stop expecting both.
8. I don't want to hear the story of how you are down on your luck. Guess what? So am I. Do you really think this is my dream job? I am working extra hours as a housecleaner to pay for rent and food. I do not need to hear the story about how this has been a rough year for you financially. If you can afford to hire a housecleaner, you are not doing all that bad. (Oh, and I did see that $900 pair of shoes in your closet which tells me everything I need to know. It's your money, so you can buy whatever you want, but don't try to talk down a person because she wants to be paid what she is worth.)
9. If you want to join me in cleaning, then do it, but don't follow me around and correct every little thing that I do. It's one or the other. You can hire some woman in a French maid costume if the power trip is what you are after, but you have hired me to do a job. If I am ruining something of yours, then of course, correct me. But I don't ruin things. I am a very careful professional, which is the case for the majority of housecleaners. Telling me to scrub harder is not constructive advice, it's just annoying and rude. If you want, then get down next to me—and scrub.