What to Consider When Hiring Cleaning Help

<i> McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management</i>

Question: How do I go about hiring someone to help with the housework?

Answer: You have two choices: hire an individual yourself or contact one of the many professional agencies listed in the telephone book under the heading House Cleaning.

There are advantages to both strategies. When you go through an agency, workers are insured and bonded. A representative will come to your home, discuss details and give you an estimate. If you have questions or complaints, you deal with the manager. The agency trains workers in proper techniques and efficiency. It is easy to turn the responsibility over to the cleaning service. The popular trend today is to have a crew of workers from a domestic cleaning service come once a week. Specialized and efficient, they aren’t slowed by guilt or confused about priorities. They just come in, clean and leave.

On the other hand, you can do your own hiring and deal directly with the cleaning person or persons. It may cost you less and the workers may get a higher wage because they do not have to share the profits with an administrator. This means you do the hiring and training, set specifications and make any corrections when necessary.


If you are going to do your own hiring, the first thing to do is to ask friends for suggestions. It may take a few tries to find someone who suits your needs. You want your helper to be completely honest. Can you be sure of their integrity? You are opening your properties, treasures and possessions to this person.

Does this person gossip? Your cleaning person will have access to many personal details. You will appreciate a worker who doesn’t discuss client’s affairs with other people. You may not be a celebrity, but you will begin to understand why the royal family in England wants their domestic workers to be quiet about intimate details. It’s a matter of courtesy.

Be Sure to Check References

Is he or she a good worker, pleasant, efficient? Do they know how to care for things properly? If you answer a classified ad, interview prospects and check references thoroughly.

Hiring a cleaning person or service requires organization and good management. Just like learning to use a new appliance, you can learn to use paid-help effectively.

One family prefers to have help on Monday after the big turnover from weekend activities. They have found that the house stays nice longer. Another executive said, “I don’t really care what my place looks like during the week because I am only there a few hours, but I want it clean for the weekend” and so she has her helpers come on Friday.

No matter when they come in, you need to do some preparation. Most house cleaning services will not pick up things for you and put them away. That is the responsibility of family members. If you live with others, get them in on the preparation. One mother said that it becomes a helpful incentive. “A bonus that I have greatly appreciated is the weekly deadline to get ready for them. We put away projects when we might otherwise leave them out a few more days.”


A friend of mine saves half a day to work along with her helpers. It forces her to keep her cleaning appointment and they get a tremendous amount of work done together, whereas she didn’t get around to cleaning before.

Design a Cleaning Schedule

With most cleaning services, you sign a contract in the beginning, agreeing on exactly what will be done each week so there are no misunderstandings. If not, you need to design the cleaning schedule, write it out to save misunderstandings. How many hours will they be working? Make a list of the routine things that have to be done every week general cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, trash, front door, etc. Place the other things on an alternating schedule. For example, in the kitchen it may run, first week cupboards, second week stove, third week floors, fourth week refrigerator. If you learn to manage the cleaning service in this way, the arrangement will be happier for all concerned.

Remember, there are two sides to every story. Are you the kind of household someone would like to work for? Good housekeepers can choose their clientele. Do you treat them like professionals? Do you express appreciation? Do you add on extra jobs? Do you talk behind their backs? Are you honest? Do you prepare the house before they come to make it possible for the worker to do his or her job?

For example, I know of one home that housekeepers just hate to clean because the family members are sloppy and careless and don’t make any effort to preserve the job that was accomplished the week before. Yes, the worker may be paid, but the secondary reward is to know that your efforts are appreciated. Good cleaning people are professionals. It takes as much skill to be a good housekeeper as a good secretary.

You may choose not to hire an outside service and decide to do the work yourself. Pretend you are paying yourself an hourly wage. Set a specific time to go to work. Put on your comfortable work clothes and sturdy shoes. Go out the front door, ring the doorbell and come back in. Grab your basket of cleaning supplies. Give every room 30 minutes to change linens, dust, vacuum, wipe off and polish. Don’t get caught in side projects or guilt. Take a coffee break and work two more hours doing a deep cleaning project. At 2:30 collect the money you have saved and enjoy the clean house.