University Cleaner: Friend or Foe?

Almost a year ago, I smugly trotted off to university, safe in the knowledge that I knew everything there was to know about living on my own. Fast forward eleven months, and I am safe in the knowledge that I still know nearly nothing about living on my own. Central to this epiphany was one of the most divisive aspects of life in halls – the university cleaner.

The extended hangover of Freshers’ week was interrupted by two women who loudly announced it was ‘time to clean’ before proceeding to lock me out of my own room (totally not my fault for leaving my key inside), which forced me to go to Residences’ in my flatmate’s shoes and get a swift telling off. I returned to two ashen-faced flatmates looking traumatised after being informed that leaving saucepans on the counter was the most formidable crime you can imagine. My flat and I were united in a sneaking suspicion that our first cleaner refused to clean our flat again after threatening to complain to management, but luckily, after the first couple our problems were solved…

Our cleaner for the rest of the year was quite literally the ideal cleaner – he even let us choose the order he cleaned our rooms in, he’s never once shouted at the (frankly disgusting) mess that our kitchen was sometimes left in after the night before, and it’s always nice to get a ‘good morning’ as you slump out to the first lecture of the week. I once even attempted a ‘thank you!’ post-it note in Spanish – if it was readable, but I hope he realised how much we appreciated it. We didn’t realise how much we took him for granted until he was replaced for a week by a woman who walked into my housemate’s room whilst he was less than dressed and shouted about ‘you children and all your nudity’ for a good ten minutes. We spent the rest of the week hiding in our rooms, hoping she’d left before we snuck down for seminars.

In the last couple of weeks in halls, we started to face the reality that next year we wouldn’t have any help with making sure our house wasn’t an absolute pigsty – and seeing some of the houses that we could potentially be living in made it really hit home how little some tenants seemed to know about keeping their own space clean and tidy. As someone who’s naturally quite organised, the thought of not having a cleaner just made me determined to do more myself. Now we’ve signed for a house, the prospect of keeping it nice has become even more real. On one hand, I know that if we hadn’t had a cleaner in the first year I’d feel a lot more relaxed about the idea of having to waste precious sleeping time on manning the hoover. On the other, not having to worry definitely made it easier to settle into the pattern of university, and I know that with an iron fist and a non-negotiable rota, our house will be as well kept as if we still had a cleaner (not that my flatmates will resent it after a week or so.)

Being a cleaner for a bunch of students who haven’t got much time for things that don’t involve beer and Netflix can’t be the most rewarding job in the world, and however much you don’t want a knock on your door at 9am some mornings, people living in halls are lucky that they have access to people who are willing to clean your shower for you. And as my mum reminded me yesterday, I have never cleaned a bathroom in my life, so maybe the real world will come as more of a shock than we expect…



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