By: Revanche

Housekeeping: keeping up and clearing out

January 21, 2013

Funny About Money’s ruminations on the one-day, one-housekeeping task approach reinforces the idea that simple /= always easy. For a little over a year now, I’ve been doing a similar thing with our housework despite my preference to do big-clean-days which are both time and energy monsters.

More sensible, it seemed, to take it in turn: do the routine things that will drive me batty if not done regularly, and insert one other chore. It’s like a special housekeeping menu.

Routine: dishes every day, trash and recycling when it’s more than half full, picking up the kitchen after cooking.

Insert one: Brush the dog, human laundry (full wash, dry, fold and store), dog laundry, vacuuming. Full counter wipedown (instead of the clean as you go). Clear out the fridge or freezer. Clear the dining table of the inevitable pile of things. Pick up the bedroom and living room.

It doesn’t seem like much but there are plenty of days where I’ve worked 13 hours, cooked dinner and cleared up afterward only to curl up in the corner, refusing to do any more. And any time I tackle more than one optional chore, I find myself sucked into a snowball of more related chores. Well heck, that happens anyway.

  • Clearing the table leads to needing to file and/or shred paperwork. Which leads to filling up the recycling that needs to be taken out. Which also means I’d need to pick up all other recycling because why not take out everything?
  • On the other hand, properly starting a chore like laundry means all the clothing, or towels or toys shed randomly in various places gets picked up so it goes both ways.
  • Vacuuming, oh vacuuming. As we get more things, we have more things the dog can shed on. So the decision: do a half-arsed job or go whole hog? Whole hog means pulling out everything he might have shed on, vacuuming and wiping them down, vacuuming behind, under, and over everything.  Three guesses how often whole-hog turns into half-arsed? 🙂 There are times I’ve considered vacuuming him. Like when my pants are so furry from crawling about and hugging Doggle that I take a few passes at them.

The interesting thing is, while I’m in favor of exchanging money for time, and just as importantly, money for energy, within reason, it seems more obvious to the outside observer than to me that hiring a cleaner would be as a good an investment in protecting my health and sparing PiC’s energy as any other thing we’d try. Priorities, right? After all, do I need to be the one vacuuming or could a good cleaning service do it just as well?

Obviously, a good cleaner could do just as well.

My three objections:
A) It’s work but not that much work. Especially when I lower my cleaning standards.  😉  So is it really worth it? (maaaayybe)
B) I don’t want to hire a cleaner and then spend time cleaning before they get here. That’s annoying. I have better things to do with my paid for time. But I know PiC would be inclined to do this. This is a houseful of neurotics.
C) Cost: I’m not prepared to give up something to afford a cleaner just yet.

The assumption is that we have plenty of Disposable Income between the two of us. We do have enough to live comfortably now, with a few luxuries like eating well and traveling occasionally (on a budget of course), but that’s about it if we’re going to keep saving because I still pay a good chunk of Dad’s living expenses.  I spend about $20K/year right off the top for his regular expenses,  excluding medical or emergencies, and that’s less than ever before.  He’s been working himself to the bone to make enough to pay for the utilities, gas, groceries, and any necessary incidentals. I can’t and don’t begrudge what I do still pay but that’s also money not available to pay for cleaning.

Still, I wonder whether it’d be worth stretching or wiggling the budget to make it happen.

Does anyone have help at home? What does it entail and how much does it cost?

22 Responses to “Housekeeping: keeping up and clearing out”

  1. spiffi says:

    I’ve been halfway contemplating it for a while now. I was talking to a coworker last week, and she mentioned that the *best* indulgence she has for herself, is that she hired someone to come in for 2 hours a week to clean toilets, scrub floors etc – she limits it to 2 hours per week, and has told the woman that she doesn’t want her to spend more time, so if she doesn’t get everything done, that’s fine, just as far as she gets in the 2 hours. They have a list, in order of priority.

    I’m not sure what she pays per hour, I’m going to talk to her again about it and see if this woman is looking for additional clients – my coworker has known her for years, and that’s helpful to me, vs calling some random person off craigslist 🙂

    I’m not sure I’m willing to spend the cash – I can probably afford it, but there is definitely part of me that would want to pre-clean (lame) and a big part of me says I have no excuse not to just clean myself – I don’t have kids or any “reason” other than pure laziness not to clean every day.

    • Revanche says:

      If it makes you feel less lame, I don’t have kids either. Heck, I have a friend who is single and has a cleaner and I think nothing less of him. My feeling is certainly any living situation could warrant a cleaner possibly, just depends on whether you have the income to cover it. Personal priorities, right?

      Let me know, if you would, whether you do hire one: I’d be interested to hear how it goes!

  2. janelle says:

    omg this is so me! Every act of cleaning leads to another.. lol. I’m trying to live with a messy house and be happy about it. Its SO hard to keep the place neat, even though my place is so small. Good luck finding a service, if you do decide to get one!

    • Revanche says:

      Heh, quite honestly, the one task task at a time is more common than doing one task a day. So it’s still rather messy here! 🙂

  3. Karen says:

    Part of me wants a maid. Someone to contain the dog fur! Or someone to come in and do a deep cleaning (like the refrigerator vent and behind it. I’m scared of it). Actually, before I moved in, I hired someone to clean the bathrooms, floor and fridge. I’m not sure this particular woman was worth it.

  4. Linda says:

    Back when I was a DINK we had a cleaning service. It was really nice to have the house cleaned well every two weeks. Once I got divorced I scaled back really hard so I could rebuild my emergency fund. I’ve recovered financially and could afford a cleaning service now, but I’ve preferred keeping the money and living in semi-squalor. The only cleaning activity I really hate is dusting, so I put that off as long as possible. Bathroom and kitchen are kept very clean at all times, and I actually really like bringing out the Miele and vacuuming the house.

    Of course cleaning doesn’t have to be all or nothing no matter how you look at it. Reading the comments has made me realize that it would be nice to hire someone perhaps once a month to handle all the dusting and a few prioritized chores that could be completed in a limited time period.

    • Revanche says:

      “Reading the comments has made me realize that it would be nice to hire someone perhaps once a month to handle all the dusting and a few prioritized chores that could be completed in a limited time period.”

      Yes, I think that a compromise like that might be workable.

  5. We also live in squalor. If squalor didn’t work for us, we’d totes hire someone. Currently the mother’s helpers keep the kitchen clean. That’ll be the thing I miss most when DC2 goes to daycare.

    • Revanche says:

      Semi-squalor does work for us. It’s just a lot more work when people visit though cause we don’t feel like there’s enough room for 2+mess + guest(s).

  6. M says:

    I always promised myself that we would get housecleaning after we had kids. We pay $120 for a team to come every 4 weeks to clean our 3 bdrm 2 ba house. I do some tidying up before the house cleaners come but try also help tidy up kids toys, etc. It normally takes 2 people about 3-3.5 hours to clean. Sometimes I tidy up more in hopes that they’ll spend more time cleaning other things but then they just leave earlier so I normally don’t try too hard before they get here. I live in the east bay. I know we could get someone less expensive but I trust our cleaners.

    The rest of the time our place is a mess. My MIL always feels the need to help tidy up when she stops by for more than 30 minutes. I mostly love it when she does that. We have 2 young kids so I figure we are doing ok

    • Revanche says:

      I wish the results of the cleaning would last longer but I find it rarely does. Our cleaning, that is. I would prob feel the same about paid cleaning 🙂

      That’s nice that your MIL helps pick up though!

  7. Shelley says:

    The few times I hired a maid, I spent hours the night before she came to get ready – it was exhausting! I worked out that my problem wasn’t the laundry or even a bit of dust – I can live with that (or I could before asthma). My problem was failing to put things away and no maid can do that for me. Perhaps that’s not your issue. Perhaps an occasional cleaner might help? Or getting help with the occasional big job?

    • Revanche says:

      Some of that is our problem but the actual cleaning is too. I think I could physically handle the light pickup more often if I wouldn’t need to do the heavier cleaning too.

  8. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

    Yes, I’ve had cleaning persons off and on over the years. The problem is the difficulty in finding someone who knows how to do a decent job.

    Services train their staff to rush through the job and create a superficially glossy effect that will keep you quiet while you pay up. The result is not a really clean house.

    Individual freelancers often do not read English well enough to understand product instructions, may be unfamiliar with newer or higher-end appliances, and frankly often are just dumb as posts.

    It’s much easier to do it right yourself, the first time around, than to have to scrub up after someone who screws up the job. And much cheaper to do it yourself than to replace products (once, in my case, an entire hardwood parquet floor) that someone damages.

    The cost of a housekeeper would be better spent on going out to dinner after those 13-hour days.

    • Revanche says:

      Oh my goodness…. Ok, now I’m a little put off! (or a lot!) I can’t even imagine having to hear PiC’s bellows if someone damaged anything. Not to mention how angry I would be!

  9. Kris says:

    Holy blog redesign! I thought I’d come to the wrong place! Ha ha.

    I too live in squalor (OK, not that bad, but don’t look at my baseboards). I should integrate 1 extra chore a day myself. You, however, should probably look into a cleaner even 1x a month to do the deep-cleaning. It would probably take a big load off for you.

    • Revanche says:

      Keeping you on your toes! Plus I’m not totally thrilled with this one so brace yourself. 😉

      Semi-squalor, all around!

  10. Miss JJ says:

    Over here in singapore, live in domestic helpers are very common. They are mainly from our neighbours like indonesia, myanmar, sri lanka etc. My family has one. She does all the laundry, ironing, day to day cleaning. Some families employ them tocare for their elderly and disabled, many to care for their kids. We pay about $400 a month for her salary and $400 to the government for the foreign worker levy. Oh, and we have a smalll room for her and pay for her food. We have a pretty high family income, so $800 a month is still pretty affordable.

    My family is pretty ocd when it comes to cleanliness, so on top of the work the domestic helper does, we do plenty of our own cleaning. My own style is one deep clean every 3-4 months and maintenance work every day (quick wipe downs, putting things away).

    I personally love to clean. Deep cleaning my room got me out of several mild depressions and funk single-handedly. I am actually considering cleaning houses as a part time job after i reach financial independence.

    • Revanche says:

      That doesn’t surprise me that it’s so much more common there – I found the same in other parts of Asia where the family had relatively “well-off” income. I think it’s more the cultural norm too.

      I’m with you on loving to clean, it helps me clear my head. Also I love doing laundry for some reason. But it’s hard to keep up on as regular a basis as we should to maintain the sparkly cleanliness that brings peace to my soul. Not that I can’t live in messy, it’s comfortable too. But there’s a lovely feeling that comes with finding yourself with a super clean place.

  11. Katie C. says:

    I’ve toyed with the idea of hiring a housekeeper before as well. I just hate cleaning, unless I’m feeling frustrated. If I’m upset, I am a cleaning machine, and if I keep to the 1 chore a day rule, I can keep up the momentum just fine. But things come up or, more recently, I’m laid out for weeks at a time with the migraines. I’ve never given in to the idea because I’ve always felt guilt that hiring someone to do my “womanly duties” was shirking my familial responsibilities. Two, if I could keep that schedule up, it really isn’t that much time on a daily scale. Growing up, Mom and I did the big clean days on Saturday/Sunday, and it took up the entire weekend. No fun!

    My mom hired a housekeeper for a while after I left home, which I fully supported. She couldn’t work 60-80 hours a week while going to school while raising a family and preparing all meals and be expected to keep her house clean. It was just too much. She paid $120 per week for someone to come in and clean the house from top to bottom. This included changing the bedsheets, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and mopping, scrubbing the bathroom, washing the bath towels and bed sheets, and wiping out the fridge. For her, it was definitely worth it until the cleaning lady began breaking things while cleaning and hiding them. As infuriating as this was, I had to laugh. Why did she think hiding a broken collectible behind the pasta jar was a better idea than just coming clean? Ah, people!

  12. Matt says:

    We’ve debated the idea of hiring a cleaner once in a while but your approach is pretty much exactly what I’ve been doing since moving into the new house. We’ve run into some moderate success but it still seems like there’s a never ending amount of work to complete.

    I know a few people who have hired help cleaning and met with lots of success but it really depends on things like the size of your house and how many kids you’ve got running around. Thankfully our place isn’t too big so like you we’ll probably wait.

    Love the new design – not sure when you changed it.

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