A Day’s Work: House cleaner

(Photo by Polly McCravey)

(Photo by Polly McCravey)

Tina Mitchell is a 43-year-old single mom. Originally from Kingston, Tina has lived in Saugerties with her son for the last seven years. A former secretary, she now makes her living cleaning houses throughout the Hudson Valley.

How did you get started in the cleaning business?

I was working as a full-time secretary at a local body shop. I had a small child at home and I needed more flexible hours so that I could be with my son when he was sick and to not have to work in bad weather when schools were closed. I decided to start my own business. A friend of mine who was cleaning houses gave me one of her jobs. After that first job it just snowballed; over time, through word of mouth, I got more jobs. I clean about ten houses a week now.

How did you learn the job or acquire the skills?


I learned on the job. I just got better over time and learned to do the extra things that make a house look good, like polishing the faucets.

What is the most difficult thing about cleaning houses for a living?

Cleaning is very physical work. At the end of the day I am worn out. It’s just very hard work.

Can you describe a typical day?

I start my day making sure I have all the supplies I need for the day. I load the car with my vacuum and supplies. I drop my son off at school and then travel as much as a half hour to work. Some days I clean as many as three houses in a day. An eight-hour day cleaning doesn’t compare to an eight-hour day sitting at a desk. It’s hard physical work.

What are the advantages to this kind of work?

The flexibility is the biggest advantage. I make my own hours. If it’s bad weather, I don’t have to work. I can take a vacation when I want. I also like the people I work for. I have a close relationship with my clients; I consider them family.

What is the most unusual or surprising thing that’s happened to you while working?

The funniest thing happened; one time I was cleaning a house and I thought I was alone when I heard snoring. I was startled but I followed the snoring and found two Pugs laying on their backs snoring up a storm.

What are the toughest things to clean?

I find cleaning a new client’s house is always hard. It might not have been done in a while. Sometimes they are very dusty or they have pets and that can be difficult to get under control. It takes a few times of going there for the house to really feel clean. I love the feeling of finishing a house I’m cleaning and feeling good about the work I did.

How’s the money?

The money is good. I work six days a week but I make enough to support my son and myself. My mother recently told me about a secretarial job, thinking I might be interested, but I told her there was no way I could make what I need to make with that kind of work.