For anyone who has put in a long day of work and then come home to a mountain of household chores, the thought of hiring a maid service has crossed his or her mind. But that thought could be chased away in the next instant by misconceptions of what a housekeeper is like. Popular culture from Shakespeare to today has had a lot of fun distorting the image of the maid or housekeeper. Those long-standing stereotypes should not make a homeowner hesitant to take advantage of one of the most universally useful home services available.

Myth #1: “I can’t have a stranger in to clean my home. They’ll steal my stuff!”

Concerns about theft often top the list of reasons not to hire a home cleaner. Choosing a cleaning company with an excellent reputation in the community and a long history of service can help put these fears to rest.

Using a reputable cleaning company offers more protection for the homeowner than hiring an independent cleaner. The cleaning company’s workers should be background checked, licensed, and insured to protect you against damages and theft, and there should be a manager in charge to handle any issues.

When employing a service, request the same cleaner for your service each time to ensure fewer strangers in your home.

If you opt to allow your cleaners to work when you are not home, be sure the house key you leave for them is clearly marked “Do Not Duplicate.” If you use a security system, provide your cleaner with an entry code that is used only by him or her.

As a precaution, put away cash, jewelry, personal electronics, and other small valuables before your cleaning appointment. Be sure to check them before and after the cleaners have left, and immediately report anything missing to the manager. While theft is fairly rare in the industry, it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Myth #2: “Aren’t most maids illegal immigrants? I could get in big trouble!”

People who work as home cleaners come from all walks of life. Reputable home cleaning services should run background and criminal checks on all employees and, in most states, also verify the individual’s eligibility to work in the United States. This is another point in favor of using a service to hire a house cleaner.

In addition, a professional company calculates, withholds, and pays taxes on behalf of its employees; if a homeowner regularly employs an unaffiliated individual for home cleaning, that responsibility becomes the homeowner’s.

Myth #3: “They’ll snoop through all my things. The whole neighborhood will hear about my secrets!”

Inviting any service person into your home to work requires a small compromise of privacy. However, most home cleaning services employ seasoned professionals; their primary job is to clean well and quickly, and most will pay little, if any, attention to your personal items.

That said, for your own peace of mind, you can opt to make certain rooms off-limits and store any personal items in that space when you have a cleaning appointment. Clear surfaces of bills, appointment books, work files, and any other documents you feel the need to protect.

You can also request that the service send you the same cleaners each time, and simply ask the staff not to share your personal information—including your home address or phone number—with anyone, not even their family members.

Myth #4: “Hiring a housecleaner is for people who are lazy and self-indulgent. You should clean your own house!”

One of the biggest deterrents to hiring a home cleaner is often the worry that having a cleaning service is extravagant—that they are being lazy or spoiled. But the reality is that with people working longer hours outside the home, sometimes hiring a cleaning service can be an absolute must.

Letting go of some of the household maintenance can allow busy homeowners to recover family time that may have fallen by the wayside in the scramble to chase away the dust bunnies and stay a step ahead of the dishes. Cleaning services can be customized to the individual needs of the homeowner and modified as those needs change.

While a cleaning staff can take over much of the work, they do not eliminate the homeowner from the process altogether. In general, you will still need to clear surfaces, pick up clothing from off the floor, and put away any kids’ toys so the cleaners can reach all the surfaces they need to clean without obstructions.

Hiring a home cleaning service isn’t a waste of money when it gives you back the time to take care of your family and yourself. And with the range of cleaning programs available, there is sure to be a cleaning service that fits your lifestyle, your budget, and your comfort level.

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Sources: Association of Residential Cleaning Services International; Get Rich Slowly; National Tollfree Directory; Reader's Digest; Single Parent Family.

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