Skills are very basic in this work. They are things most of us learn to
do as we're growing up: washing and waxing floors, dusting and polishing furniture,
making beds, cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing ovens and freshening refrigerators.
The pros have tricks of the trade that help them brush through the tasks
a little quicker and easier than we amateurs. Being organized and able to
follow instructions helps.
"Good communication skills are very important," says John Kastelic, president
of the National Association of Professional Cleaners.
"After all, service providers must build a relationship with their clients.
There should be clear and professional dialog between the customer and the
cleaning company. The customer should know that you are approachable and serious
about your work.
"Problems should be handled swiftly and professionally. In fact, problems
should be anticipated and prevented. Likewise, you should always maintain
a positive and friendly attitude!"
It can be back-breaking work. You will be on your feet all day. You need
to be able to bend and lift, move furniture occasionally, and use equipment
such as vacuum cleaners and floor polishers. Be careful of this career if
you have allergies to dust or chemicals.
Depending on the type of situation you seek, your duties can be more varied.
Some household cleaning workers have other tasks, such as light cooking, child
and pet care, answering the door or phone, arranging for repair work, shopping
for groceries and other errands.
Kathy Patrick runs her own cleaning business. "As far as skills, one must
definitely like to clean. You need to be someone that likes to meet new people.
You need to be a salesperson, to sell yourself and your services. You need
to be organized," she says.
"You need to be able to take suggestions and criticism, and you should
have a lot of determination to always do the best job you can do and succeed."
The people you work for may seem like family. Or they can be an ongoing
source of anxiety. Paula Schwartz owns her own cleaning agency in Texas. She
learned the hard way that making a housecleaner too much at home can backfire.
When she was going through an illness many years ago and trying to care
for two young children, she sought the help of a housecleaner through the
classifieds. After hiring pretty much the first person she interviewed, she
says it was awkward getting used to having the worker in the house.
"I think ultimately customers are seeking someone they can trust and rely
on," says Kastelic, who also owned a cleaning business for many years. "Most
customers are very reasonable. They just want someone they can count on to
deliver a reliable service on a daily basis."
Ground rules are important for both parties. It's best to be clear at the
beginning what you're willing and able to do as a household worker, and for
the employer to outline what she or he expects -- in writing.
Don't say you're happy to iron shirts and then refuse to do it later. Don't
keep quiet about babysitting duties being included in your day if it wasn't
discussed when you made the employment contract.
This work is attractive to people who have family or other obligations
because of its flexibility and the ease with which you can enter the field.
If 9 to 5 doesn't suit you, you can work just a few hours a day, a few days
If you want to make it a round-the-clock pursuit, you can be a live-in
and save on rent. All you need to start are some everyday cleaning supplies.
Working conditions may often be pleasant. After all, you'll be working
in what others call home. The home may be modest or a luxurious estate. You
shouldn't mind working alone, but be prepared for interruptions. A fidgety
homeowner, children or pets underfoot, or nosy neighbors pounding on the door
may all slow your progress.
As a housecleaner, you will have opportunities for working in other settings
as well. Hospitals, nursing homes and resorts need such help. Then there is
related employment in industrial janitorial work for commercial buildings,
which can be more technical and heavy duty.
Want a quick overview of what
this career is about? Check out
Just the Facts for simple lists
Make other people's homes spotlessly clean
Watch a one-minute video showing what it's like to work in this career or related careers
Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners
Note: This movie requires QuickTime.