5 Tips on How to Hire a Housekeeper – Ethically | Is it worth it?

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Sometimes in my work as a life and career coach, I find that a lot of my clients have the same question – so I write a blog post on it! I love helping my clients level up, and many of my clients are strapped for time, so I advise that they hire a housekeeper.

Usually, when I advise this, I’m met with interest and a bit of fear. “How, exactly,” my clients ask, “Do I hire a housekeeper? How do I make sure I’m an ethical person as I do this?”

My clients [and I hope, my readers!] often struggle engaging with ethics as they grow their respective business and career. It’s a whole situation.

And, while I can’t wave a magic wand to answer everyone’s questions about their unique and special circumstances – what I can do is offer my own experience and insights.

[Note: This blog post was originally published on July 18, 2021. It was last updated on April 21, 2022. If you find this info helpful, please share this post with a friend via text message or via social media post! Shares help me keep writing content just like this, and I so appreciate you!]

How to hire a housekeeper

How to Hire a Housekeeper

Okay, so this blog post is NOT dedicated to why you should hire a housekeeper (that’s info I usually cover with a client during a solo session, info here). In this blog post, we’ll talk about:

  • Living Your Ethics & Values
  • Safety & Liability
  • How to Communicate Your Needs/Wants
  • How to Find a Housekeeper
  • Questions to Ask a Potential Housekeeper
  • How to Hire a Housekeeper – Test Cleaning
  • Preparing Your Home for a Housekeeper

Living Your Ethics & Values – Hiring a Housekeeper

Ok, so this section is a recent addition. Throughout this post, I talk about ethics and values – but it is helpful to discuss them here.

Many people have resistance around hiring a housekeeper, because you are entering a class dynamic that can be super uncomfortable.

Let’s just tell it like it is, people!

And, while engaging in a class dynamic can be uncomfortable – many a client has shared they feel like a “rich a-hole” when hiring someone – I like to reframe this:

  1. Domestic labor is valuable. It is a job that requires a lot of skills. By paying equitably for domestic labor, we can live our values on multiple fronts.
  2. Domestic labor is not inherently “women’s work.” People are sometimes uncomfortable with domestic labor [especially if you were raised as a woman], because there can be a cultural expectation on doing it if you’re a woman – or being seen as a jerko-misogynist by hiring a woman to do it. There’s a lot of gender politics on this, and whole books have been written on this. TLDR, paying equitably for domestic labor fights the patriarchy.
  3. If you don’t hire them, someone else will – and that person may have crap politics. I tell this to my clients all of the time, “Just because you don’t hire them doesn’t mean they and their labor disappears!” We need equitably minded people paying for domestic labor. Together, we can increase wages and give domestic professionals the power to fire crap clients.

Feeling a bit better? Good!

Let’s continue on!

Safety & Liability – Hiring a Housekeeper

Okay, so before we jump in and HIRE SOMEONE OR A BUSINESS, I want to talk about safety and liability.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “If you expect your domestic help to steal from you, then they will.” Domestic labor is FREAKING VALUABLE, so taking a stance of “They’ll steal from me” is freakin’ GARBAGE.

That said, you are inviting a new person to your home, so it’s helpful to take steps to mitigate risk.

Here’s what I do:

  • I take all mail (bills, etc), as well as any personal information that could be used for identity fraud – and put it in a room no one will go in. This is a good practice to do, regardless, esp if you love to host parties like I do! I personally put this type of info in a locked filing cabinet or safe.
  • I also checked my renters insurance [or home owners insurance] to see my policy is impacted by having a housekeeper or cleaning service. Depending on your income and the advice of your own legal and insurance advisors, it. may make sense to carry extra coverage should someone be injured in your home.
  • Endeavor to *not* be the only person at home, especially if you’re a man. If you’re a dude or masculine person, I would bring this up candidly with the person or cleaning service and ask, “Hey! I want to be sure you/the cleaning professional[s] feel safe in my home. Should we have 2 cleaners at a time come? How do I make sure that they feel safe and secure?” This issue can often be helped by having 2+ cleaning folks in your home at a time.
  • Ask your housekeeper or cleaning service, “Are you insured as a business?” Many folks who are domestic laborers aren’t insured, and if that’s the case then you want to understand the risk here! Many people who work in a home [say, a plumber] carry insurance should they accidentally mess something up in your home.
how to hire a housekeeper or house cleaning service

How to Communicate Your Needs/Wants to a Housekeeper

OK, now that we’ve covered ethics and safety – let’s talk about COMMUNICATION.

Many folks, when hiring their first domestic professional, don’t realize there are different levels or types of cleaning. [It makes sense when we talk about it, but many folks don’t discuss this with a cleaning service.]

The #1 issue that I see when it comes to hiring a housekeeper is that there are specific expectations that you, the client has, and sometimes we don’t communicate those expectations explicitly. You know that saying about assuming? Def applies here!

So, before reaching out to a housekeeper for a quote, ask yourself, “What level of clean am I looking for, here? What domestic tasks do I not want to do?”

THENNNN list out those specific tasks! I’ve created a domestic management system [I gift it to clients or sell the ~20 page document to folks], where I have clearly defined tasks.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you want your housekeeper to focus on specific areas of the house, for example, the kitchen and bathrooms?
  • What does it mean to you when you say, “Clean the living room?” What specific sub-tasks are involved? Write them out! [Or purchase my download, whichever floats your boat!]
  • Do you want your housekeeper to wash walls, baseboards and vents?
  • Do you want your bathroom deep cleaned, ie the grout bleached?
  • Do you want rugs taken outside and smacked to remove debris, or is vacuuming ok?

^See how specific I’m being? It is critical to know what you want.

Here’s what my housekeeper, does for me:

  • Deep clean kitchen: Linda removes grease and crumbs from the stove, wiping down counters and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. She deep cleans my microwave, sanitizes surfaces and polishes appliances. She also wipes out my fridge, and deep cleans it about 1x a month. This does not include windowsills walls or blinds.
  • Deep clean bathrooms: Linda bleaches the tub, showers, toilet and sinks, as well as the countertop. She cleans the mirror and cleans around the toilet base (on the floor). Linda sweeps, mops and sanitizes the floor.
  • Living Room: Linda dusts all shelves, vacuums in the couch cushions and sweeps, mops and sanitizes the floor! She also windexes the mirrors.
  • Office/Studio: I have a home office and sewing studio (I’m also a fashion designer). Depending on the month, Linda may also vacuum and tidy these rooms.

^We created this list, and Linda charges me an hourly fee. She usually comes for 4-6 hours every week. She does “maintenance tasks” as well as various deep cleaning tasks [that have a schedule.]

How to Find a Housekeeper

Finding a housekeeper can be a challenge. My recommendation is to post on your own FB profile. The post may die and get no eyeballs, so don’t be afraid to tag local folks in the first comment.

You can also try your NextDoor group, or in your local town or city Facebook group. Another option is a website like Thumbtack! If you live in an apartment building, you can ask the building manager who cleans the units to prepare them for a new tenant.

How Much to Pay a Housekeeper

WHEW! This next section causes a lot of anxiety with folks, for good reason!

Cleaning is hard work, and we don’t want to be terrible people.

Pricing will vary by city. My recommendation is to google the living wage in your city for a *household of 3*, as many people have dependents [in and out of the country].

I would then multiply that wage by 1.5.

Ballpark, you’re looking at minimum wage of $35 per hour.

^^ This wage can be surprising to some folks, so I want to be clear here. $15-$25 per hour is not an equitable wage. IDGAF what the “market rate” in your area is. This post is all about hiring people equitably.

If folks get flustered at this wage, I pull the “Mom Card.” I say, “I totally hear you. My mom told me this is how much I should pay you.”

People will rarely argue with you if they think you’re acting on your Mom’s say-so, even as a fully-fledged adult. ;]

$15-$25 per hour is not an equitable wage.

Plus, real talk, many housekeepers are quite talented business owners. They will restructure their client roster, prioritizing clients who pay the most money. If you’re finding that your housekeeper or cleaning service keeps canceling or rescheduling on you, it’s probablyyyyyy because other clients are paying more for the housekeeper’s reliability. If you’ve found yourself in this spot, it may be worth it to ask about paying a Priority Fee or Rush Fee.

As a business owner, I do write off some of Linda’s work for me as a tax deduction.

Questions to Ask a Potential Housekeeper

Ok, so this list isn’t exhaustive, but here’s what I would ask:

  • Do I need to provide cleaning supplies for you? What do I need to have ready for you?
  • Do you offer specific packages or do you prefer to charge hourly?
  • Do you have insurance as a business?
  • How do I pay you?
  • How should I prepare my home for you to clean?
  • What are common misconceptions new clients have when it comes to working with you? What do your clients get wrong?
  • How far out do I need to schedule? How do I schedule? [Phone, text, scheduling app, etc]
  • Share with the housekeeper if you have children or pets

Generally, a housekeeper or cleaning service will come to your home to do a walk through and go over what you want. Be sure to very specific. I recommend having a typed up list of specific things you want cleaned! I would also send that list via email or text.

Language Barriers

When hiring domestic help, you may find that there are communication issues. This can be stressful, as we don’t want to be jerks.

Different cleaners have various approaches. Here are some ideas:

  • For a cleaning crew, the lead cleaner may be the best English speaker. When giving feedback, it may be best to address this person.
  • Some domestic cleaners will bring their kiddo for a walk-through to discuss. The kiddo may be quite young, and be sure to treat them respectfully – talk to them like they’re a project manager, not a child. When in this situation, I say, “Hey, my goal is to make sure your parent/caregiver enjoys cleaning for me. How do we make that happen?”
  • Other folks may call a family member to translate while they talk to you.
  • Some folks use translation apps when communicating.

Above all, remember to approach situations with cultural sensitivity. If you have to give negative feedback, do a quick Google to learn how people from that culture approach feedback. Some cultures are quite blunt, others hint.

And, no matter the culture, I always make sure to state my goal before giving feedback. “My goal is for you to enjoy your work, and I want to be a client you love hearing from. Here’s what’s going on [share].”

how to hire a housekeepr or house cleaning service

How to Hire a Housekeeper – Test Cleaning

Ok, so now it’s time for a test clean. I recommend that you hire a housekeeper for a one-time clean. That way, if it’s not a fit you don’t have to deal with the awkward situation of canceling service.

I say that I am hosting a party or have guests coming to town.

Preparing Your Home for a Housekeeper

For a housekeeper or cleaning service to come, you’ll need to clear off areas they’re cleaning. Also, you’ll need to be there, to be around for questions and to communicate clarifications. Also be sure no one needs the room the housekeeper is cleaning (ie don’t be trying to make lunch while they’re cleaning the kitchen).

Before Linda comes to my home, I tidy up the spaces, removing random items and making sure she can access all surfaces to clean.

Note: Christmas Bonuses

For household staff, it is customary to give a Christmas or holiday bonus. I recommend that the bonus be (minimum) what you pay for a regular full service. So, if you pay $200 each time a housekeeper comes, then the bonus should be no less than $200!

If you or the domestic help don’t celebrate Christmas, then I would frame this as an “End of Year Bonus.”

There’s The Guide!

If you’re having issues getting the other members of your household on board with hiring a housekeeper, I’ve been there! I consult with clients 1:1 on topics like this in my “Pick My Brain Session,” wherein we spend 80 minutes tackling questions like this. We can make a housekeeper plan, or you can bring a list of questions!

I have found that hiring Linda has empowered me to spend my energy on my business – and things that I love to do. It feels really good to have domestic help. By treating your housekeeper or cleaning service ethically and warmly, I think that this could also change *your* life!

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