11.13.2012

"the help".

 
(maid's quarters at bunratty castle, ireland. taken in 2010.)

Whenever I chat with someone from the US about my daily life here, it usually comes up in conversation that I have a maid. The convo always comes to a screeching halt as my friends say this:

"Wait...YOU HAVE A MAID?!"

Like suddenly they've discovered my life in Kuwait is a scene from Downton Abby...but with more sand and camels. (If only someone held a silver tray with my yoga pants + t-shirt as I dressed every morning!)

Back home (in America), having a maid is pretty unheard of...at least within my region + social group...so the reaction is completely valid. Perhaps it's not that way among wealthy Americans, but among the lower to middle class, a maid, a gardener or a cook is considered a serious "luxury". Even stating that you have a personal trainer can raise an eyebrow. Frankly, having hired help in America denotes a certain level of "status", yet we sheepishly keep it on the low-down lest someone think less of us for not doing everything with our own two hands. (It's a strange game we all play.)

But here in Kuwait, hiring a maid is absolutely normal...from the middle class to the extremely wealthy, it seems everyone has a maid. Infact, some apartment buildings simply have maid service built into your rent. You pay nothing extra, and thrice weekly a few ladies come to your door and straighten up your place. Often, Kuwaiti families have live-in maids...more than one! And, if you ever visit a mall in Kuwait, you'll see scads of mothers shopping, followed closely by a maid (nanny) pushing a stroller or holding a baby. Occasionally one maid per child, too!

There's certainly no taboo here.

When we arrived in Kuwait, we had yet to purchase mops, brooms, cleaning supplies and the like. So we thought, "Heck. Let's roll with it." We hopped on the maid bandwagon. The cost was a reasonable $100 a month, and three times weekly a very, very sweet Sri-Lanken woman showed up to clean for an hour.

But the past four months have confirmed that I am absolutely rubbish at having a maid...completely humiliated by someone else cleaning up my mess. Gabe would laugh as I tore around, muttering, "The maid is coming! Hurry and clean up!" Smoke nearly flew from my heels as I washed the dishes, and swept the floors. I closed the doors to the bedrooms, and told her not to worry about the office. Every piece of laundry was hidden, lest she think it was her job to fold my unmentionables. (It happened once. I died of embarrassment.)

And once week when the maid rang the doorbell, I'd smile and say, "You don't have to clean today! Have a good day!"

Then I'd tip her as she left...

...it's that dang American guilt. Or maybe it's because I spent a brutal summer working as a hotel maid and several years as a waitress. I couldn't help but feel badly about sprawling across my bed, reading...while a kind, underpaid woman scrubbed my floors. Floors I was perfectly capable of scrubbing.

Either way, continuing with maid service made no sense. After four months of this charade, Gabe and I put an end to our maid service...and I'm so happy to clean. There's not much to do during the day, so sweeping a few floors and doing my own dishes is a welcome distraction.

Sorry, Kuwait. Hire your maids, do your thing. No judgement! But maids just aren't for me.

Also, I've funneled the "maid money" into a new dining table + chairs. So, there's that.

Win, win. ;)

Do you have any hired help? I promise I won't judge! If not, if you had the spare cash, would you spend it on a maid?

44 comments:

  1. I don't have a maid, but my mother lives in Jordan - not far from you! - and she has a maid. It's just as common there. And she, too, finds it weird. So do I, actually.

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    1. I wondered if it was just as common elsewhere! Good to know Kuwait isn't the only maid-crazy country out there. :)

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  2. We had a maid like yours, as part of the rent, when we first moved here. It freaked me out too, and I had the same American guilt! It really was kind of a relief to move into a building that didn't offer that.

    I felt especially bad until some friends gave us an idea of how much the dinar is worth in these women's home countries. After that, I felt better about having someone clean my house, thinking about how at least I was treating them well, and they were able to send the money I gave them home.

    Still, it's nice to be able to wash my own dishes!

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  3. I've never had a maid in my life until we moved to Uganda over a year ago.

    I honestly don't really enjoy having someone in my space every week day morning, but I do know that it's a legit way to provide a job for someone (and our maid is a single mom and was without work for over 8 months before she started working for us). So it's better than a handout and a way to help out people without enabling or hindering.

    There are the upsides - I can count on one hand the times I've washed my dishes since moving here. My bathrooms get cleaned on a weekly basis. And someone sweeps and mops my floors! (And I have 3 little boys aged 5 and under so there are definite upsides for me!)

    I won't be living in Uganda forever (8 more months!) so I'm trying to focus on the positives and good things instead of the drama our maid often brings with her. :p

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  4. My aunt and uncle lived in a fairly prominent neighborhood in Denver, and everyone and their grandma had a maid. Probably because most of the families consist of two full-time working parents and kids who are in every single after school activity. No one has time to clean! I remember being at their house when she came once. I agree it feels weird. And it wasn't even my house! To each his/her own, I guess.

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    1. To each his own indeed! I can totally understand why busy families would hire a maid. But yeah...it was just so weird to be watching TV or reading a book while someone else mopped the floors...floors that I'd just mopped an hour before she came so I wouldn't feel bad... ;)

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  5. @UK Yankee + @Vanessa Strickland: I agree with both of your comments...and I'm glad you both had the chance to offer employment to someone in need! That's partly why it took four months for us to cancel it...I just felt so guilty because I researched what the average maid makes! I still do feel guilty about it. But, we were trying to cut unneeded expenses and finally decided it just wasn't practical for a family of two (+kitten)...one of which stays home all day. :)

    If we had a bigger or busier household (overnight guests, kids, a few more pets) or if I worked as well, I would absolutely consider it worth the cash! It is nice to see someone else's face during the day, too. :)

    Thankfully, both of the maids who cleaned have 40 other apartments to clean in our building...so they didn't seem too bummed out to have one less on their list! :)

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  6. I have had a maid for years, she comes twice a month. It comes down to this - I am a horrible house wife. Hubby and I have agreed we would rather work extra hours and have someone else clean. (We currently live in 500 SQF) BUT, I do the same thing before she comes - I "tidy" up. My excuse is that she doesn't know where I like to keep my things and if there is a lot of things lying around it would be harder for her to clean. She is the best investment we could make. I think next is having a laundry service - how nice would that be!

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    1. Haha! Good for you, for doing what works! I'm with you, I'm a horrible housewife. Gabe's idea of clean and my idea of clean are...vastly different. In some ways I was cool with having a maid because she cleaned up to Gabe's high standards. ;)

      If I worked or had an active social life here, I'd totally keep it up. Now laundry service...that is something I could get into... ;)

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    2. Robert is so much neater then I am! Honestly, if I didn't work, I would still pay someone to come in and clean my bathtub. I don't know why they are so hard to clean! I KNOW laundry service!! Except for the unmentionables, how divine would that be?!

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  7. Lol. You're adorable and coming from MN - I agree. It's near unheard of to have a maid in MN. However, after spending 10 years in NYC, I've overcome the maid thing...most of my friends had maids. Someday, I look forward to having one help out with things when I just don't have time to...

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    1. I swear the midwesterners are least likely to have a maid! :) Maybe it's tied to economics in our region, but I honestly feel like its this funny "values" thing in the midwest. :)

      You should look into a maid! You're a busy lady with lots o' delicious product to make + ship! You deserve some extra help at home. :)

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  8. Though my parents did quite well for themselves, we never had a maid as I was growing up. My mother not only worked outside the home, but also kept an impeccable inside of the home. I think she would have died knowing someone else cleaned up our messes. Surely she took pride in her hard work and it definitely showed.

    Here in Kuwait there are currently 3 live-in maids in the family home next door (husband's family). We have use of them anytime we want and have even been offered our own live-in. For my husband, 2 cats, and myself? Oh I would die first. Though I admit there are times I have her come over and do the dishes then she tries to sneak around and clean other things. I know she's trying to be nice but it kinda makes me question how great of a job I'm doing around here lol.

    On a very odd note, my husband once offered to get me a 'hair maid'. Someone who would massage my head every day, brush my hair out extensively, style, etc. and do some cleaning while we were at work. OK, a little crazy, but it sounded tempting though I opted not to.

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    1. What a good mama you have! :) That's how my mom was, too. Full time teacher, full time mom. Granted, things weren't always spotless in our teeny home, but she made it work. :)

      Three maids next door? I can imagine the temptation! But, I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one in Kuwait who opted out of a maid for a family of two (plus kittens). Haha...I feel you on wondering how your cleaning is. Even if I cleaned before our maid came, it always took her an hour. Am I that terrible of a housewife?! ;)

      Now...a hair maid. That's crazy! But. there's something I could get into. You husband is a very, very smart man. :)

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. OMG the cat posted my comment twice. How embarrassing. I might need a CAT maid lol.

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    1. HA! I'd love a cat maid. And I know how those little paws are. I'm pretty sure Lucky has prematurely tweeted ya a few times. ;)

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  11. I'm not a horrible housewife but have almost no time to do the housework because of my job. Weekly cleaning is Ok for me, I can sweep my floors, take the dust of the furniture but it is impossible for me to scrub the carpets and the coach and clean the windows (which I hate when they are dirty :))

    Therefore, I have a maid once a month which costs almost nothing in Turkey. But before she comes, I also do my weekly cleaning and I cook for her to feel that I compensate for the low salary she gets and her great effort. :)

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    1. The deep cleaning is the worst! I completely agree. And if you're a busy, working lady I imagine it's a relief to leave that job to someone else! :)

      It's so sweet that you cook for your maid! I think a kind gesture like that really shows your appreciation to someone who works very hard for every dime they make! :)

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  12. My aunt (who is pretty well off) had a housekeeper for her NJ condo. She apparently came by once a week, and my aunt was so casual about it. Of course, she was well-off because she worked her butt off...I'm sure she didn't have time to clean things herself.

    That being said, I sometimes see Groupons for half-off a three-hour cleaning session, and I'm pretty tempted. Some of the deep cleaning stuff in my house seems pretty daunting. I've also thought about it for moving out day, so I don't have to do all the last-minute cleaning in the midst of trying to pack/unpack as well!

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    1. Go, your aunt! ;) I feel like in the US if you have a maid or housekeeper it IS because you work hard enough to afford it! Or you're just too busy, and you have to figure out a way to afford it if you don't want to live in a disaster area! :)

      Re: groupon...you should do it! That's a fantastic idea. The last minute cleaning after all the stuff is packed is dreadful. I'm always thinking, "Really? It's not done yet? Ughhh..." ;)

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  13. When I was studying in London, we had a maid service built into our rent that would come once a week to change the sheets/clean/provide us with new towels, etc. It was so convenient seeing that none of us had packed any of those things! We were surprised at first, but then all our new British friends told us that was pretty common.

    Back home, we have someone come once every 2 weeks to clean the first floor of our house where my Grandma lives- she's an old-school maid-hiring clean-freak European kind of classy lady ;) If it wasn't for her though my family would definitely not have a maid, ha! It's pretty uncommon in the Chicago 'burbs

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    1. Oooo...that's the type of maid service I wouldn't mind. Quick and unobtrusive, just the essential stuff! I think I'd like England for that reason alone. ;)

      Haha! Your grandma sounds cute. It seems to be a theme that the midwesterners aren't used to housekeepers and maids! I grew up in WI, and it was pretty unheard of, too. :)

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  14. I'm hesitant to comment but here it goes... I'm from the deep South and had a nanny, maids (we called housekeepers) and a cook for my entire life. I think that is pretty normal in the South but not sure if it was just my parents circle of friends. Anyway, our nanny went on trips with us and was treated like family. Her name is Beth and she is a schoolteacher now with children of her own. Then there was our housekeeper and cook (Mrs. I) who we had since I was twelve until her retirement while I was at Uni. She was also family and ate with us at the table, went on some vacations, etc. Both of them are caucasian although we had help from several ethnic groups that were all treated like part of the family. My Mother always made sure we made up our own beds, help set the table and wash so that we wouldn't be spoiled when we grew up. I'm used to having help but not treating them the way they are sometimes (not always) treated in the Middle East.

    One of the things I love the most about "H" is the way he and his family treats their household help. They treat them like family and that's how I first knew they were a loving family. :)

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    1. http://expatandthecity.blogspot.com/2011/08/memories-of-our-beloved-housekeeper-mrs.html

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    2. Awww...what a sweet lady, and sweet memories! I know the south is much different than the midwest when it comes to housekeepers and nannies raised! I'm sure it makes the experience so much sweeter when there's a family dynamic in which the "help" is respected and trusted like aunt or grandmother.

      When I first visted Gabe in Kuwait, he had the sweetest full time maid. I just adored her. She was twenty years older than me, so she felt a bit like an aunt. We shared lunches and watched movies together when she was done cleaning for the day. I'd love to have the same type of maid now, but ours here are much to busy to play "friend" to me! :)

      So happy that H's family has the same relationship with their maids + housekeepers. I know it can be difficult for maids here, and it always makes me smile when I see them in public with their "family"...being treated respectfully. :)

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  15. If we had the money I'd hire a maid or regular house cleaning service in a heartbeat. Having someone come over to clean my house every two weeks or month or so would be heavenly.

    But then, I have two small children and a job, so...

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    1. It is somewhat heavenly. And I think with either a job...or kids...or both (whoa, you!)...you totally deserve it! :)

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  16. I grew up in Brazil, in an upper middle class neighborhood. It seemed that everyone had a live-in maid (or two). But since my mom was a stay-at-home mom, she would just get some extra help once a week for a full day (the house was big). I don't think that ever stopped us all in the family to chip in and help keeping everything clean, but it was certainly nice to have a maid to do the toughest jobs (did I say the house was big? It was ginormous). When I moved away for college, I tried to do away without a maid for a few years, but I ended up caving in and hiring someone to come an afternoon every other week and help out. I'm allergic to any strong cleaning product, and I never mastered the floor cleaning, so I was glad of the help. But now I live in the US, and.. there's a taboo against hiring maids? That's new to me. I simply thought no one hired them because they are so expensive, and all I hear (from the South American cleaning freaks that I know/am) is that they are not really good, they just dust around and do no heavy cleaning.

    But I miss having one. I'm still allergic to cleaning products, and I think that next time I get a raise, I'm hiring someone. Taboos me dammed, I will happily pass on the bathroom/kitchen cleaning to someone else. I can tackle the rest of the house though.

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    1. It seems like having a maid (or two!) is really quite normal in so many countries! And, these comments today have again confirmed that many of those with maid or nanny as a child, grew into a respectful, responsible adult. I'm sure that's due to having fabulous help + tuned-in parents who, like you said, make sure that everyone pitches in around the house. :)

      I don't know if it's taboo to have a maid in the US...sorry if I misphrased or gave the wrong impression! Mainly I meant that unlike the US, it's a complete social norm in Kuwait! People are much more open about it, and it feels like nearly a requirement it's so common. But you're right, I think so much of it in the US is strictly because of the price. Your average American who makes $50,000/year can't exactly pay a full time housekeeper/maid/nanny. Anyone in the US who CAN afford that, is usually of a certain financial status.

      Also, I think this all varies widely based on what part of the US you're in. I grew up in middle America...the only "help" you hired was a neighbor boy who would shovel out your driveway when the blizzards came! :) But I know that in some areas in the south, it's perfectly average to have a housekeeper or maid on hand!

      To each their own, and I think you should TOTALLY hire someone to help you with those floors. :)

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    2. For now the boyfriend does the floors. :P We're really good at the sharing of responsibilities around the house!

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  17. my parents have cleaners come once a week, and Mom ALWAYS made us clean up the night before! it made me so annoyed - but I think she's the same as you :)

    but I definitely agree with the stigma thing. there are certain places I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing that!

    at the same time, though, when Jon and I finally live together again, a cleaner (maybe twice a month?) is going to be non-negotiable because I know it'll make our relationship so much smoother. I'd rather go out to dinner less often than fight over who did or didn't sponge out the shower!

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  18. We live in Korea and maids are common here too. Ours comes every other week and to me she is a God-send! (Both my husband and I work full time and we are usually exhausted when we get home.) I love coming home to a super clean house! She gets the floors more clean then I was ever able to. I still panic some and "feel bad" about leaving a little mess. So I will make sure the laundry is away and *most* of the dishes are clean. Still I love maid-day cause the house smells like lavender and lemons and I didn't have to do anything!

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  19. I would seriously LOVE to have a maid! I teach Grade 1 four days a week, spend my evenings making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, shuttling my two boys to swimming lessons and Beavers, doing bathtime and bedtime and reading stories, prepping lessons for my class, making the next day's lunches, and trying desperately to get to the gym at least (at least!!!) three nights a week. I am frazzled ALL THE TIME and the clutter that inevitably piles up throughout the week gets me down. I feel like I can never get on top of it all, and I never have any time to just choose what I want to do and do it, guilt-free. Instead, there's always the next job to get to. If I could afford a housekeeper who'd come once a week to mop the floors, vacuum and dust the living room, change the beds, clean the bathroom and wipe down all my counters I'd be thrilled to bits.

    Sigh. One day...

    Anyway, I need to get back to making dinner and emptying the dishwasher simultaneously! Better go...

    xoxo

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  20. Spare money? I'd spend it on a new chair for my living room. A big, comfy, fold yourself into it chair.... yep, that would be better than a maid.

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  21. Yeah, I think I'd love a maid, but I'd feel guilty! Why is that? It is so funny how the paradigm shifts in a different culture. We all have things we hate doing. No one feels bad for going out to eat when they don't want to cook. Why is cleaning so different?

    I worked at a retail shop on a mountain one year and a few brazilian girls worked there. I had to teach them how to vacuum and sweep. They had a very rude awakening that they had to do their own laundry. The poor girls clothes got ruined and shrunk because their help always laundered them and never dried anything and always ironed everything. They also got their hair done once a week. They were the nicest girls and didn't complain at all about doing the work. They just had a completely different way of life.

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  22. Yeah, I think I'd love a maid, but I'd feel guilty! Why is that? It is so funny how the paradigm shifts in a different culture. We all have things we hate doing. No one feels bad for going out to eat when they don't want to cook. Why is cleaning so different?

    I worked at a retail shop on a mountain one year and a few brazilian girls worked there. I had to teach them how to vacuum and sweep. They had a very rude awakening that they had to do their own laundry. The poor girls clothes got ruined and shrunk because their help always laundered them and never dried anything and always ironed everything. They also got their hair done once a week. They were the nicest girls and didn't complain at all about doing the work. They just had a completely different way of life.

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  23. Growing up in Singapore & Kuwait, having a maid was the norm. Now back in the UK, I've been too used to growing up with maids that I have a maid here as well that comes a few times a month to clean. Not as frequent as in Kuwait, but good none the less! Force of habit I guess :D

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  24. I have zero time (and husband is just as bad with long work days and then looking after children while I work in the evenings) to clean with running a business from home and two pre-schoolers. Our ironing pile is as tall as my youngest child. Perhaps you could send a maid over for a few weeks?
    Seriously, I can see the point when there is a lot of other stuff and something has to give and would consider hired help when my business is more profitable without feeling guilt about it. I do work for other people, just because it is design work how different is that really? Its just re-assigning tasks that someone is better empowered to do than you.

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  25. My friend lived in Myanmar and had a maid and cook 3 times a week. Just like Kuwait it was just a regular part of the culture.
    Three times a week would be a bit much for me, but I can't lie, I've thought about hiring someone even just once a month. I'm really good at keeping things tidy and neat but horrible and getting down to that really deep, nitty gritty clean I want my home to be.

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  26. I don't have any outside help cleaning our place. I work from home, and don't have any kids, so I really have no excuse to not keep my home clean! Plus, I think you're really more invested in your own belongings & space when you are responsible for its upkeep.

    When I was growing up and my family lived in South America, we did have a housekeeper (who was just the most wonderful lady) come and help my mom clean the house. My mom is a super do-it-yourself, farmer's daughter, who had never had any help in the house before, but my parents saw it as an opportunity to help a family in need of employment and support (she had 6 children).

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  27. I live in China with my husband and his parents. They are all Chinese (I am American) and have a maid come about 4 times a week to help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. If I had this same house in the USA then I would probably clean it myself but here in China because of the pollution and bad construction it is soooo necessary to have the extra help. She doesn't clean my bedroom and bathroom just because I don't like the idea of someone cleaning/moving my personal things (and because her standard of cleaning much lower than mine!).

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  28. When I was little, my mom made the splurge and got a house cleaner. She was a single mom and it probably was tight to budget but I think also worth its weight in gold in terms of saving her time. However I distinctly remember that she always made us clean our rooms first and would often vacuum in preparation for the cleaning lady! I am with you, as nice as it sounds, I feel a little weird about it when I know I could easily do it myself!

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  29. Walo Maids provides high-quality Cleaning Services, House Cleaning Services and Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning in Plano and Dallas. Schedule Online.

    ReplyDelete

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