“Within the last two weeks, everybody just said 'We're self quarantining. Don't come.' ”

Rita Mitchell and her housecleaning partner usually clean about seven houses a week in the Central Ohio area. They currently have only one house on the schedule for the entire month of April. 

“Within the last two weeks, everybody just said ‘We’re self-quarantining. Don’t come,’ ” Mitchell says. 

If business doesn’t pick back up fairly soon, Mitchell says she’ll have to consider going back to the workforce. 

“I might have to be working at Amazon.” 

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One of Mitchell’s clients, Riann Taylor, canceled her every-other-week cleaning temporarily. She is among the Central Ohio residents not comfortable having her cleaner come as Gov. Mike DeWine orders residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Taylor’s son has health conditions that make him high-risk, so her family has already been self-quarantining. Cleaners present a higher risk because they go in and out of other people’s homes. 

“In the week that she was supposed to come and clean, she had already lost two jobs,” Taylor says. “I told her we wanted to pay her two-thirds of what we would pay her on a retainer basis to know that she would come back to us.” 

Taylor didn’t want to lose her usual Thursday spot with Mitchell or be left looking for another housekeeper after the pandemic if she postponed services and was replaced with a paying client. She says she felt it was fair to continue paying because she understands as a small business owner herself that there’s an expectation of a certain income each week.  

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Mitchell says Taylor is one of only a few of her clients continuing to pay while postponing cleaning services. She’s also not getting calls for deep cleans or other services 

Amy Szypula, owner and operator of Neat Freak Moms, says her clients have been pulling back, too. but that they're supportive of her business.

“Initially I had a few clients who would pay me to not come,” Szypula says. As of March 23, seven of Neat Freak Moms’ 35 clients had postponed services for the time being, and several of those are still paying her. “I think some people still find it a necessity and a priority,” she says. 

In business for 12 years, Szypula has three part-time employees and remains hands-on with the business. She has been reaching out to clients before cleaning to see how they feel about her coming in and to let them know she isn’t sick. 

Szypula is cleaning more extensively than usual, paying special attention to door knobs and other high-use areas. Business as usual is a thing of the past. 

“The majority of my clients are working from home now,” Szypula says.

Mary Sterenberg is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.