Had enough of both working from home and dealing with domestic duties? Are you spending your Saturdays sweeping up? Or are the cobwebs under the cupboard getting just a bit too visible. This might be the right time to take the plunge and find a cleaner.
‘There are many nicer things to do than spend your time cleaning,’ says Michelle van Os, managing director of Helpling, an online marketplace which has been connecting households in the Netherlands with reputable cleaners for six years now. The user-friendly platform allows households to browse cleaners in their area, read any reviews, and check their availability and rates. ‘You can make a proper choice about which person you would like to invite into your home,’ explains Michelle. ‘It’s very transparent.’
Finding a cleaner is easy
Cleaners can be contacted directly through the platform – handy if you have questions – and all payment is online. Rescheduling an appointment, skipping a clean while you are on holiday, or trying someone new are all at the touch of a button.
For hard-working expats who would rather spend their weekends exploring their new surroundings, Helpling is particularly useful. ‘Newcomers don’t usually have the network that the locals do, and it can be hard to find a cleaner,’ explains Michelle. ‘Helpling makes it easy. Five clicks and you’ve booked a cleaner.’
Helpling contacts all cleaners to discuss their experience and motivation as part of their screening process and encourages them to add a VOG (certificate of conduct) to their profiles. All cleaners are insured for major damage and customers can phone or email the advice centre (Mon-Sat) with any questions or issues.
Cleaning spreads happiness
Wendy has been working via Helpling as a cleaner for two years now and sees what a difference the service can make to people’s lives. ‘I really enjoy helping so many different people and I learn a lot from it,’ she says, describing some of the contact with clients as ‘heart-warming’ and ‘lovely’. She recalls, for example, doing some dusting and button repairs for an elderly gentleman, while watching him walk over Amsterdam’s Magere Brug.
Another time, Wendy helped a young woman – exhausted by her studies, travel and endless house renovations – who had received the cleaning help as a gift from her mother. While Wendy sorted out the client’s cluttered wardrobe, the woman lay back on the couch and watched her favourite Disney films. ‘I saw her so enjoy this moment of relaxation,’ recalls Wendy. ‘She was singing along with the songs. It was so nice to see.’
How do the Dutch clean?
Helpling is active in 10 different countries, including The United Arab Emirates and Singapore, where it is common to have help with cleaning. Bringing the concept to the Netherlands, with its Calvanist work ethic, has been more challenging. ‘I don’t think Dutch people find it easy to let someone else do their cleaning,’ says Michelle, whose clients tell her that they often clean before the cleaner comes.
The Dutch are less inclined to leave instructions, too. ‘The cleaners really need to figure out what needs to be done,’ says Michelle. This may also be because many Dutch clients speak to the cleaner in person. ‘With Dutch households, it’s very common that the customer is home,’ she says. ‘And it’s super common, as well, that the householder offers the cleaner some coffee and has a chat.’
Most Dutch people, she’s noticed, want basic cleaning: bathroom, kitchen, vacuuming and mopping; or a one-off clean after a big party. ‘All those little extra things that are not specifically part of a standard clean, that’s much more common with international clients,’ she reveals, giving ironing and changing bed linen as an example.
One thing Dutch clients have asked Wendy to do is wash is curtains, which she rehangs while wet to save on electricity and let the creases drop out naturally. Having smartly presented windows is important in Dutch society, explains Michelle. ‘Cleaning windows is requested very often … I think that people want to show the outside world that they have a clean home, that they are organised.’
Newcomers to the Netherlands may find it surprising that Dutch people tend not to hide their homes behind blinds and net curtains. ‘You walk around the streets and you can literally look into every home,’ says Michelle, who admits that this doesn’t mean that the Dutch are less nosy than other cultures. ‘In general, people are quite curious,’ she says. ‘People do observe their neighbours; they do look into the windows.’
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