It fascinates me how people live. Because it’s kept behind closed doors so much, we don’t realise the state that some other people can live in. It really is horrendous when you see for yourself how an elderly lady or gentleman may live on their own. You think ‘oh my God, how the hell do you live like this?’ It’s heartbreaking really. I do genuinely care about people, and if I think I can help somebody I will. It really gets to me when I get a really bad case.
It’s the nature of the job that we are faced with gruesome scenes and the human side of things really hits home. The worst job I’ve ever done was when a lady a similar age to myself had died in her bed in the front room of her flat, and she’d been deceased for weeks. No one had found her and her body had begun to decompose causing fluids to seep through the entire ceiling below and was dripping into the bottom flat, which is the only reason she was found.
That gets to me because there’s no community spirit – she lived in an upstairs flat, how had that poor woman been dead for weeks and her neighbours hadn’t even noticed? It’s so sad.
Someone outside of the job probably couldn’t even begin to get their head around where to start, but we’re the professionals and know what we’re doing, we do it day in, day out. The smell is just horrendous, we had a new starter heave when he first smelt it – you need a strong stomach.
We schedule these kind of jobs towards the end of the day when we’ve eaten lunch, because you won’t want to eat afterwards, and you just stink – it gets into your clothes. As soon as you leave you want to go home and shower.
I do think about the person that’s died when I’m cleaning their home. I like to try and tidy away empty beer bottles if they’ve been a heavy drinker before their family visit, because I wouldn’t want to see that if it was my mum or dad, though I don’t touch any personal belongings.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman why I think like that, but I try to make it as nice as possible for them.
The hardest thing I have to do is running all the staff – if I could clone myself I’d be fine. Cleaning is looked down on, but this doesn’t bother me, I’m a trained professional and I’m really proud of what I do and I absolutely love my job.
People are surprised to see me as a woman, and I do drive a three-and-a-half ton tipper, so I get a few funny looks. They say: “What a strange job for a woman to be doing.” I never say I’m the boss, but the lads like to tell them: “Yeah, it’s her first day, she’s doing alright”. We always have a laugh – you have to in this type of job.
Words as told to Rhiannon Williams
Sarah runs Specialised Cleaning Services, was awarded North West Business Woman of the Year in 2012 and was highly commended as Inspirational Woman of the Year 2013 at the Enterprise Vision Awards