Have you ever had a cleaner or house-keeper tidy and clean up either your own home or your work premises? If so, do you ever think about how often they might be “going the extra mile” for you?
For around about five years, a house-keeper came into clean various flats I lived in with flatmates. Because we were all working so many hours, it was great to have a house-keeper. We had some wonderful house-keepers.
Our first house-keeper was tiny, but she had the loudest laugh. She left house-keeping, which was a temporary job for her, to return to her work as a solicitor. The next house-keeper we had was juggling house-keeping with her work as a professional photographer. She worked at weddings, parties, and many other public events. She also had a great talent for portrait photography. Then we had a house-keeper who was from the same area as my parents now live, but had recently married and moved to London. Formerly, she worked as a personnel manager, but I believe she set up her own business once she felt settled in London. She was immaculate, boy did we know when she had been in! After her was a Spanish house-keeper, who was also a pilates and aerobics teacher. She had quite an amusing stretching routine before she started work. I know she went back to Spain with her husband, because she was terribly home-sick. Then we had another house-keeper for about a year.
Now this is a strange thing: I cannot for the life of me remember our next house-keeper. Ever since I received head injuries I have holes in my memory. It is an odd thing. I rejoice in how many memories I do have. It is one of the reasons why I feel writing is so good for me. I love what I can remember and feel rather excited when I can remember something in brilliant detail. But I find it strange when friends and family realize that there are some events and some people that I have no recollection of at all. Especially those they say were a very important part of my life.
Anyway…my post today is about appreciation for all house-keepers do, that you might not realize they do. We always showed appreciation for our house-keepers, who we were aware were regularly going the extra mile and tackling things we did not expect them to. We regularly left thank you notes and a gift, or even a slice of cake we had made, to make sure they knew we had noticed and were very appreciative of their thoughtfulness.
I have at times worked as a cleaner/house-keeper. I KNOW, I truly know the unexpected horrors that a house-keeper might come across. As a house-keeper you face the decision as to whether to deal with something inconceivably gross or leave a note for the occupant to draw their attention to it! 99.9% of the time I would tackle it myself. There is only one situation I am not brave enough to deal with myself, and that is something like a dead mouse. I cannot do it!
I could tell you many many stories of both the hilarious and horrific of house-keeping for other people. I think I may have shared a few stories already:
But today I wanted to concentrate on house-keeping or cleaning a business premises like offices.
It is hard not to notice the difference in the various standards of tidiness of the employees that occupy desks. Some are absolutely immaculate and it is so easy to clean their desk. You look for little ways you can say thank you, like twirling their phone cord neatly, or turning all their pens the same way round in their pen holder.
Then at the other extreme are the desks that you are afraid to touch, because it look as if the stacks of paper and files might all go flying. I do love it when the owner of one of these desks leaves a note saying: “Dear House-Keeper, Please do not clean this desk”. It makes me laugh, because that is the type of desk it is impossible to clean anyway. But thanks for the note!
Now I was chained to a desk for over eight years when I worked in finance. We were not allowed to leave our desks in that state at the end of a work day. Nor were we allowed to leave confidential information on display. But many businesses I have worked for seem to have a fairly lax attitude to tidiness and confidential information being on view to someone like the cleaner. We were not allowed to leave dirty cups and plates. Our personal belongings, like photos and little bits and bobs that we might have on our desk to cheer us up, were to be kept tidy and they were our responsibility to maintain. But I have worked for some companies, where I spent the first hour collecting cups and glasses from desks and washing them, before I can do anything else!
There are some things that I have seen and been in a dilemma over whether to clean or not. There was one desk that I always dreaded. When I first started working there, I decided to throw away all the mouldy fruit in a bowl on the person’s desk. But I noticed the fruit was replaced and then over the next few weeks it gradually mouldered away again. It kept on happening, so in the end I decided if this person wanted to buy ornamental fruit and watch it turning blue and fuzzy I was not going to participate in this farce anymore! There…I could not bring myself to remind you of what mouldy fruit looks like, you might be eating breakfast. So here is fresh fruit instead.
I was told that the inside of the staff fridge was not my responsibility. Indeed there was a sign on the door reminding staff to sort out any items that belonged to them each Friday. One day I opened the fridge because there seemed to be some juice leaking…I removed the juice, and then as I looked up, I saw a container with some food that seemed to have been long since abandoned, and had now become a curious scientific experiment.
Then came flowers. Once they had well and truly faded, they would stay in the vase for weeks. My supervisor told me not to touch them, because apparently one house-keeper had chipped a vase when trying to be helpful, and the desk-occupant had been furious. So I did not touch them, but I was baffled at these shrivelled up flowers sitting in putrid water for weeks.
Then there were bins. I had forty-eight small bins to empty (under desks) and the kitchen general waste bin and the recycling bin. The staff didn’t wash out their food containers before throwing them into the recycling bin, so the inside of the bin was splattered with soup and sauce.
But it was the bins under desks that took ages to empty. There were three of those bins that I used to dread. They were always overflowing with things that should have been put in the recycling bin in each office. Only I couldn’t put the papers in the recycling bins now that the desk-occupant had thrown coke, ketchup, and crumbs all over the papers. Not only were those three bins always over-flowing, there were also items of rubbish all over the floor under the desk. So it took longer to empty the bins because I had to crawl under those desks and retrieve all their crisp packets, banana peels and nail clippings.
Yes nail clippings! Because that seems like the most sensible place to clip your nails, in the office in front of your colleagues. Nail clippings are not the worst of what I have discovered under desks.
Well, there is a definite limit to the horrors I am willing to share with you. I don’t want to make you all feel ill! But if you have a house-keeper or cleaner who cleans either your home or your workplace, bear in mind that they may be often going above and beyond the call of duty and tackling horrors you may not realize were there.
So…for all those “extra miles” your house-keeper may be going, a thank-you note or a little token of appreciation will keep your house-keeper sweet and happy to keep tackling the unexpected frights they might come across.