Why is it hard to find a house cleaner?

Hard work, low pay, more demand has contributed to a shortage throughout the region

By Victoria Gaither

Having a cleaner is crucial to your business if you own a rental property.

When guests check in, they expect to find a clean and tidy place.

“Guest should expect clean surfaces, spotless toilets, mirrors, sinks, tucked in beds, and vacuumed floors,” said Theresa Steward, owner of Steward’s Housekeeping in Killington.

If the name Steward is familiar, it’s because her mother used to own Steward’s Residential Cleaning for 25 years, so cleaning runs in her blood.

“Cleaning houses is extremely hard work on the body,” she said.

A bit tearful, Theresa Steward remembers going to work with her mom at a young age “watching my mom break her back.” Those memories never leave but stand as a reminder that hard work pays off.

“I started Steward’s Housekeeping at 19 years old with 60 dollars in my pocket and one good reference,” she added.

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Theresa Steward keeps crucial cleaning tools and supplies organized in pink bins in the back of her car, she’s always ready.

Wanting to make something of herself in life and provide a service to her community, she turned to cleaning — a job that is rewarding and gives her purpose, she said, adding that cleaners work hard and need to be compensated fairly for their work.

“The typical pay for a housekeeping employee in the area is between $16 and $25/ hour. It’s not enough for most people to achieve their goals,” which is why she ventured out on her own.

When asked why she thinks it’s hard to find cleaners in Killington, she answered: “I personally believe the shortage of cleaners in Killington is due to the unwillingness to pay for people’s labor and time! Time is the one thing you can never get back, and I thing to maximize mine at a young age.”

Plus, she added, “Covid-19 has changed how people work — many folks realize how valuable their time and energy is, and how little they are being paid for it.”

Not one to shy away from having a voice in this discussion, she wants people to know that maids, cleaning services, and anyone who supports the tourism industry are valuable.

Mary Helm, the owner of Simply Clean Vermont, echoed Steward’s sentiments, saying, “Cleaners are unsung heroes, I refer to it as a thankless job,” but says the reward for her is helping people.

“I enjoy cleaning for people who need my help, whether it be helping seniors do something so simple, yet it may be so hard for them to do. It’s a good feeling at the end of the day,” explained Helm.

In the business now 11 years, Helm is expanding into a concierge service; seeing a need from her clients, she has added handyman-like/personal assistant to her business model in the Greater Rutland area.

The new services are for “Busy mothers who work all day and need extra things to get done or someone on vacation and they need someone to check on the animals or house. Services that go beyond cleaning,” she said.

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Mary Helm uses a backpack vacuum to clean a carpet at a client’s house. Helm says trustworthiness and strong communication skills are very important to her success, along with a strong work ethic and high standards for cleanliness.

Helm will tell you that a good cleaner works hard, is trustworthy, communicates with owners, and has a professional set of standards and guidelines they follow.

“You have to be someone who can communicate and talk with your clients; that is important. So you can gain their trust; that is one of the most important things.”

Having someone in your condo or house cleaning is personal, and with that comes responsibility.

Steward explained that no one wants to start a vacation in a dirty rental property. Therefore, if you find a good cleaner, keep them because they are valuable and can be your eyes and ears to what is happening at your property.

Both women have seen more demand for cleaners, a nationwide trend across America, especially since the pandemic and especially in Killington, which has seen a growth in population over the past few years, and a rise in vacation rentals.

According to Thimble, an insurance company that tracks residential and commercial cleaning services in America, the cleaning service market is expected to reach 74 million by 2022.

That’s a lot of cleaning.

But on a personal level for Steward and Helm, cleaning is their lifeline, but it’s also about providing a vital service to Killington/Rutland, which means having a seat at the table and being seen and recognized for their efforts.

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