Canadians Getting their Houses Cleaned?

From today’s National Post comes the following clip, from a story titled “Maid to order” by Deirdre McMurdy:

Snip from National Post, January 10, 2004

Is this true? Maybe Catherine and I are missing out on something!


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 10, 2004 - 19:32 Permalink

I do know several people who do have their houses professionally cleaned. I’ve considered doing it myself, but some vague sense of guilt (having my house cleaned would make me feel like I’m living in oppulence) has kept me from doing it. Unfortunately, that means no-one is cleaning my house…

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 10, 2004 - 19:41 Permalink

You are living in oppulence, man: you have a dream job, in a wonderful building, and can spend your days playing Super Mario Kart World Challenge, drinking exotic varieties of hot chocolate, and zipping around town in a cool silver car. What more would you want?

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 10, 2004 - 19:53 Permalink

I know — and the worst part is, I’m riddled with 1st-world guilt, but don’t have the initiative to do anything about that. I think it’s one of the primary things I need to deal with in my life.

But yes, you’re right — I live the life of an internet rock-star — still, there’s just something about having a “maid”.

Mark Hemphill's picture
Mark Hemphill on January 10, 2004 - 20:44 Permalink

Feeling guilty? You guys aren’t abusing your affluence. What helps to give you more time to think about and fix important problems….and enjoy life (ain’t that what it’s for?) is usually a good thing. I have first-world guilt when I catch myself doing something toooo decadent (a weak moment of consumerism, etc…) and sympathy guilt because there is way too much of it in the West. But I’m thinking that if you guys, particularly, can do more of what it is you’re doing by getting some help around the house (and maybe even get along better with your s.o in the process) you should go for it. It’s an honest job. Treat them well and there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. We don’t have a cleaner but I think maybe we’d be better off for having one.

dave m's picture
dave m on January 10, 2004 - 21:17 Permalink

i get my home cleaned every other week too. i’ve tried for years to keep it clean myself… no good. it’s one of the best things i’ve ever done… but the dream… a live-in house-keeper named Rosie… “oh mr. david, you are home early today!” one day…. one day…

Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on January 10, 2004 - 21:38 Permalink

At various points, when we both worked outside the home, my wife and I would hire professional cleaners. But in the end, it’s always made MORE work for us. My wife can’t stand the thought that someone would think she was a messy person … so she’d spend the night before the cleaner arrived working her ass (and mine) off, cleaning the house. And don’t try logic in those situations. It doesn’t work.

Dico's picture
Dico on January 10, 2004 - 21:40 Permalink

We too have a cleaner.

To make yourself feel less guilty Steve, perhaps you can hire someone less fortunate than yourself or just someone who loves to clean. Rather than going out to “Molly Maid” or a corporate cleaner, get someone in your community who love to make a few extra dollars working 5 hours a week or so.

The only disadvantage we’ve seen is that you will probably have a higher level of turnover compared to the Molly Maid people who’ll always be there. We had a lady who cleaned because her husband worked all day and this kept her occupied. She was excellent. She didn’t need the money, but liked to clean and wanted to keep busy. Then one day she picked up a new hobby and stopped cleaning. We’ve also had someone clean who was within walking distance… they were good aswell… however the day came that they moved out to Stratford and it wasn’t worth it for them to walk or cab it into town.

The people we have now are great and live close by. They’re eager to work and seem to really enjoy it. I am hoping that they stick around for a while.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 10, 2004 - 23:10 Permalink

I appreciate that everyone is ok with my lifestyle ;-)

My “first-world-guilt”, as I call it, is probably more of a personal issue that anything (yet here I am, airing it out on the web). It’s not really a local thing — as far as the middle-class lifestyle I was brought up in, and the modest success I’ve had with my friends in business, I’m living a reasonably frugal lifestyle. However, I can never get past the thought that noone deserves a Nintendo and microwave, let alone indoor plumbing, when there are people who don’t have food and shelter in the world.

The problem with me is that I’m aware of these issues just enough to bother me, but not enough for me to do something about it. The real solution is probably for me to get off my ass and help people.

All of that said — my house is a terrible mess despite my best (pathetic) efforts. Does anyone have any recommendations for good twice-a-month type in-house cleaning? What are the costs like? What are the options.

A key footnote: I’m writing this post on my top-of-the-line laptop, on wireless internet, while playing my new Nintendo GameCube. Make no mistake — I’m not Ghandi.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on January 11, 2004 - 01:09 Permalink


I see your points about feeling guilty about having things that are luxuries. I have a house full of things I certainly don’t need, and a bad habit of adding to the clutter.

But personal belongs such as yours don’t seem as outlandish as a house with 29 rooms and 5 cars parked out front, 3 swimming pools and a dog named Fi Fi. That’s where I would feel more guilt.

I think of thinks like needless amounts of money spent on a new golf courses, or many useless trips into space “just cause we can” , or the 30 million dollar a picture movie star to be much worse. Those are the things that make me weep for the hungry people who have nothing.

But I’m way off topic, getting high on my hypocritical soap box. I love my gas eating car, my Apple computer and the 3 tvs in the house. So I understand how you feel.. yet I can’t seem to agree that middle class lifestyles are what are taking down the world. I look at the bigger picture I guess.

As for the maid, I wouldn’t want one cause I’m so private about my house and home, that I wouldn’t feel right having someone moving, touching and cleaning my things. It’s the least I can do around here. (not that I do it that well from time to time)

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 11, 2004 - 01:23 Permalink

[further on the tangent — sorry for hijacking your site with my middle-class guilt, peter]

Mandy, is that just saying that people richer than us are the problem? You say that “I can’t seem to agree that middle class lifestyles are what are taking down the world.” — it is middle-class lifestyle that causes a lot of problems (polution, over consuption, etc.)

Remember that middle-class in Canada is upper-crust on earth. It isn’t people with 52” TVs that are using too much electricity — it’s the more common person with a typical size TV.

I wonder I can get my glass house to be R-2000 insulated :-)

Rob MacD's picture
Rob MacD on January 11, 2004 - 03:53 Permalink

To get back on topic for a moment, I wonder if the sentence you have highlighted, Peter, is meant to mean ‘of those who get their houses professionally cleaned, they get it cleaned every other week’?

Then again, I do know a few people who have a maid service, so maybe most Canadians do take advantage of this service.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on January 11, 2004 - 05:11 Permalink

No I’m not saying that rich people are the problem. Maybe I misread your statement about “first-world-guilt”. What I gathered is that you were saying that you at times feel guilty for your middle class lifestyle when there are others in the world with next to nothing . So in that light, imagine the guilt you would feel if you owned the 29 room house and so on and so on… meaning the more you would own, the worse you would feel.

oh yes, I’m sure the middle class society is really pulling us down. I’m not sure of the dollars and cents of it all. I was just stating that I don’t feel as much guilt for the things I own and enjoy that I might if I were super rich and over spoiled.

Anyway, sorry to take this so off topic and sorry Steven if I misunderstood your post.

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on January 11, 2004 - 08:34 Permalink

Everytime I think of house cleaners I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry starts diddling the maid. She stops cleaning and he becomes a John.

When I was a lad and my parents were both working professionals they would sometimes get Molly Maid or the like to tidy up the house. Unfortunately, like Nils’ wife, my mom also couldn’t stand the thought of someone knowing our mess and would enlist some in-home child labor to clean up the night before.

One thing we did note is that the paid cleaners we got were lazy. They would only clean what was visible to the naked eye on a quick pass. Perhaps Dico could hook you up with his people if they do a good job.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on January 11, 2004 - 15:17 Permalink

Why would hiring a person to clean your house be a bad thing? We hire people to do all sorts of things for us? I wonder if in this age we see the house cleaning issue in terms of “servants” and in terms of an intrusion into privacy. Maybe your concerns are driven by your expectations of the relationship?

If this is so, let’s rethimk the idea of a servant from the relationship aspect. For all of history except the last 50 years, households were larger units than just the family. They included those that were close on a work spectrum. Steve you and Peter are going along this road with your office — a modern version of the “great hall” where work and social life was blended and not separate as most of us think of it now. In this world, work relationships become family ones — where we look after each other as we would someone related by blood. In this frame people are fully human on both sides. You and they bring all of themselves to work. You share your lives. These types of relationships are deeply fulfilling and can last beyond a lifetime. It depends on your intention.

If you hire Molly Maid — you have an indentured servant who is non related by design and is disposable. You have a commercial transaction with a company that is fulfilled by a disposable agent, the cleaner. There is no relationship with the cleaner but she is in your home — no wonder you feel odd. This type of relationship violates the essence of being human. However, if you hire a person in their own right, if you open your self to them and take an interest in them, then you have the opportunity to make a real relationship. It may not happen but if this is your intent, it can happen.

I am not talking theory. My father’s nanny lived with one part or another of our family her whole adult life, argued with my granny and did not talk directly to her for 8 years, buried my grandfather, brought up three generations of my family, died in my aunt’s arms and is buried in our family plot. I carried my father’s coffin into the church with my uncle and his two drivers. Our housekeepers from my teen years in England are coming to stay with us next summer.

My point is not that I was brought up in a very priveleged world, which I was, but that it helps to think about the relationship that you expect when hiring people who come into your house? There is nothing to hide nor are their privacy issues when your house is shared with a friend who does not just do the tasks but with who you share your lives as people.

If you see people who work personally for you as potential close friends who can become like family. if you see them as people whose own lives are interesting, as all lives are, as people who may know a lot more than you about a lot of things, then you might offer the respect that helps develop a friendship more rewarding than with many family members. Conversely, if you see them as disposable serfs than that is how it will be too.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 11, 2004 - 18:12 Permalink

So, to sum up, Rob: “[Molly Maids] violates the essence of being human.”


I think you’re right about the human vs. business relationship — this has defined many of our better difficult client relationships in the past.

As for privacy — that doesn’t really bother me. I don’t really mind someone else being in my house.

Perhaps part of the problem is that I’m a total slob — and I know that hiring cleaning help wont change this. Perhaps I need to accept that being a slob and hiring cleaning help are two separate issues.

So — who do I call?

oliver b's picture
oliver b on January 11, 2004 - 18:45 Permalink

If 7% of Canadian homes had a live-in maid, that would be your every-other-week national average. Probably the class of people who can afford that represent much less than 7% of the population though. But if half of Canadian homes had a maid come weekly, that would be another way to get your semi-weekly average. Probably your instinct is right, Peter, that not so many as half of homes have maids coming weekly, but it only takes a small percentage of the population with live-ins to take up a lot of slack. You could have 1 in 4 homes with weekly maids and 3.5% of homes with live-ins, etc. Throw in the category of every-other-day maids, mix and match, and I’m sure you could come up with a distribution of home-cleaning that would utterly fail to surprise you. Of course, since I haven’t actually done the math there could be a surprise there and I’m missing the fun of it for being such a skeptic.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 11, 2004 - 20:50 Permalink

People get honest fulfillment out of solving difficult problems for others. The Internet age has given people who were frequently cast out because of their intellect, a place near that of rock stars in our society. The dirty homes left behind by the immature geniuses who populate the digital universe present wonderful opportunities for great people who prefer to work quietly and privately, while making other people’s lives easier in exchange for their gratitude and a few bucks to prove it.

Find some people who’ll look after your home like that and you’ll do fine. Molly Maid, Merry Maid? Sure, if they really care they should be able to handle it. If.

Ken's picture
Ken on January 12, 2004 - 03:14 Permalink

The closest most of us will come to a master/servant relationship is hiring a cleaner, because it is personal and in most cases unnecessary.
Housework is not urgent and if you can’t clean up after yourself shame on you.

Ken's picture
Ken on January 12, 2004 - 03:42 Permalink

Steven Garrity! That 1st-world-guilt is probably the simple shame of laziness made apparent by your messy house!

Get some exercise, find things you thought were lost, listen to some good music — while you vaccum, scrub, and wash. You won’t be beaten, raped or yelled at like a third world slave, so you’ve got that to be happy about.

Breakthrough your own personal limits, and enjoy the satisfaction that brings you.

I was thinking maybe you want a dirty house, for some psychological reason, like wanting to be mothered.

You blogged about it, so I commented on it.

Forgive me.

Annie's picture
Annie on January 12, 2004 - 13:34 Permalink

It gives me a real thrill to see so many men concerned about who does the housework. Oooh, the temptation to become snippy!

Kelly's picture
Kelly on January 12, 2004 - 15:37 Permalink

My sister-in-law has her own cleaning service (she is solid booked) I understand that services are $12 to $17 per hour, avg. 4 hours, twice a week. Most won’t do laundry or dishes, but will do anything else. I had Molly Maid give me a quote, they came in walked through my house (which I madly tidied before she came, of course) and for a total once over it was around $100. That was washing down cupboards and everything. Couldn’t bring myself to do it though, too embarassed to indulge. Yet, the other day I bought a coat three times the price, and could justify it to myself. Odd. I need the cleaning service much more than the coat.

RE: Human vs. Business relationship: one that Rob touched on is between Parents & their daytime babysitter. It is a wierd dynamic sometimes. Our babysitter essentially raises our toddler 4 days a week, chosen much because she has a personality like my own, and the same parenting values. However, there is always that professional distance kept just incase something awkward needs to be addressed on either side — if I am perpetually late to pick her up, or if she is disciplinig my daughter in a manner I dislike, etc.

I intend to obtain domestic help in the near future, and check the guilt and supermom expectations at the door.

Ally's picture
Ally on February 26, 2004 - 19:55 Permalink

That is grouse if you do not clean your house ewewewewewe

linda's picture
linda on March 15, 2006 - 00:38 Permalink

I highly discourage using Molly Maid or Merry Maids to clean your house. I had a bad first experience with Molly Maid. I was getting married, so I hired them to come in the day before my wedding to clean my house. Not the whole house mind you, but just a little. Well, don’t expect them to scrub the floor, my fiance had to re-clean it. Don’t expect them to use any cleaner. I really don’t know what they cleaned but 2 of them were here for 2 hours. Unfortunately I did not pay my bill and I did not complain, I ignored them. Now I have to pay the bill plus interest to a collection agency. I highly recommend that if anyone is stupid enough to use Molly Maid, and they don’t clean your house, call the francise owner right away and refuse to pay. Don’t let them come back, because if they couldn’t clean right the first time, what makes you think they’ll clean better when they come back.

A co-worker had Merry Maids come in. She said that the house was dirtier after they left than before they came. They didn’t sweep the kitchen floor before washing it, and there were mounds of cat hair up against the wall. When they came back, with a supervisor, the house still wasn’t cleaned properly.

I think these francise owners should realize that they are taking people’s hard earned money and they are not giving good service. I suspect they hope that no one will spread the word about how bad the service was.

I plan on telling the world since there are now 2 of us that have had a bad experience. I want everyone who has ever had a bad experience with a cleaning company, to tell the world and let these francise owners know how dissatisfied we are. I don’t want anyone to use Molly Maid or Merry Maids because like I said, if they can’t clean your house right the first time, what makes you think they’ll clean it better the second time.

I waited too long to complain, and now I am stuck paying a bill for a service I did not receive. And, I didn’t receive a sorry from the franchise owner either.