Some years ago, I cleaned for a high-powered professional couple with kids. This particular couple and their kids did not pick up behind themselves. If they dropped something on the floor or a kitchen countertop, it stayed there. I often found scattered pieces of breakfast cereal and dried globs of jelly on the kitchen floor.
The whole family was so messy every surface like tables, shelves, beds and sinks were covered with piles of clothing, books, papers, toys and dishes.
So it was unsurprising that the children of the family often trooped in behind me when I cleaned a room. In just a few minutes, they made a kitchen I’d just cleaned look like a train wreck.
The first few times I cleaned their home, I was pretty stressed out about their behavior. I went from room to room after them to make things look tidy again, all the while, muttering under my breath about “messy kids”.
Learning The Rule
Then one day, the wife’s mother, who managed the household for her busy daughter and son-in-law, told me how glad she was that the kitchen had been cleaned so well. I looked around and only saw the mess the kids left just minutes after my cleaning.
However, the grandmother-manager saw beyond the kids usual clutter to the newly scrubbed sink and stove. She pointed out the spotless kitchen appliances. She nodded with approval at the vacuumed and mopped floor. She saw a clean kitchen in spite of the clutter the kids just left behind.
I learned from that wise grandmother-manager not to stress out about what happened to a room after I cleaned. Her appreciation for the completed cleaning was not affected by the actions of her grandkids. She could tell the difference between Before cleaning and After cleaning.
At that point, I realized when I complete a task or series of tasks such as cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming, dusting or cleaning entire floor of a customers house, I’m done with it. If someone in the household comes in right behind me and creates a mess, that’s okay. I did what I agreed to do in their home and I was done.
When You’re Done Cleaning A Room, You’re Done!
Understanding this rule of cleaning saved me countless hours of time and resentment for three reasons:
1. Customers know their kids, spouses or household workers like nannies are in the house on cleaning day and use certain rooms a lot. They aren’t surprised or disappointed when they see signs of use in rooms you’ve finished.
2. Cleaning and tidying a second time slows you down. Re-doing areas already cleaned means less time to complete everything on the Service Agreement. It also means less time for the next customer that day. Remember them?
3. When you understand this rule, you are focused on what’s ahead of you instead of what’s behind you. This allows you to work faster and more efficiently.
Pictures Worth A Thousand Words
What if your customer can’t see the cleaning you’ve done? What if the clutter that comes after you clean overwhelms your hard work?
If this becomes an issue for you with a customer and you need proof you have completed the work, take photos of the newly cleaned room or rooms.
Email or text the photos to the customer the same day. Doing this once or twice should be all you need to show your customer what a room looks like when you have finished cleaning.
So the next time you’re tempted to re-clean a finished room because the kids, spouse or nanny spilled soda on the floor and cereal on the countertops after you’ve finished—don’t.
Instead, keep moving forward in completing the tasks you agreed to do in your customer’s home. Do every task to the best of your ability and do each task only once.
Stay focused and remember: When You’re Done Cleaning, You’re Done!
When have you found yourself on a merry-go-round of picking up after customers kids, re-cleaning rooms (you just cleaned) and spending more time than you intended with repeats. Share how you dealt with this situation—or not—in the comments below. ⬇︎