I started house cleaning again to better make ends meet.

I decided to charge more for it this time around, because I think part of the reason I burned out last time is that I was undervaluing my time.

I wasn’t sure whether anyone would bite, but it seems the kind of people who can pay for housecleaning in Austin will actually pay $100 for it, and not be too bothered about that.

While that’s a drop in the bucket (or at least not a terrible hardship) for them, it’s a world of difference for me.

I can buy produce again, and grocery shopping isn’t a pain-staking game of “what can I afford?”

Which is a good thing because I’m much hungrier from burning all those calories and will have to change the way I eat at least a little to sustain it.

But cleaning for multiple people again has reminded me how strangely intimate the experience can be.

Think about it.

We all present this face to the world that says we have it all together. Or we try.

I think it’s safe to say most people at least want acquaintances and strangers to think they’re successfully functioning adults. Especially once you’re past your twenties, where it’s probably still acceptable to not quite have it all together yet.

We might let our intimate partners or closest friends see that pile of laundry on the floor, but there’s a reason that “airing dirty laundry” is a bad thing in the common vernacular.

So someone hiring a person to come and clean has to admit that they don’t have it all together.

I mean, really, this is a cultural problem in the West that I won’t get into in depth. But contrary to the American mythos, it’s not always really possible to balance work, chores, and meaningful social and intimate connections with other human beings.

We used to solve that problem by letting women stay home and clean the house, which is actually a full-time job in itself.

Now those who can afford it outsource that work to people – probably women – like me who have more time than money, instead of more money than time. And everyone else just does what they can when they can.

There’s a ritualistic aspect to the way people speak to me when they’re showing me around their house for the first time before I clean.

It always includes a fairly detailed narrative about why and how things have gotten as bad as they have, surrounded by shame, guilt, and/or embarrassment about it.

As if I’m a clergy member who can absolve them of their sins with a sponge and a mop.

Scrubbing other people’s dirt does feel like spiritual work sometimes.

You can see a literal weight lifted off people’s shoulders when they look into a room that’s been cleaned and say, “It looks so much better.”

There’s real gratitude involved when they thank me and hand me my cash.

At least sometimes, anyway.

Other people get around those feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment by not treating the person cleaning for them as if they are a person.

But that’s demoralizing and I won’t clean for that kind of person more than once if I can help it.

I appreciate the people who are willing to be vulnerable with me, and to trust me to help handle the messiness of their lives.

And really, I don’t think less of them for having a dirty house. They’re much more emotionally tied up in all of it than I am. But if I can ease some of that stress and worry and be able to pay my bills in the process, it’s definitely a win-win.

The people that I clean for tend to be at least peripherally involved in the BDSM community. On the one hand, at least a percentage of that demographic have disposable income to spend on toys, leather gear, and parties (which can cost $20 a pop even in Austin).

But on the other hand, I think people who practice BDSM have more of a sense of service as a gift. As something of value.

Even if they don’t always know how to act around me, either.

There’s a lot of trust and intimacy involved in cleaning someone’s house. Much more than you would think.

They trust me to not tell tales about their mess, to not steal anything, to not break things (though accidents happen), and to actually get things clean.

I trust them to value my time, respect the work I’m doing, and to continue to schedule regular appointments.

Patience, discretion, empathy, attention to detail, and absolution of sins.

That’s what you’ll get when you schedule a cleaning with me.

But you have to furnish your own cleaning supplies, because everyone has different preferences.

One thought on “Strange Intimacies

  1. yup. it’s why, when I find a team has been talking about me behind my back, or picking things up an talking about them when tehy don’t need to to clean, I feel utterly violated. it’s awkward and embarrassing and intimate to ask someone in to deal with my imperfection. I need them to treat my space with respect and professionalism. if they don’t…it’s like my house got felt up int he subway; it isn’t rape, but it is an assault.

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