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I used to clean houses in a very wealthy neighborhood. I was having trouble finding a job in my industry — marketing and communications — after taking some time off to travel. After two months of interviewing, I was close to broke, so I decided to go on Craigslist. I found a cleaning job. It was with an agency where they'd send us to different homes each day, in groups of three or four. Most of the other cleaners were recent immigrants, so the agency was just thrilled to have someone who could speak English fluently and drive. After two weeks, I went from "cleaner" to "team leader," meaning I got a car and had to deal with all the difficult clients and divide the cleaning tasks among my coworkers.
We had a lot of rich clients, so we would be cleaning massive mansions that had nine bathrooms, but only two that were actually used. And then there were movie rooms and gyms and tons of windows that take a long time to clean. The people in the big houses actually didn't tip very well. It was the people in smaller apartments who were really grateful and who actually tipped us.
One lady always kept her dildo in her bed. And we had to make her bed. So we always placed it nicely on the pillows — using gloves. At one house, the only rule was, "Don't go into the closet in the master bedroom." Eventually, after we went to that house tons of times, one of the cleaners "accidentally" opened the closet door and in it, she saw…just a staircase. We never figured out where the staircase led. And I once saw a guy naked. I had to go back into the bedroom to grab the vacuum, and the homeowner was standing in his massive closet, butt-naked. He said, "Sorry, I thought you were my wife." I'm not really sure what that meant. And this one guy had a trunk at the end of his bed that was full of S&M paraphernalia — ball gags, rubber gloves, and some other stuff. He also had a trash bag in the kitchen full of porn and whippet containers.
We once found a nugget of weed under a teenage kid's bed. We kept it.
Oh, then there was the drunk housewife who pulled out a large bottle of Grey Goose at 10 a.m. while we were cleaning. Apparently her husband had just left her for a 20-year-old.
Overall, people were generally pretty gross. We had to clean cat puke and many dirty toilets. People left dishes everywhere. People always joke about cleaning before the cleaning lady comes, but you really should. With a limited amount of time, we can't get to all that grime. One famous guy and his wife had the dirtiest kitchen I'd ever seen, and they had only booked us for an hour and wouldn't pay for more time. So they complained that we didn't clean thoroughly enough, but with caked-on grease, piles of dishes, and food all over the place, it would have been impossible. And everything was stainless steel, of course, which is really tough to clean.
The pay was very minimal. We made around $8.50 an hour, which is why we relied on tipping so much. We would usually work about eight hours a day, though it could be longer if the houses were a total mess. Most of us were young and new to the area, so we all connected and had a good time. There were a few older ladies, but they tended to be very grouchy.
As told to Hillary Reinsberg.