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March 03, 2014

Dream Cleaning: My Ideal Housekeeper To-Do List

Dana from describes herself as a slightly-obsessive and occasionally witty planner and project-doer. But with two kids, her house has still gone from clean to chaotic. With spring cleaning-task-mastering in mind, she has created this list for the housekeeper she hopes to have one day. What would you add?

Blog-house-cleanerWhen I was a child, I kept my bedroom clean. The bed was always made, clothes were put away, and there was minimal clutter. I was similarly neat and organized in college, much to the relief of my roommate. When I became a homeowner, I kept the whole house neat, if not fastidiously clean.

And then I had a child. Then another child. My carpets became punctuated with Legos and doll shoes, and potted plants were replaced with plastic toy bins. For every item I returned to its place, two more appeared underfoot.

The situation hasn't improved as my kids get older. My tween and teen have traded the toys for textbooks, sports equipment, and smelly socks. I brace myself every afternoon for the whirlwind that blusters through my home, leaving messiness and cookie crumbs in its wake.

When I win the lottery, the first thing I will do is hire a live-in housekeeper. On her (or his - I'm not picky) list of things to do would be:

1. Do the laundry. Putting it in the washer and dryer isn't so bad; it's the folding and putting away that I detest. I did laundry on Monday, and as I write this on Thursday there is a basket full of clean, unpaired socks sitting in my bedroom. The four of us have been reaching in all week; if I wait long enough it will empty itself.

2. Clean the bathrooms. Based on the gobs of toothpaste on the counter and in the sink, my children brush with bare brushes. Sporadically flushed toilets make for some nasty bowls, and my teen's flowing mane sheds the equivalent of a small kitten on a daily basis. I think I actually heard a hair ball purr at me the other day.

3. Vacuum. That's not really the issue, though. It's all the stuff on the floor that has to be picked up and put away before vacuuming can commence. So...

4. Pick up everything on the floor, and dump it on the owner's bed. Just because I would have a housekeeper doesn't mean we should live like slobs. My children need to be responsible for their stuff, and if that means taking ten minutes to clean off their bed at night then so be it.

5. Handle the chores that require contorting. The backs of cabinets, under the sink, behind the toilet - these are all places I do not want to go. And at barely five foot two, I will gladly hand over any chore that is out of my reach. The tops of my window valances (there's been a lacrosse ball resting up there for a year), the crown molding, and the tops of bookcases are all no-man's land.  

6. Sweeping and mopping. This needs to be done on almost an hourly basis. In reality it is done much, much less than that. It is no accident that I picked a dark tile for my kitchen floor.

7. Meal prep. My kids' activities often interfere with dinner time, and I can't be home to prep or cook a decent meal. I can barely cook a decent meal when I am home, but that's not the point. I'd like dinner waiting for me when we walk in the door at 6:30 or 7:00. And I'd like it to be delicious and healthy, please.

8. Periodic deep cleaning. I admit I stink at this. I want a good house scouring from top to bottom every few months, in all those nooks and crannies that I try to ignore. And then there’s the seasonal stuff: packing away the winter wardrobes, donating the out-grown clothes to Goodwill, changing out the storm windows, re-organizing the garage. Get this off my plate!

9. Don't judge. I always felt like Alice was secretly thinking bad thoughts about the Bradys (please tell me I haven't dated myself with The Brady Bunch reference). My fantasy housekeeper would have no such thoughts; he or she would think we were the coolest family ever. Just not the cleanest.


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Experienced Housekeeper

This person wants a maid. House cleaners clean houses not make beds or meals.


It's comforting to know that the 4 day old laundry basket isn't a rarity. With four children we thought that we would give everyone their own basket and as easy as it can be to have the laundry sorted before you start, it still doesn't get put away. Thank you for putting some light and a comical spin to the truth of house cleaning and children.

Janet Katz

I lived overseas and had what we called a cleaning lady twice a week. She cleaned everything pretty well, changed and washed the sheets, reorganized the linen closet in such a way I could not find a complete set of sheets as she put the linens away as type, bottom sheets in a stack, top sheets in a stack, etc. I would not let her do my laundry but she would put it away after I did it. She could be trusted with my husband's laundry and she IRONED HIS SHIRTS. She also cleaned out the refrigerator, though she had to be nudged to do this as she didn't like it, either. We had cats and the floors were always clean. We paid her when we went on vacation and she thought we were the best and we probably were in that town. I just want someone to wash and change the sheets and clean the refrigerator in addition to the usual. I used to have this in the US and am going to try to find this when we finish our remodeling AND my husband gets back from Iraq. This is not what one gets from a cleaning service but from an individual. I'm getting too old for a lot of the deep cleaning, also.

Felicia walker

Need housekeeper


Yes,Dana needs a good maid not a houskeeper! And that could be price!
Having family comes with a lot responsibility including cleaning, cooking,doing laundry etc. Having good husband to share responsibility would be nice!
I always wonder-why American women don't like to care for their familys?


I think one of the great things about is that you can post what you want. We live in a world where the job market today is all about diversity. If someone wants a "housekeeper" to know how to do a car tune up once a month - yeah sure it's an oddity, but that's the job description. To each their own, and for every job description there are unique individuals that are usually willing to fit the bill for the right price!

Stephanie Schuler

It is certainly hard to keep a clean house when you're running around, taking care of so many children. In those rare quiet moments in my house, even when I am totally exhausted, I make sure to do a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher. Luckily, my husband helps out a ton too.

Katia Z.

I can totally relate to this article because it's what I do practically everyday at home. I serve as the nanny for my siblings and have to cook, clean, drive, clean, clean, clean....Also, over the summer when I dogsat, I cleaned the first floor for her every week and she didn't even ask or pay me to do it.


Why the judgement in some of these replies? A maid only isn't what she wants. A maid does not help with meal prep, not in my experience. I work full time (plus commute, like many do). We have a "helper" we hired from I LOVE her. Because of her my husband and I get to actually spend time with my family AND have healthy meals AND a clean house. I don't have to make that choice daily.

Tracy isn't a maid. She helps prep meals, she cleans, she'll stop at the grocery store, she'll run errands if needed. She is extremely thorough and extremely efficient. She see's things that need to be done and does them. She doesn't try to do things she's been asked not to do. She learns how we like things done. Best of all, she has an amazing personality and sense of humor (my husband is often at home when she is there). She's so awesome that despite a drop in income this year we are giving up other things to keep her.

We only have her 12 hrs a week, so there is still plenty for us to do. But she's amazing and I no longer feel shame for needing help. Before we hired her I was constantly trying to fit ALL those things in AND spend time with the kids. Something always had to give. Always. And while that is a reality for many, many parents, I'm so grateful that it no longer is for us.

Post that ad Dana! A stay at home mom is a job just like mine. There's no reason you shouldn't have someone do at least some of the chores so you can enjoy your family!

Rabia Lieber

I would *love* to have someone do those things for me! I work long hours out of the home, and I'm exhausted at the end of the day. I feel like I spend the weekend getting ready for the week and I never get the chance to sit down, guilt-free and enjoy myself! My mom had a housekeeper while we were growing up. She used to bring her kids over and the kids would all play, while she and my mom tackled the house together. Unconventional, sure; but it worked for my mom and my brother and I had a great time too!

C. Lee Reed

Great post. If I win the lottery, I am definitely hiring someone to keep my home and chores on task. It would be so nice to have someone else to do that each week.

I don't care what you want to call that person (although I agree with the housekeeper moniker, it fits)...I want one!


I really enjoy cleaning my house, it makes me feel good with myself. For me it is a physical and mentally healthy feeling.

Alison Hector

Hi Dana! I don't have a family at home, but I, too, would love some help, so this list is spot on. There often are too few hours in the day to balance work and home duties, so a helper would be the ideal solution to that challenge.


Dana: all the previous comment's are nice, but the best think is your effort to stay with your family and keeping it nice and clean for them. Each family has different needs, and the same, differents maids or housekeeper can help you in all your needs. Just at every interview, request what's the most important for you, and I'm pretty sure you will find the right helper for you, at the right rate. Believe me, I do this all the time and all my clients are happy. I'm a good and happy worker, friendly too! And the best, is all my clients belong to san carlos mother's club. Only one referred me to another, then others to others. ;).


The previous described maid/housekeeper is what I did while getting my Bachelors degree. I enjoyed the Human Services career with my degree. However I find myself struggling with todays market and low paying jobs. basically I made more money working before I got my degree.
I did all the things previously described as well as caring for the families elderly parent. Although I have my resume on various job sites. I believe I would be just as happy doing what I enjoyed for many years. I have strong references available though elderly now. I look for a good fit family to continue helping families enjoy their homes and families.

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