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People Talk: A conversation with teacher and Neat Freak Jill Raimonde

Jill Raimonde is a Lancaster schoolteacher who loves to clean – but she wasn’t always tidy. Raimonde says her interest in cleaning evolved during college. So after she began teaching school, she would spend the summer cleaning houses. After one season of cleaning, she started seeking employees. When Raimonde opened a cleaning service in 2004, she called it Neat Freaks.

Today it seems like Raimonde can’t keep still. She teaches school full time, manages her cleaning business part time and is spending this summer planning her wedding.

Raimonde, 32, is a first-grade teacher who may have more energy than her pupils. One thing is certain. She can make any room shine.

People Talk: How do you put your stamp on a home you’ve cleaned?

Jill Raimonde: Everyone loves a thorough cleaning, but when you’re cleaning for the same person every week, it’s hard to wow them. There’s certain ways I like things done. I am really big on special touches: folding the end of toilet paper into a little V, placing pillows a certain way.

PT: Do you rearrange things on purpose?

JR: Yes. I like everything off a surface when we clean it, and sometimes it’s hard to remember where everything goes. Years ago, someone took me literally and basically rearranged the house. That’s not OK. We move things so people can know we clean.

PT: What’s your policy on vacuum cleaners?

JR: We use customer vacuums for sanitary purposes. If we used the same vacuum cleaner for multiple sites, we could be carrying pet dander into people’s homes. It’s not a sanitary thing to do.

PT: Do you feel disrespected by people because of the nature of the tasks you perform?

JR: In a sense, but it’s a little bit different for me being the owner. I’ve had cleaners come to me upset over the way they’ve been treated sometimes. We don’t usually send them back there because I won’t put my cleaners in those situations.

PT: What challenges you as a boss?

JR: Giving up control because I’m a little bit of a control freak. I mean I’m not in these homes and it’s hard for me at first to trust cleaners to do the job that I would do.

PT: What’s a pet peeve?

JR: I know this sounds silly, but I like when people vacuum in lines. A carpet looks so nice when you take the time to put lines into it rather than going all over the place with the vacuum cleaner.

PT: How green is your business?

JR: Good question. I was a vegan for nine years. Now I’m a vegetarian so I’m still not a meat-eater but I’m not like I was. It was very hard to live, and I wasn’t really healthy.

We have green-cleaning options, but a lot of people just provide their own supplies. People love the smell of clean – like Murphy’s Oil Soap and Pine-Sol – and you don’t get that from green cleaning.

PT: What about breakage?

JR: It happens from time to time. My cleaners will leave a breakage report, and the customer will contact me. Hopefully it’s not a family heirloom, and it hasn’t happened yet. A lot of times we’ll just give a discount.

PT: What is the best way for busy people to clean their homes?

JR: Dedicate a day of the week to do one task. On Mondays you could wipe down the bathroom. Tuesdays I run the vacuum. Wednesdays I do a quick light dusting. This way, it won’t seem like a daunting task.

PT: What can you do on the last minute to prepare your home for guests?

JR: Throw everything into one room? You know I’ve done that before. Honestly? A quick dusting.

PT: What about mirrors?

JR: Mirrors are something that even professional cleaners find tough. Streaks are tough. We use vinegar and water a lot, and microfiber cloth. We stay away from paper towels.

PT: What is a common mistake people make while cleaning?

JR: A lot of times people don’t realize the order in which they are cleaning could be the reason it’s taking them so long. Work high to low. Also don’t get backed up by letting it go for so long.

PT: How can you enjoy cleaning so much?

JR: I put music on. It makes me feel like I’m burning calories and being productive. My downfall is my car; it isn’t as organized. But as far as my home and classroom, I like things in a row. I like things tilted nicely. I like to look at things that look pleasing.

PT: Are you a Type A personality?

JR: Definitely – in most parts of my life. It’s good and it’s bad. I mean I can be a little high-strung.

PT: Were you always neat by nature?

JR: I didn’t grow up being a very neat person, you can ask my mother. I didn’t clean my room. I threw my clothes everywhere until pretty much I went to college. That’s when I became a neat freak. I like to be able to find things. I like being organized.

PT: Not to mention ambitious.

JR: I saw my parents work hard their entire lives, and I feel with the younger generation there’s a sense of entitlement. That doesn’t really sit well with me.

PT: How difficult is it to find honest employees?

JR: It’s huge. I basically interview tons of people. I can tell from the get-go who I could never send into someone’s home. And through the training process, I get to know people. I don’t really hire off Craigslist, but I will put an ad in the paper.