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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Breaking in the New Help

This week is the third full week that our new housekeeper, Asli, has been working for us.  My last housekeeper was actually a cook that had just started her career in housekeeping to earn some more money.  After it became pretty obvious that she had little to no idea what she was doing, I walked her through the basics of what cleaning a house entails.  After observing the snail-like trails of the vacuum cleaner on our carpets, I made special care to show her how to vacuum a carpet so that all of it, not just the specks of visible dirt, got vacuumed.

She was a willing pupil, and very nice, but cleaning was never her forte.  After some time of the little, OCD tasks, like washing down the dishwasher seal (because, you know, those things get really crusty after awhile) not getting done, I just gave up and did them myself.  "I can hold out for two more years," I would tell myself when I watched the grime build up on the shower, "after all, it's not my house.  It's not my house.  I can't wait to have the time to clean my own blasted house.  That's mine."  All of you who clean your own houses can now laugh at poor, helpless, clueless me.  But I swear, having four small children makes me miss the days of being able to do something like clean my house all of the way through with no interruptions.

So when Naila walked out, I wasn't too sad.

And when Asli came and cleaned my whole house, took the boys for a walk, and ironed nine of Brandon's shirts in eight hours, I was silently thankful for Naila's departure.  She's really nice and I like her a lot, but I also like having my house cleaned in a timely and professional manner.  When Asli came to me looking for a sponge to clean the hard water residue off my glass shower door, I wanted to kiss her and weep for joy.

However, there's still the initial break-in period that we have to work through, the time where she figures out that those are my socks and they don't go in Joseph's drawer (okay, really, I can hear the eyes rolling.  Yes, I know that I have someone who folds and puts away my socks for me.  But still, if she's going to put them away, why not have her put them away in the right place?).  Today Brandon came downstairs with Joseph dressed for bed.  I looked at his pajama pants hanging several inches over his toes.

"Those aren't Joseph's pajama pants," I told Brandon (nicely.  After all, he just got the baby ready for bed).
"They were in his drawer," Brandon shrugged.
"Yes," I sighed, "But that doesn't mean that they're his pants."

Tomorrow Asli and I are going to sit down and sort laundry together.  I'm going to explain to her what size labels mean and when I tell her to leave the girls' clothes on their bed, I mean 'leave them on their bed until they put them away,' and not 'leave them on their bed for twenty minutes and then put them away.'

I recently was part of a discussion about how people like me get their children to do chores when there is a housekeeper around who is happy to do the chores for them.  Most people's complaint wasn't about the children's unwillingness, it was the housekeeper's willingness even after being told several times not to do them (no really! The eye rolling has to stop!).

Another thing I have to learn is Asli's version of Housekeeper Language.  Since I'm paying her, she has a vested interest saying 'Of course!' with a huge cheerful smile when I ask her to fold my towels into swans and paint a pond for them to swim in.  After all, I'm the boss.  But as a boss, I have a vested interest in keeping my requests reasonable.  Because if they're too unreasonable, I'm stuck finding another housekeeper to fold those swans for me.

But there's no way to get her to tell me that she thinks I'm crazy and ridiculous for asking her to watch all of the children, cook dinner, and clean the house.  So instead I have to learn to read what the subtext is and learn her limits and when she isn't happy.  It's very tricky.

But the last, hardest thing to figure out with a new housekeeper is where they are most likely to put all of your things when they are cleaning up.  Naila had a special talent of putting away things that I didn't want put away, and putting away in completely illogical places that changed every time.  So at 5 am when I was looking for my workout clothes I didn't know if they would be in my underwear drawer, pants drawer, in the laundry room, or maybe in the nightstand.  After six months, I figured out most of her hidey-holes, but sometimes she'd stump me for twenty minutes.  With Asli, I got smart and hung hooks on the back of my closet door.

Last week we were putting the children to bed and couldn't find Edwin's green blanket.  He has two blankets, knit by my wonderful aunt, and neither could be found.  He won't sleep without them, so Brandon and I were searching up and down the house at 8:15 looking for the dang things.  We started with the obvious places, Brandon going upstairs to the third floor, me downstairs to the first floor.  We met in the middle with empty hands.  So we switched and I got some more time to work on my creative thinking in the messy toy room.  Sill no blanket.  I went downstairs to start looking in the coat closet, and Brandon went back up to look in the consumables closet.  I'm starting to understand why old people like one-level houses - if you couldn't remember where you put things, you could spend all day looking for your missing items in our house.  Once I emailed Brandon at work and asked him to call me because I couldn't find my phone and didn't feel like looking for it.

Finally Brandon called down triumphantly down the stairs, "found it!!"  I climbed back up to give Edwin his goodnight kiss that has to be wiped off immediately afterwards, and asked Brandon where he had finally found the blankets.  "In the toy cupboard."  That's right, because of course children's blankets go in the toy cupboard.  Silly me.

But all complaining aside, I'm liking Asli very much.  We'll eventually come to an amicable state of understanding and we can carry on our business without much consultation.  And then of course I'll move and start over again.  Sigh.


UnkaDave said...

Don't feel badly; after 35 years of bledded wiss, I have a hard time getting your mother to fold my socks properly also.

PaulaJean said...

When we rented our new apartment, the nice owner pointed out that it had a maids room and bathroom. She looked rather skeptical when I said we wouldn't have a maid, because everyone in our area of Bogotá has maids who wear uniforms.

But being LDS missionaries with a budget, and not State Dept. expats, and only two of us, we clean our own toilets. And Dad does put the socks in the right drawers.

Stephanie said...

I've given up on clothes being put away properly. Mike is pretty slim, but it should be obvious which jeans are his and which are mine! You have to pick your battles.