Sunday, July 23, 2006

Taken to the cleaners by the cleaners

Somebody previously enquired as to why I have had three different cleaning people quit on me in less than 9 months. It’s not me, it’s them, really!

Here’s the whole story.

After Daniel was born it became apparent (quite quickly!) that I was not going to be able to “maintain my household” and take care of my baby in the way that I wanted to. There are many reasons for this, but the two big ones are that we just don’t have a lot of help by means of friends or family living in Edmonton and my standards of a clean house are a bit more anal-retentive than most. Dustin thought/hoped that post-Daniel I would learn how to relax about dirty floors and pet hair accumulating, but let’s just say he was wrong about that.

Anyhoo, my mom came for a visit for 2 weeks shortly after Daniel was born. During this time I hired someone to clean my windows (outside and screens). It cost about fifty bucks and the lady did a terrific job. As I struggled with breastfeeding and “healing” the feeling I had after paying a stranger fifty bucks to clean a portion of my house was simply GREAT! Dustin, with the help of my mom, convinced me that in lieu of family and friend helpers, it might be a good idea to hire someone to clean the house every 2 weeks. Dustin was especially supportive about this, but in retrospect I think he realised quickly that if hired help wasn’t cleaning our toilet bowls, he soon would be.

We had used a cleaning lady in the past, but it lasted for less than a year. At the time, I was working full-time and it seemed like a great idea and certainly turned out to be excellent. The person we had at that time cleaned things like EVERY SLAT of my vertical blinds. When I came home to that, I felt I had met my match in the world of cleaning; when I noticed that she had dusted the tops of the doorframes, I knew that I could learn from her. However, I later took on a better, but part-time job (it worked out to be a similar pay cheque, though) and I felt that having a cleaning lady was more than bit excessive. Working part-time, I was now able to look well to the ways of my household. We stopped using a cleaning lady.

Back to nine months ago. . . being on maternity leave I have to admit that I felt the same feeling of excessiveness at the thought of hiring a cleaning lady. I mean, I was pretty much home all day. But with a new baby I was finding it hard just to do dishes and laundry, never mind clean the bathrooms. So I listened to my mom and Dustin. We hired a lady that some of our friends use.

“Peggy” seemed great at first. She was punctual and reliable. She had that “someone’s mom” feel. She was quiet. She wasn’t aloof or difficult, but there were signs that she could be a little demanding. Before she started with us, she gave Dustin a list of cleaning products that we absolutely had to buy (she would only use VIM bathroom cleaner and wanted a specific hardwood floor cleaner). There were a couple of other problems, too. She hated our vacuum cleaner (it was crappy admittedly). Then it broke altogether. My grandparents gave us one of their old ones few days before Peggy’s next visit. Unfortunately, it was vintage 1968. Besides being avocado in colour, it also weighed a ton. It was a powerful machine to be sure, with more suction than a Whitehouse intern, but it was very heavy and hard to manoeuvre (again not so unlike a Whitehouse intern). Peggy was even more unimpressed with this vacuum, but we were having a hard time making trips to buy groceries, let alone to any store to buy a vacuum. Finally Dustin’s parents lent us a much better one, which at least took care of that problem.

One day Peggy told me that she would not Windex our windows anymore. She said it was adding too much time to her visits. I wasn’t impressed, but wanted to keep her, at least for the short term. I just didn’t want the hassle of finding someone else. On another visit she told me that she could not clean our corner cupboard. I couldn’t understand why, but then she finally told me that she had a snake phobia and my knick-knack wooden snake terrified her. I put the snake away. Things chugged along for a few more months. Then one day there was a message on my machine saying that she had to quit us because one of her long-time clients wanted her to clean an extra floor of her house and she just couldn’t fit us in any more. Good-bye and good luck. It all seemed more than a bit weird and far-fetched, but in a sense it was not such a great loss.

We called the people that we used to use (the amazing blind cleaners). They were a husband and wife who owned their own cleaning company. It was basically them and a couple of employees. They were super professional. Normally, the husband and one employee would come clean our house. I felt like I was at the summit of the women’s movement – here I am on maternity leave hiring a cleaning man to clean my house, while I’m home yet! Weird and wonderful.

Things chugged along beautifully. They brought their own vacuum. They brought their own cleaning supplies. There were no phobias. They were happy to Windex. Because there were two of them it only took them about 2 hours to get my house gleaming.

Then one day there was another ominous message on my machine. The husband said he was dissolving the company. The next visit would be the last. I asked one of his soon to be former employees if she would like to clean our house and we could set-up something between us. I told her I’d pay her what I paid her boss and we didn’t need a receipt or anything, if you get my meaning (wink, wink). She agreed and we set up a date. She later called to say she couldn’t make that day. We set up another date. She never showed up. That was over a week ago and she hasn’t even called. Strike three, she’s out.

So that leaves me where I am now – cleaning lady-less after nine months of bliss. Sure, I can now look after Daniel and clean my house as Daniel has become more self-sufficient and we’ve recently discovered the joys of Neglect-O-Vision (see future post). But the harsh reality is that I just don’t want to. It’s not like I have a ton of free time and the time I do have I would rather spend with my family, my friends, a good book or my blog instead of cleaning bathrooms. Besides, I’m back at work in less than 2 months, which justifies it in my head.

So now the search is on for cleaning lady (or man) number 4. I only have one lead, not counting Salma. And sorry Salma, but you know what they say about hiring friends: “DON”T DO IT!!!!!” In this hot economy, I’m concerned that it will be difficult and expensive to find someone . . . ah, my kingdom for a reliable and consistent domestic helper!


At 10:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No worries Ems. We don't "do" south of the river!

At 2:02 PM , Blogger Momily said...

What a bizarre policy!
Are north-enders dirtier and hence more lucrative?


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