From A Hampstead Tenancy Cleaning Job To An Amazon Bestseller

updated: 23/02/2024


A brown hardcover book on a glass table

You know these moments when something so impressive happens that you remember every detail – where you were, what you were doing, and even what the weather was like? For me, that happened a few years ago. The most interesting thing was that I had no idea I was about to have arguably the most memorable tenancy cleaning job in my twenty-year career. And yet, I remember the day as if it were yesterday. 

Booking The Job

It must have been one past noon, and I had already had a quality inspection for a move-out cleaning job in Camden. A few of my friends had raved about the Mestizo Restaurant at Hampstead Road, and since I felt adventurous and wanted something spicy, I decided to give it a try. I was royally enjoying their Pollo con mole, which was better than expected, when my work phone buzzed. “Lisa EA, Hampstead” was enough to make me put my knife and fork down. Lisa was one of the most successful estate agents in NW3, specialising in high-end rental properties. We had a good, long-standing professional relationship – I liked her no-nonsense, result-oriented mindset, and she liked my punctuality and ability to deliver within tight deadlines. Not to mention a few boozy lunches at The Old Bull and Bush in North End, lol.

“Nick, I hope I am not catching you in a bad moment?”

“Not at all, just grabbing a bite. How can I be of service today?”

“We have a bit of a situation”, she started and then suddenly stopped. That was new – Lisa was not known for her insecurity and doubts. “You see, one of our long-standing tenants had a car accident. I am afraid he passed away two weeks ago. We gave the family some time to mourn, but it turned out he was divorced and estranged from his only daughter. So, the agency had to step in and make some arrangements, the tenancy cleaning being one of them. As you can guess, you are my first call.”

I asked for some details but knew I had already taken the job. It was the entire second floor of a cosy terraced house, not far from Erno Goldfinger’s controversial modernist house at 2 Willow Road, and just across the road from the southwestern corner of Hampstead Heath. Lisa assured me the place was in decent condition and did not require any specific cleaning attention. She had already called a moving company, and most of the removable stuff was already gone. From my point of view, it sounded like “a blitz job” – no complications, just the basic tasks – you come, you dust, mop, and vacuum, and then you are gone with a fat check in your pocket. What could possibly go wrong?

I quickly checked my schedule, and my luck held – one of my crews had a 3-hour free window for the next day. If Lisa were correct in her description – and I didn’t know the woman to be wrong, ever – three hours would be more than enough. 

Just Another Regular Tenancy Cleaning Appointment – Or Was It?

The next day, I parked the van in front of the terraced house on Willow Road at 8:45 AM. I was pushing my guys for an early start and an even earlier finish, hoping to catch up with some office work later in the day. Not surprisingly, Lisa’s description was accurate – the place was spacious and looked even larger without the ordinary pieces of furniture and family memorabilia. It was obvious that the place had been well kept – I could bet my pocket change that the deceased gentleman had booked a professional home cleaner to help with the housekeeping. The only barely problematic area was the front windows, but we could remove the dust and make them sparkle in minutes. Things looked even better than expected. 

“Boooss! I thought the estate agent said that all the boxes were gone”, called one of the cleaners from the closet. I stepped into the hallway to see George holding a medium-sized card box. There was no sign or label on it. We had had cases like these before – it is not often that people forget something valuable behind, but given the peculiarity of the case, I decided to give it a look. 

A card box with printed sheets of paper in an empty living room

There were two neatly ordered stacks of paper sheets in the box – by the look of it, there were hundreds of them in the box. Some were typed, others – handwritten. Lisa had mentioned that the gentleman was a high-level accounting consultant for corporate customers, so at first, I thought these were some documents left behind. A quick glance convinced me to the contrary. I couldn’t quite make what I was holding, but it looked like the final draft and handwritten notes of a novel. I told the guys to carry on and took the box aside.

Lisa arrived ten minutes early for the final inventory check-up, but the job was so straightforward that we could have skipped the formality. Our discovery, however, still sparked my curiosity. I told Lisa what we had found, but she was not particularly impressed. That was one of her strongest professional qualities – she could concentrate on the task at hand and eliminate anything in the side mirrors. 

“Don’t you think her family has the right to have a look at it?”

“I told you, they were estranged. They didn’t take anything from his belongings”, sighed Lisa, not even lifting her eyes from the inventory list. I decided to drop the issue for now, picked up the box, put it in the minivan, and headed for the office.

From A Card Box To A Publisher’s Office

I guess the universe has its own cosmic way of telling us things. The next few days were slow at work, which gave me ample time to go through the contents of the card box. My first impressions were correct – it was a novel, and from everything I had heard about the guy, something of an allegorical autobiography. And it was good! Forget about that – it was excellent! An honest, captivating, sometimes harrowing tale of a thoroughly successful man who, at one point in his life, realises he has squandered the one thing that mattered the most – his family. “It would be a crime if I am the only person who reads this”, I thought. I knew what I had to do. 

My next step was to contact Lisa. She was surprised by my call and slightly irritated when she understood the reason for it. “Nick, you can be such a pain in the butt sometimes”, she sighed, but I could sense that she also realised it was the proper thing to do. My next call would not be that easy.

Lisa had given me the number of her tenant’s daughter, Emily. I was afraid she wouldn’t even listen to me, but luck once again was on my side. 

“Emily? Hello, my name is Nick, and I run an end of tenancy cleaning company in Hampstead. I swear I am not trying to sell you anything. You see, one of my crews performed an end of tenancy cleaning on the apartment your father used to live in.”

There was silence at the other end, and I had to check if Emily hadn’t ended the call. “I don’t understand how this has anything to do with me”, she said in a polite but stern voice.

“It doesn’t. But, you see, I found something. A card box with some papers in it. At first, I thought it might be some documents. But it is a novel. I guess your father had written it in his spare time. Look, I don’t know you or your father, but I really think you should see it.”

This time, there was an even longer silence, but Emily finally agreed to see me. We met at a cafe near her Finsbury Park home. She was a beautiful, self-confident lawyer in her early thirties, but I could sense she was out of her comfort zone. 

“I am not sure what I am supposed to do with this”, she said and nodded towards the box. 

“I don’t want to play the armchair psychologist, but I think you should read it. Emily, it is terrific! I bet you all the money in my pocket that if you take it to a publisher, they will tell you the same thing. But apart from that, it belongs to you, not me.”

We chatted for a short while, and then we parted ways. That was supposed to be the end of the story. A few months later, I received an SMS from an unknown number (I hadn’t added Emily to my professional contacts), but its contents left me no doubt who it came from. “You were right! I cannot thank you enough for what you did! The book will be published by the end of the year!”

The next time we met, Emily was talking about her father at a book signing. The memoir proved a massive success – it climbed to the top seller list on Amazon and received rave reviews from critics across the whole country. But the most important praise came from Emily herself. “It was like having a therapy session. I understood so much about Dad. I wish he could tell me all these things while he was alive.”

Now tell me being a cleaner is not one of the most amazing jobs you can have!

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.