Belfast Telegraph

The ladies making a living from the household jobs we hate

A recent study revealed that more of us are happier if we pay other people to do the chores around our homes such as cleaning, ironing and gardening.

Karen Ireland talks to three women who are delighted to take on the work.

The ironer: Debora Wheeldon (41), who runs an ironing business, lives in Belfast with her three children, James (16), Lauren (15) and Samuel (6). She says:

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Head of steam: Debora’s business is thriving

After leaving school, I went to work in a factory. Then, when the children came along, to work around them I started cleaning houses.

That’s when I noticed most of the people who I was cleaning for were also sending their ironing out to be done.

I realised it was something I could do, so I took a few ads out in the local paper. The demand was there, with a few people who brought their ironing to me every week.

I was based at home, but then the place started to come down with washing and ironing.

It was so bad that the wallpaper started peeling off the walls with the condensation. It was taking over our house and taking up all my time.

I realised that I needed to separate work and home life and have some space. When I saw a unit being advertised in Hanwood Business Park in Dundonald, I applied for one and then moved in.

Since then, the business has really grown and I have three part-time staff and one young girl who comes in on a Saturday.

Most people hate ironing. There are so many other things they could be doing so, if they can, they tend to pay to have it done.

I love ironing. It’s my business and it suits me that other people don’t want to do it.

My clients range from busy working mums to an elderly widower who just wants a couple of shirts ironed.

Some people have the perception that if you get your ironing done, you are lazy. That isn’t true. People are genuinely busy. They work hard, long hours and they want to spend time with their families. To them, it is money well spent.

No one wants to spend their weekend looking at a high pile of ironing, so they bring it to me and then they can get on with things they want or need to do.

People laugh at me as I don’t actually have an iron in my house anymore. I do enough of it at work, so I’m not going to bring my work home.

I am not one of these people who must have jeans ironed, and I don’t iron bed clothes, so any ironing I have I take over to the shop. I’m lucky as I live close by and now have skilled staff, so I can take a break and nip home and then come back again.

About 90% of my customers are regulars who use the service every week. About 10% is new business, with customers referred to me by word of mouth.

Because I work part-time hours I would earn less than £10,000 a year. I could earn more if I worked full-time but I have three children to bring up and prefer to be around for them.

I’m fortunate to be able to make money from the jobs other people hate, and I earn a good enough living. I can look after myself and the kids, pay the bills and take us away on holidays twice a year.

Yes, I do get days when I can see ironing far enough, but that is like every job. You have good days and bad days.

Most days I love it and we have a talented team and enjoy the chat as well.”

The cleaner: Paula Sutch (48), who owns Mrs Muscle cleaning business, lives in Co Antrim and has grown-up children. She says:

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Finishing touch: Paula Sutch is passionate about her work

I moved over to Northern Ireland from England two years ago. I am a trained nurse but found it difficult to get a job here working in the profession.

Many employers considered me over-qualified and too mature for many of the posts that I applied for.

They were looking for younger girls they could pay less and train up. I thought there must be something else I am good at and I realised I liked cleaning.

Most people hate it but it is something I enjoy.

I started out with a Facebook page and got one or two recommendations and suddenly it just took off. As well as cleaning houses, I clean offices and shops as well. Now I have my own Mrs Muscle sign-written van and employ four other women.

I am so busy at the minute I could do with more staff but it’s hard to find people who are as fussy and as passionate about cleaning as I am. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my job as I like seeing the end result and what something can become.

My clients are varied and often include people who have let housework slide because something has happened in their lives.

Maybe they have had a bereavement or lost their job and the housework has just fallen by the wayside.

When I go in I will completely gut the place out and transform it for them. That refreshes them and gives them back some of their hope.

Other clients are just ordinary busy people who don’t have time to do a big clean. Most people are only off two days and to completely clean a house would take an entire day and many don’t want to do that on their day off.

They will spend a couple of hours doing what I call a skim clean just going over the surfaces. So, they like me coming in as I pull furniture out out and get underneath things and give everything a good thorough clean. It can be an endless job — especially for parents, who, as soon as they have tidied up the kids can come in and two seconds later have the place wrecked. The business is in its second year of trading and demand has doubled so I hope that profits are up. The profit last year wasn’t a five-figure sum.

People work long, hard hours now and they want a little help with certain household chores if they can afford it.

I also work for bachelors who live on their own and lead busy lives so they want a hand in keeping on top of the cleaning.”

The gardener: Cynthia Dorman, a widow, is a retired landscape gardener who runs a small gardening business. She lives in Drumbeg and has grown up children and grandchildren. She says:

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Great outdoors: Cynthia Dorman

I have worked outside for as long as I remember. I always had horses so I was outside working with them. Then my late husband was a farmer so I would have helped him about the farm.

I was always interested in plants and did a course in horticulture years ago and from there I developed a landscaping business.

A few years ago, I realised it was getting too much for me. I loved to hunt and was finding I wasn’t having any time to do this. So, I gave the business up and started to just work helping to maintain gardens.

People are often surprised when I tell them this is what I do as a woman but there is no reason why I can’t do it.

I do all the grass cutting and maintaining shrubs but if there is any heavy tree work I have a guy who I get in to help out.

Many people don’t like to garden as they find it too heavy, demanding work and it takes too long.

I am used to it and don’t mind the physical side of things. My clients consist of elderly people who can’t manage their garden any more.

They are people who have a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to mow their grass and maintain the shrubs.

I don’t have enough clients to make it very lucrative at the minute; I could do more work if I wanted but I just don’t have the time.

I want to enjoy my retirement and do the things I like to do and work around that.

I landscaped a local pub 25 years ago and have been maintaining and looking after its gardens ever since.

I also look after the owner’s garden at home.

My garden is pretty big so it takes up a lot of my time as well. I am certainly never idle.”

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