"Two hours?" Sounded reasonable to me.
"Wow! You're quick!" she exclaimed as she walked out the door. "Call me if you have any trouble!"
I decided to clean her daughter's bedroom first. By the time I'd removed the five million Barbies covering the floor and meticulously dusted three shelves of porcelain dolls, an hour had gone by.
I needed to pick up the pace. I went through the house, gathered all the laundry, and stuffed as much as I could into the washer. Then I moved on to the kitchen.
Special products for the glass stove top...like glass cleaner? Perfect.
That's the one product I have with me. What are the odds?
Thirty minutes later, I realized my off-brand Windex was not cutting it; there were still grease spots everywhere. My two-hour time limit was up, and I had successfully straightened up one wing of the house and semicleaned the kitchen.
How was this taking so long? Even the dogs were judging me.
I decided to call her. I told her it would take another hour, and she was okay with that but warned me she would be coming home soon with the kids.
One hour later, she pulled into the driveway. I was still cleaning.
In the end, my two-hour estimate turned into more like seven hours. I was still cleaning while she made her kids dinner, gave them baths, and put them to bed. But somehow, with a throbbing head, no AC, and only glass cleaner, a sponge, and a used toilet scrubber, I got through that entire house.
When I was done, it looked okay. Not great, but better than it did before.
She paid me, and I left.
I thought that was the end of the story. But really, it was just the beginning.
The next day, two hours after I left the mall triumphantly holding my new jeans, a funny thing happened. The woman who had hired me called again.
I was afraid she'd found the mildew I'd covered up with a shampoo bottle, so I let it go to voice mail. (How millennial of me.) But she wasn't calling to complain. Her message sounded something like this: "Hi, Kristen! Hope you're having a great day. Just wanted to touch base and see if we could set up a weekly schedule? I could really use the help."
It had never occurred to me that this could be more than a one-time thing.
I decided I would love to have an extra $99 a week, so I started cleaning her house every Wednesday.
She was kind enough to let me use her products and teach me how she preferred things to be cleaned. I befriended the dogs and finally figured out the mystery of the glass stove top. (Use the clearly marked bottle of "glass stove top cleaner" under the kitchen sink.) Life was good.
Then she started telling her friends about me, and then they told their friends, who told their friends. As if that weren't crazy enough, I also forgot to take down the Craigslist ad. I woke up each morning to a few emails from people who wanted to hire me.
Some of these requests were a little weirder than others. One person asked me if I cleaned S&M playgrounds, and I said yes because I had no idea what those were. I showed up and quickly realized that I did not clean S&M playgrounds.
Another one emailed:
What do you wear while cleaning? I'm not asking for sex, please don't get it wrong, but if you have some naughty clothes to wear while cleaning and are willing to wear those, we can discuss the details. You can come with one or two other friends if you want. Hope to hear from you soon.
I quickly declined. I didn't need another pair of jeans that badly.
Not all the inquiries were from creeps, though. I slowly started cleaning for more and more clients and found myself making pretty decent money. But it was physically exhausting: I cleaned before class, after class, even on the weekends.
I needed help.
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.