They are privy to household secrets and know things that your friends don’t:Can you truly be friends with your cleaner?

  • Rachel Rounds never expected to become so close to her cleaner Donna
  • The pair have consoled each other and laughed together 
  • Donna comforted Rachel when she had a miscarriage at 12 weeks
Rachel Rounds, right, hired cleaner Donna Kelly, left, and they have become friends

Rachel Rounds, right, hired cleaner Donna Kelly, left, and they have become friends

It’s been seven years since my husband Tom and I first employed our domestic miracle-worker and, over that time, Donna has become much more than just my cleaner. She’s seen me through some of the toughest periods of my life, shared intensely private moments that many of my closest friends have never been privy to and always been there for me.

And yet, in spite of this, there will always be something that stands in the way of us becoming proper friends outside the confines of my house.

Donna became our cleaner after Tom and I had yet another row about the state of our four-bedroom house in Wiltshire. I work five days a week for an international charity and Tom – a semi-retired RAF officer – was spending far too much time on the golf course.


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When he asked me to stop vacuuming because he couldn’t concentrate on the television, I decided enough was enough.

‘A cleaner? What luxury!’ snorted a friend recently after moaning that her lazy husband didn’t even know where the vacuum cleaner was kept.

But, as far as I am concerned, Donna is not a luxury. She’s a necessity, and she’s worth every penny. Her hourly rate is the equivalent of two decent bottles of white wine, which, I might add, my friend would never dream of calling a ‘luxury’.

I found Donna through our local ‘handyman’ directory and, during our subsequent brief phone call she said she would send me her references. I was about to tell her there was no need, but then I reasoned I probably should look at them. After all, I was about to give a complete stranger the keys to my house. We all have private parts of our lives that we really don’t want others to see: Barry Manilow CDs; teenage love letters and socks gathering dust under the bed.

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Then there are the grubby kitchen cupboards harbouring jars of mouldy jam and stale cornflakes. Even my dearest friends don’t know what lurks in the darkest corners of my kitchen – so why was I about to reveal it all to someone I’d never even met?

But I needn’t have worried. The moment I met Donna, I warmed to her. She insisted on an interview and, at first, I couldn’t think what to say, so I asked her if she liked cleaning. She looked around our desperately untidy kitchen and burst out laughing.

‘I imagine I enjoy it a lot more than you or your husband do, which is a good job.’ Oh, the shame.

She then told me the house would need a ‘six-hour deep clean’ – and, after that, she would come for two hours every week to maintain her standards. I hired her on the spot and had to stop myself from hugging her. She’s been a lifeline ever since – in more ways than one. For the unexpected bonus in all this, is the unlikely – but now highly-prized – relationship that has blossomed over the years. We’ve talked about everything and anything. I think it helps that we don’t know each other too well, because we can be brutally honest. We’ve consoled each other and laughed together.

And it was Donna who was there for me in my hour of need. In September 2010, I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant. I’d already had one miscarriage earlier in the year, and was quietly hoping this time the baby would make it. Donna had guessed I was pregnant after only a few weeks. She said she could see it in my face.



As it turned out, I was glad, because she immediately realised what was happening when she turned up one Tuesday morning and I was starting to miscarry.

I lay in bed in agony, sobbing in pain and despair. I had nearly made it to the three-month point when we were going to tell everyone, but now my dreams had, yet again, been shattered.

Donna was amazing. She brought me towels and tea, and sat holding my hand without saying anything. She instinctively knew that there was nothing she could say to make it better, and she didn’t try.

I will never forget how much her understanding helped me at that moment. Months later, it was my turn to comfort her when she found out the man with whom she had been having a long-distance relationship was already married. As we sat hugging each other on my bed, amid the neatly placed cushions, I realised that, despite her ability to clean the untidiest of rooms, we’d both had to deal with chaos in our lives.

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It was the first time I’d seen her cry, and it upset me. I thought she was this ballsy, untouchable woman but, that day, I realised she was, like me, a desperate romantic who wanted to be loved and cherished. Knowing this broke down any remaining barriers.
When I finally did become a mother, it was Donna who helped me put up the cot, and Donna I confided in about my hopes and fears as the birth approached.
Sometimes though, I wonder if I have pushed the barriers of our friendship too far. In 2011, I invited Donna to our wedding and, two years later, to the christening of our son. She politely declined both invitations, something we have never talked to her about, but I respect her decision.
When I finally became a mother, it was Donna who helped me put up the cot, and Donna I confided in about my hopes and fears as the birth approached
The fact is, we don’t move in the same circles and she would have felt awkward at a wedding reception with people she didn’t know. And explaining that she cleans for me would have felt weird for both of us.
This is where the friendship gets complicated, and I’ve realised it works best when we keep it within the four walls of my house.

As for the cleaning – well, there’s a chance that, in 20 years, my husband might have worked out where I keep the vacuum cleaner – but I don’t hold much hope.

After all, I am her employer and we have a financial arrangement. Donna wouldn’t work for free – and I wouldn’t ask her to.
And, if she suddenly started slacking, I guess I’d have to say something, although I’d hate to offend her by implying she wasn’t doing her job properly.
A friend recently told me that her mum’s cleaner is 76 and, even though she can only manage a bit of light ironing, she still gets paid in full. Apparently, the two of them spend the weekly cleaning slot drinking tea and chatting because her mum can’t bring herself to part with this lovely old lady she has known for 30 years.
I understand her predicament – when Donna gets to retirement age, I will keep paying her just to come round for a natter.
As for the cleaning – well, there’s a chance that, in 20 years, my husband might have worked out where I keep the vacuum cleaner – but I don’t hold much hope.

Reference: Dailymail

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