When I lived with my parents we had a once a week house cleaner to come in a few hours; her name was Lupe. It was sort of a running joke in the family that when you couldn’t find something you’d say “Lupe hid it” and after looking a bit more you found them where you actually had left them and Lupe had nothing to do with it. It is still used as a joke even now that I no longer live at home and nor a cleaning lady, much less one named Lupe. “Carrie, do you know where my shoes are? “Nope, Lupe must have hid them.” which of course is code for ‘look harder.’
Now in Singapore, I decided to (and Charles is letting me, Love you!) employ a house cleaner for a few hours every other week. I really have hired her to scrub the bathrooms and do the ironing as these I really HATE doing along with some other very light tasks. I do not expect a cleaner to necessarily organize things for me (like my junk drawer) and especially not to move furniture around or find new homes for things. I think you can see where this story is going…
This was her first week, her name is Tess and we are trying her out for 2 cleanings or 1 month. I worked from home to keep an eye on things and answer any questions she had and that way I don’t have to give her an actual key to our condo. I had heard some concerns form other expats that sometimes the cleaners are not used to western ways and for example will not use cleaning product when doing the cleaning. As we westerners believe that you cant really clean something without some sort of soap or product (ex: dish soap is used for dishes, not just hot water), this can be a problem with helpers. Tess luckily uses product willingly and does a good job and I didnt’ have to talk to her about the importance of using product.
Things went very well and I didn’t notice anything of concern while she was working away. I paid her and said that I’d see her again in two weeks and she left. It was at this point I started noticing things I was not expecting. For example here are a few:
- The kitchen was spotless, but every drawer in the kitchen had not only been organized, but rearranged and some items were in new drawers or items that used to be in drawers were now on the countertop and vice versa…hmm strange.
- Go into the pantry for a snack… all shelves of the pantry have been rearranged according to size! We had originally organized by category such as all Mexican food items together, all rice type side dish things together and all salad dressing together. Now it was organized by height and type of container: cans and jars on one shelf, boxes on another with the brownie mix right next to the Spanish rice next to the and macaroni and cheese….lovely! Nice in thought, but really??
- We had yoga mats in the closet in our bedroom; these were moved to the closet in the living room.
- We use a very classy IKEA blue bag as a laundry hamper in our bedroom which we consider to be a very logical place for a laundry hamper to live. I discovered that she had hidden it in the store room in the kitchen of all places, I’m assuming because it is an eye sore in the bedroom, but I’m sorry I perer laundry hampers in my bedroom thank-you-very-much!
- We had a shoe organizer in a closet so we didn’t have to look at low usage shoes all the time which you think would be a good place—nope; this was moved to be right next to the front door next to our high usage shoes.
- All jars in the bathroom had been moved to the shelves IN the shower including air freshener and daily vitamins.
- Books on our night stands not only had been relocated to the dresser on the other side of the room, but the bookmarks that had been IN them, were now lying delicately next to them arranged according to size…maybe it’s just me but book marks aren’t nearly as helpful lying next to the book as opposed to IN the book!
- I still cannot locate the half full box of tissue we used to have in the bathroom—it’s gone completely as far as I can tell. Charles thinks I just haven’t looked hard enough, but I swear it is at least no longer in the bathroom!
It wasn’t like I was playing “I Spy” in my condo tring to search out every little thing—these were just the biggies where we said with dirty close in hand “op, where’d the hamper go??” only to search for it and find it in the pantry! Overall I can live with all of these things, but I’m still scratching my head in wonder because why on earth would anyone take the time to rearrange someone else’s furniture without asking them, or arrange a kitchen pantry by size, or remove someone else’s book mark? She DID do the main things I asked of her of scrubbing the bathrooms and doing the ironing, so I’m not mad, but I could have done without the rest of it. Apparently some things really are lost in translation both culturally and verbally.
I’ll let you know how thing go in two weeks time with a little coaching…..maybe I’ll learn where she put the tissue. But at least now Charles and I can modify our joke and say “Tess hid it” and know that it is likely true.