Confessions of a house cleaner tragic

the house-cleaner tragic

A house cleaner tragic through and through, I’ve enjoyed cleaning my own house all my adult life. I find it meditative, creative and satisfying. But, at 80+ I finally decided to take the plunge and employ a cleaning firm that specialises in working in apartments.

While apartment living may not suit everyone our age, it works a treat for us. We plan to age in place here where we feel we belong.

There’s a list of some of my blogs about the joy of this lifestyle at the bottom of the page, if you’d like to find out some of the benefits. So far, we haven’t found a single downside. We right-sized and decluttered when we moved, so I’ve also added an article about that.

The benefits include the size and ease of cleaning a smaller space with fewer possessions.

The decision to employ someone now to do the heavy lifting took a while to make. But arthritis and an attack of bursitis last year, and its legacy of pain, pushed me to try, one more time to engage with a house-cleaner.

My history as a house cleaner tragic

My mother taught my sister Elizabeth and me to clean a house. She really took the task of educating her daughters very seriously. I wonder why our brother Peter was exempt?

My education continued while I trained to nurse the sick in the 1950s. In those days, everyone knew nurses were ‘good women’. And even if there was no need, we learned to clean!

Hospitals employed no such luxury as cleaners. We swept and dusted. Scrubbed and polished. Dusted high and low. Served the meals, and cooked some. Washed and rolled often bloody bandages. Oh! And made time to nurse the sick!

Cleaning my own house became second nature. No wonder that over the years, my attempts to employ someone to clean my house have failed spectacularly.


As a mere slip of a girl in my 50s, I gossiped one day with other women in the lunchroom at work.

Why would anyone our age spend hours cleaning, when they could get someone else to do it while they’re at work?’ one woman asked.

I wanted to be like my colleagues, professional woman. The cleaner who came seemed pleasant. She listened to what I wanted done. But after a few weeks when my daughters came to lunch, I saw them looking at each other.

Mum,’ one of them asked, ‘we’ve been wondering if you need your glasses checked. You don’t clean as well as you used to. You seem to have missed these splotches of what looks like pumpkin soup on the window-sill and curtains.’

Mortified, I went back to cleaning on Thursday mornings before work and bringing home a bunch of flowers that afternoon. I loved my little house and my reward.


When John and I married, I moved into his far too big house. His cleaner continued to arrive each week, sniffling into a tissue, with her cold-blue feet in thongs. I grew increasingly despondent. There were cobwebs behind the doors. The slate in the kitchen continued dull and dirty. When I asked the woman to do things my way responded angrily

John employed me,‘ she said. ‘Not you. I don’t need to take orders from you.’

A succession of people followed her. Students. Refugees. The newly unemployed or separated. They left as soon as they got permanent work or they decided cleaning not to their taste.

Back I went to cleaning a house far too big for two people. It might even have been the largest house I’d ever cleaned and it gave me no joy.


My luck seemed to change when we moved here. By that time, the washing machine and dryer had become too heavy for eighty+ year-old people to move. Air conditioning filters needed cleaning. Someone told me about her handyman, Carlo. Not a house cleaner, he became my go-to-man.

He whipped through the too-heavy chores in no time. Cheerful man, I loved him. But, when I called him a couple of weeks ago, he told me he’d taken permanent work and could no longer do my bidding.

House cleaner tragic no more?

Last week, I called a house-cleaning firm I found in a Google list. Crossed my fingers. Hoped this would work.

Two energetic young men appeared ten minutes before the appointed time. They brought with them lightly-scented cleaning products, a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner and a ladder.

They listened to my requests and got to work. Within a hour, the place sparkled and they were on their way. I’m delighted. Hopefully they’ll be happy to return in a month’s time.

I bought the celebratory bunch of flowers.

More blogs about my love of apartment living

Here are some of my blogs about living in an apartment as an older person or couple. Just click on the highlighted phrase to read.

Here’s an article about decluttering.

8 replies on “Confessions of a house cleaner tragic”

  1. Oh, I love this article, Maureen.

    I was just twenty three years old when I employed my first cleaner. I’d had three miscarriages and had just spent four months in hospital and I was still pregnant. There was no way I was going to lift a finger until my baby was born. My cleaner was brilliant and she stayed with us after Victoria was born, my husband nor I had the heart to tell her that she was no longer required. Three years later, we moved to a bigger house, it was too far for her to travel.

    When I was pregnant with number three we employed another cleaner – she was hopeless. I did without for a few years and then joked to my window cleaner that I could do with a cleaner. He turned up one day with a telephone number of someone. We employed her and she was wonderful, she stayed with us for twenty years but as it was such a big house we cleaned side by side taking turns to do each job by swapping week by week. She left due to ill health and her retired husband took over, he wasn’t nearly as good.

    Then I accidentally went back to work. I never intended to go back, but my volunteering at school turned into the offer of a job. Sadly, my cleaner decided he didn’t want to do the job alone. I remained friends with both and we meet up a couple of times a year.

    I never employed another cleaner.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story about cleaners, Sue. How sad it must have been for you to have had three miscarriages before Victoria was born. The grief of losing a baby is often overlooked when we talk about loss and grief, but I saw many heart-broken women and their partners when I worked as a gynaecological nurse and midwife. It must have taken great courage for you to persevere to a fourth pregnancy.

      I really never thought I’d need to think about a cleaner again, but my husband is no longer very robust, and some of the work is now to hard for me to do myself. Here’s hoping Michael continues to fill the bill.

      1. I hope he does too, it’s frustrating not being able to do as much as we once did. Fighting the urge to redo someone else’s efforts is also hard to do.

        1. Indeed it is frustrating not to be able to do things we didn’t think twice about a few years ago, Sue. But if Michael B keeps on being as good as he was on the first occasion, I’m going to be a very lucky woman!

  2. I love this & feel the same…cleaning is my exercise at the moment & I love the satisfaction when looking at sparkling results.But common sense tells me that there are jobs that are not safe to attempt. You are so wise.

    1. People who like to clean their own homes seem to be a special breed, Maureen. I understand the satisfaction you describe because I share it. I’ve asked the cleaner (Michael) to come once a month, because I enjoy keeping everything looking good and manage most things. His visits will be my fall-back position for the bits that are too heavy or awkward to move or climb up to.

  3. Yes, Maureen! Unlike you, I’ve never enjoyed house cleaning, just did it because it was expected of me and I couldn’t afford to pay for anyone to do it. And for a few years, as a single parent, I did it to survive. I’ve always had a hate relationship with vacuum cleaners and never found one I could get along with. Even a Dyson, purchased a few years ago, let me down. Now, I’m happy to say, I’ve found someone I trust to clean my small apartment once a month. She does a lovely job and now and then I ask her to do a little extra time and do some of the jobs I hate like window cleaning and oven cleaning. I love it!

    1. I’m so glad you’ve found someone to clean, and that you enjoy what she does, Christina. Perhaps this is one of the perks of being older, that it’s OK to let some of the chores go, and let others help. If my cleaner continues to do such a good job once a month, I’ll be delighted.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: