You've finally decided to invest in professional home help. Good for you! Nobody can do everything, and admitting you need Help at home is an important step toward living your best life.
Still, having someone in your personal space can be tricky. I've seen otherwise sensible women lose all sense of decorum when dealing with domestic Help. They tend to fall into one of two camps: Guilt-stricken and over-solicitous or Benito Mussolini! The best path is usually somewhere in between. Of course, you don't want to come across like a fierce dictator/entitled diva, but you shouldn't be making sandwiches and endless cups of tea for your Help, either.
So, where to start? Online searches and domestic agencies are a great place to start, but I like to look closer to home. If you have a friend or (even better) a neighbor, who has regular home help, that’s often the best place to start. Make sure you ask your friend or neighbor to make the introduction. There's nothing more bad-mannered than pinching someone else's staff.
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BUT WAIT! Before you can look and hopefully find the perfect person to help you at home, you need to understand these
5 UNIVERSAL TRUTHS ABOUT HOME HELP:
YOUR HOUSEKEEPER IS NOT YOUR “FRIEND”
It makes me feel nervous when I hear people say, “Lara is just like family!” Well, that’s nice, but unless you pay your sister-in-law to come over every Tuesday to vacuum, she really isn’t. Being on friendly terms is essential, but being Best Friends is not. Your Helper is a skilled professional doing an essential job in exchange for fair compensation and should be treated as such.
She's not your best friend, a member of the family, or your therapist. And I hope it goes without saying that your Housekeeper is not your servant! Give her the respect and dignity the role demands. Look, I get it: It’s terribly tempting to confide in someone working in your home, but you should not offer (and they should not give) super intimate details about family life unless it directly impacts their employment with you. Keep it friendly but professional.
YOUR HOUSEKEEPER ISN’T MAGIC.
If you think your Helper can walk in, snap her fingers Mary-Poppins style, and walk out 3 hours later with your entire home in order, think again. I'm not saying you should "clean before your cleaner" arrives, but if you want to get your money's worth, don't leave plates of dried-out eggs under your bed. Or anywhere. Having a realistic plan saves her time (and saves you money).
If you don't have time to go through and file away your papers before she gets there, at least grab a big tray and pile them all in one place, so she can get in there and dust them without worrying about losing anything important.
YOUR HOUSEKEEPER ISN’T PSYCHIC, EITHER.
Just like your Hairdresser, your Housekeeper is not a mind reader. You may think it's perfectly obvious how you like your bed made or your clothes washed, but believe me when I tell you, it is not. I've had many a cashmere sweater shrunk to doll size that way. Take the time to establish A REALISTIC CLEANING SCHEDULE with clear instructions for exactly what, when, and how you’d like things done, Do it in order from most to least important in case she can’t get to everything on your list. It may seem "bossy," but assuming your Helper will figure it out as she goes along is setting her up to disappoint you.
DISORGANIZED HOUSES ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO CLEAN.
You’re not ready for professional home help until you have established practical places for most things. If you still need to do this (or need Help doing it), you want to hire a professional ORGANIZER, which is very different. Otherwise, your Helper will spend half her time looking for the ironing board or where to put your shoes. ESTABLISH A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. For example, if you "store" your dirty laundry in the corner of your bedroom, that's not a home. Get a laundry hamper! Likewise, shoving everything in a hall closet or spare room doesn’t count. That’s a literal waste of space. No cleaner will go in there, and you are robbing yourself of valuable floor space that could be put to better use.
GOOD HOMEKEEPING IS A PARTNERSHIP
This is the most important takeaway. You can only expect your Housekeeper to do some of the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) when it comes to maintaining a tidy home. But you have to do your bit, too.
Once you get into the habit of creating designated spaces for your things and putting them back once you've finished with them, maintaining your home with (or without), Help will be a snap!