• Mary MacCarthy

L.A. house cleaner loses clients to lock down, says "my heart is breaking"

Updated: May 7, 2020

Susan is an immigrant from Europe who has lived in Los Angeles for nearly thirty years. She's in her mid-60s and works as a house cleaner. We chatted via Facebook Messenger on March 20, 2020 - the day after California governor Gavin Newsom issued a "stay-at-home" for the entire state of 39 million people.

(She prefers to not disclose her identity, to protect the privacy of her clients and to protect her own job security.)

HOW AM I GETTING BY? I’m sorry it’s just very scary! Well… I work when I can. For now, I’ve been getting paid by some clients even though I don’t go… But when that ends, I don’t know what will happen.

I built an idea which came to me in church. I actually got my first client from church. I built my clientele with hard work, trust, and respect. My daughter helped me, by casually mentioning about me, but honestly the stigma that your mom is a house cleaner was treacherous to her business [Susan’s daughter owns her own small business].

But my daughter worked behind-the-scenes to help me, and we noticed that Facebook could be an opportunity for me, for referrals. My daughter advertised me on some “mom” Facebook groups and I got ten replies! Which started my journey. One of those clients gave a shout-out on Facebook, and would you believe it, I got 120 responses!

It took me about four years to build a solid clientele. I borrowed cleansers, bought a used vacuum cleaner for $20, and got started. I carried my little orange vacuum and put my cleansers in my backpack. And off I went. I was scared to even call these people on the phone, but I did it! The very idea to knock on someone’s door to say, ‘Hi I’m here to clean, I’m Susan’ with a smile on my face was terrifying to me. But I did it. I don’t know how I did it. But I worked at it. I still do.

I made a promise to myself I would never betray my clients’ trust. Never steal. In some places I had to work so hard it made me think, did they grow up with slaves? I was pushed so hard by some of these women!

Sometimes I worked so hard I couldn’t walk. But you have to hide your pain. Otherwise some clients will just drop you. I kept going back. I was one of the lucky ones. With determination and hard work I had 24 clients a month, and I also clean two businesses.

It’s physically exhausting but I just use my body wisely. I have been a worker all my life. I have finally been given the chance by God to work my passion.

But now, my heart is breaking. The fear of my money drying up terrifies me. But not as much as me walking into an infected house - that terrifies me, too.

Some people whom I cleaned for for years are saying, ‘No, you can’t come.’ I’m like, ‘What? I was here last week!’

Some didn’t even offer to pay me, not even a thought. They just say, ‘We will take it week by week.’ I’ve been cleaning for them for years

But of course - as I said - some are paying me to stay away. Which makes me sad. What happened? I thought we were friends! Some treated me like family. Can’t do without Susan’s love. That’s what makes me sad. Some threw me away.

I survive with hope. I appreciate what my faithful clients are doing for me.

I ask God, Why? He was with me at the beginning and I know He is with me now… My life isn’t over; I feel I will be able to continue with my passion.

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