Why it’s worth paying for spring cleaners
Cleaning firms are seeing an increase in demand as people decide that time matters more than the cost – or embarrassment – of hiring a cleaner
‘People are working hard, long hours, and they don’t have time to clean.’ Photograph: Getty
This week we offer inspiration to put a spring in your step in time for that extra hour of daylight on Sunday 29th
It’s spring, time to tidy the nest. For many women and some men, the feeling of responsibility about cleaning is so imprinted in our social DNA that we feel guilty when we don’t do it, resentful when we do and critical when it’s not done right by our partners (if they persist in their efforts after we’ve criticised them for doing it wrong for the umpteenth time).
“Mondays are our busiest days,” says Jules Coleman, from Leixlip, one of the founders of hassle.com, which has offices in Dublin, London, Paris and Germany. “The rows between couples over cleaning and standards of cleaning are the two reasons. You can imagine them on Sunday night, saying: ‘We’re getting a cleaner!’”
I too hate housework, though I’m way beyond rows about it. (I simply go on strike.) But I also share that nature-driven desire to spring-clean, which, when you have a family, is way too big a job for one person.
Women do vastly more hours of cleaning than men do, according to Irish research at Trinity College Dublin, but – I ask myself as I search for the mop – isn’t this counterproductive when you’re working in a full-time job?
“There’s a middle-class guilt around having a cleaner and we’ve found that while people won’t share the fact on Twitter that they have a cleaner, so we benefit from word of mouth, which is very strong,” says the 28-year-old Coleman. In 2011 and 2012, when she co-founded her company, the recession had meant that hiring a cleaner was one of the first expenses to go, yet she saw the need among her own generation.
Now cleaning services are in demand again, she says. People who value their time are sacrificing material things to pay for cleaners. The €24 spent on a two-hour clean isn’t going to buy very much any way.
If there is one thing the recession has taught us, it is this: we can do without a lot of material things we once thought necessary, but we have learned the value of time.
“I’ve had arguments with other people under financial stress who were saying about me, ‘Why wouldn’t she get rid of the cleaner?’,” says a female PR consultant, who has a demanding career as well as being the lone parent of two young children. (Such is the enduring stigma about hiring cleaners that she prefers not to use her name, as did every other cleaner-hirer I asked.) For this fiftysomething professional, the €50 she pays a cleaner to work four hours each week means that she can spend Saturdays with her children and recharge her batteries.
Home to a clean house
For her, every Thursday evening means coming home to beds made with fresh linen, the fridge clean and ready for the evening supermarket delivery, the ironing done, the bathroom and kitchen sparkling. As well as this, her cleaner focuses each week on one space for a “deep clean” – it could be a bedroom or the kitchen cupboards.
“When my sister is rushing around on Saturdays, cleaning, shopping, and in a frazzle, I can spend quality time with my children,” she says.
Younger time-poor people have been discovering the advantages of having a cleaner, says Coleman. Based in London, the University College Dublin finance and economics graduate left Accenture to develop the start-up company, and eventually got $6 million (€5.6 million) in venture capital investment when she and her partners demonstrated that those on ordinary incomes were willing to pay for cleaners.
Local cleaners with hassle.com get €10 an hour, out of the €12 an hour the householder pays by credit card online to the company. Coleman says the advantage for cleaners is that they can work the hours that suit them at locations within walking distance, and develop relationships with clients, rather than being sent by an agency to clean anonymous offices at 6am or midnight in another part of the city.
One client of hassle.com, who didn’t want to be named for fear of being seen as extravagant, says: “I book and pay online. I can trust the cleaner. I say exactly what I want done, and it’s so easy.”
Marbella, from hassle.com, spent three hours in my own house and explained why she likes working for the company: “I feel safer knowing that the house I am going to has been vetted.”
She disagrees with the argument that cleaning someone else’s house is degrading. “People are working hard, long hours, and they don’t have time to clean,” she says.
A lot of Irish people are so ashamed of their messy houses that, unlike most British, they clean them before the cleaner arrives, says hassle.com founder Coleman. Indeed, that was my temptation before Marbella arrived, but she put me at ease when I explained that I didn’t expect her to do the whole house, just to focus on a few areas. This is actually what most people want.
Marbella was tactful and she could immediately see that she wasn’t going to make much headway in a largish house within two or three hours, which I had anticipated. So I gave her three major jobs: a deep clean of the family bathroom, a scrubbing of the hall stairs and landing and a serious go at the kitchen floor and cabinets. She worked hard, and at the end there were three places in my house that I no longer had to pass by with shame.
“We don’t do a standardised clean,” says Coleman. “It’s a more personal and an intimate transaction.”
The top tip for getting the most out of paying for a cleaner, according to Coleman, is to know exactly what you want them to do and not to think they should clean everywhere. For example, “a lot of people will say don’t touch the childrens’ bedrooms”, Coleman says.
At the wealthier end of the market, there has been a “dramatic increase” in demand for full-house spring-cleans in areas such as Foxrock and Dalkey, says Dermot McGuckin (48), co-owner with his wife, Maud, of Maud’s Home Services, which also has a charity, the Bellarose Foundation, that cleans homes for women cancer patients.
Charging €15 an hour, with €10 going to the cleaner, and €45 an hour for a team, Maud’s will sometimes embark on spring-cleans that last a week.
Extensive house-cleaning before viewings are another trend in a buyers’ market, says McGuckin.
“I have noticed that carers of older parents, in particular, feel guilty for hiring someone in to do what they see as ‘their job’,” says McGuckin. “But most of our clients see that their time is very valuable and they don’t want to spend their free time doing housework.”
Coleman agrees, saying that “it’s a discretionary purchase, but it’s not a luxury”.
Paying for help can make the overall house-cleaning task seem less overwhelming. It may inspire you to spring-clean other parts of your abode bit by bit. It may even save your sanity.