A quiet summer morning on Kivenlahdenkatu in Espoo. The inside of a four-floor building is even quieter as the mop doesn’t make a sound. The man behind the mop is Pertti Pellikka who has cleaned the public spaces of apartment buildings for Lassila & Tikanoja for 14 years.
“I enjoy it: the job and the people are great, and I’ve also had great supervisors. I haven’t got the boot or wanted to leave. Nowadays, it might be a bit of a miracle to stay with the same employer and in the same job for as long as I have.”
The fact that Pellikka has already reached retirement age is just further proof of his commitment. He isn’t in a hurry to start resting on his laurels.
“I still like to get up every morning and go to work. I’m a mobile person who can’t stay still so cleaning is optimal for me. I couldn’t work at a conveyor belt or in an office.”
Done in eight hours
Pellikka makes sure that Lumo buildings in Kivenlahti, Espoonlahti, Soukka and Iivisniemi in Espoo are always clean and tidy. His work day starts at seven in the morning and ends at three in the afternoon. This isn’t early for Pertti who is a morning person. In fact, he would like to come to work even earlier. Even though he doesn’t have to be at work by seven on the dot, Pellikka is prone to promptness.
“If something is promised, it must be done.
My work is traditional cleaning of staircases and other shared facilities: saunas, laundry rooms, mangle rooms, laundry drying facilities and storages.”
“This is the line: the property manager handles everything on that side and I on this side,” says Pellikka, pointing at the building’s front door.
However, he admits that he isn’t too fussy about the roles. The limit is flexible especially in the autumn: leaves travel inside from the outside with shoes or with the wind if nothing is done about it.
“It’s better for me, too, that everything is tidy.”
Work that keeps you fit
During Pellikka’s career, the cleaning methods and detergents have developed, and the employer has organised short training periods every once in a while.
“The best way to learn is by doing. The most important thing is that the mop keeps swinging and you won’t drop the cloth. You can, of course, educate yourself further in the industry, if you so wish.”
The buildings are cleaned three times a week. Previously, it was done twice a week and only the lobby was cleaned on the third time.
“I didn’t know that and cleaned the entire building three times a week from top to bottom,” laughs Pellikka. He says he especially loves buildings that don’t have elevators.
“It’s also my exercise so I don’t have to go to the gym. People on the gym pay to exercise but for me, it’s the opposite: my employer pays me to exercise. I’m in a better condition than people my age on average, which is why I still have the energy to work.”
When it comes to seasons, Pellikka thinks that summer is the easiest, autumn is alright and spring means the most work.
“In spring, the sand and street dust from the yard travel inside. In autumn, leaves fly inside when the door is open. I enjoy winter weathers: everything stays tidy and my own energy is at full blast. It might be my genes or because I’m from the North. Winter is a cosy season.”
Pellikka says that living has cleaned up over the years. Residents no longer scribble or draw things on walls or leave things in the hallways. It’s both a question of safety and comfort. On the other hand, you can notice in the waste disposal room that not everyone is familiar with sorting yet.
“If someone has accidentally dropped some trash in the hallway, I’ll clean it up. When there are many residents, all kinds of things happen. That’s life.”
A philosopher and a woodcutter
Some of the residents of the Lumo building are also familiar faces to Pellikka. When seeing Pellikka, they greet and ask how things are going.
“The residents seem happy, I’ve never had any complaints. And if someone had complained, I would have immediately fixed the issues. That’s the best way to cope. Though, it might be that a proper telling-off might cheer me up,” says Pellikka with a twinkle in his eye.
In the old days, the residents would give a Christmas ham, for instance, to the cleaner, but nowadays accepting gifts is forbidden. However, a simple “thank you” is not banned, and Pertti does get them.
“One of the best things is philosophising to myself while working. You can see with your eyes if something is dirty or not, and use your head for something else. I have a framework, but within that I have a certain freedom.
It’s also liberating that I don’t have to take my work home with me. At home, I don’t have to be alert; instead, I can just focus on my own time.” On holidays, Pertti can be found from an island cutting wood or fishing.
“It’s enchanting to watch how a pile of logs keeps growing. The head empties when the axe hits the log. That is all a Finnish man could hope for.”