Critical details that separate the good from the great…
There is a common misconception that to be a housekeeper is an innate ability. That one is born with the knowledge of how to remove stains from marble or how to get coffee out of a carpet, but the truth of the matter is that to be a good housekeeper one must have the aptitude and approach to the art form that housekeeping is.
There is a colossal difference between a cleaner and a housekeeper. And although to mere mortals it may seem that they are the same thing, I can assure you they most certainly are not. So how can you determine the qualities that make a good housekeeper and what sets them aside from a house cleaner? Let me share these little nuggets of gold that I’ve learnt over the years.
1. It’s not just about the hoover
A common misconception is that a house is ‘clean’ once a hoover has been passed across the floor, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. For a quality housekeeper, this is only a starting point!
An advanced housekeeper and one that is setting the highest quality within their work, will use the hoover to start the process. They will hoover (carefully) the floors, using the correct attachments for the carpets, rugs and different surfaces around the house. They will use the heavy duty hoover for the large spaces and then use the smaller hand held hoover for the more hard to reach places. A quality housekeeper will be found on their knees hoovering under the bed or sofas, moving objects that are often stationary in order to seek the stubborn areas of dust.
Only then, once the property is completely dust free will they begin the start of the cleaning process. The removing of dust is not considered housekeeping, merely a starting point. Some of the most advanced housekeepers that I know (some of whom have worked for Royalty) would balk at the idea that the hoover is the start and finish of the job. It’s just the starting process to prepare the home for the housekeeping to begin.
2. Understanding their tools
A professional housekeeper has the ability to understand, maintain and upkeep their equipment.
I was once told a horror story by a seasoned housekeeper who, when arriving to her new position, found the filter in the hoover had a dead rat it in. The last “housekeeper” had decided not to look after (or perhaps did not know) about changing the filters to ensure that dirt was not continually pushed around the home, and had been using the hoover with a decaying animal in it.
The new housekeeper immediately disposed of the hoover, asked the principal to purchase the latest Dyson and ensured from that day forth that the equipment were all properly maintained. It’s not just about using the tools, the quality housekeeper will understand the need to look after their expensive tools to ensure that their own job becomes easier and more importantly they can get the job done to the highest degree.
3. Taking direction
A good housekeeper will have the ability to listen, understand, and implement instructions.
For example, the lady of the house might instruct the housekeeper to launder and fold the clothes, and then put them back into the walk in wardrobe. At this point (if the housekeeper is new) she or he would inquire how the principal wants the clothes to be folded and to be given a tour of the wardrobe.
However, if the principal is not available (as is often the case) the housekeeper would have to use their own initiative to see how the clothes have been folded (is it shop style or bespoke style) and then understand the system of the wardrobe management. They should then take care when doing the laundry (especially when they are fine clothing such as silks and lace) and then follow the instructions.
The ability to take direction and take initiative to interpret each situation is a clear sign of a quality housekeeper.
It may sound odd, but the quality to listen is something that only exists in the highest quality of housekeepers.
When the principal or house manager talks, it is vital to listen to the communication. Housekeepers working in London are sometimes from other cultures, and sometimes staff in homes will be a mixture of cultures and first languages. Whatever language you or your staff are communicating in, it’s vital that a quality housekeeper listens and then only responds when it is prudent to. A great housekeeper will make sure they clearly understand the directions given to them and knows when to ask questions to clarify.
Being a good listener is something that the highest quality of housekeepers will have, and the ability to respond in a neutral way is often key to holding a long term position.
Accidents can happen. Hand made glasses may be broken, a shirt might be torn in the dyer or the edge of the sofa might be scuffed. The sign of a quality housekeeper is the sign of honesty; their ability to admit the mistake when it has happened and then ensure it never happens again.
Once is an accident and an honest mistake. Twice is a sign of negligence and bad quality. A high quality housekeeper understands that all parts of your house are precious. From your silver through to your baby’s baby grows. No matter what is being handled it should be done with care.
Some accidents are simply accidents, a plate can slip when doing the washing up or a small scuff can be made on the edge of a piece of furniture when hoovering. But the key is honesty. A quality housekeeper will explain the situation and ensure it never happens again. The biggest no-no that any housekeeper can do is not immediately tell the principal or the house manager. If the principal discovers it on their own, no matter how innocent or small the situation is, the trust will be lost and without trust there can be no unity within the household staff.
6. Attention to detail
A quality housekeeper will asses a room the second they enter and ensure everything is in it’s right place when they are finished cleaning.
Every home is unique and each principal will like their home to be organised and laid out in a way that suits them. The guest rooms might require bottled water and glasses next to the bedside tables, the kitchen might be appliance free, or fresh flowers may need to be displayed daily in the hallway.
Some housekeepers use their phone to take photos before they begin work to ensure that at the end of the day all items are returned to the exact same position they were found in. Every high end housekeeper has their own approach. Typically a cleaner or low quality housekeeper will ignore these things. Simple things like sofa cushions or throws will be folded and returned to a new position, then when the principal returns home, they cannot find the item they normally reach for and may have to get up to retrieve it. This may sound like a small detail, but over time it will become a major irritant.
A quality housekeeper pays attention to even the slightest details. They are there to make your life easier and run smoothly, so it’s vital that the patterns of your home are followed and respected.
When all is said and done, each principal wants their home to be run in a unique and individual way. The highest quality of housekeeper is someone who can blend in and fulfill the duties that the property and principal requires. It can sometimes be a challenge to identify what makes a good quality housekeeper and it’s even harder to identify it when you are looking for an ideal candidate for your home. At P&T we are well versed with the qualities of a housekeeper and our clients expect the housekeepers we provide to be of the very highest caliber. If you need our help finding a high quality housekeeper, or just want some further advice, get in touch, we’d be delighted to help.