Outsourcing is the word of the moment in the domestic domain. Of the many tasks being outsourced – pantry stocking, childcare, cooking and menus, laundry, dog walking, decluttering, personal organising, home styling, even wardrobe planning – cleaning is one of the most likely to be utilised by Australian households.
Figures from Open Universities Australia’s Future of Work survey show a 28.4 per cent rise in domestic cleaner employment in the past five years, with one in 25 Australians hiring professional domestic help. If you are in this group, you’ll know the value they add to your lifestyle. I asked expert Sue Ryan from Busy Bee Cleaning, Peregian Springs for her views on the job.
1. Extravagant or essential?
Opinions on hiring a home cleaner are divided. One school believes if we were better time managers we could – and should – deal with our own mess. This theory is often tinged with moral outrage at perceived exploitation of low-waged workers. Another school suggests paying a cleaner creates more time for family activities, leisure and enjoyment of the home, away from the demands of work. Then there are those with physical issues that make domestic help a necessity.
If you’re in the latter camps, here’s how to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with whoever you hire to make your home spick and span when you can’t.
2. Agree on a job description
Coming to a detailed agreement on tasks, frequency, hours and rates facilitates a harmonious relationship with your cleaners. Although written contracts aren’t always necessary, (agencies generally offer one), putting it informally in writing provides a reference for both parties should questions arise.
Tip: According to Y&D Cleaning Services in Victoria, many cleaners charge by the hour, usually between $25 and $40. Several bathrooms, outdoor areas, multiple storeys, long travel time, detailing and extra products may increase rates.
3. Clarify who provides products and equipment
The majority of cleaners provide their own cleaning products and equipment, as bulk buying reduces the cost to you. Ryan keeps cleaning caddies in her vehicle with eco-friendly cleaning products for the growing number of her clients who prefer them.
She also uses a commercial backpack-style vacuum cleaner that’s easier on hardworking backs, and generally more efficient than domestic ones. If your cleaner uses your vacuum, keep it in good working condition and stay stocked up on dust bags if necessary.
4. Introduce your cleaner to your home
Ryan says it’s essential to do a show-and-tell walk together through the house on a first visit. Indicate areas most used and those needing less frequent attention. Nut out an estimate for a trial routine clean. After a few visits, you can adjust tasks according to what you intend to spend and whether you want more or less done.
5. Point out problems
Establishing open communication and mutual understanding starts from day one. Run a check over the tasks that were agreed on and note areas that were missed or not done as thoroughly as you had discussed. Bring your concerns up on the very next visit, but nicely – a good cleaner appreciates the feedback.
6. Do a pre-clean whip-around
The joke that many people clean the house before the cleaner comes has been around for a while, but it’s a good idea to take a few minutes on cleaning day to tidy some mess, make a bed or two, check the loo passes muster and put food away. It saves your cleaner precious minutes and you’ll feel less guilty.
7. Put personal stuff away
A frequent and understandable reaction to having a stranger accessing all areas of your home is a level of discomfort about revealing personal habits. Tuck your private belongings away to save any embarrassment.
Author - Janet Dunn