The old trope of “cleaning up for the cleaning lady” isn’t entirely silly: While you should leave the real cleaning for the person you’ve hired to clean, you should also tidy up – and maybe even do a few spot-checks. If it’s your cleaner’s first time in your home, you should also have some instructions prepared. It will make both of you much happier.
First, clear out your clutter. If you hired someone to clean your home, and not to organise it, then you owe them a fairly well-organised home to clean. Otherwise, tell them which areas or piles they can ignore. (Or hire a professional organiser.) Feel free to put all your clutter in one room or on one surface, then tell the cleaner to just ignore that space. It’s a trade-off: The more thoroughly you want your place cleaned, the more you need to prepare (or pay).
Next, clean a little: Anything especially fragile, or at least anything you don’t trust your cleaner to properly handle. Anything that’s easy, like disposable coffee cups sitting out. (That’s just respectful.) And anything that you’ve agreed the cleaner isn’t responsible for. I like to wash the dishes myself, so I take care of them before the cleaner arrives. The cleaner’s visit has become a deadline for a household chore – a feature, not a bug.
If you don’t know where to draw the line between your job and the cleaner’s, write out two lists: one of the cleaning tasks you wish someone would do for you, and one of the tasks you like to do yourself. You can show that to your cleaner, ideally while you’re still discussing their time commitment and their fee.
The first time your cleaner comes to your home, it’s best for you to go through the whole place and talk out the process face to face. Failing that, write out your instructions, and don’t get mad if it takes a few visits to get things right. Working around someone’s home, learning what to change and what not to, is a complex task, and you won’t know how much you care about certain things until your old GQ issues go missing or your makeup shelf is all out of order.
Stuff will get moved around. Dishes might end up in weird places, or towels might get thrown in the laundry before you were ready. It all depends on how much you’re asking of your cleaner, and how much you communicate with them. Don’t be afraid to politely ask your cleaner to change something. (If you’re asking them to spend significantly more time on the job, pay them accordingly.)
Your cleaner might never learn where every little thing belongs. I have a little bird statue in my home, and every time she visits, my house cleaner carefully adjusts it incorrectly, because she thinks it’s a person with a hat. Since I can go months without seeing the cleaner in person, that misplaced tchotchke has been a pleasant reminder that she’s been around. That and the unbelievably well-made bed.