Costa Rica native unleashes Pura Vida on Grand Rapids with her cleaning business

Marlen Dillinger comes from a long line of hard working women who have cleaned houses, including her great grandmother who is still alive. “My great grandma, my grandma, my mother, they all cleaned houses,” Marlen said.

Growing up in Costa Rica, Marlen became a hair stylist and met her husband, Paul, when he was an ex-pat American living on the beach for a few years while working as a software developer. They moved back to the United States, settling in the very family-friendly city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This area is frequently named one of the best places to live in the U.S., and the low cost of living has translated into people having rather large (4,000 – 6,000 square foot) houses. “That’s a lot bigger than people can clean, and that’s where we come in to help,” said Paul. Marlen launched Lucid Clean almost a year ago as a way to maintain a flexible schedule that allowed her to spend time with her husband and two daughters.

“We are not only changing a home but changing people’s way of life.”

Being able to see the positive impact she was making on her clients’ lives hooked Marlen immediately. “You see how they change. I have clients that start going to the gym once we start the cleaning process, once they start throwing thing out.” Other clients report back how pleased they are to have so much more time to spend on things other than cleaning. “We are not only changing a home but changing people’s way of life.”

Her expertise is not only house cleaning but also decluttering. In some overwhelmed homes, she sees the emotional impact of her work. “There were people living in cluttered homes that were frustrated and depressed, and they changed their attitudes and were happier about their homes.” Occasionally she encounters a client that is overly-sentimental about certain objects and has to coach them through the process. “Those clients take a bit longer to help clean.”

Currently Marlen is handling all the cleaning appointments herself, but they are looking to bring on their first employee to help out with the demand. It’s a family-run business, with Paul helping out with the website and other administrative aspects. Their daughters, Luna and Elisabeth, are seven and nine years old and like to help canvass neighborhoods with flyers advertising their mom’s business. “I love my kids! They see mommy cleaning all the time, and when I came home the other day they said they vacuumed and dusted… and then told me to put their pay in the bank.” The girls are learning great lessons about the value of work and are soaking up the example of their entrepreneur parents. They’re also super-smart kids, enrolled in the local school’s gifted and talented program which has them on various field trips every week and working on fun projects. “She made a website of tips on how to raise and train a dog, and another about carnivorous plants.”

Once their new employee comes on board, Lucid Clean is looking to join Cleaning For A Reason, which Marlen first heard about from our article on the non-profit. They look forward to providing free cleanings to women who are undergoing cancer treatments. Marlen is especially interested in participating in charity work. “My mother worked for eight years in an orphanage and I used to visit the children. I love doing things like that.”

Marlen’s high energy comes through loud and clear on the phone. “When I’m finished with the job and I see people happy, that makes me happy as well. I love it. I really enjoy helping people.” Her favorite part of the job is organizing the homes and giving families time to spend with each other. She is also excited to see the positive impact she makes on clients’ lives. “I see the changes in the house and in the person. With a lot of my clients finally getting to go to the gym, they go and worry about themselves when they don’t have to worry about cleaning their homes.”

Traveling back to Costa Rica every year, Marlen experienced the ups and downs of other local cleaning companies that she hired to tidy up her house and found that they lacked the attention to detail that she craved. She knew that when she opened her own business, she would be extremely detail-oriented and clean the parts of the home that are normally overlooked, like windows, baseboards, and doorknobs.

As a Costa Rica native, Marlen is deeply committed to eco-friendly cleaning, and Lucid Clean is a 100% green cleaning solution. The Costa Rica saying “Pura Vida” translates to “pure life” and the country cares about biodiversity. That comes through loud and clear with Lucid Clean’s commitment to only using green cleaning products. “When we started cleaning, I knew I needed something eco-friendly because people have allergies and skin is sensitive. Chemicals are too strong and can cause headaches or rashes.” Their favorite brands are Simple Green and some of Method’s products, like the glass cleaner.

While running a successful cleaning business and juggling the demands of a family, Marlen still makes time for her morning yoga class. I recommend it for anyone looking to maintain the enthusiasm and positive spirit that I encountered in talking with her. She advises any future entrepreneurs out there to dream big, love what you do, work hard, make sure people are taken care of, and to be happy. “Pura Vida!”

To get a high-quality green cleaning in Grand Rapids, we recommend that you check out Lucid Clean.


If you’re a cleaning service professional who would like to be featured in our magazine, please let us know!

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