If you’ve ever hired a cleaning crew or maid service, you’re probably familiar with the panic that sets in when you realize they’re about to arrive and your house is in total disarray. That’s when you zip around in your pajamas shoving evidence of your messiness in closets and hoping for the best.

This urge to clean before your maid shows up is normal. In fact, you’re supposed to pre-clean your home to some degree, but how much should you actually do?

Here’s a rundown of the most important things to handle before your cleaning service arrives, plus a list of tasks you can leave to them.

Communicate With Your Cleaners

The simplest way to avoid confusion with your cleaning service — and frantic over-cleaning on your part — is to clearly communicate your preferences from the start, says Greg Shepard, President and founder of Dallas Maids. If, for example, you like an empty dishwasher and fresh sheets on all the beds every two weeks, specify that.

It’s also smart to make a list of the areas you want cleaned, says Alexander Crawley, a professional cleaner with Paul’s Cleaning Sydney, especially if these areas aren’t typically covered by the service.

“If you’re paying by the hour, you want your house cleaner to do as thorough a job as possible, so you need to clear about what you want,” he adds.

Clear Clutter

Decluttering is the single most important thing you can do before your cleaners arrive, since it’s tedious and time-consuming to deep-clean a home rife with clutter. Picture, for instance, trying to scrub a kitchen counter covered in dirty dishes or vacuum a bedroom floor strewn with dirty clothes.

Decluttering, says Elena Ledoux, owner of Superb Maids in Las Vegas, doesn’t just make it easier to clean the areas that need to be cleaned, it also “reduces the risk of the items being placed in the wrong spots.”

Go through every area of your home and pick up anything out of place, including stray shoes in the entryway, kids’ toys in the living room, piles of mail spilling over the kitchen counter, and beauty products littering the sink area.

Put Dishes In The Sink

Unless you talked to your cleaners about doing the dishes, Crawley says, it’s best to get them out of the way. If you don’t have time to wash them before your cleaners arrive, load them in the dishwasher or soak them in the sink. You should also get rid of any food lying around, like open cereal boxes and half-eaten apples.

“This will save your cleaners time and it will save you money,” he says.

Set Clean Sheets On The Beds

If you ask your cleaners to change the sheets, make sure you lay out a set of fresh linens on each bed beforehand, so they don’t have to waste time searching for them.

Store Valuables And Breakables

Once you’ve decluttered, take a second pass through your home to scan for items that are particularly fragile or valuable. Think: your laptop, reading glasses, or the porcelain Buddha statue on your nightstand.

“Accidents happen — a vacuum handle bumping into a glass vase, chemicals staining the wood of an antique hope chest, liquids spilling on expensive electronics,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, communications manager for NeighborWho.

She recommends storing these items in a closed off area, like a storage cabinet, closet, or garage. Not only does this lessen the chance of your stuff getting damaged, it also makes it easier for your cleaners to do their job, Kaemmerle says.

Put Pets Outside

Don’t forget to take your pets outside or put them in a kennel before cleaners arrive, says Josh Matteson, marketing manager for Lula, a home services company.

“It can be hard for a house cleaner to do their job if they have animals running around,” Matteson says. “Not only that some house cleaners use harsh chemicals” that can agitate or harm your pets.

What Your Cleaning Service Will Do

Of course, every cleaning crew offers different services, most of which involve regular or deep-cleaning, not tidying. The following tasks are standard for many companies:

  • Scrub and disinfect surfaces
  • Dust surfaces and decor
  • Vacuum and mop floors
  • Clean toilets, showers, and sinks.
  • Empty the trash
  • Make the beds.

Go ahead and tidy up before a cleaning service arrives, but resist the urge to sweep or wipe down every surface. Over-cleaning can make your cleaners’ job more difficult because they may not be able to tell what’s actually clean and what’s not.

“Let us do the dirty work,” says Shepard. “If you fear what the maid service might think of your ‘dirty’ home, know we’ve seen things you can’t (or prefer not to) imagine,” he says.

Paige Smith