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Keeping House: The Role of a Housekeeping Career

Aug 17, 2007
A housekeeper is an individual responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of the interior of a residence. The term is almost exclusively applied to females; males are generally referred to as housecleaners, head of household staff, or, under the old British Imperial system as houseboys (regardless of age).

In the great houses of yesteryear the housekeeper could be a woman of considerable power in the domestic arena. The housekeeper of times past had her room or rooms cleaned by junior staff, her meals prepared and laundry taken care of, and with the butler presided over dinner in the Servants' Hall. Unlike other servants, she was addressed as Mrs. Last Name.

Today's head of household staff in a great house lives in much the same manner, although fewer households can afford large retinues of servants with an elaborate hierarchy. A housekeeper also supervises and coordinates activities of household employees in a private residence: Informs new employees of employer's desires and gives instructions in work methods and routines. She assigns duties, such as cooking and serving meals, cleaning, washing, and ironing, adjusting work activities to accommodate family members. She also orders foodstuffs and cleaning supplies, keeps record of expenditures and may hire and discharge employees. Also works in residence employing a large staff.

The housekeeper is generally hired by and reports to the lady of the house. The extent to which the housekeeper supervises other staff varies from household to household. In general, the staff of a grand dwelling is divided into departments, with the housekeeper in charge of all the female staff with the possible exception of the kitchen staff, who report to the cook, and the between staff, who may report to the butler; in these cases the cook and butler reported directly to the lady of the house.

In other households, particularly those of the very wealthy who maintain several residences, the housekeeper is the ultimate head of household staff and may hire and fire junior staff, subject to the approval of the lady of the house, and make recommendations for senior staff. In this case, the cook and butler report to the lady of the house through the housekeeper.

Housekeepers also work in hotels and resorts. Their job description differs slightly from the traditional housekeeper. A Commercial housekeeper performs housekeeping duties, such as cleaning and stocking supplies in units when assigned. Maintains a high cleanliness standard for all resort rental units and provides top level customer service for guests.


Cleans guest rooms and stocks with appropriate supplies in the prescribed manner while following safety and security procedures and regulations, including but not limited to: Picks up and removes trash; Changes linen and makes bed(s); cleans entire bathroom; sweeps and dusts each unit; cleans the windows, balconies and porches.

Retrieves, stocks, restocks and stores the supplies according to current procedures.

Receives assigned section, keys, supplies and any priority room requests from the Executive Housekeeper. Turns in keys and unused supplies at the end of each shift. Checks with supervisor prior to clocking out at the end of each day.

May be required to clean carpets using equipment supplied by Lake Lure Golf & Beach Resort to maintain cleanliness standards of all floor coverings within the rental units and amenities.

Responds to guest requests and reports guest concerns in a timely and hospitable manner to ensure guest satisfaction.

Reports any missing articles, damages or mechanical problems to the Executive Housekeeper and turns in any articles left in each unit.

Coordinates with the Executive Housekeeper relating to work priorities and provides assistance when/where needed.

Check amenities buildings (i.e., restaurants, pro shops, recreation and public areas) to insure that they meet cleanliness standards are cleaned and properly stocked.

Performs other related duties as directed by the Executive Housekeeper.

The functions within this job family will vary by level, but may include the following:

Sweeps, dusts, mops, scrubs, washes, vacuums, waxes, and polishes building floors, walls, woodwork, windows, furniture, equipment, and hardware.

Cleans and sanitizes laboratories, washrooms, and bedrooms, keeps washrooms supplied with paper, towels, and soap.

Collects and disposes of trash and garbage; moves equipment and furniture such as beds, tables, and chairs.

Performs sanitary inspections in designated areas for purposes of infection control.

Replaces and removes medically contaminated sharps and/or medically soiled and contaminated dressings and supplies.

Orders and distributes custodial supplies; maintains inventory.

Observes and reports safety violations; actively participates in emergency situations.

Assists in training and continued education of lower level workers.

Plans, assigns, and supervises all functions of a housekeeping department.

Inspects quarters for maintenance of proper housekeeping standards.

Supervises and maintains records of the distribution of furnishings.

Maintains necessary records; prepares required reports.

Establishes housekeeping standards; assists with policy planning; prepares departmental budget request.

Knowledge, skills and abilities required at this level include those identified in Level I plus knowledge of various cleaning methods, materials, and equipment used in custodial work; of proper procedures for disposing of waste, including medically contaminated sharps and/or medically soiled and contaminated dressings and supplies; and of chemical product safety. Skill is required to operate custodial equipment.

What should I look for when hiring a maid or housekeeper?

Hiring a maid is a serious responsibility. Allowing someone into your home and to come into contact with your belongings should require a substantial amount of research in finding the right person for the job. The following are few tips to keep in mind during the hiring process.

Insurance: Many maids and housekeepers work through a service company that hires employees to work under the name of that company. Should you use such a service, make sure the company is insured to cover accidents in the workplace-your home.

Ask For References: Before even considering hiring a maid from a company, seek out those who have worked with them before. Was their experience a good one? Always ask the housekeeping service company for references before hiring them.

Employment Screening: Be sure to find out whether or not each of the maids or housekeepers are screened before hired to the company. Does the service company confirm their references and verify they are residents? These are very important items to take into consideration before hiring a maid.

Contract: Who will provide the cleaning supplies, the maid company or you? What happens if you are not satisfied with the job done in your home? What happens if items are damaged in your home while the maid is working? These are questions that need to be answered and answered to the customer's satisfaction in a written contract signed by both you and the housekeeping company.

How much would it cost to utilize maid or housekeeping services on a regular basis?
Many maid and housekeeping service companies charge by the week and by the size of your living space. Small apartments often cost $40 a week, while a large home could cost $60 a week. These prices fluctuate on the type of home as well as if there are any special problem areas that need to be cleaned.
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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