cleaning

A mom's guide to hiring a professional house cleaner

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You’re finally doing it. Once and for all, you have decided that you deserve to have a clean house without having to constantly be the one scrubbing and wiping. You, mama, have decided it is time to hire a house cleaner. (happy dance and high fives)

Um, so, now what?

Just like hiring a babysitter to take care of your precious little ones while you pretend to go to the gym, but instead go shopping at Target for throw pillows, finding someone you trust to come into your home can be stressful, not to mention confusing. 

After owning and operating a residential cleaning business for the better part of a decade, I saw the pitfalls and confusion that came with hiring someone like me. Most clients came to be befuddled, not even sure what to ask for where to begin. Now that I spend my days helping moms with all things homemaking and home management, I thought there was no better topic to tackle than the nitty gritty of hiring a professional house cleaner.

Ask for referrals from friends. In my last 2 years of business, I did minimal marketing and advertising because almost all of my clients came from word-of-mouth referrals. We all love to brag on our favorite spots to eat, the best places to shop and the nail salons that give the best pedicures, and the same goes for house cleaners. Ask around to your friends and family, put a blast out on Facebook and be sure to ask why they love their current maid service or house cleaner. 

Check out Google and reviews online. If none of your friends have referrals for you, search your local area on Google and be sure to look at reviews as well. Does the company have a website or Facebook page? It is 2017 and as judgmental as it may sound, I don’t do business with any companies that don’t have some kind of online presence. 

Make a list of what you are looking to have done. This can be oddly difficult, like knowing you want a brand new hairstyle but not even knowing where to begin. A great place to start is to walk around your house and make a list of the things you want you to have done. It’s also important to give consideration to how often you are looking to have the cleaning done. Would once a month be enough or would you rather have it done once a week? Do you like the idea of biweekly cleaning or are you hoping to have a crew come in and do seasonal deep cleanings?
 

Need some help with deciding what tasks you want a cleaner to do? Download your free Everything and the Kitchen Sink list from the Vault.

Large companies versus smaller companies: A question I am asked quite frequently is, “Is it better to hire a larger cleaning company, like one of the franchises, a smaller local company or just one person?” My answer is pretty annoying, because the real answer is, it is totally up to you. Larger companies usually offer numbers in the form of more people, which usually means less time in your home. However, they tend to be more costly and the turnover can be high. That means, you never really know who is coming into your home. 

Smaller cleaning companies or single person operations offer the same services, but can take longer because they are doing the work on a smaller scale. However, having been this type of company, I know that the prices are almost always less costly and their room for flexibility is higher. Need something extra done this time? It is easier to get a hold of one person and deal with them versus trying to speak with a franchise that has rules and standards in place.

House cleaning versus housekeeping. There is a big difference between a house cleaner and a house keeper. House cleaners focus on just that; cleaning. They don’t usually do other tasks like laundry, decluttering, dishes, picking up toys, ironing, etc. They won’t let pets outs or put away clothes. A housekeeper is generally someone that will do all over the above. 

Ask if they provide free estimates. I never, ever charged to come to someone's house and provide a quote and I don't know of many companies that do, but it is a good idea to ask beforehand. I viewed that visit as a time for us to get to know one another, discuss their needs, discuss what I do, the cost, the frequency, etc. I rarely, if ever, committed to cleaning a home or property without providing an estimate first. 

Should my house cleaner be insured? I won't mix words here. Yes, they should. Under no circumstances would I allow someone into my home, especially on a regular basis and when I was not home, without knowing that they were insured. This protects everyone. As with all kinds of insurance, you hope you never need it, but on the off chance that they break your antique vase or worse, burn down the house by leaving the oven on, their insurance should cover it. Be sure to ask for a copy of their policy. You have a right to see this and shouldn't feel badly about. I always offered this to potential clients so that everyone had peace of mind.

"But how much do house cleaners charge? I don't even know how much I should be paying!"

Oh dear. The dreaded "But how much will it cost me?" question. Of all the questions I have ever been asked, including my kids asking for the three thousandth time if they can have a snack, this one is by far the most frequent. And I understand why. When you're hiring someone to do a job, it is hard to know how much the norm is when you've never done it

The answer is, it depends. Ugh. I know. I'm the worst, but it's the truth. Pricing varies greatly not only from region to region, but from company to company. It depends on what you are looking to have done, how often, the state of your home, how large your home it, and so on and so on. What is considered affordable in NYC would be outrageously priced in my neck of the woods in upstate NY. 

Another thing to take into consideration is if the cleaning company or individual charges by the job or the hour. In my business, for example, I charged by the job. Whether it took me an hour or 5, it was the price that I quoted. This was because not all cleaning jobs or hours are created equal (if you don't believe me, spend an hour lightly dusting the house and then an hour scrubbing a shower or an oven...) There is no right or wrong way to charge, but you should be away before hiring someone.

The best way to determine pricing in your area is to ask around. Get a few different quotes, ask your friends, and compare. Remember, with service based business, you usually get what you pay for. If someone is willing to come in for $5 an hour and isn't insured, you are opening yourself up to be disappointed (and probably have your belongings stolen. #truthtime)

Here is a list of important questions to ask someone during an interview

  • Ask specifically what they do and/or don’t do
  • Ask if they work alone or as a team. If they work as a team, how many people and will it be the same each time?
  • How do they price? By the hour or by the job? If they charge by the hour, will they keep it within a specific budget?
  • Do they bring their own supplies or will you need to provide the supplies?
  • Are they insured? Can they provide proof of insurance?
  • Are their employees bonded?
  • Do they do background checks?
  • Do they have references (I would take at least 3) ALL reputable cleaning companies, even a one-person operation, should be able to provide references for you. Be sure to check those references.
  • What kind of payment do they take? When is it due? How do you pay?
  • Do you have to sign a contract?
  • Do they have any guarantees?

My last tip and tool of the trade is, trust your gut. If someone seems sketchy, or off, or if after a few visits, things just don't seem right, move on to someone else. I did my very best in my business to make my clients feel comfortable with the fact that I was in their home and treated their belongings as if they were my own. Anyone coming into your home should afford you the same respect and fill you with warm feelings of trust. This should take the stress off of you, not create more. 


Whether you are looking to hire someone to help on a weekly basis or just once every few months, there are always things that need to be done in between. But who has time to keep up with track of all of that? Download my free Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list from the Vault and take the confusion out of what needs to be cleaned and when. Print an extra copy to give to your newly hired professional cleaner so everyone is on the same page. 

The 6 biggest house cleaning mistakes you're probably making

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Cleaning. Bleh.

Is there anymore we really need to say?

I mean, for me, it isn't bleh because I love doing it. Yep. I love to clean. I find it comforting and therapeutic. I also got paid to do it for many years, so that doesn't hurt. Most moms don't share my enthusiasm for cleaning, though and I get that. 

I have come to find that the reason cleaning is such a proverbial pain in the backside is because there are a lot of mistakes being made that make it harder than it has to be. Imagine learning to walk, but instead of going forwards, your parents taught you to walk backwards. It would have been much harder, taken longer to learn and you'd bump into things all the time.

Cleaning incorrectly is the same way. It isn't anyone's fault that these mistakes are being made. I used to make a lot of them, which is why it took me far longer to clean a client's house than it should have (and why in the first few months, I did such a terrible job, I don't know how I still had clients) When I started to realize and fix these common issues, I found that my productivity soared and cleaning wasn't half bad after all (again, I was being paid so that totally sweetened the pot.)

But fear not, mama, for today, I shall break down some common house cleaning mistakes and give you the solution to fix them. Huzzah!

Ok, here we go...

1. The mistake: Not letting products work

Ohhhh is this a popular one. You buy that swanky new all-purpose cleaner. It’s derived from natural ingredients. It smells like springtime. It is wonderful. You spray it on your countertops and just as quickly as the product has hit the surface, you wipe it up. (Cue me behind you in slow motion screaming, “Nooooo”) Cleaning products need to sit for a bit to do their job. In fact, many cleaners, especially those that are meant to clean up grease or soap scum, actually have directions that state you should let the products sit for a while. This is how they work best.

The solution: Let your products sit for a while before you dive in and start scrubbing or wiping.

2. The mistake: Winging it

You know you need to clean, but your schedule looks more like “Crap! Company is coming. Someone grab a broom, for the love of God!” Winging it can make your life a lot more stressful than it has to be because you are basically in reactive mode instead of proactive mode.

The solution: Create an effective schedule. I created an entire mini course all about creating a cleaning routine for this very reason. Schedules create more freedom from cleaning, if you can believe it. It seems like a paradox, but in reality when you know what you will be doing and when, you stress far less about what needs to be done. Get on a schedule and you will find oodles of cleaning stress lift off your shoulders (You can check out the mini course here if you are interested.)

3. The mistake: Overusing paper towels

Paper towels are amazing. Let's not mince words here, but they don't need to be used to clean your entire house. Not only is overusing them wasteful, it also isn't as effective. Most paper towels leave bits of lint behind. They also don't do much in the way of preventing streaks.

The solution: Use rags and microfiber cloths. You can get cloths at just about any store now, or order them online. I would avoid using the "old t-shirt" standby as they weren't intended to clean, don't do a very good job and can even scratch surfaces. Good cloths don't have to cost an arm and a leg, and will do a phenomenal job of cleaning and polishing your surfaces.

4. The mistake: Not caring for your cleaning tools

If you are finding that your old standbys aren't doing the job anymore, it probably means they haven't been given the TLC they need. This includes vacuums, mops, steamers, brushes, brooms, etc. Much like a carpenter, you are only as good as the tools you use.

The solution: Routinely clean your tools. Be sure you are regularly washing your vacuum filters, cleaning out the canister, cleaning the brush bar out, changing the bag if needed, cleaning your brushes or buying new ones, properly storing your tools and maintaining their use.

5. The mistake: Spraying dusting solution directly on your furniture

This is a big no-no that I see people do all the time. I admit, I used to be guilty of this in the beginning, too. Spraying your furniture directly can leave a wicked film, not to mention can also damage or leave "spray" marks.

The solution: Spray your product on a cloth first and then do the dusting. In fact, I recommend doing a dry dusting with no product before you spray anything. Having the cloth too wet can leave a lot of yucky film on a surface that is covered in dust. Imagine mixing water with dirt...

6. The mistake: Neglecting the “little things”

We all know we are supposed to scrub our toilets and vacuum our carpets, but what about all the little areas in the house that get just as dirty over time? Neglecting these areas can really build up and can actually be responsible for the spread of germs. Yuck!

The solution: Make a weekly sweep of the light switches, remotes, phones and door knobs. You can do the whole house in under 5 minutes!


See, now that wasn't so bad. If you can change even a few of these in the next week, you will see a significant increase in your "I don't hate cleaning as much as I thought" feelings.


Now that we've gotten a handle on those mistakes and know exactly how to fix them, what's next? House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up below to join The Mother Like a Boss Vault and gain free access to home management printables, worksheets, mini courses, audio lessons and more! This vault is your key to all things #homemakerish and it's totally free.

How to stop managing your time and start owning it

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Hi, my name is Kendra and I am a recovering to-do list junkie.

Boy, did that feel good to say out loud, err, in writing.

But seriously, I am. Crossing things off to-do lists gave me a high like no other and I used to get my jollies from making as many lists as possible just so I could feel that rush.

That should have meant that I was getting mad things done, yo. Right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

In fact, I was less productive than ever when I was in the throes of list-making madness.

I should probably say that making lists has been a hobby of mine since I was a youngster. Even as a kid, I can remember making lists of what I needed to “do” on a weekend, or what I needed to bring to a sleepover, and eventually the workflow of a school project. In hindsight, these lists helped me, but they quickly turned on me and became a dark obsession and form of procrastination.

You see, making the list became more fun than the actual doing of the list items. Raise your hand if you can relate. Lists make us feel productive. They make us feel important. They make us feel powerful. They give the illusion that we are managing our time and isn’t that the phrase of the moment, time management?

Unfortunately, it is all an illusion and the thing that brought me back from the brink of drowning in a pile of sticky notes and iPhone note reminders was giving up managing my time and instead learning how to own it.

It seems like such a small change in words, but it makes all the difference. Managing your time means to take charge or care of it, while owning your time means to take possession of your time and make it belong to you. Subtle, but crucial.

You don’t just manage your car, you own it. You don’t just manage your favorite pair of shoes, you own them. You don’t just manage your wine bottle collection, you own it, girl. It is yours to do whatever you want with it. When you stop trying to manage the time we are given and instead take ownership of it, it’s a whole lot easier to be productive and let go of the crap we don’t want to be doing.

Now, because I am so good at my job, I can already hear some of the moms out there rolling their eyes (eye rolling makes a distinct sound) and saying, “Right. Sure. I’m gonna “own” my time with 3 kids involved in activities, a husband, a job and volunteer stuff on the side.” Well, yes. Because everything you’re doing each day is a choice and while most of us live our lives thinking we have no choices, those of us that take time by the throat and lead it where we want are the ones that become fulfilled and happy, rather than constantly complaining and stressed. That’s just a hard pill for some people to swallow.

To make the pill a little easier to take down, here are some tips for taking ownership of your time and get rid of the antiquated time management thought

Stop making long lists. I was the queen of the long list. “No, no. You don’t get it. I have to get these 27 things done today or the world will implode.” There isn’t a person on earth that needs to get that many things done in a day, and if they do, they have others do it for them. You are only as productive as the things you do in a day. Long lists only waste your time on minutia, usually filler that we put on the top of our lists so we can avoid the really important things near the bottom. Which brings me to my next tip…

Start with priority one and don’t move on until it is done. If I told you that you could pick one and only one thing to get done today, how would that affect your to-do list? You’d be a lot choosier, right? The truth is, you can be that way every day. What is the most important thing that you need to accomplish on this day? It doesn’t have to be big or grand or even exciting. It could be that you need to make dentist appointments or pay that bill that’s been sitting on your desk, or perhaps you need to call a caterer for a party you’re throwing, or declutter the linen closet. Whatever the task is, own it and put it at the top. Everything else you accomplish that day is gravy. When you start with tasks that don’t matter, you fill your day with busy work and never actually accomplish the things you said you would (I speak from experience.)

Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
— Greg McKeown

Start saying no. If you want to become an owner of your time, say no, a lot. I think this is just a rolling tip of mine for every situation in life, especially for moms. Want more time for yourself, for your kids, for your family, for your spouse? Say no. Say no to things that people ask you to do. There is a quote that has been going around lately that is so true, it hurts. “If it’s not a hell yes, it's a no.” Has someone asked you to bake 4 dozen cupcakes for the PTA bake sale? Unless you can say hell yes, it’s a no. Has someone asked you to watch their kids after school for 2 weeks while their sitter is on vacation? If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. The only person in control on your time is you, so own it and say a hearty no to the things you don’t want to do, so you can make room for the things you do want to do.

Keep and share your electronic calendar. I am a Google calendar freak. I put everything on it. Every appointment, every reminder, every call. Why? Because if it isn’t on that calendar, I’m not doing it. The trap I see many moms fall into is keeping only a paper calendar at home. While I have and use a large calendar at home, it is a backup for my main phone calendar. We live electronic, busy lives and when we rely only on our calendars at home, we end up over-committing ourselves and not realizing it. Also, electronic calendars can be synced with everyone in your family, so everyone knows what is going on and when. Boom.

Start delegating. The most successful people in the world do something that the rest of us need to take serious note of: they delegate. Delegation is just a way of giving away tasks to others, whether that means in your own family or someone you hire. Your kids can and should be doing chores. You spouse should be helping around the house. You should not be doing it all. Plain and simple. How you delegate is totally up to you and your lifestyle, but if you make it a point to be a mommy martyr and do it all, you will find that it is not only hard to own your time, it is actually impossible. Look into hiring a mommy’s helper for a couple hours a week so you can get work done, go shopping, take a nap, get your nails done or take a walk. Hiring a young teen is much cheaper than you’d expect and those extra hours of focused time and self-care can make all the difference.

Ready to own your house cleaning schedule so it no longer owns you? Grab your free copy of the Everything and the Kitchen Sink house cleaning list.

Go to bed later or get up earlier (or both) This is a delicate subject when I bring it up with mom clients. I will say right off the bat that if you are in the season of “my infant doesn’t sleep”, perhaps this isn’t the tip for you, but the rest of us should take note, myself included. Every time I find myself complaining about not getting things done, I ask, “Well, Kendra. What time did you get up this morning? What time did you go to bed last night?” The answer is usually embarrassing and shines a bright light on how much more time I could have had if I had woken up even 15 minutes earlier. Again, this is all about ownership. Your kids don’t control your time, you do. Your alarm doesn’t control your time, you do. If you know you need an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to get a quick workout in, take a shower, or just drink coffee in peace, then wake up earlier. Complaining won’t fix the problem. I know, I’ve tried.

Use timers. If keeping tabs on your time just isn’t your thing and you fall into the Pinterest rabbit hole easily, use timers. If you want to clean the house, but only have 30 minutes, set a timer. If you want to research the best curtain for your living room, set a timer and don’t go over it. Timers keep you in control of your time by forcing it upon you. Most of us could easily fall down the black hole of busy work, so set a timer and only allow yourself a certain amount of time to get it done.

Make decisions fast. One of the biggest time wasters I see moms making is hemming and hawing over every single decision. Taking 5 weeks to decide on the perfect car seat for their toddler, making Pinterest board after Pinterest board for meal plans, but never actually making them. Knowing they want to declutter the toy room, but sitting on it for a month deciding which day to start. This, my friends, is called procrastination. It is wrapped in a pretty bow and sold as decision making, but the truth is, it is a waste of time if you aren’t make decisions swiftly. When you take ownership of the decision, you take ownership of your time and can move on to other things that need your attention. So do the research on that car seat, narrow it down to two and make a decision, today.

Be flexible and give yourself grace. Moms aren't nearly flexible enough and don't forgive themselves as easily as they should. Don't be a slave to the clock or the schedule. Have fun, be flexible,  show time who's boss. And every now and then, give yourself grace to write down "Keep kids alive." on your list just so you can have something to check off.


Now that you know you've got a better handle on how to own your time like a boss, applesauce, it's time to get down to business with what you use that time for. House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up below to join The Mother Like a Boss Vault and gain free access to home management printables, worksheets, mini courses, audio lessons and more! This vault is your key to all things #homemakerish and it's totally free.