Cleaners

Domestic help is a billion-pound industry, as big now as it was before World War Two, yet there is a whiff of embarrassment about this lucrative business. We've all known friends or family who have cleaned the house before the cleaner got there, or who asked the cleaner to hide if people came round.

Others refuse altogether, saying that it is unethical to take advantage of someone else's economic misfortune by paying them peanuts to clear up our mess. Yet we are happy to use accountants, hairdressers and dentists to perform tasks that we can't do and don't have the time to do, so why should having a cleaner be any different?

How to avoid a bad cleaning relationship

Once over the hump of the decision, there are ways of ensuring that you don't get trapped in a bad cleaning relationship:

- Even if you think you know, ask your new cleaner how long it would take them to clean your house, and if the two times are very different, negotiate a compromise.

- Take the time to explain where everything is and exactly what you want them to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. You can't expect them to clean the silver and hand-wipe each leaf of the bonsai tree if you've just waved a hand and said airily, "You'll know what to do".

- Don't move the goalposts; if you're asking them to take on more work, you must offer them more money, it's only fair.

- Try not to be embarrassed; they are seeing your life laid bare, and may be privy to your intimate secrets - but you have to accept that goes with the territory.

-  Leave them to get on with the job in peace; they will find cleaning your house much easier if you are not following them from room, engaging them in conversation.

- If their cleaning isn't up to scratch, grab the bull by the horns, and tell them what's wrong; don't let resentment simmer beneath the surface.

- Make sure that your cupboard is well-stocked with all the cleaning products they need, and ask if stocks need replenishing.

- Always pay on time.

- Don't fuss around with presents at Christmas time: you're not embarrassed to get a financial bonus at the end of the year so why would they be?

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