Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Work As A Housekeeper

Awhile back I put together a resume for a housekeeping job and discovered I've got over twenty years experience. Unfortunately, due to my several major disabilities I don't have a prayer of being hired, unless I'm already acquainted with the prospective employer. Now that I use a walker, it is easier to understand why my situation may give someone reason to pause. So, I get work word of mouth and all is well.

When I was younger and much cockier, I fell for the argument that I was too smart to do housework. It was beneath me. After some demolition of my pride, I realize that my low vision interferes the least with housework. I like cleaning things, especially when compared to cooking things. Hey, you make me dinner, I'll gladly do dishes and clean the kitchen!

One thing is crucial. Do things the way the homeowner wants, no matter how stupid you think their ideas are. I had one gal who insisted I wash down her tiled shower, weekly with Tilex. Tilex is strong enough to take layers of skin off one's hands. I knew this was asking for trouble. I went to the homeowner and said that she'd destroy the grout between the shower tiles using Tilex every week. She ignored me and I followed her instructions. About six weeks later one entire wall of tiles had fallen off the wall. She then decided to listen to me!

Tact is everything. I find it is best to follow given directions, and then, after a few months, I can suggest changes. Remember, before you came along, they cleaned their own house. You are not indispensable.

Because of my low vision I am flexible on wages. I prefer to get paid by the job and not by the hour. Since, I work slower, why should someone have to pay more for the same work because of my low vision? I find out what they paid the last person and start with that rate. My work speaks for itself and I've had the joy of bonuses and raises in recognition of the quality job I perform.

If you can't supervise yourself, this isn't the job for you. I prefer to work alone. I am used to having the house to myself for a weekend. It messes up my rhythm when people are around. Sweet Maria, is easy. She stays put while I work and doesn't hover over me. I can't stand the hovering supervisor who is afraid I don't know what I'm doing. There is money which is too painful to secure. Working for the hovering supervisor, or the person who insists on treating me like some kind of lower species, are two situations I walk away from.

I don't do elder-care, or any kind of medical care for people. Sometimes, when people say they want a housekeeper, what they truly want is an inexpensive nurse. I also don't work for actively out-of-control alcoholics. Very painful and traumatic experiences I won't EVER repeat.

It is better to clean a home once every week, then to have to do a full muck-out after several weeks. Dogs and cats are job security. Ah, yes! Shed, my darlings, shed! I've never met a dog yet who doesn't play a type of vacuum cleaner tag. I just know that whatever room I need to vacuum, Hanna will lie down somewhere on that particular rug. Cats love to "help" me make beds.

The cat accomplishes this feat by leaping under the sheet I'm attempting to put on said bed. I remove cat to the floor, but by the time I've returned to the sheet - WHOOMP! The cat's BACK! The only real solution is to place helpful cat outside the bedroom and close the door. The cat will then cry pitifully behind the closed door. I have to be strong, I tell you. I just have to be strong.

Staying over night in sweet Maria's house has several "situations" I must remember not to call the police about. There are two different kinds of trees which drop, or throw things at the house. The plums crash down on the roof, while the flowering bushes twirl their seedpods in a tight loop and then they let fly. It can sound like buck shot hitting the windows! I have nightmares of calling the local cops only to be told they can't arrest falling plums!

Since I take care of animals and or clean homes I get a variety of wonderful "perks". Gourmet coffee and expensive food treats of all kinds keep me coming back. I get to use the home computer, TV or piano, while keeping animals company. I have to get the cat inside by eight PM. She then cries at the kitchen door for about twenty minutes, to see if I'll relent and let her go outside once again. An electric blanket is a luscious experience. The cat drapes herself around my lower leg and we drift off to peaceful sleep, warm and toasty.

At around five-thirty in the morning, miss kitty is ready to get up and start a new day. I, however, am NOT a morning person. Swing shift was invented for me. So, I let the cat outside and crawl back into bed.

The part of housework I like the least is good old furniture dusting. Man, I don't see a change. Whereas, when I 'oil' the furniture, it looks absolutely stunning. I've learned to use a small raglet to get most of the oi on the furniture and not just on the rag. Forget about using wax-based products. Oil is really the way to go.

I have discovered a trick when using any product which boasts that you don't need to rinse it off the surface. THEY lie! I have seen floors change color after being cleaned with a floor cleaner and RINSED. Yes, its extra work, but when you hear the family rave about how you've transformed their home, the extra work is worth the effort.

A final note. Things get broken, misplaced and used up. Always tell the truth. Be ready to replace what you break. It happens to the most careful of us. Never attempt to lie to the home owner. I am continually amazed at the following situation. An acquaintance goes on in great detail about how they've stolen from their current employer. Then they hit me up for a job! Now, the number one problem with house cleaners, is a lot of them think the homeowner "won't miss it". When you go out of your way to establish truthfulness and openness with the homeowner, the rewards are amazing.

I'm not tempted over money, or most things. But, I've been tempted to eat something the wife is saving for the husband. I don't eat that home made banana bread, no matter how badly I want to. This trust is extremely important. If I'm supposed to stay over for a weekend for dog care and cleaning, I won't take my wages if I'm too sick to clean the house. I'm a greatly complimented when my abandoned wages are returned to me, even though most of the work didn't get done.

So, I complete a home, groom a pet and earn my pay. The house is clean and I'm a bit of a dusty, sweaty mess. There is nothing nicer, after wrapping up cleaning a house, then to jump into their shower to relax and refresh. Another fabulous perk I receive is the use of all that expensive bath stuff. Bubbles, fizzes and fragrant hair care products. I get all the joy of expensive property and pets with none of the headaches.

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