“I Want the Cheapest…”

First off, let me say if you came here as the result of a Google search, I apologize.  This blog is not about the cheapest anything.  In fact, it is about the exact opposite.

After giving several ballpark quotes lately and not hearing anything back from the people who requested them it occurred to me that, as a society, we are hung up on the cheapest.  We have to have the cheapest…whatever.  Car insurance, airfare, clothes, it doesn’t matter.  As long as we can get it for the least amount of money, we will buy it.

The one thing that’s missing from our calculation, I think, is relationships.

A hundred years ago, everyone bought their groceries from different vendors.  You had the meat market, the produce stand(which have actually come back in vogue thanks to farmers markets) and the milk man.  You had relationships with each of them.  They knew you and your family, they knew what you liked and what you didn’t like.  There was no way you could put a price on that sort of relationship.

Butcher_shop_in_Valencia  produce stand

And then came the grocery stores.  Everything you needed in one stop and, probably, less expensive.  The meat guy didn’t have to pay for a stand alone shop, so the savings were passed on to the customer.  Maybe you had a relationship with this person and maybe you didn’t, but if not it was alright because you were saving money and time.

I think the thing that we fail to take into account as we compare prices and clip coupons is the relationship.

Because, whether we realize it or not, there is value in knowing who we are doing business with.  Just as the butcher from a century ago would recognize you and knew exactly how thick you liked your pork chops cut or the produce vendor who knew your family and always seemed to pick out the freshest head of lettuce for you because he or she knew you had to make it last awhile, a good business relationship today can pay off in ways that are hard to put a price on.

Sure you could save 15% or more by purchasing car insurance from a website, but wouldn’t you rather have an insurance agent you know and trust looking out for you, your family or your business?

If you look hard enough you will find an awesome deal on home cleaning.  Maybe through Groupon or one of the national chains who specialize in low cost cleaning (read; cheap).  Maybe I am biased, but I would rather have my home; the place where I feel safest, where my family feels safest, cleaned by someone who lives in my area.  Yes, I could save a boatload of money hiring someone who offers the lowest possible rate, but the next time they come, will I have the same people?  Will it be the people I already know and who know my home?  There is value in having the same people come to your home every time.

This is where relationships become priceless.

Everything in it’s Own Time

We did not start this business to get rich.

I have to keep telling myself that for some reason since yesterday.  We started this business for a lot of reasons; to feed, house and clothe our family, primarily.  To make a living.  To make a life.

Everything else; going green, running our business our way, making policy that makes sense, educating the public about the benefits of green cleaning, EVERYTHING else is secondary.

back2back               family_portrait

To be able to be home when the kids got home from school, to take camping trips as a family, to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and clean clothes to wear.  Every decision we made was based on these needs.  Did we miss out on some more money because we turned down jobs that would have required us to work nights or longer hours?  Absolutely.

I always see photos in my Instagram feed telling me to click on the link in the bio to see how to become wealthy working from home.   That’s not me.

And I’m OK with that.

We met a couple yesterday who have their own cleaning service in our area.  They are looking for someone to sub for them on foreclosure cleanings.  They have been in business about 7 years longer than we have and are about our age.  They were talking about their days; eight to eleven hours a day every day (in the field.  This does not include bookkeeping or any of the other tasks involved in running your own business.).  Driving all over the Twin Cities from Elk River to Lakeville to North Saint Paul.  They had never hired employees in the 16 years they had been in business.   They were also looking for someone to help with their jobs so they could take a vacation.  I left feeling like the biggest slacker in the world.

We all prioritize and make decisions when it comes to our life and our business.  Could I have put in a few more hours?  Missed a concert, a fishing trip or a family dinner so that I made more money?

And then I remembered.  We didn’t start this business to get rich.  We started it to make a living.  To make a life.  Honestly?  I think we have done just that.

Cleaning Your Home With a Team

Ok, so here you are.  The woman who has been cleaning your home has finally given her notice.  She has been with you for the last 15 years, basically since she graduated high school, and here she is expecting her second child.

It’s been nice having one person clean your home.  She was fairly reliable, showing up every week and taking about four to five hours to clean your home the same way you would.  Sure, it took some training to get her to do it your way, but it was worth it.

Woman Cleaning Toilet

What are your options for replacing her (like you could ever replace her)?  Angieslist has a good comparison of your options, here.

You could search for another woman; maybe on craigslist or in the local news paper, but that seems so last century.  Besides, the world is a much different place since you last hired a home cleaner.

The other option is to hire a service.  The nice part of this option is you know that they are most likely insured and there is a certain amount of security involved with inviting them into your home.

A reputable cleaning service will background check their employees, have liability insurance and can be dependable and reliable.  Some will send the same people each time (usually two or three), so you have a sense of continuity on each cleaning.

The down side to this is that where it took your previous woman four to five hours to clean your home, the cleaning company can usually have it done in an hour to an hour and a half.  This may lead you to believe that they did an inferior job or skipped some things you wanted done, but in reality, two or three people naturally can do the same job your previous cleaner did in 1/3 or 1/2 the time.

Team

It may also be disconcerting to have a group of people in your home versus one person.  Whereas your previous cleaner was pretty silent in her work, save for the vacuum, a team will normally communicate during the cleaning (“Don’t forget the stainless polish.”, “Did you do these stairs, yet?”).

The decision is a personal preference and one you most likely will lose some sleep over.  It is your home, after all.  Best of luck to you!

Selling Your Home?

Fantastic!  According to Donna Wheeler from Edina Realty we are in the middle of a Sellers Market.

And, as it happens, with the exception of chiropractor, we happen to know a LOT of Real Estate agents.

There’s Donna, Jon, Carla, Sara, Tim and Teresa, just to name a few.  Don’t make us get out the Rolodex.

Now that you have a Realtor your next step should be to call a professional cleaning service.  Why, you ask?  Because every day your home sits on the market is costing you money and one of the surest ways to get it sold faster is to get it cleaned.

As homeowners, we tend to take our homes and our regular cleanings for granted.  Everybody does the basics; clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, dust, vacuum, etc. but there are areas that tend to get neglected.  Try this: go to your bathroom and pull out any vanity drawer and move everything inside of that drawer out.  See what I mean?  You can also try this with your refrigerator drawers.

5  24

Once you have your home on the market you will most likely do some de-cluttering and once that happens, areas that were neglected tend to pop out.  And let’s not kid ourselves.  The folks checking to see if your home is their next home will be looking in every nook and cranny.

That’s where a professional cleaner can come in handy.  We know where to look and what to do to help your soon-to-be-ex- home shine for the upcoming showings.  Cobweb swinging from the chandelier?  Not when we’re done.  Cotton swab behind the toilet?  Nope!  Toothpaste in the sink?  What toothpaste in the sink?

14  15

So, when you’re ready to put your home on the market, just remember; a good cleaning service can actually pay for itself when it comes to getting your home sold.

The Cost of Hiring Cheap Home Cleaners

I saw this story on a friends Facebook news feed and cringed.  I always cringe when I see stories about home cleaners gone bad.  It reflects poorly on the industry that I have chosen and, yes, I take it personally.  My issue I guess.

Whenever our kids would do something unwise growing up after we wiped the tears away and the kids were over whatever hurt them, we would ask them, “Did you learn anything?”.  I would like to ask this homeowner the same thing.  Not to be mean or insensitive.  I am sure that when he hired the woman he had no idea she would use the key he gave her to get into his home and steal checks.  Still there are things that you can do to protect yourself.

Of course the most obvious answer is to hire a reputable cleaning service.  Large National chains such as Merry Maids and The Cleaning Authority have a reputation and systems in place to weed out those with criminal backgrounds that may pose a threat to your security.  The downside to hiring a franchise business like the ones I named above is that you may have to sacrifice price and a personal touch to get that security.  These companies tend to be slightly more expensive and you may or may not get the same cleaners in your home each time, something that contributes to trust.

Likewise, smaller local, even family owned cleaning services who are professional and insured will also have those systems in place and you may be able to get a better price.  They may be more flexible with regards to putting the same cleaners in  your home each time and accommodating your needs with regards to scheduling.  The key is in making sure they are professional.

We recently signed up a client that we had given a bid to nearly a year ago.  Initially this client went with a Mother and Daughter team because they were less expensive.  She called us back and signed up after they cancelled her cleanings three time in a row due to personal issues.

Finally, if you just want the lowest possible price and think that a single cleaner can give you a little more personal service, insist on doing a background check on them.  Any cleaning person worth their salt, even if they don’t have insurance, would be willing to submit to this.  You have every right in the world to know who is in your home and whether they have a criminal history.

The events described in the story at the beginning of this blog had a happy outcome because the woman was caught.  Hopefully some type of insurance (we’re pretty sure it’s not hers) will kick in to cover this gentleman.  But the fact is that a little checking on this person could have saved this man a lot of trouble in the long run.

No Time to Clean

As we mentioned in our previous blog, a cleaning or maid service is not for everyone.  Trust issues, feelings of needing to do it yourself and lack of money can all play into the decision not to hire a cleaning service for your own home.

You know that, for your families health (not to mention your sanity), you need to have a clean home so either by choice or by circumstance you do it yourself.  But what happens when you don’t have time to do it?  Especially this time of year, the demands on your time double or even triple.

Recently I was reading an article by Kathryn Webber about making time to clean.   She makes an excellent point when she says, “Too many people think that they have to either be “Martha” or give up on home chores completely. It’s not an “either/or” situation. Perfection is not the goal, a reasonably clean house is.”

There are a number of ways to make sure that your home is reasonably clean that take very little time.  Ms. Webber mentions some of them in her article and we have some on our website, here.

In general, though a couple of our favorites are;

Get 5 Minutes From Your Family.  Set a kitchen timer for five minutes and have one member of your family in a different room.  GO!  You would be amazed how much can be cleaned in five minutes.

See it?  Clean it!  Ever walk into the kitchen and see a spill on the counter top but thought to yourself, ‘That’s not what I came in here for’ and left it?  Wipe it up!  I guarantee that you would have to work pretty hard to spend more than a minute cleaning up a spill (even if it’s mustard or jelly).

It will take some planning on your part, but you can have a clean home without spending a lot of time on it and without hiring a maid service.

A Maid Service is Not for You

I should probably preface this post with an apology because I believe I am going to offend some people with it.  I am sorry.

Now that that is over; a maid service is not for you.  We know your type.  You have never had a maid service or you have had many and it was always the same result; they could never do it right.  And by right, we mean the way you think it should be done.

Those people who say you should teach your children responsibility by giving them chores to do around the house?  Are they NUTS?  Your kids have the attention span of a puppy in a pet store.  And don’t even get you started on your spouse.  They wouldn’t know a hospital corner if it bit them in the, well you know.

bed

There is a right and a wrong way to clean the house and nobody but you knows the right way.  And that’s OK as long as you don’t hire someone to do it.

We once stopped an in home estimate about five minutes in.  We had never done that before.  Ever.  We heard about how the homeowner expected the toaster to be shined each time, whether it was dirty or not.  The blankets on the back of the couch needed to be folded just so and each of the Snow Baby figurines (about a dozen) each needed to be pulled down from a high shelf, dusted and put back exactly as they were before.

We were on the second room of a 15 room home and we knew.  One of two things would happen; either the price that we would ask the homeowner to pay to spend the amount of time in her house to do it the way they wanted would be so high that they might faint or we would get the job and we would never, ever hit this homeowner’s mark.  Ever.  So we stopped the bid and informed the potential client, ever so gently, that we knew for a fact that our company was not a good fit for them.

toaster

You see, hiring a Maid or Cleaning Service requires you to trust that service and accept that they may or may not do things exactly the way you want them done.  It may also require you to accept that the service may or may not do some things you DO want done.

In the above story, for example, we were unwilling to take the risk of removing, dusting and then replacing the figurines for a couple of reasons.  The first reason was that these were obviously precious to the homeowner and, depending on which of our cleaning team did the dusting at this home, would have required getting a small step-ladder and removing each piece one by one.  This increases the liability to us in the form of a potential fall, and the risk of breaking what may have been an heirloom.

The second reason had to do with pricing.  When you are being careful you take extra time and, as they say, time is money.  Some people are price-conscious when it comes to a cleaning service.  We can sanitize a kitchen counter, making sure to polish the chrome on the sink faucet, clean the inside of a microwave and get fingerprints  and grime off of the outside of the other major appliances in a reasonable amount of time and we build tasks like that into our bids.  But when you start throwing in items like polishing a chrome toaster even if it doesn’t need it, folding blankets on the couch just so and dusting figurines, this is going to take extra time and we need to reflect that time in our bid.  Most clients are not willing to pay that price.

So there you have it.  Is a Cleaning or Maid Service for you?