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3.3 out of 5 stars
Other People's Dirt
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on 21 May 1998
Although the notion of life as seen by a housecleaner is interesting--how much do our homes reveal about our "secrets"?--and the style is mildly entertaining, the chip on the author's shoulder detracts from the book. An example--she freely admits that she "overcharges" a lot of clients for various services, but then counsels those who use housecleaners to leave little uplifting notes like "you're amazing!" She wants top pay *and* ego-stroking for doing her job? Nice work if you can get it.
In one nearly repellant episode, while cleaning for a commercial service she considers exploitive, she notices that the home's owner has many books on his shelves about the exploitation of labor. Interrupting him as he works, she waves one of the titles at him and expects him to join her in a discussion of the plight of certain workers, especially those in the cleaning business. The poor man is, understandably, less than enthused at this prospect....he was hoping for clean floors; instead he's being harangued about social issues by some woman he's never seen before, one who's being paid to dust the books, not wave them at him.
The book is breezy and mildly entertaining, but the author's attitude is tiresome, and her manners are appalling (inviting your boyfriend over to make use of a client's bed when no one is home, and then charging someone for the privilege?). It's enough to make you scrub your own bathroom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 1999
I could hardly put it down. I think the scathing reviews in here can only be those of women or men who have never cleaned homes for a living. Lighten up folks...sheesh!! This was one of the funniest books I've ever read. Though I may not agree with Louise politically, her humor and humanity are wonderful. I have cleaned homes for 5 years. It isn't a "hobby" as some clients would like to think. This made for a delightful evening of laffs. Hey, Louise, when's the video coming? KUDOS, susie melkus
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on 11 February 1999
Often, while reading a book, I think how I'd like to meet the author and learn more. Not this time. I would not walk across the street to meet the spiteful, smug, self-serving woman who wrote this book. She gives a bad name to housecleaners everywhere by proudly telling how she pilfers small items from various homes, makes fun of her clients' belongings, and reads personal papers. She lauds a colleague who throws away clients' photos which she deems offensive, she runs down all cleaning services based on her two-day experience with one, then criticizes people whose houses are too clean...or too dirty...or too large...or too small. She takes baths in clients' tubs, reads People magazine with the door closed and the vacuum running, and clearly breaks any kind of professional confidentiality, all the while proclaiming her superiority and cleverness and, of course, collecting money from the poor saps who hired her. I've always believed that money spent on books could not be wasted because all information is good - whether or not the reader agree with it. I've changed my mind. This book is a waste, and I feel very foolish for buying it and putting money in the author's pocket. I thought it would make me laugh, but it made me angry instead; if I could give it 0 stars, I would. Don't waste your money.
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on 26 August 1998
Okay, so Rafkin's book is not for everyone. What's new? My recommendation is to read the first chapter before you buy this book. I did, and I was hooked immediately. Every chapter was a surprise after that as Rafkin shows how she makes a living doing the work she loves -- work that obviously other people find disgusting, boring, painstaking, or just too lower class. The joy is that Rafkin does love her work and, yes, finds most things in life ironic, even 'other people's dirt.' As she discovers, you can learn everything you want to know about a person just by looking at what reading material they put out, what they put in their refrigerators, and what they store in their medicine cabinet. Do tell. Surprises abound, and if Rafkin occasionally appears condescending, maybe it has something to do with the way she is treated by her customers, who deserve to be scaled for their haughty attitudes. The last chapter, which takes place in Japan where housecleaning and Zen join hands, is humbling, honest, and original. I imagine the same people who find Rafkin's take on housecleaning to be repulsive are the same people who think retarded people should be locked indoors and out of sight. But that's another book....
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on 21 January 1999
I thought that Ms. Rafkin's book didn't carry any particularly deep messages -- just some amusing stories about former clients, some despised, some not -- and some "Miss Manners"-like instructions on how to behave as an employer of a cleaning professional should one find oneself in that situation. However, shortly after reading the book my toddler came down with a serious virus, and I discovered that, as I stayed up with him several nights in a row, cleaning suddenly had a remarkably calming and theraputic effect. I think Ms. Rafkin's book was more moving and persuasive than I had realized as I read it the first time. This book is particularly recommended for those people, such as myself, who look only to the results of cleaning rather than the process as the reason for doing it.
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on 2 June 1999
Louise Rafkin seems to find nearly everyone except herself below contempt, whether it's a client or a sibling. She doesn't seem terribly fond of friends, and a potential spiritual advisor gives her "vapid" advice, which she fails to follow in the single test she's given. She despises people who aren't as obsessive-compulsive as she is, and shows no integrity in her work. I can't imagine that anyone would dream of hiring her to clean their homes, or write another book, after this dreadful self-aggrandizement of what must be a very sorry life devoid of trust or true intimacy. The time spent reading this book could be spent doing almost anything else; cleaning your own toilet is more amusing, and you won't feel nearly as dirty afterwards
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on 1 June 1998
I took an intense dislike to her smugness and across-the-board disdain of her clients. She seems to despise all of them, unknown as well as known. She scorns those whose homes are too clean and those whose homes are too dirty; those who won't stay to talk and those who do stay around, presumably because they don't trust her (she doesn't consider it a violation of trust to watch TV, make phone calls, have sex on their bed, and "spy" (her words) on them. Even other cleaners don't escape her mocking. The writing style is breezy and reads quickly. Is it a good book? It does reveal who she is, and in that way succeeds as a kind of memoir. But I wouldn't read anything by Rafkin again.
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on 6 June 1998
Rafkin's memoir took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion. From tears of laughter, "I nickmaned this couple the Shedders, because from the evidence in the bathroom, they had to be losing fistfuls of hair on a daily basis", to deeply saddened by the class issues she reveals in the chapter entitled 'McCleaning', cringing at the the thought of 'vacuuming maggots' from a crime scene, to a truly poignant moment making the bed with the husband of a client recently hospitialized with terminal cancer. Ultimately, she ties the whole thing together with what is presumably her own spiritual epiphany of returning to her native west coast to 'clean up' her own mess. This is a smart book
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on 18 March 1999
This book made me laugh out loud more than once. Ms. Rafkin has a mordant sense of humor but she's also getting at sticky issues of class. Makes you look hard at your attitudes toward hired help. We want to think they're anonymous robots, wiping up our pubic hair and drain scum without glancing at our private artifacts or making judgments about our lifestyle. Other People's Dirt punctures that bubble. I welcomed the chance to travel through the world of those who clean up after our messes. Several of my friends have even used this as a how-to book: taking notes from Ms. Rafkin about how to be more respectful/aware of their housecleaner's difficult work. Read it and chuckle.
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on 4 September 1998
It's a bit difficult to determine when the author is stretching a point or stating the facts. She brings us inside the world that most of us never experience -- domestic service. It goes beyond cleaning to a calling. The books leads to the inevetable ending where she joins a commune of Japanese cleaners who try to live the noble life of self effacing service to her conclusion that it is time for her to go home and "clean house."
Nothing here is a revelation. Just a peek into a world that few, if any of us readers, have experienced. A nice read with more than a bit of good humor.
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