Too Much Stuff to Clean – Where Do You Start?

What do you do when you get to a customer’s
house and you’re going to clean it, but there’s too much stuff to clean? There’s stuff strewn all about, there’s clutter, maybe they’re even hoarders. And you just are overwhelmed? What do you do? All right, we’re going to talk about that
today. This is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house
cleaning question and I get to help you find an answer. And I’m your host, Angela Brown. All right, onto today’s show, it’s brought
to us by This is a resource hub that has all kinds
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got a whole bunch of resources that will help you in your cleaning journey. So check it out at All right, let’s talk about what do you do
when there’s too much stuff to clean. Most of the homes that we contract for are
maintained, and when we get there, there’s this little process we go through where we
do our maintenance clean. But every once in while you’ll get to a house
and there’ll be an overwhelming amount of things. Now, sometimes this is a special clean. Sometimes it’s the first time you’re cleaning
the customer’s house, and maybe it’s been neglected for a long period of time and there’s
just stuff everywhere. All right, the very first thing I want you
to do is I want you to stop and just take a really deep breath and brace yourself for
what comes next. Because while this may not be your normal cleaning, you’re inside a customer’s home. When you’re in the customer’s home, I need
you to realize and remember, this is where they live, this is their safe place. And lots of people feel safe around all of their stuff. So, if you just come in and start throwing
stuff away and moving stuff around, it’s a violent attempt at moving their safe stuff. So I need you to stop for just a second and
have a conversation with the homeowner if they’re present and they are willing to have
this conversation with you. This might even be on the walkthrough as you’re
doing your initial walkthrough with the family. So, the first questions that I want you to
ask are, “Where do you spend the most amount of your time?” And the reason that’s an important question
is because that’s going to have all of their valuable, useful, everyday stuff in there. That’s where they spend most of their time. It might be the family room, it might be a
bathroom or a bedroom, it might be the kitchen. The second thing that I want you to think
of is, the reason we’re asking this question is because this is going to allow us to work
on one or two areas of the house without feeling overwhelmed, like we have to clean out the
whole house at once, because chances are you’re probably not going to get to it in one or
two cleanings. It’s going to have to be an ongoing process. But we want to hit those main areas first
because that’s where they spend most of their time. All right, so having discussed that with them,
what we want to do is we want to say, “What are the things that you use the most? And what are you allowing me to move or replace?” And they might say, “Well, I don’t need any
of the trash that’s in here.” And then you go, “Great, let me work on the
trash.” So get permission to remove one item or one
series of items. And my suggestion would be don’t attack the
house all at once. Don’t try to do everything in one room. Because what that’s going to mean is lots
of different piles of different things, and right now you have nowhere to put all the
different piles. And we don’t want to just unravel everything
in a room that’s already unraveled and just stack them in stacks. That doesn’t help anyone. So, what we want to do is we want to go through
and pick one item, like the trash, and then you will get permission, you will get garbage
bags. “May I remove all the trash? Is this trash to you?” And then be specific. Are paper cups, are paper plates, are empty
bags of potato chips or cardboard boxes that serial came in, is this garbage to you?” Because some people save that kind of stuff
because there are little codes on them and if they enter them they get a prize or something
like that. We need to find out where the customer is
and are they allowing us to actually remove that. So, if they say, “Yes, that’s fine,” then
you have permission to remove all the trash, for example. So then you want to go through a sweep and
you want to remove all of the trash. Leave everything else. Leave the dishes, leave the clothing, leave
the books, leave the toys, leave everything else. With a laser focus, you want to go in and
remove all of the trash. Now that you’ve removed all of the trash,
ask them specifically, “Are there any other rooms in the house that you want me to remove
the trash from at the same time?” What you’re doing is you’re getting permission
from the homeowner to participate. They’re saying, “Yes, it is safe. You can go to the next room and remove the
trash.” Okay, great. So you might hit the bathroom and the bedrooms
and the living room and the kitchen. If there are other rooms in the house, they
may even go unattended for right now, but you want to hit the main areas of the house
and just remove the trash. Once you’ve removed the trash, if the home
owner is present, have them come back through and say, “Hey, that looks really nice,” and
agree to what you’re doing. Am I on the right track? Because if you have their participation, they’re
willing to let you continue. But if for some reason they’re like, “No,
you threw away some of my valuable stuff,” then you now have a problem. And you don’t want to keep removing stuff
if there’s animosity or there’s antagonism associated with the project. So you want to get their permission for the
next item. “What would you like to see me remove or move
next?” Now, they might say, “All the dishes.” “Okay, that’s great. Is it okay if I wash the dishes and run loads
of dishes in the dishwasher as we go?” And they might say, “Yes, that’s fine.” All right, now the kitchen is full of things,
you’re not going to even be able to get in there unless you wash the dishes that are
in the sink, but now you have the next item. So what you may do then is you may go around the entire house and collect up all of the dishes. These would be plates, spoons, cups, mugs,
coffee mugs, thermoses, bottles, water bottles, whatever it is that is food related that are
dishes, bring those all to the kitchen, and then you can do washing dishes, you can do
loads of dishes, you can just start recycling the dishes as much as you can. All right. When you get through the dishes, you go through
every section of the house this way. Getting the owner’s permission as you go,
to move or remove the next thing. If you’re just removing it, what are they
giving you permission to do? For example, let’s say that you get to the
clothing, and this is not an organization process. They may still want to hire a professional
organizer that can walk them through the emotional attachments of all of the different items
of clothing that they have. Maybe your job is not to help them throw their
clothing out. Maybe your job is to help them wash it and
put it in a specific place, whether that’s folding it and putting away, or arranging
it in one spot so that the professional organizer can come in and go through that with them. So you want to have these conversations with
the homeowner. The very next thing that I want to mention
is once you have the homeowner’s agreement and you are compassionate; I want you to also
be discreet. So, as you leave today, don’t talk to any
of the neighbors about this situation. Don’t talk to any of the friends. Don’t talk to anybody, even if this home was
a referral, because you want discretion at the top of your list. This family doesn’t want anyone to know that
you’re coming in and you’re going through and removing all of this stuff that’s in their
house. Okay? We want to be very, very kind and very discreet
about the situation. Again, this stuff makes them feel safe. This is their home. And so, if they’ve invited you in, you are
a guest. And even though they’re paying you to come
in and help make their lives better, that’s at the root of it. You’re here to make their lives better, not
to make them feel ashamed or embarrassed or any of the things, because there are lots
of people that are in this type of a situation. And instead of getting the help they need,
they are embarrassed because of how they are made to feel when the house cleaner comes
to the house. We know there’s a problem, that’s why they’ve
hired you. So as you take on these jobs, please take
it step by step. Don’t try to go too fast, don’t try to do
it all in the course of a day, because it will be overwhelming to all of you. And my next suggestion before we wrap this
up is to please block it out in segments. These might be four hour segments where you
say, “I can come on Tuesday for this four hour window.” And then plan and schedule your next four
hour window. Because if you come in and you are there for
24 hours or you’re there for three days in a row, it’s so overwhelming, that in the back
of their mind if their house ever gets in this type of a situation again they’re going
to have to block out a week or a weekend to have someone come in and renovate their whole
house. What we want to do is make it easy for them
to have small burst cleaning sessions where someone can come in and help them, come back
and help them again on a different area, come back and help them again on a different area,
and then come back through and rotate again, so it becomes a maintenance clean. And every time you clean it, it gets easier
and easier for both you and the homeowner. So this is a process where you can start somewhere
instead of you, as the house cleaner, being overwhelmed by it all. Because there are times it is very overwhelming,
but it is also overwhelming for the homeowner. And so if you can work together to make it
a safe process, then the homeowner will be much more inclined to keep you coming back
and you will be able to help them elevate their living situation so that their safe
place becomes a happy place. All right. That’s it for today. I hope this helps you a little bit. If it does, please pass it on to a friend. If we’ve earned your subscription, please
subscribe. And until we meet again, leave the world a
cleaner place than when you found it.

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