What your cleaner REALLY thinks of you: Tell your children to clear up their filth. Stop leaving your bank statements around. And put sex toys away! One infuriated worker comes clean
- Julie Cousins, 64, went viral with her resignation letter earlier this month
- An anonymous cleaner who runs a business in Cornwall, shared their experience
- They claim one client left a dirty coffee cup in the kitchen until it went mouldy
Bravo, Julie Cousins! Earlier this month the 64-year-old cleaner went viral with a resignation note calling out the ‘aggressive and cruel’ dressing down she’d apparently received at the hands of her boss, a manager at a branch of HSBC.
‘Please all of you remember, in a world when you can be anything, be kind, because you are all no better than the cleaner,’ she wrote, leaving little doubt she’d encountered staff who certainly thought they were.
I can empathise. For the past five years I’ve run a local cleaning business with a team of 13 young women, scouring the houses and holiday homes of Cornwall, and — wow — do some of my clients look down their noses at us.
Many regard us as invisible and expect us to do things they wouldn’t do themselves. It’s why we so often deal with truly disgusting messes, or come across secrets left out in the open — financial as well as sexual.
Julie Cousins, 64, (pictured) went viral with her resignation letter earlier this month. An anonymous cleaner who runs a business in Cornwall, shared their experience
And yet the snooty client is apt to forget we’re the ones with the ultimate means of revenge — the cleaners’ blacklist.
I started the business after my partner lost his job. The first day I earned £50 and I was made up. Then I cleared £100 in a day and I thought: ‘This could be a business.’ Now, five years on, we can turn over up to £3,000 a week in a busy period.
Many of us are mums of young children, working flexible hours, which suits us perfectly. But we’re well aware that some think of us as maids or servants, barely worthy of respect.
Our clients are often high-earning and very busy, and they seem to think that makes them superior to us.
You can tell they assume that we are uneducated and that cleaning must be the only job we can do.
One of our long-term clients is a high-flyer, very well turned out and stylish, often to be seen with her smart friends at good restaurants and involved in various community activities. But her home is an absolute tip, and not just untidy — dirty, too.
By the time we have worked our way through the house, she and her family have already started trashing it again behind us.
We try to ignore it, keep our heads down, stay focused and just clean. But one day we thought we’d try a little experiment and left a dirty coffee cup on the kitchen side, to see if it would be noticed and washed up.
The anonymous cleaner said a client left a dirty coffee cup on the kitchen side for seven weeks, until it grew mould (file image)
After seven weeks, it was still there, disgusting and growing mould. Eventually we had to give in and put it in the dishwasher.
Cleaning for families with teenage children can be horrendous. Mouldy plates left under beds, thongs with used sanitary towels and even bits of dead animals on the floor, brought in by the dog. (It’s usually rabbit intestines — one family’s house is surrounded by fields.)
We ask some clients to pay us extra money to clean their children’s rooms as they are so bad. One client’s kids had a food fight across the brand new carpets, totally ruining them, and the dad asked us to clean up the mess.
It might be convenient that we’re there, but I don’t think getting us to clean up for them does these children any favours in the long run — they’ll just end up being slobs.
And while I understand that some women are ‘high-achieving’ and too busy with their jobs to clean and tidy for their family, I am busy with my job and family, too — and I manage it. I think it’s pure laziness on their part.
Single-person households can be challenging, too. One client has a demanding job in London and she told us she is very active on dating apps. My team arrived one day and found the bathroom flooded, handprints on the steamy window and condoms in the shower tray. We still refer to it as ‘the Titanic’.
The anonymous cleaner said it’s common for them to stumble on something they perhaps shouldn’t see (file image)
I’m always amazed people think we’ll automatically keep their secrets. It’s quite common for us to stumble on something we perhaps shouldn’t see and then have to work out how to deal with it.
There was the vibrator left out in the middle of the bed, which created some mirth among the team. What was it? Where should we tidy it away? Who was going to touch it to remove it?
In the end we took a gamble and threw it out. So far, the owner hasn’t had the nerve to ask us where we put it.
People also leave highly confidential information for us to clean around. One of our older couples left out a bank statement the day we cleaned.
I’m afraid I couldn’t resist taking a look when I moved it to dust, and they have oodles of cash — almost £1 million in their current account — and they pay me a paltry £10 an hour. How galling. Another time I was cleaning for a regular, who’s also in my social circle, and we found a pregnancy test in her daughter’s room, lying in full view.
I knew it would be a disaster if it turned out she was pregnant and we had found out before her mum, but it was negative.
My least favourite clients are dog owners. If a couple owns one dog and it’s a family pet, they are usually quite careful with where it sits and what it does.
The cleaner admitted their least favourite clients are dog owners who allow them to leave fur, fleas, saliva and mud everywhere (file image)
With two dogs, however, the pets are often treated as if they’re their children. The owners allow them to sit on the sofa, sleep in the beds and leave fur, fleas, saliva and mud everywhere.
Sometimes it’s so bad, I tell clients they’re better off buying new sets of bed linen than spending money on trying to get items professionally cleaned.
The rudest people are often holiday let owners. Usually they’re not from the area and think we are, a) a bit thick; b) slack on the job; and, c) unendingly grateful for their work.
Our attitude is that it’s us who gets them the five-star reviews on sites such as Airbnb, so if they’re rude to us we drop them and suggest other cleaners ‘blacklist’ them, too.
One friend left a nightmare client last year, shouting: ‘You’ll never get a cleaner in this area again, I’ll see to it.’ Bang went his five-star reviews.
However, there is a surprising flip side to cleaning — if a house is too clean, there’s no job satisfaction and it’s actually not very rewarding for us.
We had one nice client who employed us twice a week for three hours at a time, but the house was immaculate. There was very little to do. In the end, I’d finish cleaning in ten minutes and spend the rest of the time on my phone organising my weekly food shop.
The cleaner said lonely older people mostly have a cleaner as it’s a chance to talk to someone (file image)
There can also be a social work side to being a cleaner. Lonely older people don’t care about the clean as much as the chance to talk to someone, and we often do other chores to help them out.
I’ve had to stop working for older ladies because I become too attached and end up doing the things their carers don’t.
One old chap I befriended I even visited in hospital. And when he passed away, his son gave me his favourite clock. I was a blubbering wreck.
I’m often asked about the worst type of profession that we clean for. This is well known in cleaners’ circles. There is only one answer: doctors. When we’re asked to clean for doctors, or even worse, clean up after a doctors’ party, we all shudder. When they party, doctors party.
I’ve seen venues trashed, walls decorated in projectile vomit and — thanks to one bizarre party game — wet talcum powder smeared across the furniture. I definitely consider charging extra if I have to clean for a doctor.
So is cleaning a difficult job? Well, it makes me laugh — and occasionally cry. And there’s always work.
So, Julie, if you’re looking for a job, we could use an extra pair of hands this summer. And we’re a lot nicer than HSBC!
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