A journey— from Working in Health Care to Working for Healthier Homes
Last updated 2022-02-08, last edited 2022-02-19
Starting in health care— first in a pharmacy, then as Nursing Assistant
My earliest job, at fifteen, is in a pharmacy. Keeping prescription records, my high school touch-typing class kicks in!
Soon I’m a Nursing Assistant in a hospital and nursing home. The nurses I work with urge me to go on to nursing.
True, I love caring for patients. And get it about emergency care and recovery. But wonder if the chronic conditions we’re seeing can be prevented. In coming years a growing number of doctors will be writing prescriptions for real food, with some hospitals hosting farmers’ markets.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, we’re experiencing chronic understaffing. And feeling it. I quit to explore less stressful work.
Launching a (conventional) cleaning service
2022-02-08 Added: First I’m trying out other jobs. Among them, selling high-end fashion. Then cooking in a private home from Molly Katzen’s recipes. And more.
Preferring flexible hours, I switch to cleaning. Years earlier my big sister owned a cleaning service, detailing homes and offices. Borrowing my help as needed. Now I’m launching my own.
The straightforward part
I’m loving vacuuming, believe it or not. All that dust, sucked right in!
Getting customers, and keeping them, is straightforward. Among my rules are the following.
- Be a good listener. Nothing’s about me— it’s all about the job.
- Be thorough where it counts.
- Create detailed work schedules. No guessing!
- Submit detailed reports.
The tricky part
First, the obvious. Dodging harsh chemicals that can injure skin and eyes. Plus mists that lurk. We’re opening windows!
Feb. 16, 2018─Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.American Thoracic Society
Then there’s water pollution. What am I pouring down drains? In a few short years I learn that hormone-disrupting chemicals slip through water treatment plants, building up in our rivers and streams. A river in my home town has not been spared. We floated down that river as kids, in tire tubes. And fished. Too close to home!
Returning to the basics— with simple, non-toxic products
“It has to be toxic to work”, right? That’s what I’m thinking.
But wait— why can’t non-toxic products work? Given the right chemistry, plus professional tools and techniques. Surely someone’s testing that. But word’s not getting out yet.
OK. Let’s find the simplest, healthiest approach that delivers professional results, and involves the least waste.
Castile soap is first up to try, as we’re using it at home on almost everything. Plus baking soda, Bon Ami, and vinegar. Surprisingly they all work on the job too— with professional tools and techniques. Check out Clean Like a Pro with Organic Ingredients, for more on these simple products.
My Non-Toxic Cleaning Service is born, taking baby steps. Health-Based Cleaning shortly follows.
Getting real about my own personal health
As I transform my cleaning, I’m transforming my personal health. Inspired by my mom, I’m switching from junk foods to fresh, whole foods.
Next I take up running, then high-intensity interval training.
In coming years I add weight training, with free weights at home. I’ve always considered myself strong— ha! Lifting heavier furniture, and cleaning ceilings, is no sweat now. Plus I have more endurance. Finally my social confidence takes a leap— feeling solid somehow is key.
Researching and collaborating
2022-02-08 Adding the following four paragraphs:
OK, got the basics down— a simple, safer products. But I’ve still much to learn!
Tapping the experts, first up is Debra Lynn Dadd, After being a concert pianist, Debra among the first to alert consumers to toxic chemicals in everyday household products. Plus th short- and long-term health effects. And safe, mostly-affordable alternatives
Now I’m field-testing cleaners for Debra’s second book, The Non-Toxic Home. And becoming her writing assistant, cross-referencing and reviewing.
Learning of 80,000 new chemicals in use— few tested for safety
Here’s a fact I’m not prepared for: 80,000 new chemicals are in use, reports Debra. Few have ever been tested for safety. Many are hidden from product labels. In products that are right there on supermarket shelves.
Potential long-term health risks are a growing concern, given exposure. Kidney and liver damage, for example. Plus endocrine and immune system disorders. For the latter, see this 2020 report from Collaborative for Health and the Environment. I’ll be repeating this link.
Specializing in environmental allergies, asthma, cancer— replacing services that don’t
Homeowners with these symptoms, along with safety-minded parents, find me through word of mouth.
For many, getting their service to use safer products — consistently— is like pulling teeth. I hear this over and over.
I’m glad to help! But workers I’m replacing may face lost income. Their families too.
Recruiting more help— that already gets it
2022-02-08 Added section:
I’m swamped with calls. To find help I check local listings for non-toxic cleaning services. And find a few, mostly college students. To avoid legal headaches we’re paid equally and separately.
We’re sharing skills on the job and in monthly meetings. Learning a ton together!
Side-stepping advice to hire, and MLMs
2022-02-08 Added section:
“Hire!” Franchise”! “You’re sitting on a gold mine”! This, from everyone and their cousin. But I’m more interested in writing and teaching.
“Ground floor opportunity”! This time from multi-level marketers (MLM), urging me to sell their brands. But “uplines” spend much time recruiting “downlines”, if some reports are correct. Someone else will make a better fit.
Starting a consulting and referral service
To gain consulting skills I offer free phone consulting during evenings and weekends. Calls flood in from homeowners with allergies, asthma and cancer. I offer all the advice I can for their cleaning challenges, along with referrals to services I’m vetting. And hiring tips. After missing a few months of personal time, I wind it down.
The City of San Francisco launches Pollution Prevention campaigns related to water and household waste. I’m among their consultants in developing a guide titled Clean It! Safer Cleaning Methods that Really Work!, and several other campaigns. Cleaning services get special outreach.
Watching as green standards emerge
Some brands are making false green claims, aka “greenwashing”. In response, the Federal Trade Commission publishes its Green Guides.
Product-rating tools arrive for consumers. Environmental Working Group for example. And more, some retail stores among them.
Meanwhile I stay focused on non-toxic, low-waste features. Evolving my health-based method in full transparency.
Training in groups— new cleaning services
2022-02-08 Revised section:
Low-income single moms, too, are launching their own non-toxic cleaning services. On request I collaborate with business incubators to train their founding trainers and members.
In intensive trainings, the women learn how common household chemicals are linked to chronic health conditions. Then get hands-on training in professional cleaning, virtually toxic free. Adult Educators lead the first part, and coach me in the latter. We add time management, marketing, and more.
Seeing these women earn living wages— with safer working conditions— is transformative.
In the thick of things, Mike comes into my personal life in a big way. With his background in engineering and building he jumps in to handle training logistics, onsite and off. Our angel!
2022-02-08 Added section:
National chains take notice. In no time they rebrand as green, expanding into the same cities. With no help from me.
Yet the independent services continue to thrive. Thanks to recognition from their Cities, and smart partnerships.
Still, the independent services, including my own, can stay ahead by offering new features. We’ve already built trust with homeowners. We’ll build on that.
As I research what’s possible, I’m taken on a detour…
Taking care after a back injury
Never lift what feels like a two-ton sofa, alone.
I pull back from more trainings for now— intense, hands-on work with many moving parts. My back needs time to heal.
Never let a setback go to waste!
In my downtime I revise my training manuals, and start my first book. And teach myself new skills in business and tech.
Mike’s coaching me through much of it, with his relevant skills.
Chronic pain sets in from my injury. But I manage to escape—drug free! Focusing on my mission helps. Mike’s love makes a big difference too. Plus he cooks for us— and he’s really good! Never under-estimate gratefulness in healing.
Creating conditions for safe, labor-efficient cleaning
Toxic hazards and inefficiencies plague homeowners and cleaning services alike. So I’m now delivering the following.
- Customizing health-based cleaning kits for clients’ exclusive use. Dedicated versions for kitchen, bathroom and “other rooms”. Stored separately to prevent cross-contamination, colorized when possible. I built my service around this feature; just evolving it further.
- De-cluttering to streamline cleaning. Working on one small chunk per visit, maintaining de-cluttered areas regularly. Just like we do at home.
Adding a new skill— Daytime Home Manager
When Managers I work with leave the job, I back-fill most of their daily duties. Teaching myself new skills as I go. Hitting the ground running!
Psst… it’s not rocket science. More like juggling countless moving parts. Hiring outside services as needed—like handyman, appliance repair, and more.
I’m discovering something new here. Clients prefer to hire cross-trained help people they can find them. And fewer of them.
Navigating the COVID Shutdown
My main client’s family suddenly must work from home, in a tiny space during a remodel. I provide all the support I can virtually.
For another client I’m working in her city home while the family stays in their country home. The city home is a 100yo Edwardian with five bedrooms, two studies, three bathrooms, and a pool room.. I spend several days per visit de-cluttering and organizing, deep-cleaning after. For the same client I’m developing inventory / ordering tools on the cloud.
COVID-safe practices are front and center, even with the client’s family being away. I’m adding more masking, gloving, hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, disinfecting, and more.
I’m continually updating my offers. Check out my Healthy Home Services.
And recently coached another Home Manager working with a new employer. Mainly skills in Mac; online research; and project management on the cloud.
And working on my first book again! With more content up my sleeves.
This is it— an efficient, holistic approach to clean, healthy homes. Informed by deep research.
Too often I’m “buiding my plane as I’m flying it”. But fortunately, God’s sent in some awesome help!