Paying Others to Provide a Service: When Is It Frugal?

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Day 113 - A Clean Sweep by Menage a Moi on Flickr!For a long time, my wife and I have discussed hiring a local housecleaning service, but never pulled the trigger (mostly because of our “cheap” sensibilities). For a pretty low rate (about $14 an hour), a local woman (or her assistant) will come to your house and perform some housecleaning tasks – mopping the floors, dusting, vacuuming, and so on.

Obviously, these are things we are handling easily for ourselves right now. The sole reason we would even consider hiring someone to perform these tasks is to simply free up more family time on the weekends (and on weeknights, to a certain extent).

Take a typical weeknight. It’s a regular event for one of us to be playing with the kids while the other one is doing dishes, cleaning up after supper (with a one year old just learning how to feed herself, we wind up with a fair amount of food on the table and on the floor), and other such tasks.

On weekends, we’re often involved with a lot of leftover cleaning from the week. Some of this is done while the kids are napping, but quite often it’s done when one parent takes the kids out of the house for a while as the other parent gets to the job of cleaning.

In both cases, cleaning takes away from time spent together as a family – time we value quite a lot. I’d far rather spend an hour reading my daughter a book or playing with my son’s collection of toy trains (that’s his current toy du jour) than cleaning – and I think the time spent with my kids has a ton of long-term value for them as well, cementing a parent-child bond.

The first question is whether or not paying for such a service is even realistic or sensible. Should it be on the table at all?

When I examine my life, I realize that I’m paying for a lot of services – some of them useful, some of them not so useful. In some of those cases, I’m paying solely for convenience – I’m paying someone to take care of a task I’d rather not do for the cost.

Take trash pickup, for example. We pay $17 a month for trash pickup as long as the volume of trash fits inside our trash can each week. Instead of paying that $17 a month, I could load two or three weeks’ worth of trash into the back of my truck and haul it directly to the landfill myself, paying just a dollar or two for them to take it – this could save me about $10 a month, but also cause me to waste an hour or so a month in time. So, effectively, trash service is the equivalent of paying someone roughly $10 an hour to haul away trash.

The real question is how much do we value that additional time together as a family – and how much additional time would we really get from having a person clean for us? Let’s say this person would work for roughly four hours a week – at $14 an hour – to do housecleaning.

What would we do with those extra four hours? Ideally, those four hours would be spent with all of us enjoying family time together or engaged in personally fulfilling activities, like reading personally challenging books if the kids were napping, for example.

Would we actually use that time effectively? I believe we would. We tend to stack almost every free minute around here with something productive in terms of family or personal growth (reading, watching documentaries, etc.).

Is that time worth $14 an hour? Here’s where the difficult question comes into play. I believe that time is worth $14 an hour to me, but only if it’s used in an effective fashion. If I wind up doing something less useful with my time – like watching television or playing a mindless video game – then this would be a very poor move.

Could we afford the cost of hiring that person to clean? Obviously, all of this is a moot question if one cannot afford the cost of doing this. Luckily, because we manage our money so strongly, we could afford this kind of service. Unfortunately, not everyone is in that situation.

For me, the litmus test is this: how much is an hour of your time worth? A good way to judge that is to calculate how much income you earn from each hour of work – your true hourly wage. That number can be a great benchmark for comparison.

Wouldn’t it be better to just save that money instead? Yes, it probably would be. I tend to look at things like this as an investment. Will I get more out of those four hours cleaning and putting that $56 in the bank, or giving that $56 to a cleaning service and spending those hours investing in the positive emotional and mental growth of my children – and of myself?

This is not quite the black and white question that one might expect it to be because the human factor of personal finance is a huge factor. It is basically impossible to put an accurate dollar value on quality family time – or to estimate how much more family time is actually worth.

Thoughts and ideas are definitely encouraged here.

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105 thoughts on “Paying Others to Provide a Service: When Is It Frugal?

  1. Instead of paying someone to clean so you can have family time, why not make cleaning the house family time? I have a 3 year old and a 9 month old and they are both involved when I clean. The 3 year old has her own rag to help dust and wash floors and she “vacuums” using the attachments when my husband is vacuuming. She loves to help. The nine month old doesn’t walk yet so she doesn’t help, but she watches and I’m sure as soon as she can she will get involved. To be honest, they are really not much help, but they have fun and its teaching them to clean up after themselves.

  2. I think one should attempt to quantify exactly how much their time is worth. I have been grapling with this question over the past few years. After much analysis I feel $300/hr is a reasonable exchange for quality family time. I am not sure if others would agree.

  3. It takes a LOT for me to hire someone else. I pretty have to be utterly unable to do something before I’ll pay someone else. Mostly, this is due to necessity…even with four kids, I still have more time than money.

    This might not be the case for you now when your kids are younger, but as they get older, you can have them help you clean up, and you can assign them chores of their own too. The help is free, and if they’re working alongside you, then it certainly counts as family time.

  4. Trent, do you ever watch The Office?

    The headline of this list totally reminded me of Dwight’s policy on tipping…

    “Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.”

  5. Timely post. I had a piece of siding blow off my house recently. I am lacking the ladder or skills to put it back up and, as expensive as it sounds, paying a trusted handyman about $60 to do it is probably worth it. Thoughts?

  6. We just moved from an apartment to a house in September. My husband and I sing in a community chorus; one of the people in my section cleans houses for a living. I asked her if she would come over and clean our apartment, because I was overwhelmed with the move and everything associated with it. I was willing to pay her. Lucky (so lucky!!) for us, she gave us the cleaning as a housewarming present. I told her I felt really lazy for not cleaning the old place myself, but she told me not to feel that way- people have different interests, and if cleaning is not high on the list compared to other things in my life, it’s better to have someone else do it instead of resenting the time and effort taken away from something more important to me. Trent, hiring a cleaning service doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. Since family time is so important to you and your wife, take the time now and be together with your kids. Hire a cleaning person. Later on when the kids get a little older, you can teach them how to do more clean-up besides putting away their things. As time goes on you can always reconsider the cleaning service, cut down on hours, etc. I also suggest supporting a locally owned small business instead of a chain franchise.

  7. I think this is a regional thing. Where I would consider it a luxury (and a little frivolous) my coworker tells me that back east it is considered necessity.

  8. My parents had a housecleaner come in once every two weeks to do the big jobs: dusting, mopping, heavy bathroom and kitchen cleaning, vacuuming. That gave them more time to enjoy the things they wanted to do with us kids. They still have a cleaner today because they just don’t want to do all that bending and hard work.

    I think it’s especially valuable for families where both parents work. Then you can spend your Saturday with the kids instead of scrubbing the tub.

  9. I think it’s a great idea. If you don’t have any debt, and your financial situation is relatively good, then it’s certainly OK.

    Because you’ve been so good with your money, you can afford to do something like that. My husband and I have a huge load of debt, and though we’d still have more than enough money every month to pay someone to clean the house after we make all of our monthly payments, I feel it would be irresponsible for us to spend money on something we can do ourselves when it could have been used to put towards debt.

    The only exception will be in a few months: I’m currently pregnant with our first child, and I have a had time with a lot of the heavy cleaning due to the physical boundaries of pregnancy. We’ve decided to hire a lady we know to clean the house thoroughly once a couple weeks before I’m due, and another time 6 or 8 weeks after the baby comes, when I’m likely to be too busy to do a thorough job, anyway.

    Part of me struggles with it, because we’ll end up paying $25/hour for the work, but I feel that it’ll be worth it in the end.

  10. Some of these activities *could* be morphed into a family activity. I grew up in a household where we drove our trash to the dump every week. To this day, when I remember my father I think of us driving trash to the dump Saturday mornings. Sounds odd, I know.

    Another thing to consider is whether you really need some chores done. Some people value a clean household more than others. But I would keep “clean less often” as an option as well. Don’t live in dirty conditions, of course. (Make sure dishes are clean, and do remove the trash.) But as a money- and time-saving option, cleaning less often is often feasible.

  11. Two rules I apply when determining whether or not to hire someone to do something, instead of DIY:

    1. Could I be earning more money cultivating a side hustle than it would cost to hire someone.

    2. Would I endanger my well-being, or that of my family’s, by me doing something myself. Example, I don’t do anything electrical around the house. I installed a programmable thermostat, but that’s about it. I defer to the experts, because a screw up with something electrical can be downright life threatening.

  12. Another thing to consider is that this expense will occur over and over again. You will likely enjoy this so much, that you start to consider it a regular part of how you get the house clean. And now the $56 is way more.

  13. I sanded and stained on side of my house this summer. It was about 400sq ft of space. All in all it cost me just under $300 and about 18hrs of work spread over a week of vacation time. The cheapest quote I was given was for $1500!! So by doing it myself I saved over $1200 (keeping in mind that the $1500 is after tax money). I didn’t mind the week’s work instead of relaxing and it was a sense of accomplishment.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree that some things are worth paying for. Just this morning my friend’s 8 year old son was here for 3 hours. Between he and my Golden Retriever the house and yard are a mess. Both were perfectly well behaved (for an 8 yr old and a dog), but the floor is dirty/hairy, there are fingerprint all over the doors, water was spilled, toys are everywhere. I told my husband that I can handle a dog, but when a kid comes into the mix in a few years we’re getting a maid. In just a short time they undid all my work yesterday and I’m too tired right now to clean up the mess. So yes, sometimes help is good to pay for.

  15. Jon – Smart move on hiring someone to get on that ladder. $60 is nothing when you consider the doctor bills of you falling off the ladder trying to do it yourself. Besides to do the job right it might have taken you 2 or 3 hours to get all the equipment, figure out what you were doing, and then actually do it. Some things (on the ground) are worth trying to tackle, but for $60 you got yourself a deal, IMHO.

    Recently I started to paint over some water damage on my 10 ft ceiling (interior). I noticed the paint didn’t match at all and I ended up painting the whole &*%# ceiling. I was so sore from going up and down that ladder (it took 3 days to recover before I could even workout again) and I lost about 8 hours of my precious time. There is no doubt in my mind I should have paid someone to do that work. And I can promise you that no matter what the cost I will never, ever paint another ceiling again.

  16. This came up for me the other day with car washing. I enjoy washing and detailing my car, but I can’t get dog hair out of my car to save my life. Periodically, I’ll take my car to a car wash place (when I have a coupon) and get the pros to do it right, and I’ll do washes and cleaning myself a couple times before taking it back.

    It’s worth it to get a second set of eyes/hands on it from time to time.

  17. I’m all for the cleaning lady. Both my husband and I work outside the home. When my daughter was 6 months (she’s 3 now) we started hiring a woman to clean our place every two weeks. We pay her $60 and it is one of the last things I would cut from my budget if we needed to trim spending. It frees up our time on the weekends, which is important, but almost as important, it removes what had previously been a source of stress in our relationship (neither one of us are natural cleaners).

  18. I work two to three days a week, my husband has a full time career and we have four kids, ages 2-12. We hire a cleaning gal (she runs her own business). I feel like it frees up my time to be more productive or spend with the kids and it enables her to help support herself and her children. Win Win. If I was not being so frugal, we would not be able to afford it. I would rather spend my money in this thoughtful way then on lattes or dinners out.

  19. You are forgetting that frugal habits help to form the right mindset for better frugality, and that activities often expand to fill the available time.

  20. I just pulled the trigger on a housecleaner too, and the $15/hour was key for me. When I lived in California, the minimum would have been $20/hr, but here in Northern VA I can pay less for the same service. With three small children underfoot, it takes me 10 hours to do what she can do in two concentrated hours. She only comes every other week, but it makes a huge difference to our life (much more than the time involved). Moneywise, I do enough creative saving to pay for it. Now that it’s been two months, I’ve decided it’s worth the money, moreso than saving that $60 a month. I also feel like I’m helping her out (she’s a college student working a side job to pay tuition), and I’ve provided her with several referrals already.

  21. I had a lot of guilt the first time we hired someone to clean. With 2 young kids and 2 animals we were a) not keeping up and b) fighting about who was not cleaning enough. I think as long as you are saving enought then whatever is done with the rest of the money is ok. For us it is cheaper than marriage councling ;)

  22. I have a cleaning lady who comes every Friday to clean my apartment. I pay her the equivalent of 35-40 USD for about 6 hours of work. (That is the pay scale in my country) I also provide her with lunch. I feel good about this because 1. I could never clean the apartment as well as she does. 2. I hate every kind of housework. 3. She needs the money and is a very sweet person. Although I am a saver, this particular expense is very well worth the money. I work really long hours during the week and it is one of my simple pleasures to come home to a clean apartment and a fresh set of sheets on my bed.

  23. I thought that part of being frugal was determining where your monetary priorities are. If someone thinks that money is more important than time, or has more time than money, then sure, hiring a housecleaner probably isn’t their best bet. But if you have more money than time, it’s up to you to determine how much your limited time is worth.

    I work a lot right now – 60+ hours a week in my office, and my husband and I are on-call 24 hours a day. Therefore, we have limited free time (read: none). However, we also have limited funds, which is part of the reason we work so much. We probably could afford to hire a housekeeper once or twice a month, but so far it’s been cheaper to not make a mess!

    After working so much for so long, I’ve really come to the conclusion that time is much, much more valuable to me than money. Unfortunately, both the husband and I didn’t figure that out until we got ourselves into a lot of debt. A housekeeper doesn’t add to debt, as it’s more of a one-time and/or regular bill, but it might keep someone from paying their debt off quicker. Keeping your sanity, however, is priceless.

  24. Oh, how I’d love to hire someone to clean for me. I’m single, though, so feel like I can’t really justify it to myself. Maybe when my student loans are paid off next year (but then I might prefer to spend a bit and join Netflix instead).

    I think you could consider hiring someone to come in for a good monthly scrub of the place. I think something to keep in mind is modeling behavior to your kids. Yeah, if someone cleans for you, you’ll fill the time with other things, but you want your kids to learn that cleaning has to be done, and some day, they’ll have to be able to do it. Treating it as a normal responsibility seems important to me. Of course, even if you had someone in weekly, I’m sure you can find plenty of chores & cleaning that you’d still need to do!

    If you do hire someone: enjoy it to pieces, don’t waste time feeling guilty.

  25. Interesting topic. For now, while your children are young it might be quite valuable. Later on, when they are older there is something to be said for modelling cleaning habits (just like modelling good financial habits) that are far more valuable than freeing up a couple of hours each week.

    Chores as a family activity could be considered a wise investment to your children’s future.

    Another angle you could consider here is where to put your money in order to have maximum family time.

    Often in today’s society, we farm out certain activities as parents that are not necessarily essential to have an expert involved.

    Case in point, we were spending $40/$60 for 6 lessons at a local pool for our kids to learn to swim. With two children and a success rate of moving up to the next level questionable,(time in pool, quality of instructor, age of child) We decided to instead pay $70/month for a family pass.

    This accomplished a few things. By having the freedom for our whole family to go to the pool often, our children grew quite comfortable in the water. The swimming happened naturally.

    We also have a cheap “go-to” family fun option for those times where our budget might not afford a trip to the movies or special activity like that.

    This also gave my husband and I access to a gym and lap pool – again freeing up monies on home fitness equipment.

    We have the option of continuing with lessons later if one of our kids would like to refine thier skills, but our basic goal of “learn to swim” was satisfied in an alternate, family friendly way.

  26. If you actually use your time to work and earn money, you should definitely pay for stuff that is slowing your income down. I guess this tip is valuable for self employed or business owners.

    The key is to make arbitrage of this situation. If you want a cleaning lady that cost $200 per month for example, you need to be able to use the time for cleaning your house in order to make more than $200. Therefore, you would be “working” the same amount of our, but making more money doing something that you like while your house is being cleaned up by someone else ;-D

  27. The “Balancing Everything” blog had an interesting post about cleaning as a family activity and a way of teaching children about the work ethic. It mentioned buying child-sized brooms, etc., said to be available through Montessori sources.

    Kim, I’ve lived for years in several places in NY, Maryland, and Virginia, including in two counties ranked among the “wealthiest” in the U.S., and I’ve never noticed paid cleaning help being considered a “necessity” or the norm in these eastern places.

  28. The other impact a housekeeper has is on what it teaches your children. They don’t really see the cost of having a housekeeper, while they are becoming habituated to the ease of having a housekeeper. Growing up, we had a cleaning lady come in regularly. I never learned really how to keep house well, until my mid-30′s. I always wondered why it was so hard for me, until I realized I had no housekeeping habits/skills, that allowed me to keep a clean house. Once I practiced those skills as habits, then I knew how. I understand my mother’s decision to make her own life easier, but I also feel like she hindered my education in life skills.

  29. Others have touched on these points, but this is my situation. I’m pregnant with an almost 3 yo and we have someone come every two weeks to clean. We pay a little more than market rate because she uses only natural cleaning products, which is important to me. We still clean in between her visits, modeling/teaching our toddler in this way, but until he can distinguish between baking soda and Comet and use each responsibly, the deep cleaning is mostly left to the professional.

    And that’s the other big point I wanted to repeat–she’s a professional. An hour of her cleaning time equals at least two of mine alone, or four if the toddler is “helping.” (It’s great when he’s helping, but I see that as learning time, not actual cleaning time!) I resisted the idea of hired help for a long time and only gave in when I got pregnant; for our family it has definitely been worth it.

  30. This is an interesting topic! My sis was a house cleaner and tagging along as she worked, I was amazed at how fast and thoroughly she could clean a house! On the other hand, my kids are grown and personally I like housework. Of course, with just two of us and a dog ( a big hairy dog) i consider housework a “workout” (i skip the gym!) Works for me. But i recognize the importance of being with your kids while they’re small.

  31. I hired a cleaner this year and I feel like it is one of the best decisions I ever made. My family loves it also. I could clean, but it was a struggle for me and my perfectionist habits. Now someone helps me every other week and it benefits my whole family. I am also helping a young woman who does not earn a lot provide for her family. Having my house cleaned is a JOY and definitely a privelege I cherish!

  32. Struggled with this one – DH’s mom was a home ec teacher &my Federally-credentialed mom ran the cooking & cleaning staff for a facility. We have cleaned for years to a very high standard. However, we also have many other things we are good at… visiting the ill and elderly; making healthy soups/stews for sharing; nurturing friendships. I work full time and teach a Bible study 2 nights a week. BY necessity we are frugal (We have winnowed away $300,000 of our debt over the last 5 years, and have $150,000 to go and will be entirely free and clear of all debt). I bake my own bread and make almost everything from scratch. DH does our auto repair and works a second job. I also keep the books for my husband’s business and on the side consult and do cash flow projections and budgeting for a friend’s booming business.
    However, both DH and I are in the midst of special work projects on our main (essential) jobs… this exhaust us temporarily. We have precious little time together. We do clean together sometimes, and enjoy that. BUT we just agreed yesterday that there is value in hiring a local team to come in 2x a month and do the deep clean. Two benefits – we keep up with “picking up” so that when the cleaning crew arrives, they aren’t shuffling our papers out of the way. (We “Fly-lady” the daily items… I have a dozen little habits that help us “keep up” with the daily).
    Second benefit – we focus our “together cleaning” is the stuff that ONLY we can do…. going through the closets, storage unit (divesting) and organizing the garage. We’d never have time to sit down and make good budget decisions if every minute were spent mopping and vacuuming. We feel it is worth freeing up the time to spend on our “long-term” priorities. We do allocate our together time that way, btw…not just veg in front of the tv.

  33. Cleaning is really good exercise…bending, stretching, reaching, scrubbing, going up and down stairs; try it and you might find it more fun than a phony Wii session. I chuckle when I see my neighbor mow his lawn with a rider mower and then go for a jog. Going to the “dump” is a fun family trip; our transfer station has a “freebie barn” so sometimes we get lucky enough to find something we need. Family time doesn’t have to be some contrived entertainment session…real family time is just everybody doing what needs to be done together. It’s called life…kids will love it, if you do.

  34. I think even young children should be integrated into household tasks. While it makes it easier to take the kids out, while the other parent cleans, the children then have no sense of ownership of the house, no sense of personal investment in not making a mess. This cannot be learned too young.
    Very small children can be taught to fold a washcloth and dish towles. And kids love to sweep-just saw off the end of the broom so it is not too big. Heck- they like to do just about anything- they are young neough to find it fun if you present it as a privelege.

    What you want is more quality time with your kids, correct? Well, look at it as the Amish do- all time with your kids is quality time if you are doing soemthing WITH them. If it is interactive, and you are both engaged, it is quality time- even if it is cleaning up at a snails pace instead so the kids can participate.

    There is a tremendous amount of pride in keeping one’s own house, and you should relish the opportunity to share that pride with your kids, rather than exchange it for more “recreational” time. That does not give your kids a true picture of what life is like, and does not develop character. The home is where kids must first learn that we clean up our own messes.

    I live in NY, surrounded by women who all farm out cleaning, and even have their grcceries delivered. With all that free time, I think my children have developed more maturity and responsibility than most of thier peers-which has contributed to their academic success. And we are close as can be- no one’s contribution is taken for granted.

  35. Well I’m struggling with medical issues right now and mobility is a big problem. We are moving in January and with my husband working full time and our daughter in school, I won’t have a lot of help when I need it to get ready. We made the decision to have a cleaner come in and help. We are homeowners but we are moving to save money and renting our house out. We will save nearly $1500 a month so hiring someone will be well worth it.

  36. The person who suggested making cleaning time family time is making a good point. If children grow up seeing parents do things themselves instead of paying for convenience, they will turn into adults who frugally do things for themselves. Children who grow up in households where parents hire someone to do ordinary activities like cleaning, cooking, mowing the lawn (things that are relatively easy for an average person to do, they will be very self sufficient when they go on to have families of their own and must live on a budget. Obviously if you have a complicated home repair that requires a licensed professional, that is a different situation. But why couldn’t a toddler hop in the car with his father while they take the garbage to the dump, or ‘help’ his father cook or do laundry? The conversation time while performing those activities is a good chance for father and son to bond, and it teaches the child that frugality and parenting can be done at the same time. Everyone is busy. Everyone has responsibilities. Everyone can find an excuse for hiring someone to allegedly save time, when in fact they could probably manage to fit in the activity by doing it with their children (or spouse). But think about it, today we have modern applicances and vehicles to make chores and errands so much easier than they were a hundred years ago. Parents back then did everything in DIY mode, they had no choice. Yet they managed to raise children and earn a living and have stable marriages. You could say that parents who do things themselves for the sake of frugality are having more quality time than parents who hire a housekeeper, and then just do some type of leisure activity with their children. Children need to learn that sharing work with the family is what families do. They don’t need to learn that families only do fun stuff together and push off the boring stuff on the hired help. Children need to learn that the boring stuff needs to be shared just like the fun stuff.

  37. I agree with the post that says a professional cleaner can do great work in half the time you or I could do it. That is because the cleaner is not as emotionally involved = they clean and dust and mop your office, while you would stop and feel guilty about not replying to a letter, or would stop to pay a bill while you thought about it. The other thing is that cleaning is the cleaner’s JOB – they want to get it done, well enough to earn repeat business, and they are efficient. Our cleaning is a stress and strain because we argue about whose turn it is, who has to do nasty jobs, etc…

    That being said, it doesn’t matter to me as we don’t have the money no matter how you look at it. Sigh. :-(

  38. I now have a housekeeper (although the going rate in Seattle is $45 an hour), but I only made that decision when I realized that I was losing time spent working to cleaning the house. I am self-employed and have many self-initiated projects. However, I see many people calculate their hourly rate to justify hiring a housekeeper when they really wouldn’t be working anyway – if that’s the case, keep cleaning yourself.

    I’d suggest buying a Roomba before hiring a housekeeper. Ours cost $350 (you can get 20% off at Bed Bath & Beyond by using those coupons they constantly mail out) but even with three long-haired cats and a 2k-square-foot house, we haven’t touched our vacuum (except for the stairs). To me the convenience of pushing a button and knowing the floors are cleaned while I’m out running an errand or sleeping is tremendous.

    A word of caution: if/when you do hire outside help, cheapest is not always best. You want a housekeeper who is insured – a dishonest housekeeper could steal something, but even a completely honest one may knock something over or scratch your floor.

  39. Not to be too much of a downer, but, Trent, please be sure any help you might hire is someone you trust, and that their help (if they bring someone else along) is trustworthy, too.

    Several years ago we had a regular housecleaner who cleaned our house solo for the first year or so. When her client load increased, her daughter started coming along to help her. About this time, we hired our first employee to work in our home office to help out with our growing home business. I had just left the workforce to have our first child, so I was often around when one of these three people were in the house.

    You might guess where this is heading. My husband was traveling one week, and I had to leave the house that Monday afternoon to run an errand. The cleaning person’s daughter stopped by to drop something off, at the same time the employee was here working alone. We figure it was in this time window that the box disappeared from my husband’s dresser which contained several pieces of sentimental jewelry as well as a large amount of cash he had stashed there in haste before he left on his trip.

    We never did figure out who stole the box. We filed a police report, and the officer questioned the housecleaner, her daughter, and the employee, but came up with nothing. Interestingly enough, both the housecleaner’s daughter and the employee blamed each other.

    The housecleaner was let go immediately, the employee a few months later. Now my husband refuses to let anyone else handle housecleaning but me … and, boy, I REALLY miss the help.

  40. Trent,

    3 Easy Strikes In My Book:

    I employed a house servant* for a while, and regret it.

    SOUNDS BETTER THAN IT REALLY IS…
    1. We had a good housecleaner. BUT, s/he never quite cleaned the things I wanted cleaned. So, you may picture someone ‘solving’ your problem, but you’ll still have a lot of cleaning to do.

    IF ONLY I WERE AS PRIVILEGED AS…
    2. Bad example for my children. To this day, ten years later, they still think other people are going to do things for them. Is success turning you into a classist?

    IT ADDS UP
    3. Sure. Only $14. Times probably three hours per week. Do the math. That’s your strong suit. The money was always painful for me to pay out. If I’d only invested it in index funds instead, or a college tuition plan, or…everything else I’ve learned from obsessively reading your outstanding grasp of the American predicament.

    LEADERSHIP WANTED
    You’re brave to air out your train of thought, but, c’mon….this is a frugality blog and we’re discussing hiring servants?

    Personally, I’ve taken on the majority of the housework in our 6-person household. I love how it’s become second nature, and fulfilling, a zen exercise in itself.

    Are YOU helping your spouse 50/50? Or is there some subtle sexism happening in the Hamm household, served up with intellectual spin control? And now you want to buy your way out of it?

    *S/he used the cleaning salary to pay for her meteorology degree, and is now a scientist at noaa.gov in Boulder.

  41. If my husband and I both worked I would go for it, probably. But I don’t have an outside job and even now that the kids are older and our income is higher, I still feel like I have more time than money. So I am the housekeeper in my home… I like that when it comes to most cleaning, I am “my own boss” and I decide what to ignore and what to clean and what to organize at what time. I don’t mind cleaning; it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Is our house perfect? Far from it! But it is fairly clean and fairly organized and it suits us.

    Also– and this is just a personal opinion, no judgements on anyone else – -I think I would be embarrassed to hire a servant. To me it would just be weird and make me uncomfortable. If I was disabled or too busy (ie, employed) it would seem fine, but no way would I hire a cleaning woman when there was no “reaL’ reason for it.

  42. Your blog and all the comments have been very interesting to me. I was a housecleaner during all of my college days and have many things to say about hiring someone and the relationships that develop. I now am a mother of 4 children, and understand that a cleaning person would be great for you, but I also see how much these life skills, organizational skills, pride, sense of self, and hands on dirt equals fun can be within a family. We clean at our house every Sat. morning for about and hour. This time is truely fun and I see it benefiting my 3rd and 2nd graders in how they handle themselves and participate in the class room by having compasion/helping others when they see it’s needed, etc.

  43. I love the “do it with your kids” thing. A typical Saturday when I don’t have help used to be spend crawling under beds pulling out tippy cups and Kleenex, cleaning under and around furniture, disassembling the daybed we use as a sofa, and doing at least 6 loads of wash for bed and sofa linnens, not to mention clothes. It wasn’t an hour – it was about 6 – and then there’s still meal planning/grocery shopping and cooking for the next week. Alone, I could do it all in about 6 hours, but with a 6 and 3 year old “helping” – it was an ALL DAY AFFAIR. (Note – we are very thorough as we *all* have severe allergies and we have pets in a very small home.)

    No thanks, my husband and I work 40-60 hours/week each, and I have my elderly Mom living with us who needs a lot of help too, that *has* to be on the weekend when she can see (if I take her on errands).

    I have had help (servant? I don’t THINK so – she tells ME what she will and will not do) on and off and when I do there is a tremendous burden lifted. When my kids are older and my Mom is gone (she is 80 already) – I doubt I’ll need it.

    But try working a 60 hour workweek and face what I have to Saturday morning and it wouldn’t seem quite so frivolous as perhaps others may think.

    One hour of my time (I’m an IT professional) pays to clean the whole house. And as noted before, it lifts a lot of pressure of my marriage. It’s not always about 50/50 – it’s about differing abilities.

  44. As the oldest girl in a family with 7 children, i did a ton of housework before i left home at age 18. Once I had the income to hire a housecleaner, I did. When necessary, I worked overtime to earn enough to pay her. There are many extravagances of my youth i could regret, but household help isn’t on that list. (My son learned to cook growing up b/c that’s the work he saw happening & learned to clean later in life.)

    Fast forward to today: I’m 66, widowed, mildly disabled, living with a partner. I’m clean; he’s tidy. The cleaning guy costs $100 every 2 weeks(in Philadelphia). I have to tidy my stuff before he comes, b/c he puts everything “away.” My partner has gotten used to clean floors, tubs, and counters & likes it.

    Bottom line: whatever works for you, works. Try the cleaner. You’ll know pretty quickly if it doesn’t work. And BTW – your pastor is a good source for a referral.

  45. I’ve had help come in to deep clean my home this summer and It was a lifesaver! All of the little things that I couldn’t get to like cleaning the chandelier and the tops of cupboards were done and the piece of mind having these off of my to do list was awesome. I’m going to have another deep clean done in the spring. Can;t afford a weekly or monthly service.

    Hiring help with housekeeping is not a moral issue. If you’ve got the cash and your value per hour is more than $14 (Either because you are earning more, or you value your family time) then try it. Or try having someone come in once per month to do the big scrubbing. There will be plenty of cleaning for the whole family to do even with a cleaning service, and plenty of empty nest years when you can clean your own home, or volunteer to clean your children’s homes as they struggle to work, raise kids etc. : )

    Having a regular housekeeping service is my dream! I do hire out some of the lawn care in the summer ( all of the fertilizing, I mow it myself.) We hate that job, and hiring it out made sure that the job was done.

  46. We hired someone to come in and clean every two weeks when I was pregnant with my second child and chasing after a toddler. The tipping point was when I was cursing my husband while 7-8 months pregnant and trying to bend over to scrub the tub during nap time. We now have 4 children and we both work outside the home. We still have someone help us out. This person has become a trusted family friend and my children all love and respect her. They understand that we pay her for a service. Because she comes, we all pick up the house, put stuff in the Goodwill pile and recycle scattered papers and magazines. Because she comes, I spend my occasional cleaning time tackling closets and dressers or helping my husband go through the garage. My children will learn how to clean before they leave home just as they will learn how to balance a checkbook. It just doesn’t have to be at 3 years old.

  47. When we could afford it years ago, I, too, had a cleaning lady. Her name was Jean and she was a Godsend to me. I could go off to work and not worry about what I needed to do that evening or week-end. We entertained much, much more, and did so many more spontaneous things when I was relieved of the housecleaning chores. I am a cook and baker and do almost all of that myself – not ordering out or buying precooked or packaged foods. I even bake my own bread. But housekeeping – ugh. So it was well worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if there were the funds available. Give yourself a gift of a cleaning person. Don’t short change your time with your children and/spouse. Life is short enough as is.

  48. I had a housekeeper when I was working full time and going to grad school full time. It helped me save my sanity. Interestingly, though, I kept mowing my own lawn and doing my own landscape maintenance, which also helped me keep my sanity by giving me a break from the books and the job.

  49. Join Flylady and you won’t need a housekeeper. The site offers great tips and routines for cleaning your home a little bit at a time on a rotating cycle.

  50. I quit my job to be a stay at home mom 8 months ago when I had twins. We are obviously surviving on less money now that I have done so…but if you were to figure in the cost of child care we wouldn’t be living on much more and I feel that raising our children is far more important than money. We have cut costs everywhere possible but last month I finally broke down and hired someone to come in twice a month to do the heavy cleaning. I spend every spare moment with the kids…they don’t nap together and though I manage to get the cooking, laundry and general clean up done…I rarely get to dust much less scrub floors and clean bathrooms. What I had been doing was whenever my husband was home I was killing myself running around doing chores while he managed the little ones as well as he could on his own. The end result was that I wasn’t spending any quality time with him. Ultimately the 150.00 per month is more than worth the family time that results from spending the money and corners can be cut elsewhere to make it feasible should something change in the future. When the children get older and a little less needy, we will go back to doing the chores ourselves. The children will learn to help. For the time being however, the peace that it gives me is worth it.

  51. My biggest issue with using cleaners is that the house looks perfect when they leave, and then it looks worse and worse until they come back. If I know they are coming in a day or two (or three) I won’t clean up after myself, because then I’d be wasting my money.
    Now that I’m cleaning my own house, I do it a little at a time. It never has that “perfect” look, but it never gets too awful, either.

  52. This is NOT just a frugality blog. This is about making wise financial decisions. Trent has also at times been known to touch on his own moral and ethical choices. For me, hiring someone else is a moral and a practical choice. We live in a time when more and more jobs are being shipped overseas. While I am able, and as long as it fits into my budget, I believe it is a moral and ethical obligation I have to help someone else make a living. This doesn’t mean that I pay to have everything done, but I do believe that using local handimen, craftsmen and tradespeople not only saves us from work that we are unskilled at and tempermentally unsuited for, but also helps good people earn a living.

    Think about all the things we pay to have done for us. Some of us pay for oil & lube changes, tire rotation, electrical work, we buy ready-made clothing rather than make our own (tsk. tsk.)

    We buy jam and jelly in jars, soaps and hand cremes from the grocery store, and many other conveniences that our great-grandparents wouldn’t have dreamed of.

    There are cultures where it would be the worst kind of selfishness to cook your own meal, cut your own firewood or launder your own clothes if you can afford to pay someone else to do it.

    We consider it a virtue to do everything ourselves and people often feel ashamed if they cannot do that or chose otherwise. We are somewhat suspect if we do that.

    I have health issues. I use what energy I have to work and to help at my church. That is a struggle. Still, I have to fight that voice in my head that says that there is something wrong with getting help for something that I could do if only I tried hard enough. Paying others is somehow considered a flaw in my character. I am considered a spendthrift.

    Ah well. Let others walk a mile in my shoes. I have been down and out in the worst possible way. Now that I am able at times to pay for services that I could do, I consider it an honor to help someone make a decent honorable living, and I am blessed to have help doing things I chose not to use my limited strength and energy on.

    Congratulations on yet another thought-provoking subject.

  53. A housekeeper .. so bourgeois! I miss the old Trent who would coldly calculate the interest earnings the cost of a video rental would earn him over his lifetime, as the indicator of whether or not to buy it, now we are talking about housekeepers and “valuable family time”?

    IMHO, ‘frugality’ is all about reducing consumption (regardless of the top line), so even if it is ‘financially sensible’ it is not necessarily frugal. The frugal solution would be to move to a far smaller house which doesn’t require so much effort to clean. Maybe a small apartment. The type of place where the housekeeper lives ..

  54. Maybe a different way of looking at the value would be from your children’s perspective, Trent. Parents are the first and foremost teachers a child will ever have. Quality experiences when mom and dad are not pressed by everyday demands enrich a child’s frame of reference. Moments missed cannot be recaptured.

    In the grand scheme of Life, is parting with $56 more difficult than parting with the opportunity to create positive and lasting memories that could benefit your children in ways you cannot see right now?

  55. It’s not my place to judge and as I am single, it would be incredibily frivolous for me to hire out my cleaning. I get a deep personal satisfaction out of keeping a clean and sanitized home and I love the smell of clean clothes.

    As a young child, I remember my twin sister and I helping our mother fold laundry, hold the dustpan while she swept the floor, and various other tasks. By the age of eight or nine, my sister and I alternated washing the dishes each night. Gasp, can you believe it was the late eighties and we didn’t have a dishwasher? How I hated washing dishes. BTW…we ate supper together, the whole family, mom, dad, my sister and I EVERY night. I hated those chores but I’m sure glad the folks made me do them.

    I don’t have children myself but I work with high school students. Very few of them know how to clean. On a recent community service outing with them, it was disgusting how poorly a job they did of sweeping and mopping things. Parents should definitely set an example that houses do not clean themselves. And don’t even get me started on those who are, “too good to clean.”

  56. Last weekend I spent 4 hours cleaning my sunroom kitchen. I wasn’t distracted by anything, I had just not gotten a chance to do a thorough cleaning for awhile (and my golden retrievers have been shedding like fiends this fall, so things had gotten out of hand). Then on Monday I had to clean my voice studio and spent 2 hours on that. That was 6 hours. As a private music teacher, I bill out at $50/hour. That was $300 worth of my time. True, I wouldn’t have taught during that time, but there were other things I could’ve done. And I could’ve hired someone to clean the entire house for about a third of that in about the same amount of time. I have resisted getting a cleaning woman – I had one a few years ago, and I had bartered cleaning for lessons with someone after that – but the time has come. I have to figure out where to find room for this in my budget (and I can deduct the “cleaning the studio” portion).

  57. I didn’t read all the comments, so maybe someone has already mentioned the stress factor. You never mention stress, but I’m sure that it must enter into the equation at least once in a while. Your wife works outside of the home all week, I bet she’d like to just relax and enjoy her family on weekends. I say if you can afford it, go for it, at least for the heavier cleaning.

  58. I don’t mind cleaning, so I wouldn’t hire anyone on a regular basis. But I do know that when you get into a routine you develop blind spots in your cleaning. There are always areas of dirt/dust that you just don’t see because your house is so familiar to you. I think that getting outside help occasionally would help provide a fresh perspective.

  59. “I used many excuses to continue my poor spending habits and I still use them sometimes to talk myself out of exercise or other tasks that I know I need to do.”

    This is about 4 posts down the home page.

    You are doing it again.

    Granted, “for the children” is a really, really great excuse – but it is still an excuse. The reality of the situation is you don’t want to clean the house. You would *rather* pay someone to do it for you.

    That’s fine, if I could afford it, I might consider a maid myself. But that in no way makes it “being frugal”. It’s a beneficial luxury good, if you want to look at it that way.

    You can justify it any way you want. You can scream “it’s for my kids” until you’re blue in the face. You can make excuses as to why you “need it” instead of just “want it”. But in the end, it’s just another bad financial decision.

    This is the best line: “What would we do with those extra four hours?”

    The same thing you do *now* with extra time. Waste it. 99% of the time, when someone says “I could spend more time doing X”, they never actually *do* X when they have more time to do it. They find something else to fill that time. They need more time to relax, or they need more time to work, or they need a break, or something else came up, and so on. And that’s exactly what happens with people who use their children to justify giving themselves more free time.

  60. I think personally I could never have someone clean my home, I would feel to lazy. When our children were younger we made cleaning not only family time but we also would make it like a game. We would end up dancing around as we cleaned playing games etc. anything to make it fun and the kids loved it. As the kids grew they no longer needed the games to clean, so today we all have our part in the cleaning. I look back and really miss the games we played as a family while we cleaned.

    If you feel you must spend the money that you would spend on a cleaning service why not put it away for a family vacation or even just a family night. If the end goal is to spend quality time together, think about the fact that so many conversations happen while doing dishes, folding laundry or even cooking. Anything can be made quality family time it just depends on how you view the task and what you put into it.

  61. I respectfully disagree with most answers of the list. Cleaning time can be quality time with kids, science and economics can be learned by cleaning. Talking about how clemicals interact to clean ect. As a child I cleaned along with my mother, father and three siblings. We HAD FUN doing it. Mom would turn up the radio and we would sing and our dance our hearts out while we worked. To this day I love turning on the radio and dancing while cleaning. These times are still talked about by my sibling and I. My mom has continued this tradition with my neice whom she is raising. Gretchen at eight knows how to clean anything and LOVES to dust. I clean my own house even though I could easily afford help. It is a matter for me of pride and monetary responsibility. No one should do the work that I know how to do and can accomplish. If I was elderly or disabled that would be different, but I am not.

  62. Good morning Trent,

    I discussed this topic with myself only recently. As a widowed-now-single parent and the owner of an information technology consulting firm and part-time real estate investor, I constantly find myself juggling between work time and family time.

    Cleaning the house is one of those tasks that I am neither good at nor enjoy doing, so as my billable rate approaches a third digit and my daughter’s time is even more valuable, cleaning time becomes less important to me. Cleaning is nevertheless necessary, so I’ve hired it out: $30.00 per day, three days a week. Money well spent.

    Thanks for the post,
    Isaac Grover

  63. I’m surprised that so many people are thinking this is normal and are supportive. I can’t even imagine having someone else clean my house. In my opinion, if you can’t do basic home upkeep yourself, you have too much house for you and should probably downsize.

  64. This is a very new very dangerous trend – ordinary folks who live on a budget considering getting someone in to clean the house !If
    you want a good life LEARN TO DO YOUR OWN CHORES – stop trying to justify the use of domestic help – you are young,strong – do you think it is beneath you to clean your own toilets etc. Dont get me started! For goodness sake, listen to yourselves ! Get real, please.

  65. We hired a house cleaner to come once every 2 weeks when I was working full time with 2 kids and 2 pets. I was overwhelmed with work stress at the time, as was DH, so it was vitally important that I had some of the responsibility lifted off my back. It was handy, but there were some down sides.

    The night before she came I would have to spend time picking up around the house because I didn’t want her to spend her cleaning time trying to put things away. (and lets face it around here stuff not being where it belongs is the biggest cleaning problem)

    Since she was there so infrequently I still had to do the dishes, sweeping, occasional mopping and laundry. It wasn’t like I got a free pass on the housework.

    She was good at cleaning but did odd things like put my then toddler son’s shoes up on a high shelf or empty all of the potatoes into the wok that I would then have to clean out before I could cook.

    At the time I am glad I had her come in but honestly, I also felt like I was paying someone else to live my life. I am glad that we have managed to get to a place where we don’t have to hire outside help anymore. It means the quality of life around here is better.

  66. I didn’t expect housekeeping to be such an emotionally charged issue.

    When I was married with a child and working on my medical degree, my ex and I agreed to hire a housekeeper because there was no way I could continue to keep house the way I did before going back to school, manage my daughter, study, and clean the bathroom. All the while keeping something of my more or less already tattered sanity. We did not live in a large house, didn’t have a lot of stuff, and weren’t particularly messy but we (I) still needed the help

    We hired a woman, who was a little flaky but a good worker, for $60 an hour (the going rate in Albuquerque) to come in and do the big stuff twice a month. It was unbelievably helpful. While it didn’t save my marriage it took a lot of the pressure off of me.

    Career people are working very long hours, some working more than one job. Even in two person households there may not be time for scrubbing the toilets and, while a sparkling bowl is great do I really want to spend my evening with some baking soda and a scrub brush.

    As soon as I can afford it again, I’ll hire someone to help out twice a month. I love my
    work, but I’m exhausted at the end of the day and a little help is nice to have, if it fits in the budget.

  67. It’s probably been covered above but …. “think of the children” (this does not pertain to people without children).

    Without exception, those I have met whose parents had a cleaning service or whose parents paid for things for them (instead of using an allowance) have all had a hard time of maintaining a clean house and managing their money when they moved away from their parents.

    You can easily turn cleaning time into family time. The kids will think it sucks. The parents will think it sucks. Yet, it will develop good values.

  68. We decided to hire a cleaning lady once every couple of weeks. She’ll do the tougher cleaning (kitchen, bathrooms, mopping windows and so on) while leaving the ‘little’ stuff for us to do.

    Those chores that are left for us to do, we turn into family time! I will do the ironing in the living room while my hubby does the vacuuming and tidies up. We can still chat and enjoy each others company and the house still gets cleaned.

  69. I totally agree with Trent on this. Everyone’s time has a value, I can’t say mine is worth $300 an hour, but I have finally found some one who can clean my house for a reasonable fee. The hourly rate seems high, but she blows through the house and charged me far less than another person charged for doing a lesser job. I could probably use someone to come in every other week if not every week. Every week would be a luxury that I can ill afford. However, once a month, I can afford. She comes in, does the floors, (I have a large house) she dusts, and concentrates on various projects once a month. It works great and frees up time so that I can spend quality time with my daughter. Getting quality time with a teenager is challenging, so anytime I can focus on us is well worth it. I value time getting out on the weekends, “family time” far more than being down on my hands and knees scrubbing floors with or without the family.

  70. We are a family whose five kids are here all the time–and they dribble, as kids do, so their things have tended,at times, to be all over the place. We finally instituted the good, old-fashioned chore cart, and the kids now have three levels of responsibility. Daily personal tasks (get dressed, make bed, tidy room, school work, musical practice, brush teeth TWICE, etc.); they also have daily household tasks (sweep kitchen after each meal,& bathrooms, etc; collect and remove trash; vacuuming) and weekly household tasks (bathrooms, cleaning baseboards, dusting, mopping, etc). We have the same number of tasks as we have children and I (mom) take one also with the 6 y.o. as my “helper,” who is really in training to learn to clean properly. The jobs rotate each week, and every child can see exactly what it is that s/he is to do, and can also clearly see that everyone else is doing roughly the same amount of work. What little complaining there had been was virtually eliminated by this method. We also let them know “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” That’s motivation all right!

    Because we are on top of it all week, working a little each day to keep things nice, the weekly job only takes about two hours on Friday or Saturday mornings, and we are free for the rest of the day.

    I had hired a maid for a time, out of desperation. I was working part time, educating four kids in four different grades and was juggling that with a busy social calendar. No one can do it ALL, (and do it well) right?! But $60-$75/day, just wasn’t comfortable,mentally. Besides,who wants to raise a bunch of slobs who have never learned to clean up after themselves? I am training up someone’s wife/husband, perhaps…or dorm mate or room mate. The training will certainly serve them well in years to come. Meanwhile, our house is always ready for company, and we love being here when it is clean, tidy and homey. Spending time together as a family cannot always be about recreation. We work hard as a family, and then the fun, recreational times are that much sweeter. Life is good!

  71. I had zero guilt the first time I had someone come clean. My second child was only a few weeks old at that time and I distinctly remember doing something akin to bowing down to the gods (in this case the gods were the cleaning ladies) as they were leaving. I was so thankful that they could hardy make it out the door.

  72. I don’t have kids, but I will say this– there’s a great book by Cheryl Mendelson called “Home Comforts” that most people know; it’s pretty much the standard of housecleaning today. In it, she talks about how her knowledge of housecleaning was passed on to her by her mother, her grandmothers, their mothers, and so on.

    These days, most of us do not learn even the basics of cleaning house from our parents. When I went to college, there were kids who actually didn’t know how to sweep a floor. My point is that cleaning alongside your kids passes a wealth of knowledge to them as they watch you, help you, and accept housekeeping as a basic part of life. As a few others have said, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss cleaning as a waste of family time.

  73. My husband and I have a great woman who comes every two or three weeks to do our major cleaning. We only have a 2 bedroom apartment, but we both work a million hours a week. Having someone else clean is a lifesaver for our marriage. It’s nice to never have to argue over whose turn it is to mop or clean the tub. It’s money well spent in my opinion.

  74. You really can’t under estimate the impotrtance of having your kids start to help cleaing and helping out around the house at a young age, especially if you are considering having more children. When we had our first child, I cleaned while he slept either at naptime or at night. When we had our second, I couldn’t do it anymore. Guess what , my older child–he was 4 when our 2nd came along, did NOT want to help out, and at 10, continues to have to be coaxed to help and clean. On the other hand, my younger child has always seen me clean and has been involved since he could walk, now he is very helpful and actually enjoys cleaning! Like the comment above he accepts that this is part of what we do to keep our family going. My older child struggles and feels like this is time taken away. This is an important life skill for your kids–show them how it is done, how you have pride in your home and how it helps the family life run smoothly!

  75. A friend of mine comes over and cleans for me once or twice a week. She’s really broke and I pay her ten bucks an hour for an hour or two a week.

    I spend the time doing research and work- for which I usually earn about 60 an hour. So it’s totally worth it. I guess it all depends on what the time saved is worth to you.

  76. Something I haven’t seen touched on is just really how much time do you hope to gain by hiring a cleaning lady. I looked into it once but the things thay do are not the things that take the biggest bite out of my time.

    For example they will mop the floors something I do about once a week (unless someone makes a mess) and takes me about 15 minutes. I vaccume twice a week at about 15 minutes for a light job and 25 for a thorough job that includes dusting.
    I wash my windows about once every 2 months…

    They won’t do the dishes, something I do everyday and takes me about 15 minutes (I don’t have a dishwasher) If they did do laundry (ours don’t) I doubt very much they would line dry them.

    I could go on but I would suggest that you are perceiving the time you spend cleaning is much more than it actually is. Like finances you need to write down what you do and the real amount of time it takes to make a valid arguement. You also need to assess whether the cleaning lady would really make a difference in the time you spend cleaning each week. Four hours of her time is not necessarily going to equal four hours for you.

  77. It was really sad when we had to stop our cleaning lady. We are trying to put money into debt retirement and just realized that it was a luxury that we could not continue to afford.

    However, keep in mind that you will absolutely, positively NOT get back all the time you think you will. The main reason is that you will need to declutter the house prior to the cleaning people showing up. Sure, you won’t be scrubbing toilets and cleaning bathrooms, but you will still be doing housecleaning.

    When we can afford it, I think getting the housecleaners back will be a high priority.

  78. When I was younger and living at home, I was quite happy when my parents hired a housekeeper/housecleaner . . . until I learned that her instructions included NOT cleaning our (the kids’) rooms; only kitchen, living room, parent’s room. When we complained, we were told we could hire her at so much per hour to clean our room. None of us kids considered it worth giving up our allowance for the service.

    I’ve always considered frugality as purchasing only those things worthwhile to one’s self. And that can certainly include free time and a cleaner house.

  79. We have a housekeeper who comes every two weeks and does all the heavy cleaning. We have two small children and 1.5 jobs outside the home. We never seemed to be able to split the chores in an “equitable” way and had many arguments over the issue. Basically, my husband would allow things to get absolutely filthy and I would finally break down and clean because I couldn’t stand it any more. Having the housekeeper has reduced these arguments considerably and lowered my resentment. I consider it a small price to pay for marital harmony.

  80. I am against this for several reasons, but my main concern would be what you’d be teaching your kids if you were to hire a housekeeper. Among other things, you would be teaching them to pay someone to do tasks they “don’t have time for” (which could take on a variety of meanings). I would only advise people to hire someone for housekeeping duties if they are incapable for some reason (for instance, if they are handicapped and cannot bend to clean the floor or reach up without pain) or if it is dangerous because you don’t have the skills or tools to do it (for instance, taking down a tall tree in your yard or painting your car or cleaning out the chimney – all these require special tools that it would not be frugal to purchase for use only once a year or are dangerous to that person or others if not done properly ). It sounds like neither of those reasons apply here. Therefore, I agree with commenters above that you should involve the children, even if they are too young to do anything but watch you clean at this point. That would be teaching them a much better lesson than what hiring someone else to do it would!

  81. Have you ever looked at Fly Lady? It’s the only other thing I subscribe to, and it’s made a huge difference in how my house is cleaned and how it looks, with a minimum amount of time invested. Seriously, it is something worth checking out.

  82. If you have very small young children and can afford it, then I say it is worthwhile. It’s so hard to manage work, child care, and a clean house that’s sanitary and safe on your own.

  83. My parents did their own cleaning when I was young. However, we lived in a small 2 bedroom house with only 1 bathroom, a dining room, and kitchen. Eventually, my mom hired someone to do the cleaning, because that was important to her. It freed up more time for us to be together. I think it is a valuable service when you can afford it, especially if you are a busy family, always on the run!

  84. I agree that maybe you should look into doing it every once-n-awhile or every couple weeks rather than every week. And someone to do the heavy (not everyday) cleaning, like dusting vacuuming, bathrooms, etc.

    My parents hired someone every week or two to do the heavy cleaning. They only did that for 6-12 months, becuase a) they decided it wasn’t worth it any longer and b) they had to switch housecleaners a couple times and could no longer find someone they were 100% satisfied with. Now they will typically hire someone before big events like our family Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

  85. I can’t imagine hiring cleaning help to be frugal at all. Sounds like a big luxury to me. Cleaning is just a part of life. I also recommend the FLylady system, which worked great for me. Sometimes I still feel somewhat overwhelmed though, after working full time and needing to plan, shop and prepare meals, and of course let’s not forget the laundry. Wish the Flylady system had been in existance when my childen were little, though. I’m sure I would have had a much more peaceful household. Flylady’s system promotes just that. Another thing to remember – keep clutter at bay. When rooms aren’t cluttered, they are much easier to clean. Unlke other posters who claim perhaps there is too much house to take care of, you should downsize, I think it is probably too much clutter which needs downsized. I have a really small house but would love a bigger one. I don’t think it would be any different to clean, in fact it might be easier.

  86. This was an enjoyable post and I also enjoyed reading the comments.

    We struggled for years over whether or not to hire a cleaning person. We both grew up in families where that kind of thing was “family time” – and was normally scheduled. Even after we married, we’d get into a groove of cleaning for 2 hrs every Saturday morning, no problem.

    But then we had a kid. And our house descended into filth. Okay, it wasn’t that bad but we just couldn’t keep up with it with one full time and one 75% job and a toddler. And my standards weren’t that high.

    So we hired a housecleaner. And it’s been (mostly) awesome. We waited so long because I got recommendations from friends. They either said “she has a waiting list” or “she doesn’t do deep cleaning”. So I waited until I found a good recommendation without a waiting list.

    Unlike a previous poster mentioned, our housecleaner does the deep cleaning. She wipes down the fridge and microwave. Cleans the ovens and stove. Mops the floors. Dusts everywhere, including the baseboards. My house is actually clean now. This also means we have more time on the weekend for more “fun” family chores, like sweeping the patio, vacuuming BEHIND the furniture (first time in 2 yrs).

    Do I still feel bad about the $75 every two weeks? A little bit. But we can afford it, and I’d rather be playing with cars with my toddler. Maybe when he’s a bit older, he can help clean. But now? He slows me down. And a professional can clean a LOT faster than I can.

    I know when we cleaned ourselves we easily spent 1.5 hrs per person per week on vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing the tub and toilet, cleaning the mirrors and windows, removing cobwebs, cleaning the fridge and micro, scrubbing the stove top, etc.

  87. I look forward to cleaning. Not only am I a neat freak but I find cleaning relaxing I put my ipod on and listen to a podcast or two.

    Is this weird?

  88. We have had several housekeepers and are currently without, they have pros and cons. The obvious pro being, they clean your house, and for the most part I have always been happy with the jobs our housekeepers have done.

    The cons, we were paying $160 a month for this service, we still had to do the nightly clean up after dinner and messy baby thing, and other chores each day. One housekeeper broke our vacuum which cost over $200 to repair. Things would get lost and not found for long periods of time. And more items were broke than when I clean myself.

  89. I clean houses for a living and I can tell you this: If you are going to spend any amount of time “cleaning” for the cleaning lady, If you have a house that can be cleaned top to bottom in less than three hours, or if you have to vacuum everyday anyway because of the babies wanting to put everything in their mouths, it is not worth it to have a cleaning lady. $56.00 is a lot of money, and if you are going to go with a bi/weekly cleaning that is $112.00 a month. I don’t buy the argument about how much is your time worth and spending extra time with the family. It boils down to that you just don’t want to clean. Cleaning with your kids is a great way to show them how to do it so when they are old enough then they can do it and you won’t have to. I clean for quite a few families with teenaged kids that don’t even have the slightest idea of how to load a dishwasher or carry their dirty clothes to the laundry room. Mom and Dad are teaching these kids that you can just pay someone to do all the things they hate to do, they can go ahead, be lazy, play video games, the cleaning lady will get the trash out.

  90. This is the new “keeping up with the Jones” boy, our friends have a cleaner we dont wont them to think we cant afford them or our jobs are SO timeconsuming and HARD that we couldnt possibly concentrate on cleaning up after ourselves. Flylady – spend a few minutes on that site and get some discipline going. Dont talk yourself into wasting money.

  91. Whatever you do, don’t clean your house up to prepare for the cleaning lady. My mom used to always make us clean before she came over because she didn’t want her to think that we were “pigs.” I hated it and preferred that we didn’t have a cleaning lady growing up!

    Now, with two small children, I wouldn’t mind the help though I’m a stay at home mom and would think that hiring a cleaning lady would be as frivolous as sending my children to day care for me to simply run errands and do my own thing. I just can’t simply justify it in my own head. If I were working, yeah, but I’m not and money is tight.

  92. Monica, my mom used to make us do that to. The whole day before the cleaning lady would come (every 2 weeks) she would run around all nuts trying to pick everything up before they got there. Always seemed kind of pointless to me. Plus the things I need done the most they wont do, my biggest chores are washing dishes, doing laundry and straightening up items, all which they wont do. The company we had was constantly changing the maid that would come, so we never got to feel comfortable with anyone in particular, plus they did weird things, like scrub the coffee pot too hard to remove the writing on the dials, or throw my toothbrush in my bathroom drawer. Just weird.

  93. It really comes down to how much quality family time is worth to you. Chances are, it’s more than the $14 you’d spend on a cleaning lady. Also another thing to keep in mind, is that they are probably more efficient than you or your wife, so what may take you 4 hours, might only take them 2. So in comparison, it’s almost like you’re paying them only $7 an hour.

  94. I wish my in-laws would get a housekeeper. They have a huge 8 bedroom house that they built themselves for 15% of what’s it’s worth now. Using cheap labor (me). There house is always dirty.

    She just can’t keep it clean. It takes 3 days to just get everything done. No children, one person only living in the house almost all the time.

    They have no debt and have a very large income. They finally broke down to get a gardener which is nice though.

    In Indonesia they had 4 maids and 3 gardeners @ $15/week each. That was overpaying their typical wages.

  95. I have a cleaning professional who comes every other week with a few weeks off for sickness or vacation. She does the heavy cleaning and costs only 50 dollars a visit. Worth it to this 2-income 2 kid family. I like having a home that is on the clean side but don’t always have the time to make it so. Our cleaner is like a member of the family. There are plenty of chores for my kids to do in between as keeping a tidy home is a daily occupation. My kids still handle the dishwasher, laundry, garbage, making beds and other chores. I love Flylady too and want to recommend her to those of you seeking to learn to clean and organize your home.

  96. and another thing…

    Growing up and in my younger adult years, I had to do housekeeping which interfered with what I would have rather been doing. I always felt that I would know I am successful when I could hire a cleaning person! I think paid housekeeping is right there with paid pest control. If you can afford it, it’s worth it.

  97. “with a one year old just learning how to feed herself, we wind up with a fair amount of food on the table and on the floor”

    Get a dog. ;-)

  98. Dear Trent,
    Cleaning houses was very profitable and not difficult for me while in nursing school and I learned alot too! I’ll tell you why. Most often, when people hire a “maid” they straighten up the night before. They remove piles of papers from tables, pick up clothing and toys from the floor, etc. When the “maid” goes in, all she does is clean. I could fly through a 4 bedroom large home in less than 4 hours, including scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom floors on my hands and knees. Most services don’t do that. What I learned is this: Keep up with the clutter, and when it is time to get to the cleaning, just do that. If you come across clutter during that time, DO NOT LET IT SIDETRACK YOU! Move it and continue cleaning. Go back to the clutter another time. Once every two weeks should suffice, unless you are in the process of toilet training your son. LOVE YOUR BLOG!

  99. We have a cleaning lady for a very simple reason, no matter how much time I spend I can never get it as clean as she does.

    big negative, things get broken all the time. How do you bend European style plugs is beyond me, I have to unplug and put away everything before she comes.

    I also do it because with the crisis in Spain she really needs the cash.

  100. I don’t think any of the millionares next door have hired cleaning help.

    Sometimes when you have younger children you have to just plain lower your standards for a while. It is a matter of priorities: floor you can eat off of or eating with your family!

  101. We have three small children at home and were having a hard time keeping our house clean. We were able to keep up with the chores that the children could help with (dishes, laundry, picking up toys) but we were never able to get to the things the childen simply could not help with (bleaching the bathroom, mopping). Our house always felt dirty and we rarely entertained. One month ago, we hired a lady to come clean our house every two weeks- the result has been amazing! The house feels clean! Because we have a clean house- I now host playdates 2x a week (previously I always suggested meeting at a local fast food restaurant) and we have friends over almost every weekend. The cleaning lady has increased the Home Maintainance budget by $90 a month but I’ve seen the Entertainment Expenditures go down by almost the same amount!

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