What happens when people who have regular help with cleaning their houses are left to their own devices for three months due to a pandemic? Do they keep up with the chores while parents are working remotely and kids are learning digitally? Or do they let things slide?
Three local housekeeping professionals were interviewed to see what they found and how the transition back to employment has been for them. Like all people working in close contact jobs and those working in other people’s homes, house cleaners have new rules around health and safety that they have to follow to protect themselves, their families and their clients including masks, gloves and social distancing.
Tanya Worden, Waitsfield, runs Mad Services. She has a regular mix of clients for whom she cleans weekly or bimonthly. Additionally, she cleans during turnovers of short-term rentals as well as cleaning for second-home owners.
She said she hasn’t been able to get back into a lot of homes yet because people are still uncertain about having outsiders in their homes.
“But the homes we’ve gone into – you can see that they need us! People miss things and with the pollen right now, it’s tricky,” Worden said.
“People are pretty good about kitchen counters and some floors, but they tend to neglect the dusting and places like the corners and under the bed where hair and dirt collect,” she said.
Worden said that the rental business is still off but said that she’d picked up some clients because those people’s regular cleaners were choosing not to work either for their own health issues or for family members’.
“I’m making my way through it, keeping my head above water. We’ve got a solid reputation and once activity comes back to The Valley we’ll be okay,” she said.
Juliet Walker, Waitsfield, runs Mad River Cleaning and Home Management. When she returned to work she found that things like dusting had fallen by the wayside.
“People will wipe down the kitchen and do the basic things, but dusting is the thing that they miss,” she said.
Walker has been cleaning for over 15 years. Pre-COVID she was working seven days a week with a small staff. Now able to return to work, she’s waiting to bring her staff back until things are more stable.
Like Worden, her clients include a mix of regular local folks, second-home owners and short-term rental turnovers.
VACANT SINCE MARCH
Empty second homes that have been vacant since March are dusty and in need of fresh air while lived-in primary residences have been full of people working and learning from home.
“People have their families and their kids in the house. There are a lot more people around. It’s hard for anyone to clean around a lot of people. You’re always trying to work around them,” Walker said.
For the Airbnb turnarounds, she had to tell hosts that she’s not going to do same-day turnarounds.
“I’ll do a four-day turnaround for an Airbnb. I’ve had to tell them they can’t book back-to-back. I’m not going to go in on the same day someone has just left. I’m trying to keep all my clients secure and comfortable that I’m being responsible,” she said.
Like many who clean houses, Walker has a system. She starts in the kitchen and makes her way outward. That system and keeping her rhythm is important to getting the job done right.
“Because things have been so hit or miss, it’s been difficult to keep a rhythm. It’s easy to lose track of days and sometimes I feel terribly anxious that I’m missing something,” she said.
Bonnie Cook, Warren, runs The Madmen. Cook, who is 86, does not do the cleaning herself.
“I do the talking on the phone and the billing and my family does the grunt work,” she said.
TOP TO BOTTOM
Cook said her crew was starting to return to the homes of their regular clients with masks and gloves per state requirements. Like Worden and Walker, her company has a mix of regular local clients, second-home owners and Airbnb and other short-term rental hosts.
“We’ve been asking people to give us a window of two to three days so we can go in when there is no one there. We do a lot of those and they’re starting to pick up now,” she said.
What her people are finding when they go into homes where entire families have been inhabiting 24/7 is a need to do a top to bottom cleaning to get the house back up to snuff so regular cleaning can continue.
“Some people have just been living in the middle of it. Most have kept things up pretty well, knowing that they have to do it,” she said.