After graduating from Abington High School, Lois Volta did not join her friends and peers who went on to college.
“I just could not figure out what field I wanted to go into at the time,” she explained last week in an interview. “And then I got married at age 20 and had my first child Madeline at age 22, so college was then out of the question.”
But Volta definitely needed to make money, so she picked up a series of “odds and ends jobs” that included, among other things, cleaning houses. Quite unexpectedly, that choice has turned out to be an amazing career move. She developed that gig into her own business, and The Volta Way – which she describes as “a holistic, feminist housekeeping company” – now boasts a staff of 15 and includes its own line of eco-friendly cleaning products, as well as services for complete home organization and boutique deep cleaning.
Volta will be discussing her journey in the business on Saturday, June 24, at 7 p.m. at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy, where she is celebrating the release of her just-published book, “Confessions of a Cleaning Lady.”
“I thought I was above it at first,” said Volta, who now lives in Germantown. “But now I honor this profession more than ever. I did a 180-degree turn. I could not be more proud to be doing this.”
According to Volta, cleaning houses for other people can be a loving act. And her approach, she said, is informed by “feminist principles, and my belief that the home should be a safe and restorative space in a troubled world.”
“The most important thing I have learned through my decade of working in domestics is that we are not alone,” Volta said. “When I first started my cleaning business as a single mother, I used my experience of being a stay-at-home mom. I knew that everyone struggles with mess, from clutter in the house to complicated emotional knots. Some messes seem too difficult to clean up, and some knots feel too hard to untangle. But I know this to be true: we just need help sometimes.”
Volta launched her cleaning company in 2015. Then, when the pandemic left many homeowners reluctant to have cleaners in their home, it became a consulting business.
“Usually there is an imbalance in the home,” said Volta, who does coaching sessions with people who feel overwhelmed by their domestic chores. “One person does much more work than the other. I try to get the home more in balance emotionally. We just sit and talk about it, like family therapy. We sit and talk about things like issues of domesticity that they may not normally talk about.”
One of Volta's clients, Stephanie Cole, owner of Young American Hard Cider in Germantown, put it this way: “Lois has been such a gift to my partner and me as we embark on making tangible improvements to our lives. Her approach to encouraging personal responsibility in shared domestic spaces feels like such a remedy to our city's struggle with trash at large. If I could inject her philosophy that everyone deserves to exist in a clean, peaceful environment into the minds of every Philly resident, the city and the world would be a much cleaner place!”
In addition to running her business, Volta wrote a feminist domestics column for Grid magazine for three years, and for two years was the host of “Confessions of a Cleaning Lady,” a radio show on G-town Radio. She is currently the co-host, with clinical psychologist Stephanie Heck, of “The Everyday Feminist” podcast on G-town Radio, Mondays at 4 and Sundays at 5 for one hour each afternoon.
Volta is also working with clinical therapist Elizabeth Seely to turn the Hermitage, a historic Fairmount Park mansion in Roxborough, into a retreat center for professional people who are experiencing burnout. They are working with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and have won some grants, including one from Independence Blue Cross in Roxborough.
In addition to her first-born Madeline, who is now 17, Volta has two other teenagers, Jane, 16, and Penelope, 14. All three children attend Germantown Friends School.
For more information about the June 24 event, visit thevoltaway.com or bigbluemarblellc.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com.