I will be the first to admit that what you are about to read — if you do, indeed, stick around long enough to read it — smacks of what the internet has deemed a "first world problem." Wikipedia — the invaluable, if not totally reliable online resource — defines "first world problem" as: "a trivial annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent or privileged circumstances especially as contrasted with problems of greater social significance facing people in poor and underdeveloped parts." Yep! That's what this particular blog post in going to be about. So, sit back in your upholstered imported leather recliner, grab a nine-dollar cup of Starbucks coffee, have Alexa turn down the volume on your 65" flat-screen TV and commiserate with me as I voice my dismay over securing someone to clean my house.
Mrs. Pincus and I moved into our suburban Philadelphia home on Labor Day weekend in 1986. Our house is a three-story twin
with — technically
— six bedrooms, although only three
of those rooms (one an always-at-the-ready guest room) are actually used
as bedrooms. But there are six
of 'em, just the same. The first floor boasts a large living room that leads into a large dining room and of course, a kitchen. After ten or so years, we hired a contractor to turn our dark dirt-wall basement into another, usable room. Taking way too long on the task, we now had another
room, as well as another
bathroom to add to the two
we already had.
Even if you know nothing about home construction or architecture, you probably figured that every room in our house has walls and floors — much like your own house. And if you are any kind of civilized human being, you know that these surfaces need to be cleaned on some sort of regular basis. (Except, of course, if you are my brother-in-law, to whom the word "clean" has about as much meaning as the word "potrzebie.")
When we first moved into our house, my wife and I took care of the cleaning process ourselves. Once a week (approximately), I would run a vacuum cleaner over everything in our house that would be considered a floor. My wife would dust and wipe and straighten and practice other cleaning actions that, to be honest, were well out of my realm. My mom wasn't the best housekeeper that ever lived, so I learned from what I saw. My wife, thankfully, schooled me on how to clean properly and I tried to live up to her expectations....but, I was never a good student, so I just did my best. Sometimes, I would catch Mrs. P re-cleaning something that I thought I had completed to satisfaction. I wasn't insulted. I understood that my standards weren't the actual Pincus household standards.
When I got better jobs and the Pincus income increased, Mrs. P decided it was time to pay someone to clean our house. I was only too happy to agree. While my wife is a decidedly better and more thorough cleaner that I am, she actually dislikes the activity more than I do. So, she set out to hire someone to clean, sending out "feelers" among friends, neighbors and relatives who have had experience. Perhaps, she could even get someone who worked for a friend or neighbor, thus vouching for their reliability and trustworthiness, as well as their cleaning ability. This really had very little to do with me — except I was all for anything that would end my weekend vacuuming duties.
I would assume that if you decide to go into the housecleaning business, you would have no problem cleaning houses. After all, "house" and "cleaning" are right in the name. Perhaps I am being too presumptuous, but what do I know. Well. over the 30+ years we have lived here, we have had many, many folks who we paid to clean our house. A lot of them left after one or two visits. I'm not sure of the reasons, though. It wasn't as though Mrs. P is demanding. No! As a matter of fact, she rarely, if ever, criticized or pointed out shortcomings in the finished product. She would wait until the cleaner was paid and had left before tackling key areas that she felt could have been cleaned better. When the cleaner would return, she would politely point out areas of our home that needed closer attention... then she'd still pay them whether or not they did a satisfactory job.
There were a number of people who cleaned our house that I never even met, as the activity occurred while I was at work. Every once in a while, they would come on one of my rare, weekday days off. I'd say "hello" and then leave the house, going anywhere, just so I didn't have to be home.
One of the longest-tenured cleaners we had was a young woman and her parents. This family were natives of Poland and mom and dad did not speak a word of English. The daughter would have to speak as an interpreter both ways — translating for my wife and then relaying messages from her parents. I met this crew a few times, as they worked for us for several years... until May 2020. That's when I lost my job due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. One of the first casualties of our loss of income and "tightening our belts," was the elimination of paid housecleaners. My wife broke the unfortunate news to the daughter via a phone call, delivering it thorough heartfelt sobs. She promised to call and "rehire" as soon as we were back on our financial feet, but, with such dark, unknown days ahead, there was no way to know when that would be.
It was a year. A full year.
During that time, I once again, found myself cleaning the floors of my house on a regular schedule — something I had not done since I was 25 years old. Somewhere along the line, nearly all of the carpeting in our house had been taken up, revealing beautiful, original hardwood floors. So, the task of making the floors clean required different equipment form the last time I did this — over three decades earlier. Because of the pandemic's uncertainty, I was not leaving the house. Mrs. P bravely placed herself in harm's way, take over shopping duties for us, as well as her elderly parents. On one of her shopping trips, I requested a complete Swiffer cleaning system
, including a telescoping handle and both wet and dry disposable cleaning pads and a Swiffer duster with a box of single-use disposable pads. Once a week in my sequestered state, I would turn off the TV, crank up the radio and "swiff" every walkable surface in my house. I had no problem doing this. I hoped I was making myself useful, as well as keeping my mind off my miserable employment situation. I was also helping Mrs. P as best I could. However, I would much rather have a job in my chosen profession and relinquish my floor cleaning assignment to someone more qualified.
In May 2021, with my unemployment insurance having run its course, I re-entered the working world when a nearby commercial printing company took a chance on a 60 year-old graphic designer. With regular paychecks once again coming in, it was time to get back to the good old days of someone besides a Pincus cleaning the Pincus house. True to her word, Mrs. P called our most recent housecleaners — the daughter-parents team. The coldness in the daughter's tone was palpable. She questioned the notion that nobody was cleaning our home for over a year. My wife explained that we were without substantial income. The daughter sounded very skeptical, telling that her other customers continued to pay her, despite not having the crew come and clean. Mrs. P said that we were in no position to do that, but were now ready to welcome them back... providing that she and her parents were fully (or at least partially) vaccinated for COVID-19. The daughter laughed. Audibly laughed! "No!," she proudly announced, "We are not vaccinated." It was as though she was asked if she had grown a tail.
Well, here we were in a position in which we had not been in a quite some time. Mrs. P asked around and, after some time, arranged for a woman to come and offer an estimate on cleaning our house. Simple enough, right? Well, on the morning of the appointed, she called to make it a different day, citing some person issue. The morning of the alternate
appointment, she called to make it a different
day, blaming a different
personal issue. This went on for several reschedulings until on the sixth
attempt, she actually showed up. When a price was agreed upon, getting her to come and actually do the cleaning part was similar to getting her to come over in the first place. First, she was sick. Then she was still sick. Then her mother was sick. Then, there were transportation issues. She was beginning to sound like Epstein from Welcome Back, Kotter
, offering excuses for his absences signed by "Epstein's mother." She finally came. She did an adequate job. Not stellar. Not great. Adequate. But, as long as Mrs. P and I were relieved of house cleaning obligations, everything was good. However, every subsequent
appointment was pre-empted by a run of "I can't be there today" messages on the morning of. All totaled, she came to our house three times. Mrs. P even purchased a specific style of mop and bucket at this woman's request. But, Mrs. P had had enough. We needed someone else.
On a friend's recommendation, we contracted a cleaning service. A real, live professional cleaning service with written contracts and post-cleaning walk-throughs — you know, like a real business. The woman with the excuses was told that her services were no longer required Finally! Our housecleaning worries were over. The new service was reliable, efficient, most of all, they did a good job.
Until, we got a call.
As of this week, the service was switching to commercial properties only. No more residential customers. They came for one more visit, cleaned... and that was it. Back to "Square One." Out of nowhere, like beacon from house cleaning heaven, my wife's cousin came through with her cleaner — a responsible, reliable woman who was only too happy to take on new business. With mop in hand, she is coming next week.
I'll let you know if it results in another blog post.