Wednesday, May 05, 2004

clean sweep
I live with two men and we have a cleaner. She is supposed to clean (not tidy) the shared areas: kitchen, bathroom, hall and living room. She comes once a week. I have quite a lot of issues with this, mostly guilt at making someone clean up after me, but on balance when the three of us moved in together (and two were working full time, the animator was studying full time) it seemed the best way to avoid arguments.
When G, the cleaner, started I wrote out a list of the things we wanted done. I probably wasn't all that prescriptive, prefering to write, for instance, 'vacuum' rather than 'vacuum, ensuring that the edges of the carpet and the skirting boards are clean'. After writing the list I cleaned the flat doing the tasks I had outlined, I'm pretty thorough, it took me just under two hours - but I did have to do a fair amount of tidying as I went. G cleans a number of flats in Badger Mansions and seemed happy to add us to her clients, she also seemed happy with the list of tasks and my predicted time of two hours. We pay her for two hours. She cleans, the place is habitable.
Fast forward a few months...
The animator was home one day when G arrived, she looked a bit shocked to see him as we were usually out when she cleaned. G asked if it was okay if her boyfriend helped her. Sure, of course, no problem. Two people get the cleaning done in half the time, so we are now paying for two people to clean for one hour. We trusted G to instruct boyfriend on what needed to be done and left them to it. During this time I left my job - so now we have one full-time worker (housemate C), one part-time worker (TA) and me looking for work. Money is understandably tight and a cleaner is an extravagence, but housemate C is not at all domesticated and TA, although very thorough, doesn't clean as often as I would like - without a cleaner I fear that I would end up being the house skivvy or living in squalour. We decide that we still need G's services.
Fast forward to the present moment...
G's boyfriend isn't very well, G now brings a friend to help her. Friend vacuums while she cleans.
Now, if I'm honest the flat is often a bit messy - it is not G's job to tidy up, but if she comes at a time when we're not expecting her (like 7am yesterday morning) we (meaning I) don't always have time to make sure the draining board is clear of dishes and that the coffee table is clear of mags and mugs - this probably slows her down. So perhaps it should take two people more than an hour to clean and we should pay her more. This is not what is happening. G and helper are in and out of our flat in 30 minutes. Obviously, tasks are not getting done to the standard I would like and expect. Because of this I find that I am either cleaning again after G has been or getting uptight because things are not as clean as I want. Just to put this into perspective, G does do a cursory clean - our flat doesn't look obviously dirty - however, a closer look shows up areas are being missed: limescale is left to build up on the shower and taps, the edges of the carpet are grey where the vacuum never reaches, and so on. Equally, the boys are pretty annoyed at, in effect, paying G double what we agreed.
What to do?

A. Sack G and clean ourselves.
B. Sack G and employ a new cleaner, being much stricter from the start.
C. Talk to G, restating what we expect her to do.
D. Start paying G less on the understanding that she is only doing half the work.

We like G, she lives in Badger Mansions and she's a nice girl, also I fear that without her we'd soon be living in a verminous mess with each of us at the throats of the other two claiming that they never clean up - so that pretty much rules out options A and B. We talked about the G situation last night and decided that we'd begin with option C. I agreed to write out a new list of tasks on the understanding that I wouldn't be the one to talk to her - I feel guilty enough as it is.
This morning I wrote a new list, it is very prescriptive, it looks impossible to complete in under two hours. I showed the list to the animator, he thought I was insane: 'No one can do that much cleaning in under two hours!' he exclamed. Housemate C suggested I write about this in today's blog post. Am I mad, are my expectations too high? Here is the list:

Sink – clean thoroughly (including the overflow) with cream cleaner, ensuring that taps and plughole are free of limescale (use descalant if necessary), wipe down pedestal and pipes, clean the toothbrush holders.
Mirror – clean and polish.
Tiles – clean with cream cleaner or spray cleaner around the sink, under the sink and in the shower stall. Other tiles can just be wiped down.
Toilet – wipe down the pedestal, pipes, under the seat and the water tank, scrub bowl and under the rim with bleach or toilet cleaner (do not flush the cleaner/bleach), polish the seat and lid.
Shower – clean the tray and plughole with cream or spray cleaner, ensuring that they are free of limescale (use descalant if necessary). Clean the shower fittings (shower head, water pipe, dial, shelves etc) and the inside of the shower screen; unfortunately, descalant is always necessary on the metal fixtures and the screen. Wipe down the outside of the shower screen.
Floor – sweep or vacuum and wash. The floor is an odd shape and dirt accumulates in the corners. There is an old toothbrush under the sink in the kitchen that can be used to clean these if the vacuum attachments don’t reach.
Skirting board – clean off dust/dirt.
Door – wipe down with a damp cloth and/or furniture polish, including the top of the door.
Please empty the bin.

Doors, dado rail, shelves – dust and polish.
Skirting board – dust, clean off dirt (the vacuum attachments might help here).
Floor – vacuum, paying attention to the edges – use the vacuum attachments.

Surfaces – clean with cream cleaner or spray cleaner.
Hob – remove black trivets and clean the metal surface, clean around the knobs, wipe down the oven door and the wooden drawer underneath.
Sink – clean the sink, plughole, taps and drainer with cream cleaner, use descalant if necessary.
Tiles – clean with cream or spray cleaner around the sink and behind the oven and work surface. Other tiles can just be wiped down.
Cupboard doors – wipe down with a damp cloth, use spray cleaner if necessary.
Microwave – clean inside and out.
Appliances – (fridge, freezer, washing machine) wipe down with a damp cloth and spray cleaner.
Skirting board – clean off dust/dirt.
Floor – sweep or vacuum and wash. Dirt accumulates in the corners and under the units, there is an old toothbrush under the sink in the kitchen that can be used to clean these if the vacuum attachments don’t reach.
Please empty the bin and wipe it down.

Living room
Wooden surfaces – (shelves, tables, DVD holder, window sill etc) dust and polish, don’t forget the shelves behind the door.
TV – dust, pay particular attention to the screen (use window cleaner if necessary).
Computer desk – DO NOT TOUCH!
Door – wipe down with a damp cloth and/or furniture polish, including the top of the door.
Sofa and armchair – vacuum cushions and arm rests with the brush attachment.
Skirting board – dust, clean off dirt (the vacuum attachments might help here).
Floor – vacuum, including under/behind furniture and paying attention to the edges (use the vacuum attachments).

I'll admit the list looks pretty over the top. I included details of what cleaning products to use because said products last for a suspiciously long time - I wonder if G uses one damp cloth for all. I thought I'd better check the list of tasks for feasibility. I tried to stick to only tasks on the list (even if that meant redoing things that were done yesterday), but once I got going I saw things that hadn't been done since we moved in. I'll admit that some of what follows probably only needs to done once every few months (I wouldn't dream of suggesting that G do all of this every week) and also that things weren't as dirty as they would be normally because G was here yesterday, but this morning:

  • I washed the bathroom ceiling

  • I pulled out all the furniture and vacuumed behind it

  • I used the vacuum attachments to get the dust off the upholstery and skirting boards

  • I completely cleaned off all the limescale - shower screen, shower, sinks, taps, plugholes - and then polished the metal, glass and enamel surfaces

  • I cleaned all the kitchen work surfaces, the hob and the oven door as well as the kitchen appliances

  • I scrubbed the floors - including the carpet (using upholstery shampoo) - and paid proper attention to difficult-to-reach corners and underneath kitchen units

  • I cleaned all the doors, including the tops of the doors

  • I cleaned the bathroom extractor fan

  • I polished furniture and dusted all the black and beige plastic boxes: computer, TV, DVD, stereo etc

  • I washed down tiles (bathroom and kitchen) and cupboard doors

  • I took the shower fixtures off the wall and cleaned the accumulated soap and limescale off them as well as the limescale that had accumulated on the tiles behind them

  • I tidied up a bit as I went. We live in a small flat and I work quite fast. It took me just under two hours.

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