Do I Have Bad Cleaning People or Am I Just Too Picky?

Updated on September 28, 2011
W.R. asks from Blacksburg, VA
25 answers

Hi! I'm not used to having cleaning people. I have had people clean a few times in the past, so I have some idea, but I have signed up for regular cleanings. These women clean for lots of people in my neighborhood and are HIGHLY recommended. They do not seem to move ANYTHING - if I have some magazines on a table, or even some coins, they dust around them. Same for vacuuming - today I found a small toy of my daughter's in her floor exactly where she left it (I forgot to pick it up) so I know they vacuumed around it. There is a band aid pull off strip in the floor in the hall, so did they even vacuum there? The drain insert (that metal thing with holes in it that you push down to stop the drain) had some food in it, and they moved it to the other side of the sink, still with food in it. And I walked into the living room, where my daughter had been playing with the throw pillows before they came. They hadn't even set them back up - they were left just lying flat on the couch. These women were so highly recommended that I'm wondering if I'm expecting too much - how would you feel if this were your home?

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answers from Washington DC on

I think they are doing a poor job. I'd expect them to move a toy of pick up a pillow or something. They aren't there to tidy up, but they certainly should do the basics. Picking up a magazine to clean under it doesn't count as above and beyond. That's why I dont have cleaning people - if I go through the work to declutter, the cleaning takes no time at all!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I am actually self employed as a cleaning person.
Everything you mentioned that bothers you, I take care of. I do move things, straighten things, put toys away, stack magazines, empty food from the drain insert, empty trash cans, etc.
I do my best to make the home as nice as I can. And I have excellent references because of it.
I don't think you are asking too much-you are PAYING them to do what needs done. If a home is really messy (I clean for mostly elderly people, who do not have the health to do things themselves), I let them know that I cannot get to everything in one day, if I need to.
You could mention that you'd like things tidied, along with the vacuuming and dusting, so that they know what you would like.
I know sometimes the opinion is that it's ridiculous to pay someone to clean for you, but sometimes it is also the boost you need. If you don't life a finger, then I totally agree with that statement, as I do believe a wife should take care of her home. But I also believe that sometimes that extra hand is what helps a woman to catch up when she was falling behind, or gives her the extra boost to accomplish other things that she can't seem to find the time for.
It's a nice treat!

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answers from Portland on

I have heard this so much from people. My husband keeps telling me to hire a cleaning person. But its things like you are mentioning that prevents me from doing it. I am a control freak and even though I am so busy all the time and barely have time to get my house clean, I still want to do it myself.
I do not think you are being picky at all. You are probably paying them good money. They better shape up, or kick them out!

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Seattle on

You hired them to clean. I would assume that means vacuuming, mopping, bathroom...ect. I would not assume it to be picking up your stuff. If you are not happy with what they are doing then you need to sit down with them and specify what you would like them to do. They may raise their price though if they are stuck picking up after you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

The worst part about my house cleaner coming is the work I have to do to prepare. I make sure that the floor has no toys on it and that magazines are put away, etc. The less clutter around, the better job they do.

As for not putting pillows away - they should have.

Food in the trap in teh sink - a definite issue. That should have been cleaned up for sure.

IMO - the first time a person cleans our house should be the best job that they ever do cause they want to be asked back.

If you don't like them, there are plenty of people out there looking for cleaning spots. Try someone else.

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answers from Kansas City on

I would clean my own house. it is ridiculous to spend money to have someone else clean your house. do it yourself and you won't have these problems.

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answers from New York on

What I would do is choose specific tasks to have the cleaning service do for you like instead of just basic cleaning, do major cleaning in the bathrooms and kitchen only like washing walls and floors and so on. Minor household cleaning imo is easier done yourself.
No you're not expecting too much.
I don't have a cleaning service. I'd love to! But I am positive I'd be picky about the way things got done too...(even though my house isn't looking spotless believe me).

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answers from New York on

Yes, declutter. I would walk around and pick up the basics, but I would also expect them to move innocuous items. If your home is consistantly not tidy and you want them to pick up after you, they will usually do it for an extra fee.

we've gone through several maids/services to find one that worked. We're finally happy. What a joy to come home to a clean home! I used to feel the same way as another poster, that decluttering was most of the battle, but as a working mom, I don't feel that way anymore.
1) it forces a real decluttering (even my husband's stuff)
2) I'd rather spend my precious time with my daughter than scrubbing a toilet.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm just starting out cleaning houses and I take alot of pride in what I do...mainly b/c I love it so much & really it's a reflection on me...also because I LOVE to help people and having a really nice, clean house to come home to or to have before you go to bed at night is really one of the most wonderful things to have.

So any cleaning I do, I do it full force and all the way. If a client tells me that I didn't do something she expects, you better believe it's done the next time and will be taken care of from then on.

Yes, I move furniture, I completely clear a surface so that I can dust it in entirety, then I dust each piece of decor (picture frames, statues, etc.) individualy, I use the vacuum wand behind pieces of furniture I cannot move, I change sheets on beds, I do baseboards, and anything else the client may need me to do.

I will say, it is much easier and less time consuming to clean a house that is already picked up. That way, I don't spend much of the time straightening up the house and I am able to focus mainly on getting it clean. However, I really don't mind picking up a toy or a pillow here or there. I don't expect the house to be spotless when I get there...I do understand that there are times when parents rush in the mornings to get out of the house and leave out a dirty plate or a dirty piece of clothing on the floor. So things like that really don't bother me and I will NOT charge more to take care of that.

I would absolutely say something (in a respectful way) to the cleaning lady(ies). You are paying for a service. You are paying for something to help ease your workload as well as doing what you can to enjoy your home. It's hard to enjoy something that's only halfway done. If it doesn't workout for you, look elsewhere.

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answers from New York on

Talk with them and let them know what you expect!

I made a list of things to be done "weekly" and those to be done "monthly" as well as items to be done "as needed" per our housekeeper's request. She asked us to do this in writing so there would be no confusion. It really helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

What you have to watch out for when you hire a cleaning service is competition. Even though you are paying them in the back of your mind they are competing with you. You don't want them to be better than you, ya know? So you find everything wrong with what they do.

Everything you listed is normal for a cleaning service unless you contract for more. They don't pick up stuff, they don't move stuff. What I did was a quick walk though before I leave for work to make sure someone didn't undo what I did the night before.

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answers from Washington DC on

It sounds like they are not cleaning too well. I am now on my third cleaning service (actually not really a service like Maid Bridgade, etc. just two women). I do make sure the house is picked up before they arrive because their job is to dust, vacuum, etc. and I don't expect them to pick up clutter to clean. They do move things around when they clean (like the soap and hand lotion have been switched around on the counter). Check and see what their policy is - maybe they don't move your personal stuff around or maybe they want your permission? Of course something like the band-aid strip I would think they would pick that up. Just remember, they work for YOU, and if you are not satisfied they need to know. I had to go through a few until I found someone I liked. No one will be 100 percent perfect and you have to expect something missed every once in a while but not on a regular basis. I typed up a scope of work of expectations I had for the people I have now and showed it to them when they came to look at the house.

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answers from Dallas on

I used to work with a woman who cleaned houses as a second job and people would yell at her for moving things. She just decided to clean around things, to avoid problems.

I don't think I'd ever complain about someone else cleaning my house! If you think you do a better job, do it yourself, or hire someone else. I'm not saying that to be rude. I agree with Jo W., though. It sounds typical, from what I know.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't have any now (sniff) but what was standard when I did was that each room had a "pile". Any clutter left out and about would be piled in a certain area of the room. LR, stuff was stacked on one couch cushion. Bedrooms on the foot of the bed. Dining room on one chair.

As long as my clutter wasn't bigger than about 2x2, we were good to go.

In FACT that's how I clean, now. I go into every room and move EVERYTHING that doesn't belong onto 1 flat surface, and throw away all garbage that snuck in. (2-5 minutes) Then, I clean the room, then I put all the wandering dodads away.

My cleaners always went by time spent... so if I'd had a gravity storm in one room (I'm ADHD, gravity storms are a frequent geometeorological hazard) and they spent 20 minutes picking up stuff (not putting it away, just stacking it neatly elsewhere), I paid the extra 20 minutes. I knew them and trusted them, and they knew me and liked me. And they had me trained quite quickly. I learned to "blitz" the house before they came. Susan always used to laugh, because I'd just go room by room and stack my clutter, like she did... until I did every room, then come back and put it away. (I'd sometimes be doing this while they were there)... but I ALWAYS missed some. And qute frankly, I sometimes just left the stack there, because I wouldn't really see it. "You're cheating R., those books were there last week, if they're still there next week I'm borrowing one if they're that good.". Other times, I wouldn't have time to get to a room so I'd cross it off of their list of things to do "Not the laundry room today, ladies. There was a flock of migratory sweaters I haven't managed to chase away yet."

They'd stack my clutter, but clutter was *my* job, cleaning was theirs

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answers from Washington DC on

My DH had people who would leave a checklist while he was out. He'd come home and go over the list and would find many items just checked and not done. We once got "fired" because our house was not up to their standards. We always tried to pick up the toys and lay out the linens on the end of every bed, etc. But I think it was that he checked behind them and called when it was not clean (like they said they cleaned the fan 1x month and you could look up and see a pile of dust) and they got tired of him.

Our current lady is an independent contractor and while there are a few things I'd like her to do differently, I can spot check those things since we trust her, she's reliable and does most everything else, and she's very reasonably priced.

What would get me more than the pillows would be evidence that the floors weren't thoroughly vacuumed. I don't leave food or dishes in the sink. Do they have certain expectations that they put down in their contract? Do they specify that they won't move things? I'd see if you can talk to them and if that still doesn't resolve things, then you aren't a good fit for each other. We went through about 3 companies before finding this lady.

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answers from Milwaukee on

They are a cleaning crew not a pick up rearranging crew. To me I do NOT want them trying to put things away since they do not live there, and I would not expect my cleaning crew to set the throw pillows back THAT IS NOT their job. Now the food in the drain that I would expect them to throw out, that is part of cleaning. If you singed a contract I would look at it VERY closely to see what it says about what they are expected to do. They might even been told to not touch your belongings, so there is no question of stealing.

They are there to clean not make the house picture perfect with things arranged how you want it, there are some cleaning companies that go to that length (put away items, move items to clean, straighten items, plus cleaning) and cost more then just a clean up (vaccum, wipe down).

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answers from New York on

Speak with them and communicate your expectations. We use a service every three weeks. They do the following for us- sweep, vacuum & mop floors & under furniture. wipe baseboards, doorknobs, lightswitches & windowsills. dust and wipe furniture, clean bathroom & kitchen thoroughly including wiping down countertops, cabinetfaces, the outside of all appliances, and shining the sink. they will change linens and replace towels. windows, dishes, and laundry are extra, as is cleaning the inside of an appliance (i.e. wash the shelving in the fridge or scrub the oven).

some of the cleaners do a better job than others. If the cleaning isn't up to snuff, the service will send someone to do it to our satisfaction, for free.

We are tidy though, and don't expect them to put anything away for us. How should the cleaner know where it lives.



answers from Washington DC on

My experience with cleaning services is that they do a great job the first 2 to 3 times and then they slack off and are not good at all. We went through several and this was the case with each of them. My house is not the easiest to clean, but like you, I felt that they could have moved things to vacuum or dust, etc. I would find another service and get used to rotating to different ones. I think the only solution is to find a solo cleaning person that you really trust.



answers from New York on

I don't have a person to clean my house but I agree they should be picking things up and doing what you expect them to do. Perhaps they don't know what to do with what they picked up and you can have a designated basket for them to put odds and ends in that they pick up that way you can go through it after they leave and put them where you want them to be.



answers from Richmond on

The food drain thing is weird - they should have cleaned that. I also think they could have picked up the pillows, fluffed them and put them on the couch. The other stuff is normal. I think so many people have complained about things disappearing, etc. that most cleaning people now have the policy of not moving your stuff. My old housekeeper would not pick up anything. If it was on the floor, she vacuumed around it. If you had stuff on your dresser, she dusted around it. She was protecting herself and I understood it. For us, it worked b/c I don't want my children to think they can have their junk thrown everywhere and someone else will pick it up. We have clean up night before the housekeeper comes! All that said, I now have a housekeeper that moves EVERYTHING - I love how clean everything is but I feel like it takes me a week to put everything back where it "belongs." So there are people out there that will do it but you will have to specifically ask and you will probably pay more (my new housekeeper costs A LOT more than the old but she retired).



answers from Norfolk on

I have never had a cleaning lady, so I don't know what they are supposed to do. I guess, whatever is listed in the contract. But my definition of "cleaning" is everything form picking up stuff, to making beds, washing toilets, dishes, vacuuming, dusting with the wet cloth and so on. That is why I am not hiring help. Why would I pay people to vacuum my house, if I have to do everything else before they come? Vacuum is the easy part of cleaning. My teen can do that after school. Just wondering, ladies, what is YOUR definition of "cleaning". In my humble opinion, vacuumed floor is not clean if it has things scattered all over it.


answers from Boca Raton on

No, your not being too picky.. My maid moves everything and dusts the "whole" table, counter, etc... They get on a chair and dust all my fans, clean every blind one by one.... They would NEVER leave food in the drain still, gross!!!! Your maids are basically doing what you could easily do.. I get mine once a month to do a "deep cleaning", not to do what I do every week myself!
I would DEFINITELY find new maids!!!!



answers from Washington DC on

It doesn't sound like they are doing a good job to me. If I am going to pay someone to clean my house, I want them to clean it like I would. No sense in having someone come clean in your home, but then you still feel like cleaning needs to be done.

To be totally honest, if I had someone cleaning in my home, I would tell them that I do want them to move my stuff. That child's toy could have been tossed in a bucket, or on a shelf. The magazines could have been stashed in the magazine basket, and so on.

That's just what I would expect. Shelves to be dusted, baseboards vacuumed, all the extra stuff that I may not always get to. I don't really need anyone to assist me in the day to day stuff.

Maybe I'm the one with too high expectations! ;)



answers from Philadelphia on

I have never had a cleaning person but probably half of my friends do. This is a very common complaint. I agree with you though. Where is their initiative? I would talk to them and see what they say. Either they will tell you that is not in their job description or they will step it up a little.
IMO... Cleaning is the easy part. It is the straightening up that is the most time consuming.

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