Choosing a Housekeeper
By Bonnie Maher, Owner
Dreams of Yesteryear Bed and Breakfast
Hiring and training housekeepers has been a big part of my life since my husband and I decided in 1990 to turn our historic home into a bed and breakfast
we call Dreams of Yesteryear. Guests visiting Dreams of Yesteryear take one look at the size of this house and the numerous antiques we use to furnish this six bedroom bed and
breakfast and immediately one question comes to mind, "how do you keep things so clean?" They don't mind coming right to the point and asking, "Who does the dusting?"
Let me say, since, no one person could possibly keep this three story, 4000 sq. ft. house clean and not have perpetual burn-out, the answer to the cleaning question is
not a difficult one. Hire university students. The housekeeping staff at the Dreams of Yesteryear Bed and Breakfast is made up of students attending the University of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point who are looking for part time work during the academic year with possible full-time work in the summer.
The job I post on the Student Involvement and Employment website is for a housekeeper who can work about 10 hours a week during the school year and 25-30 hours a week as a housekeeper/gardener during the summer. The applicants I get vary in their year in school, their skills and background. Very few have ever worked as a housekeeper, but are captivated by the romantic notion of working in a Victorian bed and breakfast. For some students who have left home to come to school, the bed and breakfast is like their home away from home. At any rate, the most you can hope for is that mothers and fathers have taught good cleaning habits to their sons or daughters. Typically, I look for someone who is a freshmen or sophomore student so that I might retain their services for a few years before they graduate. Training takes time and the longer you can keep a housekeeper; the less time you spend training. Without getting into all the details of training, let me say this about that. If you yourself are an organized person your housekeeping staff will pick up on that. Well organized utility closets and a handwritten list of duties can go a long way in making training easier. But that's another subject.
What Makes a Good Student Housekeeper?
Before you can even think about training, it's important to hire students who can work independently, are flexible both in their schedules and their skills, are willing to perform a variety of tasks, and possess a good personality--someone with whom you will enjoy working. And very importantly, if you live in a house with tall ceiling and lots of stairs, good physical health is essential. A good interview can tell you a lot. Pay attention to punctuality, appearance, manner of introduction, the kinds of questions they ask, their body language as you show them your house and as you explain the job duties and responsibilities. Since there are many students out there looking for jobs, it's in your best interest to hire the best possible candidate. The owner of a bed and breakfast, or any home for that matter, and the cleaning staff truly are partners in achieving one goal-- keeping up the standards of your bed and breakfast/home. Once job training has been done and I feel I can trust my help, I rely heavily on my helper(s) to work independently to clean guest rooms and clean house on both a regular and irregular basis.
Pitch in to Avoid Burnout
Having a housekeeper, however, does not exempt you from doing any housekeeping chores. You cannot expect your help to know what to do with items that you leave lying around on your coffee table for example. So, you need to prepare your house for cleaning by picking up personal items and clearing the path for cleaning. Also there are times you may wish to work with your housekeeper. I choose to work with my helpers when we do what is called "deep cleaning." That's when room by room all the pictures and knick knacks come down from the walls and shelves. No cabinet, no closet, no woodwork, no corner is left untouched. You know, it's like spring cleaning at the Hearst Castle. What a great feeling of accomplishment when this is done. This is when you really get to know your help. Sharing in "spring cleaning" chores is a good time to share stories about yourself and more importantly, an opportunity to get to know this person you've hired. I enjoy this time because this is when I and my helper(s) really become friends and the cleaning becomes fun. My cleaning helpers are my partners. The cleaning burden is shared. The cleaning task is no longer overwhelming.
How wonderful it is to come home to a clean looking, clean smelling house. And, there is no better feeling than the comfort of knowing someone cares for your house the way you do. Having a housekeeper that you've trained to take care of cleaning your house in the way you want it to be done is indeed a luxury.
God Blesses Those Who Clean Up
So, if you're reading this article because the cleanliness of my bed and breakfast has inspired you to find a housekeeper, or if you are reading this because you are interested in applying for a housekeeping position, I hope you'll enjoy the camaraderie that comes with something as simple as cleaning. To quote something I read on a kitchen trivet at my friend's house, "God bless those who clean up." And, I believe it's true, there's a special place in Heaven for those who "clean up." Best to you with your housekeeping experience.