3 steps to a de-cluttered house à la Marie Kondo

Declutter tips

Now that Labor Day is past, fall is creeping toward us. It’s time to put away the beach towels, stash the pool toys, and start shuffling out the autumn sweaters. The only problem is, you’re paralyzed and can’t make the first step towards the transition because there is too much clutter in your life. It’s time to channel your inner Marie Kondo, roll up your sleeves and get started! Here are three easy tips to beginning to declutter your home so that you can get your house ready for fall:

1. Everything has a place.  

Hit the pause button in your life and look around. There’s probably piles upon piles of mail, papers, bills, receipts lingering in your kitchen. When you peek around the corner, you might see piles of clothes, jackets, shoes littering the living room, scattered throughout your home. The bags you dragged in from shopping are right by the front door. Before you do anything, head to the part of the house that you spend the most time in and start there. Decide where things belong, and put them in that place. Whenever you use something, always put it back in its place.

2. Don’t do it all at once

If memory serves, this directly contradicts Marie Kondo’s advice, but in my experience, it’s much more realistic to do a little bit every day rather than set aside an entire day or weekend to devote to decluttering. Start with the spaces that you most often use, and get those up to speed. Then gradually fan out to the surrounding areas to rein in the clutter. A little decluttering every day keeps the hoarder away.

3. You can’t take it with you

Stop being sentimental about all your stuff. You do not need to hang onto every restaurant receipt from your last ill-fated relationship, nor keep holding on to clothes you had ten years ago. When you die, you can’t take it with you, and your life will be better off in a clean, uncluttered state. Heaps of clothes you haven’t worn in years? Donate them. Mementos from old relationships? Toss! Narrow down the things you surround yourself with to just those that you absolutely need. If you’re reluctant to throw things away, put them in a box in the back of the closet and set yourself a reminder for six months. If you haven’t opened the box to get anything, donate the whole thing to your local charity shop.

We hope these three ideas get you energized to clean up your home and prepare for fall. How else can you make room for your colorful Halloween and Christmas sweaters if you haven’t cleared space in your closet? Follow the blog to get more tips about keeping your house clean.

Gracious Hands Cleaning gets you a trained nurse plus a cleaning professional

Angela Steed, owner of Gracious Hands Cleaning in St. Louis, MO
Angela Steed, owner of Gracious Hands Cleaning in St. Louis, MO

To say that Angela Steed has her hands full is one of the understatements of the year. Besides being the owner-operator of Gracious Hands Cleaning in St. Louis, she works full time as a licensed practical (LP) nurse, is raising two daughters, and is taking classes to become a registered nurse (RN).

Angela started her own cleaning business almost three years ago after seeing the benefits her ex-husband’s father got from running his own business. “It sparked my interest when I saw how much money he was making. So I got a business license and the type of insurance that I needed, and started getting my name out there. It’s slow going, but I know business will continue to grow,” she said.

As we talked, Angela’s two daughters, Natalie (four years old) and Netanya (ten years old) were playing in the background, taking advantage of a parent-teacher conference day at school which left them at home. “I’ll have them help out with the business when they’re older to give them a sense of responsibility, but for now they help me clean up around the house. I teach them that everything is not given to you, you have to work for what you want,” said Angela. “I try to be a role model for my girls, to set the tone of what I expect from them. My mother was a big inspiration to me, she always told me to be independent, and I’m passing that along to my kids.”

The name Gracious Hands Cleaning conveys the highly specialized service that Angela can offer as both a trained nurse and a professional cleaner. “I’m focused on helping elderly customers with their house cleaning because I’m also a nurse. If anything happens to you when I’m cleaning your house, I can take care of you. I really want to give people who are taking care of their loved ones a break by handling the cleaning,” said Angela.

She currently works full time as a nurse on the weekends, handling two sixteen-hour shifts. During the week, her free time is spent growing the cleaning business, taking care of her kids, and studying for her RN degree. “Online classes help a lot!” Angela said. “I try to get my classwork in when they kids are at school or when they’re asleep.” She’d like to do nursing in her free time and let Gracious Hands be her main business once everything is running smoothly. To drum up business, Angela has been cold calling real estate management companies, handing out business cards, putting fliers in mailboxes, and doing direct mails.

When she’s on the job, Angela relies on Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers to tackle everything from walls to floor. She’s well aware of the dangers of the toxic chemicals and wears a facial mask and gloves for protection, especially when faced with the dust at a post-construction site that needs cleaning.

Angela asks her clients what types of smells they prefer and leaves them unique air fresheners that match their taste. She also listens to jazz or easy listening music while cleaning when the client is home to help relax them.

One thing that puzzles Angela is being hired to clean houses that don’t appear to need any cleaning at all. “I expect to walk into a dirty place, but it always baffles me to go into a place where you’re confused about what needs to be cleaned. And what’s even funnier—the parts that are visibly dirty, the client doesn’t want touched. Like the kitchen and bathrooms are immaculate, but the kids’ room is a mess and I’m not allowed to go in and clean it. But I can’t get mad that you want to spend your money cleaning something that doesn’t need to be cleaned!”

To get a high quality cleaning service scheduled with Gracious Hands, click here. Angela loves working with her hands as both a nurse and a cleaning professional, and is eager to help anyone in the Saint Louis area.

This solo-preneur can handle hurricanes and hoarders with her Florida cleaning service

Connie Warren at her 8- year-old son's field day
Connie Warren at her 8- year-old son’s field day

Connie Warren, mother of five children, is a master of juggling many things at once. As we spoke on the phone, she admitted that she was in the middle of cleaning a client’s office. “Yes, I’m cleaning right now while we’re talking,” she laughed. She was cleaning the office of a blood donation center, but luckily doesn’t have to do any blood cleanup, just focusing on taking care of the garbage, cleaning the bathrooms, and making the office tidy. “But I don’t take my gloves off until I leave the building,” she said.

Connie founded Perfectly Clean thirteen years ago to service the south Florida area between Fort Pierce and Jupiter, including Port Saint Lucie, Stuart, Jensen Beach, and Hobe Sound. “I’ll travel up to thirty five miles to do a cleaning,” she said. When she was younger, Connie would help her mother clean offices, but she took a variety of other jobs before starting her own business. “I worked in a factory and I didn’t like it. I’ve also done cashiering, which was alright but not something I really want to do. I love being my own boss! I like getting out there and helping people who can’t clean their homes themselves because they work late.”

Cleaning up after hurricanes

Hurricane Matthew blew by recently, but she didn’t miss a beat even though the power went out for three days. “The transformer blew up and I was outside when it happened. It was loud,” said Connie. “But we had a generator, and we had hot water for two days. Here’s the weird thing… in Florida you still have water if the power goes out! We also had a small tree in the front yard split in half.” She was still handling cleaning gigs during this time since the other nearby areas had power restored quickly or never lost power.

Cleaning runs in the family

The passion for cleaning runs in Connie’s family. Besides the experience her mom had with cleaning, Connie’s sister and niece have their own cleaning business in the same area of Florida. When I asked if they were competing for the same clients, she laughed and said no. But they do share one client, with Connie cleaning that person’s gym and her sister handling their house.

When Connie books commercial cleaning jobs, she brings her twelve-year-old daughter, Savannah, along to help. “She likes to feather dust,” said Connie.

Otherwise, Connie is handling her book of business alone, as a solo-preneur. Her schedule varies, but this week she’s booked for six straight days and dreams of being able to hire help so she can take a couple of days off each week. “My plan is to get big enough so I can hire people to do the cleaning,” she said.

Going green

A recent convert to green cleaning products, she has seen the benefits of switching over to non-toxic cleaners. “I used to like Mr. Clean products, but lately I’ve been buying organic green cleaners because the chemicals were getting too harsh to breathe in every day. Now I’m using Mrs. Meyers and Seventh Generation products. A lot of my clients will supply me with whatever cleaning products I ask for, so that’s what I’m requesting now.”

Encountering hoarders

It seems like every cleaning service we speak to has a hoarders story. Connie is no exception, although she immediately turned down the job. “They were hoarders and they wanted it all cleaned up in one day. It was a three bedroom home, and you couldn’t even open the doors to the kids’ rooms or the bathroom doors. You couldn’t get anywhere in the house. I turned it down. I had no choice, it was just awful!”

As long as you’re not a hoarder, Connie is ready and willing to go above and beyond with high quality cleaning service in the south Florida area. You can book her service here.

Edmonton cleaning business owner plans to leave a legacy business to his two daughters

Neil Mellors, owner of Barmel Building Maintenance Ltd.

Neil Mellors was originally an accountant who decided to go into business for himself almost a decade ago by starting a commercial cleaning business in Edmonton, Alberta. His company, Barmel Building Maintenance Ltd., focuses mainly on commercial properties like offices, warehouses, and post-construction cleanups, but he’ll occasionally do a house cleaning.

Besides handling commercial work in the Edmonton area, he has a crew that manages buildings in Red Deer, Alberta, an hour and a half away. “I have two employees that look after things down there,” Neil said.

Family help is crucial

For the most part, Neil finds himself involved in helping with the cleaning, although he says he is working hard to remove himself from the day-to-day operations of the business. Things have been so busy lately that he’s found additional help at home. “One of my daughters, Olivia, is still in grade school but she likes to help out sometimes to earn a bit of extra money. And my wife, Carole, is going to help me a little bit as well. She’s a teacher and she’s pretty busy but is willing to help out,” said Neil.

This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada, so Neil took the weekend off to spend time with his family, a rare weekend away from work. “I don’t normally take any time off,” he said. That meant that Monday was nearly 24 hours of back-to-back work to catch up on the cleaning that had been skipped over the weekend.

This hectic work schedule must be why Neil suggested that the number one thing that anyone thinking of starting their own cleaning business needed was having the support of your family. “You’ve got to have your family on board, particularly your spouse, because it’s a challenge. It can be hard on the family, hard on relationships and finances. Getting things off the ground is not an easy thing. You have to have your whole family on board. It’s not like a job, it affects your whole way of life,” Neil said.

Creating a legacy

Neil was definitely thinking of his family when he decided to start his own business.

“My wife and I adopted two girls from China, Olivia and Zoe, which is part of why I wanted to go into business. I wanted to create a legacy, something to pass on to my kids beyond just a bit of inheritance. Hopefully by the time they’re ready to take over this can provide them with extra income in their adulthood,” he said.

Transition to business owner

As far as the transition from his desk job as an accountant to being a small business owner, Neil found wearing so many hats to be the most difficult part. “During the course of the day, you can be the president of the company and also a cleaner in the company, instead of just sitting at my desk focused on one thing, crunching numbers. It was a big transition for me, that’s where the real challenge was. Over the years I’ve grown to be proficient at it,” said Neil. “Now it’s a day filled with bookkeeping, looking up insurance rates, hiring or firing employees, trying to get clients, making sales pitches, a whole range of things. I’ve come to really enjoy this. I couldn’t go back to having a desk job and sitting there doing one thing all day. I really enjoy the challenge of what I’m doing.”

When he was first getting going, he picked up a small law firm as a client, and they remain a loyal customer many years later. “I didn’t know much about the level of cleanliness a professional office would expect. For the first six months we went back and forth a lot, me trying to meet their expectations and learn exactly what they wanted. If there’s a problem, they let me know, so it’s worked out really well.”

Don’t put metal in the microwave!

Sometimes, the unexpected will happen. Neil had a worker who was complaining that he got hungry working the long hours cleaning at night, so Neil suggested bringing something to pop into the client’s microwave to tide him over. The next night, the cleaner brought a cup of noodles container that had a metal twist tie on top that he put into the microwave, turned on and walked away. The next thing Neil knew, the microwave was on fire. “The place was a document storage company with hundreds of thousands of documents lying around. If the sprinkler went off we’d be in big trouble. I ended up really having to scrub out the microwave, and he didn’t get to eat his noodles,” Neil laughed.

Community support

Neil also has been able to help out those in the community who needed a hand to pull them out of a tough spot. One of his workers, Mike, has been working for Neil for over three years, but when Neil first met him he was homeless. “He somehow got my business card and gave me call, saying, ‘My name is Mike and I need a job.’ He gave me a sales pitch about himself and told me where he was staying. I thought, this guy seems ok, and decided to take a risk. I went downtown and picked him up so I could try him out cleaning for a couple of nights. He’s now been with me over three years and is living on his own, renting an apartment in the suburbs. He was down on his luck, had lost his job and his family, his life had really snowballed, but now he’s back and rebuilding his life,” said Neil. Thanks to community-oriented small businesses like Neil’s, that’s one person who has been given a second lease on life.

How does Neil feel about the business today? “It’s hard work, but it’s slowly coming together.” To book a high-quality cleaning for your commercial property in Edmonton or Red Deer, Alberta, give Barmel Building Maintenance a shot.

Vote for Cleaning For A Reason

Women of Worth

It’s time to vote! No, not for the massive trainwreck that is U.S. presidential politics, but a much less anxiety-producing race—the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honorees! One of our favorite cleaning experts, Debbie Sardone, has been nominated as an Honoree, which automatically nets her nonprofit, Cleaning For A Reason, $10,000 in prize money from L’Oréal.

Vote for Debbie Sardone

The National Honoree winner gets an additional $25,000, which will go a long way to supporting Cleaning For A Reason in its mission to help women who are battling cancer by providing free house cleaning during their treatment. Your vote will help Debbie’s nonprofit secure the National winner spot along with $25,000 of funds that help women battling cancer.

Vote here, and bookmark the page to come back and vote every day until October 28.

Your vote will increase the chance of Cleaning For A Reason to be awarded additional money to help women who are undergoing cancer treatments.

Triple your vote on Thursday by liking the Facebook post about Debbie or re-tweeting the Twitter post about Debbie.

About Women of Worth

Each year, ten Women of Worth are selected from thousands of nominations. L’Oréal Paris supports these inspiring women by awarding grants and raising awareness for their causes.

From military service to J’s Cleaning Service, a chat with David Bracy

David and Jennifer Bracey, owners of J's Cleaning Service in Hampton Roads area of Virginia
David and Jennifer Bracy, owners of J’s Cleaning Service in Hampton Roads area of Virginia

David met wife Jennifer at a party at her sister’s house when he was stationed in Virginia with the U.S. Navy. They were soon married, and while David managed his successful military career, Jennifer worked for various professional cleaning services. “She would always come home and tell me that she could do this on her own, that she should start a cleaning company,” David said.

It was only as he was approaching retirement from the military after over twenty years of service that they began to seriously consider starting a cleaning business. Jennifer launched J’s Cleaning Service in December of 2014, fully confident that she could provide excellent cleaning service with her own business.

When David retired at the end of 2015, he was able to help the company by devoting all his attention to growing the business.

It’s a family affair

Like many of the owner-operator cleaning businesses we’ve spoken with, J’s Cleaning Service is run entirely by members of the family. The staff of six is made up of brothers, a sister-in-law, cousins, and an aunt. “It’s not without it’s challenges,” David admits. “I didn’t really understand how hard it is to do business with family.”

Part of the difficulty lies in figuring out how to tell a family member that something isn’t cleaned right, and part of the problem is with the family members having to adjust to the idea of you as their boss.

This is compounded by the adjustment David had to make back to civilian life post-military. “There’s a huge difference. I was in a leadership role for most of my Navy career, so I was used to telling people what to do, but I never had to explain it. Now I have to explain everything, and I’m not used to that.”

The family had shared plenty of meals and social time with David before, but now that he’s their boss, they’re exposed to his leadership style. “A lot of my family members have never seen this side of me. It’s always been there, but they’ve just never seen it.”

Growing pains

As with most businesses getting started, they ran into a few snags along the way. After they added carpet cleaning to their roster of services, David used one of their new machines (Rotovac portable carpet cleaners with extractors) on a job for a client.

“It was the first job I did with the machine, everything was good, and the client was happy. It was a rental property and she was pleased that she didn’t have to buy a new carpet because we were able to clean it. She left us a great review, and then a few days later she called complaining about a mildew smell. Well, I had failed to tell her that she needed to open her windows and turn on the ceiling fans to help the carpet dry,” David laughed. Since then clients are always told what to expect after a carpet cleaning.

Now the carpet cleaning is managed successfully by the boyfriend of Jennifer’s cousin. “He’s one of my carpet technicians. He picked up the carpet business really well and can do it just like I do. He does a great job and loves what he does,” said David.

Hard to step away from day-to-day

Jennifer focuses on employee management, scheduling, and controlling inventory while David manages marketing and financials. Both of these owner-operators are also on the cleaning schedule to do jobs, as well. “I am looking to get away from that, I have a plan. Once I get people trained up to take my spot then I can step away,” David said.

Even with this plan in place, he finds it hard to give up control of the day-to-day cleaning. “The same level of attention won’t be afforded without me there. I don’t want my reputation to go down. I’m a five star rated cleaning service and I’d like to keep it that way!” he said.

Part of the reason he may find it hard to step away is that he gets a lot of joy in interacting with people, having been in a customer service type job for his years in the military. “I like the satisfaction my company brings when we leave a client’s home. That is priceless.”

Communication is key

David named several customers who were loyal favorites. When I asked him what makes a good customer, he emphasized that his best customers were those who communicated with him. “If they have a problem, they let me know. We can’t come to a solution if they don’t tell me there’s a problem in the first place. With some clients, you only find out all the problems when they’re breaking up with you.”

How to handle having too much going on

In today’s world, people are swamped by having too many obligations and being overscheduled. One of the ways to combat this is to hire a cleaning company. “I wish I had a cleaning service for my house!” laughed David. “A lot of people have too much going on. Cleaning shouldn’t be one of the things that you are worried about.”

When they need a break, David and Jennifer take quick getaway trips that they can enjoy before heading back to work. They recently hit up Six Flags in Maryland and are headed to Atlantic City next weekend. If you’d like to schedule a cleaning service with them when they’re back and well-rested, you can book them here.

Steam cleaning in the Los Angeles area with RPM ProClean

Richard Armijo of RPMProClean
Richard Armijo of RPMProClean

Richard Armijo was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and cautiously bids on cleaning work within a ten mile radius while laughing about traffic. “I grew up here. I don’t know any better,” he said. Richard founded RPM ProClean in 2014 after helping a few other cleaning companies get off the ground and then finding himself out of a job.

“I’d been in sales all my life before I got into the cleaning side of things. I helped start the U.S. branch of a cleaning business based out of England, and learned how to hire employees and buy equipment. I got the ball rolling and was wearing many hats: accounting, payroll, tracking hours, managing operations, training employees on how to clean,” said Richard.

After that experience, he started his own company and now handles a mix of commercial business and residential accounts. One of the benefits of this combination is the immediate cash that residential work provides for work completed, while business accounts are invoiced on a monthly basis. “It’s good to keep residential type jobs because the cash is available on the spot, which helps when you’re waiting to the end of the month to get a check from the business jobs,” he said.

Currently Richard is handling everything on his own, from administrative work all the way down to cleaning. He has people on standby to help with his overflow work, but hasn’t reached the point yet where he can bring someone else on full time to do the cleaning. After many years in a cushy sales job, he found the transition to physical work to be the hardest part, but his sales training has stood him well. “I know how to write letters and put a detailed proposal together,” Richard said.

VX5000 steamer
VX5000 steamer

His secret weapon for helping to reduce the physical labor is a steam cleaner. “I invested in a  VX5000 steamer made in Italy and it opened the door for me to clean tile and grout. It really helps clean hard water stains and it can clean a dirty oven in twelve minutes. The 280 degree steam just melts the grease off.” The steamer shortens the duration of the cleaning itself, requiring less strain by the person cleaning. The only downside? “It gets hot here in the summer and with the steam going it sometimes feels like a sauna. I have lost a lot of weight and I do get dehydrated. I need to make sure I drink enough water, but it keeps me in shape!” he said.

Another positive benefit of the steamer is the green cleaning boost it gives by allowing cleaning with just water and rags. This natural solution removes the need for toxic chemicals to eat away at the grime in clients’ homes and businesses. One customer had Travertine tile in their foyer that was tough to get clean, but Richard’s steamer blew steam into the porous rock and forced the dirt out, making his client ecstatic with the results.

The toughest job his steamer had to face was dealing with the aftermath of a nasty breakup. One of his clients called him in to help after her ex-boyfriend placed her purse on the stove and melted it. “The steamer got it off, but I had some trouble scraping it away,” Richard laughed.

Other tools in his eco-friendly cleaning toolbox include vinegar and baking soda with rock salt. “You can use that to clean your oven without any caustic chemicals— it just foams up. I try not to use any harsh chemicals in my clients’ homes,” he said.

Another difficult transition to owning his own business was that he used to get the weekends off but now his busiest days for cleaning are on the weekend. But he doesn’t mind too much. “I like being my own boss and controlling my own destiny. My success is based off my own efforts. I don’t turn down any work. I get the jobs I want, in the areas I want to go after, and work at my own pace,” said Richard.

When he needs to blow off steam (and ignore his steamer for awhile), he plays darts in his spare time. “I even incorporated darts into the slogan for my company— let RPM hit the mark for you,” he said. With his dart league, he manages to play darts once a week and heads to Vegas twice a year, even winning $500 one weekend. What’s the secret to success at darts? “Having as little movement as possible,” Richard instructed. Sounds like good advice for someone exhausted by the draining physical labor of cleaning all day.

Why I and other book nerds think Marie Kondo is nuts

My actual bookshelves. Yes, I suppose they could use some tidying up.
My actual bookshelves. Yes, I suppose they could use some tidying up.

I’m not ashamed to count myself among the group of book nerds who disagree vehemently with Marie Kondo’s advice about books. In my review of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up earlier this year, I noted my dismay that Kondo only owns thirty books, kept hidden away in a closet. That number seems obscenely small to those of us who find comfort in the written word. One Blogging For Books reviewer said he was happy to discard her book into the trash bin, “following her advice, I have an idea where to file this book.”

While it’s incomprehensible to us book lovers to pare our personal libraries down to a few dozen tomes stuffed in a closet, her most egregious request is that we reduce the books down to their essential ingredients by merely ripping out the pages that delight us the most. Ah yes, there’s nothing cozier than settling down on a rainy day to rifle through a folder of ripped out book pages to find something to read.

Before she gets down to ripping pages out, she walks us through her thought process. First, she decided to copy out the sentences that inspired her into a notebook. This, obviously, became too time consuming and was not sparking a lot of joy. Next, she attempts to use a copy machine, but this proves to be even more effort than manually copying out phrases. Finally, she channels her inner savage and decides to rip out the relevant pages and put them into a file folder. “This only took five minutes per book and I managed to get rid of forty books and keep the words that I liked. I was extremely pleased with the results,” Kondo writes. What the actual madness is this?! To think that I share the same planet with someone who thinks like this makes me a bit twitchy.

But I’m not alone. Anyone who loves books seems to be rubbed the wrong way by the advice that sounds absolutely bonkers to us. Summer Brennan is emphatic in her Literary Hub take-down of Kondo:

“What kind of degenerate only wants to own 30 books (or fewer) at a time on purpose? What sort of psychopath rips out pages from their favorite books and throws away the rest so they can, as Kondo puts it, “keep only the words they like?” For those of us for whom even the word “book” sparks joy, this constitutes a serious disconnect.”

In The Baffler, Chris Lehmann sums up his rage nicely, “I recommend that you, Marie Kondo, [bleep] right off.” He goes on to say that books function only as accessories for Kondo, ones that aren’t particularly nice to look at.

“Kondo downgrades books to mere lifestyle accessories, which will effectively spoil if not consumed promptly upon purchase, and are far better being cut up and moved primly out of view than being shared among friends.”

Perhaps the reason for the gaping disconnect between Kondo’s advice and a book nerd’s reality is that we appreciate books for more than just information retrieval. I shudder to imagine which forty books Kondo ripped pages from, but I can only assume they weren’t the best and the brightest volumes of philosophy, literature, history, or criticism. Kondo herself tells us that she saved Alice in Wonderland and The Art of Discarding from the discard pile, if that gives you an idea of her eclectic taste. The idea of lopping off pages from books must have come to her while reading Alice repeatedly since elementary school, where the Queen of Hearts is constantly demanding, “Off with their heads!” I tried not to mutter that very sentiment while re-reading Kondo’s advice about books when writing this.

25 years cleaning up Boston with D. Butler Cleaning

Diane with her VIP plaque from the National Association of Professional Women
Diane with her VIP plaque from the National Association of Professional Women

“Having someone clean your house is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity,” said Diane Butler, 51, who has seen her Boston-area cleaning business change over the last twenty five years. “Now you have both parents working and people don’t have time to clean their own house anymore.”

Diane started working in mutual funds for Fidelity when she was nineteen, but gave up the cushy desk job after a few years. “I was very good at it, but I was at a desk with headphones on in the city. I like to move, I like to go, I like not being in the same place all the time. It’s all about the journey,” she said.

She took that energy and, with her sister Maureen, founded D. Butler’s Cleaning. The transition to physical work was easy for her. “I loved it. The flexibility and diversity of places… it was like a holiday stroll every place you went in, seeing these big beautiful houses,” Diane said. She also played up the pun on her name, adding the tagline to her business, “The Maid didn’t do it, the Butler did.”

Cleaning an art museum in Newton, MA, "very very carefully"
Cleaning an art museum in Newton, MA, “very very carefully”

Diane, a Boston native, said that construction is on the upswing in the area, so she’s getting a crew together to handle night jobs cleaning up post-construction sites. Things weren’t always so rosy, as the city periodically had its ups and downs. “Construction is finally coming back. Fifteen years ago, I was shoveling and raking leaves, doing anything to stay afloat. But now it’s all coming back.” She’s investing in new equipment to help her new team stay on top of the cleanup work. In addition to the post-construction staff, she has a team of four full-time workers, along with 3-6 additional part-time helpers. Despite this, Diane is still out there every day helping to clean clients’ homes. “I work a lot of hours,” she admitted.

Besides running herself ragged by managing a busy cleaning business, Diane finds time to relax by hiking, biking, and rollerblading. “I’m going to Maine to hike next weekend,” she said. With such a demanding job, she also finds it necessary to remain grounded. “I love Reiki. I love to meditate… because I have to! I’m always on the go, I need to slow down and ground myself.”

Cheri Young, still hustling at 63 years old
Cheri Young, still hustling at 63 years old, has been working with Diane for years

One of her most reliable workers is friend Cheri Young, who has been with Diane for the last seven years. “She’s 63 now, still a hustler, out here every day scrubbing and working hard. She stays at it, and goes the extra mile,” said Diane.

Part of the reason the crew is so dedicated is the commitment the business has to giving back to the community. “We clean cancer patients’ homes when they’re going through chemotherapy,” Diane said. “We work through Cleaning for a Reason, who helps women with cancer. But we aren’t offering this service just for women, we help kids and men as well. If anybody who has cancer calls me, we clean their house for free.”

And Diane knows how to take care of her workers. “I pay them from the first job in the morning until they finish the last job of the day, which includes travel. I try to treat them well, and they’ve been with me for years. I give them Christmas bonuses, too.” How does she find high quality workers? “I know a lot of people in the area, so it’s mostly word of mouth. People are always calling me, either family or family friends, or people who have owned cleaning businesses in the past.”

When they go into a client’s home, they are precise, thorough, and efficient. “We go in like the Marines, start high and go low, dust everything, then vacuum at the end and sweep our way out. We work in teams, everybody picks up and helps the next person, we all work together,” she said. The crew favors Shaklee’s green cleaning products (“They make a great paste for bathrooms!”) and Oreck vacuums.

Despite running her cleaning operation like a well-oiled machine, occasionally there are slip ups. “One time the girls went and cleaned the wrong house, the house next door to the one they were supposed to clean. The guy who was at home thought the cleaning service was scheduled for that day, so he didn’t say anything. Meanwhile, they were supposed to be next door. Everybody got a good laugh out it,” said Diane.

Advice for someone just starting their own cleaning business? This veteran cleaner suggests that you “don’t give up, it will get better. Tomorrow is another day.”

The 5 cleaning tools cleaning services love the most

We’ve spoken to hundreds of cleaning companies and culled their list of the essential tools for cleaning down to the top five. If you’re thinking about starting a cleaning company, or if you want to up your game at home, take a look at what professional cleaners prefer to use when they tackle client homes.

1. Microfiber cloths


No self-respecting cleaning crew leaves for a job without clean microfiber cloths ready to rumble on the surfaces of their customers’ houses. Mause Cleaning Service’s secret weapon is to wash kitchen and bathroom floors by hand with microfiber cloths. Perfect Lady Cleaning takes it up a notch and uses microfiber cloths in her Swiffer mop. Machine washable, you can toss these in the laundry at the end of a hard day’s work.


2. Electric cleaning brush


When you’re cleaning with green cleaning products, you usually have to give it some extra elbow grease to work the stains out, a healthy trade-off if it means you’re not exposing yourself to toxic fumes while getting a bit of a workout. Natalia Cleans finds that using an electric cleaning brush really helps her team get the job done faster. Some top brands are the Black & Decker and the Rubbermaid power scrubbers.


3. Degreasers

totallyawesomeNot all cleaning companies are into green cleaning, so this is one tool that eco-friendly cleaners will want to skip. Saskatchewan’s Wizard Cleaning loves using a degreaser called Totally Awesome. “It takes out everything, whether you’re cleaning a really caked-on oven or spot cleaning carpet,” said Wizard’s Chris Mongowins. Unfortunately, it’s totally toxic. A green alternative would be Simple Green’s All-Purpose cleaner.


4. Steamers


Firmly back on solid green cleaning ground, there are a few steamers that cleaning companies rely on. After all, what could be greener than cleaning your home with water? “All you need to clean a three bedroom, two bathroom house is a gallon of water and a vapor steam cleaner,”  says Lee Latham of Chicago’s We Clean Green, who uses My Vapor Clean’s Pro 6 Duo steamer. Calgary Clean prefers using Karcher’s steamers to cut their cleaning time in half, efficiently cleaning things that would usually take more time and effort.


5. Window washing tools

glassscraperFor the cleaning companies that also focus on windows, there are a few tools they absolutely love. Glass scrapers are a favorite of Crystal Clean Windows, using them to scrape residue off of glass surfaces. Mike Desjardins of Simply Sparkling Cleaning raves about a water-fed pole that extends up to forty feet. “It’s a great tool for window cleaning, very cost effective.  We no longer need to rent man-lifts, and it can be operated by one man on the ground, which is very safe— no need to scramble up ladders.”


When these hard-working cleaning crews head out for the day, they want to be sure they’re prepared to handle any dirt, grime, or cleaning crisis they may face. These are the tools they make sure are in their bag before leaving for a client’s house.

What’s your favorite cleaning tool? Let us know in the comments!