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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Make a Fresh Start in Your Home with a Maid Service Cleaning Before Starting Daily Routines

I discovered The FlyLady's website & program in 2007. I loved her concepts of routines immediately. I implemented them, albeit imperfectly & slowly, one at a time. I tried to stick to her general schedule of other things to do- a Weekly Home Blessing Hour on Mondays, running errands on Thursdays, cleaning out my purse on Fridays, etc. I had to repeatedly adapt my control journal from her plan to my own control journal in order to fit my lifestyle, but basically I did what she said. However, I wasn't seeing much improvement in my house. It still looked...uninviting. It wasn't the decor, really. It was neater than ever. Papers were getting filed all the time. I'd de-cluttered like a person on amphetamines, so my house really wasn't that cluttered anymore, except for the perpetual paper file that consisted of my mother's "important documents" (I use that term with extreme looseness & sarcasm, by the way). Then I figured it out. The place wasn't really getting all that clean each week by my efforts alone.

Sometimes a house is so in need of long-overdue cleaning TLC that you'd rather move than deal with the thought of a good old scrub from top-to-bottom. People are busier & busier all of the time, it seems. Even when you have a moment's peace, do you really want to spend it scrubbing baseboards? I don't. If the area behind your toilet could qualify as one of The Scariest Locations on Earth, maybe it's time to think about getting in a maid service in for at least a one-time cleaning. You know, as a startup thing before you can finally take on FlyLady's Routines & soar with them. The routines she lays out generally work really well, once you start with a house that's clean & de-cluttered to begin with. I'm not a hoarder & never have been. But if you've ever watched one of those shows on hoarders, and where the ending was a success story, what you hear over & over again is the following- "Once the house was de-cluttered & cleaned top-to-bottom, I found it really easy to maintain ever since." It's so true! Those morning, afternoon/after work, after dinner & before bed routines FlyLady talks about really go smoothly & pleasantly when the house has gotten sorted out, purged of clutter, things have gotten a permanent & easy-to-reach home, plus the place has been cleaned but good from the ceiling down to the floor. Really, it's so motivating that I can almost promise you'll never have to dig out the big guns in cleaning products ever again. I haven't had to actually scrub down a bathroom in full for over a year now- five minutes of daily work in each bathroom has kept them so clean that I never need to. I'd only be cleaning what's already spotless! When people talking about "breezing through their routines", they're living in a house like what I just described. I know, because I'm living it.

I injured my right knee really badly a few years ago. So getting down on all fours & scrubbing floors, cleaning baseboards by hand & all those other things so easy to do as a teenage cleaner were now out for me physically. Around the same time as I was recovering from my knee injury, I started noticing how dingy my house was looking. I worked like a slave to keep it going smoothly, but the home just felt like a dungeon. We'd lived there a little over seven years. I did my best, but we had two messy cats (they were litter box-trained & all that, but they dragged food from their plate onto the carpet, had a few hairball-vomiting sessions periodically- you know, typical cat stuff); crappy apartment carpeting- very light beige, non-Stainmaster, cheap as dirt to install but high in rent to pay for & that lovely unwashable WHITE flat apartment paint that was bought/used in bulk (once again, the cheap stuff  that we as tenants pay top-dollar for in the D.C. area). Anyway, it was also just kind of icky from seven years of life being lived in the home. I'd always cleaned every week to a reasonable extent, but it was all just in need of more work at one time than I, a disabled person with a full-time job, could deal with. I didn't want to spend the money on a maid service, so if you feel like I'm a whining yuppie right now, I'm not. I definitely have a cheap streak. I didn't want to call & say I needed a cleaning service. Me- known to all as a meticulous housekeeper since I was thirteen years old, needing a housekeeping service. What kind of Southerner or a woman of German heritage am I, needing a maid service of all things?! I felt stupid owning up to needing this. I owned a decent vacuum cleaner, as well as every other cleaning implement known to mankind- however, after forty hours a week at the office, five to ten hours a week commuting to & from work, fibromyalgia making my back ache 24/7, my bum knee & being forced into cooking every night after work, I didn't want to spend even two hours on Saturday scrubbing fiendishly anymore. And fifteen minutes a day doesn't cut through seven years of built-up anything easily. Yes, it can be done- but I didn't really want to physically spend the time or the effort on every single dirty surface until each inch got clean again, not with every single second being so precious to me. I wasn't in a wheelchair, true- but I wasn't Superwoman, either. It was enough to keep up with cleaning off new dirt- I didn't have the energy or time to conquer the old!

So I swallowed my thoughts of wasted money, wounded pride & potential embarrassment, then looked into having the service done. I found the best company in my area & made the appointment. It went seamlessly. I coughed up the dough- $100.00 for the first cleaning, because I agreed to an every-other-week cleaning after the first pass through my home (not a bad deal at all). Four young, strong women trained to clean houses quickly but thoroughly & precisely would be coming into my house to clean for an hour. No matter how efficient I tried to me, I could not replicate myself times four (I wish! Think of what I could get done!), I wasn't young, hyper-energetic or trained formally in cleaning & I wasn't getting paid to clean my house- and therefore, I lacked a little motivation in that department. :) It was SOOOOOOOO worth every penny to have these ladies come in. I came home from work the day after they first cleaned & it was like having a brand-new home again. If I could have gotten on my knees, I would've kissed the ground & prayed down there in thanks while I was at it. The hard floors sparkled like diamonds. The beds were made crisply, as if I was the Queen of England (let's just say that I personally don't make beds military-style, putting it nicely). The place smelled so good- not chemical-laden, just crisp & fresh. It was like a fairy-tale. (Gosh, that's a sad comment on the state of my life. Wow.) Anyway, it was worth every penny & then some. No, they couldn't give me fresh paint or carpet, but it was as clean as that place was ever going to get, and I was proud of it for the first time in so long. I kept up the service until my knee sort of healed & I felt back in control of the home. I learned a powerful lesson, too- sometimes it is okay, even necessary, to call on outside help. Especially when you need a jump-start as you're trying to adjust to a new way of existing. It's the same as calling in a professional organizer, a life coach or a window-washing service. Once it's done, you can see clearly again. Maintenance becomes the new method, not elbow grease & scrubbing away for dear life. You don't do a chore only to feel depressed that whatever you just cleaned still looks so imperfect & ugly. Considering that the cost of cleaning supplies for a whole house & a vacuum will cost you more than $100, maid service for at least that first time is not a bad investment. Do your research- look for reviews online, see how long the company's been in business, ask for references, make sure that their maids are bonded & insured. Find a company that uses a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner & cleaners with as few chemicals as possible- in this day & age, there is no excuse to have a home stink to high heaven with poisonous cleaners. I've never had anything expensive stolen from a maid service once, but I did have postage stamps stolen once, which I'd left out on my desk (lifted by someone from a different company than the one I last used, I hasten to add). Do yourself a favor & put away as much stuff as you can away before maids arrive in your drawers, cabinets & other closed spaces. If you have a jewelry box, put your stuff away in there. Whatever is on your table- bills, insurance paperwork, tax papers- put them away in a desk drawer or file cabinet. I doubt any bonded & insured maid would ever steal your identity (the people are all background-checked now, as well), but why take the chance?

Set out the sheets for the maids that you want them to put on the bed(s) that day- they will gladly strip the old sheets off, but you don't want them to not be able to make your bed because fresh sheets weren't out for them to use. They will typically just take the old sheets & put them in your washing machine- this is to be expected. They don't do laundry, but they do usually wash any dirty dishes that are left out. I don't leave unwashed dishes out for them, though- I'd prefer they spend their valuable time at my house cleaning the kitchen surfaces themselves, not my dishes which could be washed by my dishwasher or by hand.

These days you can either set up payment by credit card in advance over the phone with the company (they won't charge your card until after the service is performed, though) or you can leave a check out for the maids on an easy-to-see spot, like the middle of the dining table. This is another reason why I suggest you pick up anything off of your tables- if you've left anything you want them to see, they'll be easily able to do that. Special instructions should be given in advance to the person that you speak to when you set up the appointment- don't leave a written note to the maids. For one thing, they may not see it before they start cleaning. For another, the company boss needs to be aware of these instructions to make sure they're given to the maids beforehand AND so that they can follow up with their staff if for some reason the instructions weren't obeyed. If you have a pet, either put them in a space where they will not get out & disturb the maids as they're working, bite or scratch them & so the pets themselves don't get exposed to any cleaning chemicals used. Also alert the company if you do have a pet- it's usually not much of an issue, but they will make sure to send maids that don't have an allergy to cats if you have one (for example). You can always put a sign up on the door alerting the maids that a pet is behind it & not to open the door, if need be.

The maids should thoroughly dust every surface- the windowsills, pedestal of your dining table, lamps, etc. Check around after your service & make sure that they did the job you paid them for. They typically do not clean windows, as that is a separate service & requires different tools than what a housecleaning service utilizes. If there's a small picture window in an area of your house, though, they'll usually clean the inside of that with glass cleaner. If you have items in your home made of expensive and/or unusual materials (unsealed tile flooring, marble countertops, etc.), you may want to advise the maid service in advance & ask what there cleaning techniques will be for such issues. If they don't know or can't find out, then get another company to do the job- don't risk anything in your home getting ruined by cleaners who aren't trained to clean the many different surfaces that are in modern homes. High-end homes built today often require different cleaning techniques than a home built in the early 1990's or before- and much older homes (typically circa 1900 or earlier) also have special needs. This is because of the building materials used. Modern homes tend to have more expensive & sensitive bathroom & kitchen materials. Older homes tend to have more woodwork, carving & built-in shelving. Obviously, 1970's paneled walls require different cleaning from painted drywall, and some walls painted with cheaper flat paints can't be spot-cleaned at all. If there are any such areas of concern, again, discuss them. No company representative should ever be rude or act like your asking too many questions when you're seeking out this service, so long as you are polite & professional.

Maid service isn't a replacement for initial big-time de-cluttering projects or finding a home for your items. I highly suggest you do that stuff first, or at least make a good bit of headway into that aspect of things before getting the big cleanup done. If you're living in serious clutter, maids cannot come in & clean properly anyway. Some people resolve this by dumping clutter in closets & shutting those doors- I don't recommend doing that, but maybe maid service can give you the motivation to finally get those closets in order. It's up to you. Organizing first may seem less "fun". But once that work is done, maid service can be a wonderful reward to all your time spent on getting organized.

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,

Liz

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