Happy and Unhappy Messes: On Working as a House Cleaner in London, England

Photo by Jasleen Kaur (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I once burst into tears while doing the flat of an obsessive Italian shoe-hoarder. He had hardly any stuff except the basics — bed, fridge, cooker, telly — and hundreds of boxes of Italian designer shoes. The only “art” on the wall was a yellowing Polaroid of himself as a boy in Italy, smiling at the seaside. Tanned and shoeless, young and carefree. How did he go from that to this, working 70-plus hours a week to pay rent on his nice but pokey flat full of shoes? It might look like cleaning, but every job feels a bit Miss Marple-ish. I am looking for clues, though I’m never really sure what the crime is.

At The Independent, Michele Kirsch reflects on working as a cleaner in London, England, and the fascinating, unspoken social rules that keep the cleaner-cleanee relationship “shipshape and Bristol-fashion.”

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