There’s nothing scarier than your first day at a new job. Especially when you were at the old job for 32 years.

I didn’t know the world of cleaning could be so cut-throat.






I didn’t know the world of cleaning could be so cut-throat.

I entered the game with great trepidation.

After being a news reporter for 32 years, I’d had enough.

Redundancies were up for grabs so I applied and was successful.

I wanted and needed a life change, do something completely different, something physical.

I wanted to step away from behind the desk, stop chasing fire engines and dealing with death. Cleaning was as far divorced from journalism as I could possibly find.

I planned to take some time off then find something a few days a week to pay the ongoing bills.

I answered an advertisement in the local newspaper.

It was for casual cleaners and was asking for people with an “eye for detail” to come forward.

I dialled the number and spoke to Tiffany (not her real name) the boss, who invited me to her home for an interview.

Tiffany is an attractive woman, blonde and well coiffed, with impeccably kept gel nails, in her early 40s, not the type I expected as your everyday cleaner.

She explained she had just won a contract to clean a large industrial complex a few minutes from my home.

I was always the first to jump in, chip shit off the loos especially on “grog bog Mondays”

The gig suited me. It was a stone’s throw from my front door but only paid half of what I had been earning previously.

She told me the work was hard, physical, $22 an hour and could be extremely bitchy. After more than three decades around some of the toughest traps as a news reporter I could do bitchy. Nothing was going to faze me but there was this niggling question. Was it going to be worth it?

What the hell! My redundancy was in the bank, hubby and I comfortable. It was time to enter a brave new world.

I started with a couple of trial days cleaning houses with her crew of a dozen or so women. What an eclectic mix and what an experience.

My fellow scrubbers ranged in age from early 20s to early 60s… then there was me, the new scrubber on the block, menopausal, and at a stage in my life where I don’t take shit anymore (although I was bound to be cleaning it).

Ahhh, the 50s, so much more comfortable in my own skin, don’t worry about what others think, embracing my middle-age spread and happy to flaunt the odd grey hair.

All started out well.

The scrubbing fraternity seemed to embrace me and my antics, liked my jokes and quick wit along with my work ethic. I was always the first to jump in, chip shit off the loos especially on “grog bog Mondays” and harvest the pubes from the men’s urinal. Vacuuming wasn’t my forte.

After a few short weeks as we all started to become more at ease in our roles, my colleagues’ true colours began to emerge.


The rubber gloves were off and the back stabbing and waterworks started, along with the wagging of some acid tongues that should have been dipped in the mop bucket and squeezed out.

Donna Sharpe

What had I let myself in for?

There were more factions meshed into this little cleaning empire than a federal government.

Belle (not her real name) was one of the leaders. The way too sweet, pretty and petite little scrubber was seen as a major threat after being tipped as the new CEO of the organisation’s house cleaning arm.

She spends a lot of time at Tiffany’s much to the disdain of the other scrubbers who all want a piece of Tiffany and seem to polish the mirrors with much more vigour in her presence.

And so the struggle for supremacy in the cleaning world had begun. Who would be the next Mrs Sheen?

There would be tears in the toilets, tantrums in the troughs and mayhem amongst the mops.

This my friends is just the beginning of my story about an industry where your credentials should include personal training, psychology, crime scene investigation and gastroenterology.

It’s the world of cleaning, a job that can be a little on the nose but hilariously funny to the uninitiated.

Stay tuned.

The Scrubber.

Have you ever made a massive career change?

Donna Sharpe is a former Fairfax news journalist of 32 years. She has won numerous awards for her reporting and was a finalist in the prestigious Australian Walkley Awards. After retiring in 2012 the mother of two and Nonna of one sought a new vocation. She hopes start a blog about her adventures in the world of cleaning.