Photo by Audrey Kesler
Sophomore Patrick Barnickel was in the fourth grade when his mom came home from work one day and said, “I have a job for you.”
The job was cleaning his mom’s friend’s house. Nearly five years later, Barnickel juggles cleaning three houses between school and cross country. Yet it isn’t the money that motivates him.
“I don’t have a specific type of cleaning I like to do,” Barnickel said. “I just love coming into a house and making it sparkle.”
At first, cleaning other people’s houses was just for fun and the good pay. He never viewed it as a chore like most kids his age. Nearly overnight, he was referred to many of his mother’s clients who needed the extra help because of how talented he was.
Aside from keeping his own house orderly, in the fifth and sixth grade he often would go over to his friend’s houses and find himself cleaning them as well.
“They had little brothers who would throw Chex Mix on the floor,” Barnickel said. “I would just get the vacuum out and tell the mom ‘Sorry it just drives me crazy.’”
Yet, what used to be just a way to make money has transformed into deep connections with the owners of the houses. Every Saturday at 6 a.m. he gets up to run. Then he will spend from 1 p.m. to 3 cleaning Ms. Nicholas’s house, an 85-year-old woman with Leukemia. Alternating weeks, he cleans Ms. Howze’s house, a divorced mother of three, and Ms. Watkins, another divorced mother.
“I’m starting to see a pattern here,” Barnickel said with a laugh.
Debby Howze, the owner of the house he primarily cleans for, started out as just organizing her basement. Mrs. Howze now has Barnickel clean her entire house weekly, as well as do her expenses. He doesn’t mind the extra work, though.
“[Ms. Howze] travels all the time,” Barnickel said. “I’ll often go over when she is gone and make sure the house is in good shape. I also cook for them.”
For each house, he makes around $30 to $85, dependending on how many hours he works.
He doesn’t see them as his employers, but instead as close confidantes. To Barnickel, it’s more than just the money – It’s a way to connect with people who he can share his stories with. Not only does he connect with them personally, he also cleans their houses specifically to their liking.
“I will do certain things,” Barnickel said. “If you want me to clean under the cabinets, I’ll do it. I mean, it’s gonna cost you, but I’ll do it.”
Right now, Barnickel is just doing the job for the extra money and as a way to escape his parents since he doesn’t have a car yet. Many of his employers tell him he could make a living out of it because he’s so good at it, yet Barnickel thinks otherwise.
“I enjoy what I do,” BarnickeI said. “Although, I don’t see a future in it. I put it on the backburner if there is ever a job crisis going on in my life – if I need it.”