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.
While the company is named Jimmy’s Cleaning, it’s really Karla that runs the show. Karla Aviles and her husband Jaime formed the company in St. Charles, MO after Karla had spent several years cleaning on her own. “My husband, Jaime, does remodeling and painting, and when he’s done I’ll do the cleaning. We were at the bank opening our business account and I didn’t know what to call the business. My husband said ‘Just put my name,’ so we called it Jimmy’s Cleaning,” she said.
Karla has been cleaning homes and businesses for over ten years, and still has a part-time job at Dave & Buster’s, where she started as a cook and then took over the job of cleaning after they fired the janitorial business that previously serviced them.
“I’ve been at Dave & Buster’s for 17 years! Once they fired their cleaning company, it was my opportunity to start cleaning for them, which was much better hours than in the kitchen. Now I have a 6 AM start, so I don’t have to do evenings or cook anymore. I was tired, I had cooked for over 9 years and got all kinds of burns!” She took the expertise acquired during her years of cleaning the restaurant and branched out to do residential cleaning as well.
We love showcasing family-run businesses and Jimmy’s Cleaning is no exception. Karla is helped by her sister and cousin to clean homes during the day. The women are available for Karla to rely on because they have part time jobs at night, cleaning large commercial accounts like Wal-mart. This family is serious about perfecting its cleaning skills!
Hard-working, productive immigrant from Mexico
Karla grew up in Mexico City, but when her parents divorced, her mom moved to the States to live with Karla’s uncle and to work and send money back to Mexico. “Before she left, she talked to me about it, and then three years later I came along to help her earn money to support my other siblings. Basically, I came to work!” said Karla.
Finding love in a nightclub… and from a client’s dog
She met her husband, Jaime, at a nightclub, where he asked for her phone number. Later, he called to ask her to go with him to see a famous DJ play at the club where they met. They’ve been married for sixteen years and have four children. Jaime is known as “Jimmy” to the locals, which is where the name of the cleaning business came from.
With her fourth child, Karla was hospitalized for a high-risk pregnancy for four weeks before the birth of Karim (named for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema—her husband is a fútbol super-fan). While she was on maternity leave, her sister and cousin took over one client’s home whose furry friend, Chances, desperately missed Karla. “When I was cleaning, Chances was always right beside me. After I started cleaning again after having Karim, I went to that client’s house, and the dog looked like she was just waiting for me to be there again. She started rubbing my leg and it was just such a precious moment. It made me cry. I can’t explain it, it’s like a baby who knows that you left but came back.” The client had been texting Karla while she was away to let her know that Chances missed her. Unfortunately, the dog had to be put to sleep a few weeks ago due to liver cancer.
Keep clients happy
While she doesn’t rule out the idea that green cleaning products might be good for people with allergies, Karla uses whatever products are on hand. If her clients ask her to use a specific eco-friendly product, she’s happy to oblige.
Karla makes sure that clients know exactly when to expect her. “I don’t just go there and clean their house and forget about them. I have the keys to their house or garage code. I like to give them time to plan their day, so I let them know what time we’ll be there.”
She prefers to go above and beyond on every cleaning visit that is booked with her business. “If a client wants us to move a couch to clean under it, we will do it— anything to keep them happy,” she said. “When we’re done, I walk around the house two or three times to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”
Best thing about running your own business? Flexibility
With a household of four kids and a husband, Karla has her hands full. She’s also juggling the part-time Dave & Buster’s cleaning gig, along with cleaning several houses a week. But she loves the flexibility of making her own schedule. “I’m able to get home and cook for my kids, see them when they come home from school,” she said.
Karla is successfully managing her cleaning business, but has one eye to the future when she can branch out into other areas. “My other goal is to open a Mexican restaurant, probably within two or three years,” she said. I guess it’s hard to take the cook out of the kitchen, after all!
Jesus Herrera followed his heart to San Jose, California, from Mexico in 1996 after his (now ex-)girlfriend moved there. He gave up a great job as the head of a publishing company in Mexico and found himself working in a restaurant, running dishes out of the kitchen to customers. After hearing an ad on the radio about job opportunities with H&R Block, he became a tax accountant, but was soon convinced by a friend to start his own cleaning business. CalMaids was formed in 2004 and Jesus was running the show.
Looking back, he’s somewhat surprised that he ended up in the industry. “To be honest, I didn’t want to do cleaning. But tax preparation is just a seasonal business for two or three months out of the year,” Jesus said.
CalMaids operates in the San Jose area helping busy families with their house cleaning, with a focus on using green cleaning products. Jesus’s wife, Hermila, also helps run the business, and they employ six other people.
Turn to professionals for advice
When he was first starting out, Jesus didn’t quite know what to do. “Cleaning your own house is not the same as cleaning for someone else. We learned from our mistakes and figured it out,” he said. For example, the apartments he was going into were much dirtier than what he was used to in his own home. But he rolled up his sleeves and started learning, tapping into internet forums and finding a mentor.
That’s how he met Teresa Peterson, who runs a cleaning company in a nearby town. “She’s great. She shares her knowledge and she’s been there for me,” Jesus said. It’s a strategy that he highly recommends to anyone else starting their own cleaning business. “Try to get as much information as possible from many different sources, like internet forums, or from experts like Debbie Sardone,” he said.
Cleaning tools he can’t live without
Starting from scratch, Jesus has learned a lot about the various cleaning products out there. Originally he was using scrubbing sponges and sandpaper to attack the ring around the toilet, until he discovered how much better pumice stones were for the task.
And like other owners who are still out handling cleaning jobs, he’s a believer in the power of Magic Erasers. “Those are really good. You can use them on the bath, the sink, everywhere except glass or stainless steel,” he said.
Everyone has a hoarders story
It seems like almost every cleaning company I’ve spoken with has encountered a hoarder or two, and CalMaids is no exception. “We took 85 plastic garbage bags from a one bedroom apartment. It wasn’t even a big apartment! I couldn’t step anywhere, just had to jump from spot to spot. It took two of us two days, and it was just one lady who was living there.”
Biggest challenges cleaning companies face
Jesus went through a laundry list of challenges he encounters on a daily basis, from hiring and training staff, to finding customers.
Hiring and motivating staff: “Hiring is the main problem,” he said. San Jose is a particularly tight labor pool right now, with very low unemployment, so laborers know they have the upper hand. “If your staff notices that you don’t have enough employees, they do whatever they want and take days off or flake on finishing all the appointments of the day. They know that you need them.”
Training your team: Jesus’s company has a one month training program that the staff goes through when they are hired, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. “You train one way and when you go back to check on them, you find that they clean the way that they want to, not the way you trained them,” he said.
Finding and retaining customers. Jesus is constantly on the lookout for new ways to find customers. One way he’s done this is by spreading the word about his business while he works for a good cause. CalMaids is one of the Cleaning for a Reason companies that provide free cleaning services to women undergoing cancer treatment.
Other than running his successful cleaning business, Jesus has been playing soccer with a league for the last ten years, and enjoys spending quality time with his fourteen-year-old son. If you live in the San Jose area, book a cleaning appointment with CalMaids to take advantage of his high-quality service.
When some people tell you they work 100 hours a week, you usually don’t believe them, but I have every confidence that Rosalynn Robb puts in that many hours running her business. She worked full-time while handling a full course load through college, 40 hours of work plus five classes during the school year and 100 hours during the summer. Now that she’s graduated, her cleaning company, Freedom Cleaning, is on the path to success, dominating the luxury home market in Kentucky’s biggest cities— Louisville and Lexington. Her ten year plan involves launching in four other cities, and possibly heading to law school in her spare time. The energy and excitement coming across the phone line as I chatted with her leads me to believe that this dynamo will accomplish everything she sets out to do, and more.
Rosalynn was originally on track to become a federal prosecutor and had applied to law school with letters of recommendation from Andy Beshear, currently the Attorney General of Kentucky. Beshear pulled her aside after giving her the recommendation and suggested that, due to conditions in the job market, it wasn’t the best time to go to law school. Why not start your own business instead, he asked her. Rosalynn was torn between her heart, which wanted to go to law school so that she could work on behalf of human trafficking victims, and her head, which suggested that it was not the right time to get into debt for school. Her head won out, and she launched Freedom Cleaning in 2014. But her heart still gets satisfaction from donating 10% of her profits to local human trafficking organizations such as Kentucky Rescue & Restore and Scarlet Hope.
The company motto says it all: “Freedom for you, freedom for others.” By using all-natural cleaning products and providing a vital service to help keep people’s homes clean, she frees her customers to focus on other things. And her passion project of helping human trafficking survivors is encompassed in the “freedom for others” that profits from her business goes to support.
An abuse survivor from childhood, Rosalynn is keenly interested in building awareness about human trafficking. “It’s always been about more than making money,” said Rosalynn.
Despite putting her law school ambitions on hold, she’s not shying away from public service. Rosalyn went to the White House to represent small business as a top woman entrepreneur. She also started a master’s program in political management at George Washington University, which she has deferred for a year to focus more on growing her business. “I’ve thought about doing an MBA but experience is the most important thing,” she said.
The Freedom Family
Freedom Cleaning now provides work for a team of fourteen people, and one of Rosalynn’s success factors is that she’s able to retain loyal employees. “I’ve had two people leave and then come back when they realize they miss the company culture,” she said. “I don’t expect them to do anything that I wouldn’t do, and I’ve cleaned with all of them to build that relationship. I care more about them than about getting rich. We had four girls in nursing school at University of Louisville that I gave $500 a semester to help cover the cost of school.”
In addition to this generosity, Christmas dinners at a local steakhouse are a tradition, and Rosalynn provides lunch every other week. Her clients tell her they can see the difference. “They say, ‘We can tell that your employees are happy with working for you.’”
This drive to provide an environment where her employees feel valued stems from Rosalynn’s own experience working for a cleaning company when she was a sophomore in college. “I’m thankful for that experience, but I know that when I worked as an employee, they didn’t have my back. They scheduled so many homes, one on top of another. I have an open door policy with my team for them to tell me if I’ve stretched them too far. I want to be reasonable and also give them the tools, training, and cleaning supplies that will make them successful.”
The Waiting List
Freedom Cleaning is so successful that there’s a waiting list for prospective clients to join. “We’re small, so we tell them to call in a few months to see if we have an opening.” Rosalynn does not want to add houses to the roster that she can’t support with high quality cleaning, so she prefers to keep a smaller group of clients that she knows her team will impress week in and week out. “I don’t want to hire a bunch of people and then not have jobs for them [if any of the prospective clients discontinues service]. We do an excellent job with the first impression and I want the client to get the same service five years down the road that she got the first time,” said Rosalynn.
While juggling the growing business, Rosalynn still manages to clean twelve homes on a weekly basis, sometimes on her own. “I do think that leadership starts from the top, and no matter how big we get I want us to retain the camaraderie that we have now.”
When first starting out, she had to take whatever home she was offered, but has since been able to hone her strategy. “We target the higher end home because they want more cleanings, either weekly or bi-weekly.” Word of mouth worked quickly for her to build up her business, and Freedom Cleaning cleans homes for politicians, CEOs of major corporations, and leaders in the healthcare industry.
“That’s the beauty of it— you get to meet a lot of different people; Muslims, atheists, gays and lesbians, pastors, attorneys, surgeons, and CEOs of corporations. It’s such a huge honor that we’re allowed to go into somebody’s home.”
Advice for starting a small business
Find a mentor. When Rosalynn was starting out, she was thirsty for knowledge. “I have a huge desire to learn and to be the best at things.” When she looked around for a mentor, she realized that there was a big difference between being a small business entrepreneur versus being a CEO in an established company. Rosalynn discovered that one of her clients was an executive at a company that she had grown from the basement of her home. The two of them meet up for lunch once a month and Rosalynn peppers her with questions and scenarios to get advice. “I’m pouring into people, but I’m also being poured into,” she said.
Know your market. Rosalynn was advising a local cleaner who seemed to be cleaning everything, from windows to churches, and homes to commercial properties. She said, “whoa, whoa, whoa, how do you even train for all that? Find out what you want to be known for, and then do it.” This enables her to tell clients exactly what her team will and won’t do, because this area of focus is what they are trained in.
You won’t make everyone happy. “I want to serve people well, but there have been times that I’ve cried my eyes out and spent who-know-how-many hours on a job where we didn’t make any money, and the client wasn’t happy. I’ve become tough and realized that I am not going to make everybody happy.” Accept the feedback from clients, try to make it right, but at the end of the day, realize that some people are never going to be satisfied with the cleaning they receive.
Laurie Weber runs Royal Maid Service for the Pasco area of west Florida with her husband and her 75-year-old mother, Audrey Wagner. They promise to “clean your home like you are royalty,“ minus the bowing and scraping normally seen in the presence of the blue bloods.
Family-owned and run
The family purchased the cleaning franchise from neighbors who were moving back home to England when they realized it could be a good opportunity for them. “I worked in cosmetology and did nails for thirty years. I needed a change. My mom (Audrey) just wanted to get out of the house!” said Laurie.
Audrey is a role model for her daughter. “She’s a workaholic and never stops. I have to keep up with her! She’s a go-getter at 75, coming into the office 6 days a week and working non-stop as office manager and doing accounting,” Laurie said.
Occasionally, Laurie’s son helps out by cleaning windows. Paige, Laurie’s thirteen-year-old daughter, calls herself the “Little Boss” and comes into the office to give inspirational speeches about teamwork to the crew. She also draws them pictures and sings them songs to keep everyone’s spirits high.
Transition to cleaning business owner
After thirty years of painting and filing nails, Laurie was accustomed to the thrill of being self-employed. “The challenging part was getting used to having employees, it was a huge transition for me, very new and different. Especially when I had to fire my first employee, which was hard to do. It’s difficult to have the responsibility of having to feed all these families. We become friends with our employees and have to make sure everyone continues to have work,” she said.
The company employs thirteen full-time staff, four of whom have been with the team the whole time, forming the core group of trusted maids. Laurie also puts herself into the rotation when necessary and isn’t shy about sharing her favorite cleaning products.
“I LOVE the Swiffer Dust & Shine Multi Surface spray. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world. You can use it on stainless steel, leather, and countertops. And Swiffer dusters are amazing. I can’t live without them,” said Laurie as she rifled through her supply closet looking at cleaning products that she uses when she goes out on a job.
Everybody thinks they know how to clean
Like most cleaning business owners, Laurie finds hiring difficult. “Everybody thinks they can clean, but they can’t. They say they clean their mom’s house or their friend’s house, but when you put them to work you find that they can’t clean. They seem motivated but when you get to the third house of the day, they say ‘This is so much work!’” Laurie said. All the details that go into a good house cleaning like dusting and vacuuming seem to be missing for a lot of people who promise they have cleaning experience.
She’s always on the lookout for staff that are a good cultural fit with the rest of the team, in addition to having cleaning skills. “Fitting in with a group is hard, too. It’s not that we’re snarky or anything, but when you have a group of women you have to find your niche and some don’t,” said Laurie.
Her current staff is made up of superstars. They’ve been understaffed lately, but Laurie pointed out that her maids have really stepped up to help out. “They’ve had our backs. It hasn’t been an easy road. I’ll be honest, it’s been tough. And I don’t want to hire just anybody,” she said.
Favorite clients & weird clients
Laurie and her mom threw out several names of clients they enjoy working for. “They’re sweet and kind people. A handful of clients always compliment us and our team. Our girls get compliments all the time, but we really appreciate it when someone compliments the back office as well, because we work just as hard.”
When I asked Laurie to describe anything strange she’s seen on the job, she mentioned that all people are different and unique. “Sometimes you go into places that don’t have any photos of their children on display but lots of photos of their animals. And all the toys were lined up nicely, which was weird. Their kid is two years old, those toys should have been all over the place.”
A good cleaner is a good listener
After so many years of face-to-face communication with her cosmetology clients, Laurie has perfected her people skills. “I really like helping people and beautifying their homes. I go out to client homes to give estimates three or four times a week and if they start chit-chatting about their families I can spend up to an hour with them, listening,” she said.
There are other similarities to cosmetology as well. Laurie drew the connection, “When you go to get your toes done, they always last a little longer and look a little better. It’s the same thing with a cleaning service. Your home looks better, smells better, and lasts longer.”
When not working, she takes her daughter to ride horses and her son to football practice. “We spend a lot of time with horses just horsing around,” she laughed. If you’re looking for a trusted local cleaning service in West Florida, check out Royal Maid Service!
Liz Volk has been providing top quality housecleaning service to the northern suburbs of Seattle for over twenty-five years with her company, Broomstick Cleaning. Before starting her business, Liz worked for a large chain of discount stores and didn’t appreciate the unpredictability of scheduling or the way she was treated as an expendable employee. With a passion for horses, Liz rode competitively and found that her retail job didn’t give her the freedom she needed to pursue her equestrian interests. Thus, Broomstick Cleaning was born, and the community of Shoreline started to rely on her professional service to keep their homes clean.
Entrepreneurial experience helps grow the business
Eight years ago, Liz joined forces with Bruce McQuilken, who helped bring the business to the next level. “When we met, it was in the middle of the recession and Liz had started to lose clients. She didn’t really have a formal presence and wasn’t really doing any marketing except by word of mouth,” said Bruce.
Bruce had been an entrepreneur most of his life, launching and running his own company for fifteen years before selling it a few years prior to meeting Liz. He knew he could bring his business expertise to Broomstick Cleaning and start to increase sales. “Because of the economy, she stopped getting as many word of mouth referrals, so we put out a flier and I helped her clean as we brought in new customers,” he said.
30% rate hike with no client loss
Another thing Bruce did was to immediately raise the rates the company charged for cleaning services. “Liz’s rates were way too low. We raised the rates by about 30% and not a single client dropped their service,” he said. “That speaks a lot about the quality of the cleaning she provides. Liz takes great pride in doing things the right way. We still have clients that she started out with twenty-five years ago.” One of their clients mentioned being scared that Liz might be giving notice when she saw the letter in her mailbox but was relieved that it was only a reasonable rate increase after so many years.
The number of customers Broomstick Cleaning serves today is nearly six times the size it was when Bruce joined, and the pair have seven staff members helping clean homes.
“The market has really grown,” said Bruce. “The largest percentage of our client demographic are married couples with children and pets, who work full time, and who are between the ages of 30-55 years old.”
Treat employees well
Of their employees, Bruce said that no one is technically a full timer. “No one can consistently clean a house for eight hours a day. The work is too hard and people get burned out. We try to be a company that has a feeling of family, that takes an interest in our staff’s personal lives. This past Saturday we were at a staff’s son’s second birthday party.”
The company finds a lot of ways to go above and beyond for their staff. “The most they ever work per day is six hours. Most are moms, and the schedule is worked out so that they start early and finish between 1:30-3p, which allows them to be home when their kids get home from school. We also help find them time off to take children to appointments when needed,” said Bruce.
“We pay way above the minimum wage, and really believe that the people who run the company are, in fact, the company. We need to treat them well and respect them for the quality of the work they do. Our turnover is way less than industry average. People do come and go for various reasons, but we’ve had one woman who’s worked for us for five years, which is unheard of in the industry,” he said.
Besides a high hourly wage, Broomstick offers a 5% quarterly bonus to incentivize good behavior like showing up on time and doing good work. They also reimburse the tax deductible travel costs if employees use their own vehicles. With the Affordable Care Act providing subsidized health care for their staff’s income bracket, Bruce and Liz made sure that their employees got enrolled, and everyone now has health coverage.
When they noticed that their staff didn’t know the basic concepts of how to manage money properly, Liz and Bruce spent time teaching them so their employees would understand interest on auto loans, for example. “We talked about what additional things we could provide that would be useful for their lives,” said Bruce.
Every day the team is out on the job, Liz makes a nutritious lunch for everyone. “We’ve got to make sure they have the proper fuel for their engines,” Bruce said. “She makes them a quality lunch every day they work for us, like wrap sandwiches of flat bread with ham, cheese and lettuce, or tuna, or egg salad. Their favorite lunch is jalapeño bagels. And we bring bottled water so they always have something to drink.”
Perhaps most importantly, Bruce and Liz recently got all their staff to register to vote. “We’re just good citizens helping the people who help us have a decent company.”
Retirement? What retirement?
Bruce likes the work he does because it makes a contribution to people’s lives and it’s a way to still keep his hand in the business world. “I’m basically on social security, I’m 67 years old. This job allows me to be productive where I don’t have to do the physical work but I do fundamentally everything else, like keeping the books, payroll, purchasing, making sure we have the supplies we need, fixing vacuums, all sorts of things. I have never understood people who say they’re retired. What do they do when they get up in the morning? What keeps them engaged?”
For fun, Bruce plays golf when he can get away. Liz is an accomplished gardener, and Bruce laughed, “Our yard reflects this, which means there’s a lot of work to be done out there.”
You can tell immediately upon meeting him that Eric Grace is someone who cares deeply about other people. Whether it’s providing customers of Graceworks Housecleaning with eco-friendly cleaning or creating a nurturing and positive work environment for the fifteen person staff that he manages, Eric is committed to providing a positive experience.
He founded Graceworks Housecleaning eight years ago in the Rogue Valley area near Medford, Oregon. Eric had been working with a friend who owned an “all-organic and natural carpet cleaning company” and he saw the benefits of providing green cleaning services to people in the area. Previously, he had worked as a counselor to help people resolve deep-seated issues and he continues to act as a mentor even while running his housecleaning business, helping people awaken and unlock their potential.
“I decided to take a break and was working for my friend doing some side jobs. I found a couple looking for eco-friendly cleaning for their home because they had migraines, so they couldn’t have scents or perfumes or toxic products. I ended up working with them for a few years and exploring products that worked for this couple. Word spread, and then my schedule got filled up, and then I had to hire people! We’ve got fifteen cleaners now and between five to fifteen new clients every week,” Eric said.
This success is driven by the nurturing that Graceworks provides, helping people reduce stress and bringing care into their homes by doing eco-friendly cleaning. They also provide extras like errand-running, shopping, and retrieving the mail for their elderly clients. “Our goal is to bring ease and simplicity into people’s lives,” said Eric.
The company also has a very successful marketing strategy. “We’re spread all over,” he said. “We’re on the radio… we have a nice trade going with the radio station (JPR) where we clean their offices and get ads on the radio in exchange. We also have great SEO where we rank very high for green cleaning and eco-friendly cleaning in the area. Really, it’s lots of different avenues. There’s also word of mouth with a referral program for our clients.”
Eric has seen a lot in the years he’s been growing the business, including stereotypes that people have. “I started out as a male cleaner, and there were certain stereotypes I came up against where people thought women were more suitable to be cleaners than men, which isn’t really true. And now it’s interesting to see how people respond to me as the owner versus as the cleaner doing the work.”
The people he has met along the way have been memorable, as interesting as the folks he met when he was working as a cab driver, a concierge, and a bartender. “There are people that you meet and you’re delighted to know them and get to hear their stories. One couple had so much creativity oozing through their house, the woman was a romance novelist who wrote 58 or 59 books, and the man was a comic book artist. I got to know them well and it wasn’t just me going to clean their house, I was bringing a quality of cleansing. The energy of the home was so vibrant afterwards. The goal is to clean a home, to make it fresh and new, to provide a reset point for the person who lives there, to get their home cleared of dirt and grime, a reset button,” said Eric.
One customer gushed, “I can’t tell you what a difference this makes… Our home doesn’t simply sparkle, it FEELS like the fantastic little retreat it ought to be.” Another woman would make a delicious lunch for Eric, who would clean and then sit down and share a meal with her.
Eric believes that cleaners have a unique opportunity and responsibility to provide a valuable service. “If you’re open and respectful, people feel more trusting. Word of mouth spreads that way. This was never just about making money for me.”
So what does Eric like best about his job? “I like working from home, it’s lovely to be here. I always dreamed about this. When I was younger I thought I was going to be a veterinarian and have a clinic at my house. It allows me the time to be with my son, to be my own boss, and create the work environment and culture I want.”
Part of that work culture is the occasional gatherings like dinner and bowling night where the team all hangs out and knocks down pins. Another part is taking good care of his staff and treating them with respect, making sure they are appreciated and well-compensated. Whichever cleaner earns the most positive reviews earns a prize, either a vacation trip to the Oregon coast, a massage, movie tickets, or a night out at a local restaurant. “One of my goals is to create a culture that is warm and supportive. I enjoy getting to know the staff and the clients, meeting all sorts of people and seeing how I can support them in their life.”
Eric sees each home that his team goes into as a unique challenge. “Whether it’s post-construction or move out/move in, thoroughness is really the key. You have to manage getting into all the nooks and crannies but still balance that with efficiency. It’s really the little things, and it starts from the beginning, listening to the customer. They’ll tell you what their fears and frustrations are. Recently I was the first person a woman called looking for a new cleaner after having someone steal from her. She was so shaken, wondering if she could even trust another cleaner coming into her home. This requires delicacy and compassion, and I need to find the right cleaner for her home to be the person she can trust.”
His years of counseling have provided the training to being a great listener. “I’m looking for what issues they’ve had in the past, what they loved or didn’t love. I listen for their key priorities. Some people are very stressed out by the kitchen and so we make sure it is beautifully done, well-polished, organized nicely, towels folded. These things make a difference.”
Veronice Biscalquim was visiting a friend in the U.S. from her native Brazil when she realized she wanted to move to the States. “I liked everything that I saw! The opportunity here was better than it was in Brazil,” said Veronice. She fearlessly moved thousands of miles by herself without knowing how to speak English to make a new home in the Boston area. She began to take language classes and look for work as soon as she settled in, and quickly decided to start her own business, Outstanding Cleaning.
“When I was in Brazil, I used to manage three businesses: a supermarket with three hundred employees, an office with twenty-five employees, and from 4pm until 11pm I managed a gym. I would start my day at six in the morning and not be done until nearly midnight. It was crazy! The money I was getting from a whole month of work there was equal to what I could make in a week in the U.S. with my cleaning business,” she said.
In Boston, she started out by slowly building her reputation as a reliable and thorough cleaning service. Her clients were thrilled with the high quality of her work and one woman offered Veronice and her daughter, Nicole (now nine years old), a place to stay in the winter if she found her apartment to be too cold. This client remains loyal to Outstanding Cleaning and told Veronice that whenever she needed her, she would be there to support her. “When people see that you work hard and make a difference in their lives, they are open to helping you,” she said.
Her daughter, Nicole, pitches in and does turnover cleaning for Airbnb rentals with her mom when necessary, and then Veronice treats her to bubble tea afterward. Nicole has always been deeply committed to helping her mother’s business succeed, trumpeting her services to strangers wherever they went. “She would go up to people in restaurants, church, the market, meetings, and go ‘Do you need a housecleaner? My mom does that!’ She’s so proud of me,” said Veronice. When she explained to Nicole that Outstanding Cleaning helps people who are too busy to clean for their families, Nicole asked when they were going to get a housecleaner so that Veronice could spend more time with her.
In addition to the help that her daughter provides occasionally, Outstanding Cleaning has a staff of five talented women who do most of the cleaning while Veronice focuses on administrative work, sales, and marketing. “They are very sweet. I treat them like my friends,” she said. Always on the lookout to help people, Veronice suggested that Nicole’s babysitter join her cleaning crew once Nicole outgrew the need for her sitting services. “She’s been working with me ever since.”
Right now, Veronice is looking to hire an assistant to help her manage the office work, as she grows the business and expands into taking on state and federal cleaning job contracts. She gets help from the Center for Women and Enterprise in Boston which offers advice and classes. One woman reached out to her with questions about how she handles marketing and Veronice realized that she needed to take her own advice about getting additional support so she could focus on marketing.
She has encouraged her friends to pursue the cleaning business as well, despite warning them that it’s not easy. “You can do it if you’re persistent. But don’t think that money will just rain from the sky,” she said. Her friend has a cleaning business in the same market as Veronice, but there are more than enough jobs to go around and the two send each other referrals if their schedule doesn’t allow for a particular booking.
While she’s now mostly in the office, Veronice did spend many years doing hands-on cleaning, so she saw a lot of interesting things. Her most memorable was cleaning a house with a friend, and the friend encountered a huge spider. “She came out screaming, ‘There’s a spider!’ and got the broom and killed it. Then she showed it to the client who told us that was her son’s pet spider. I’m still scarred from that!”
The favorite part of her job is being able to meet interesting people and keep busy, even if that means working almost around the clock. “You own your own business to have freedom but then you don’t really have free time. But it is freedom because I’m doing my own thing. When I was growing up in Brazil, they used to give speeches about how you can always do better, be a better generation. I grew up in that environment. And that’s what I’m trying to show to my daughter. I want her to be proud of what she does.”
When you’re setting up your Halloween decorations, don’t be afraid to go over the top because you don’t want to deal with the mess later. We can connect you to the best local cleaning service in your area to help you untangle your Halloween web and pull down the giant fake spiders from your ceilings.
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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.
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.
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.”
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.