You may be surprised to learn that I have a cleaner. There is a woman who comes to my house once a week to clean for me.
This isn’t a secret or anything, it’s not new, and it’s not unusual. So why would I think you might be surprised?
Well, because sometimes I am still surprised by this fact.
Growing up I learned that women who had cleaners were ‘rich snobs’. This lesson came from my mother, I don’t know if that was a lesson she chose to teach me but it’s the one I received.
Whenever it was discovered that a woman had any sort of domestic help comments to the effect of “well she must have money to burn!”, “she’s too busy with her ‘career’ to look after her own family.”. Some of the stories I picked up were even worse. What it all boiled down to was that, in my mind (and I know I’m not the only one who learnt this), women who spent money on outsourcing housework were lazy, spoilt, and generally ‘out of my league’. Anyone who didn’t fit this description was an exception to the rule rather than proof of its inaccuracy.
Challenging the ‘rule’:
I remember the first time I had this idea challenged. I was a newish mum myself and had a rare opportunity to spend some time with a group of other women sans children (it felt like a dream!). Having a proper grown-up tea party to celebrate a friend’s birthday, somehow the topic of ‘hired help’ came up.
To begin with, I felt very much that the opinion of the group was like my own – that hiring a cleaner was a luxury beyond our reality. That was until one woman, probably ten years my senior (maybe not, but I felt she had her shit together as though she had a good decade ahead of me), piped up with “actually, I have a house cleaner.”. Feeling a bit sheepish, I started thinking of ‘excuses’ for how this stranger was an exception to the rule. She sipped her tea again and said, “I work while my kids are at school, and often when they’re not. I don’t want to spend my weekends scrubbing the bathroom and cleaning floors. I want to spend them with my family.”.
She went on to explain that she feels good about providing some employment to another woman, she paid her about the same hourly rate as she herself was earning at the time, and the cleaner did a better job in less time. My economist’s brain was very excited at all the logic. A seed had been planted.
Women who hire help are simply making an economical decision that the cost to hire is less than the benefits they receive. No different than buying takeaway dinner or clothes from a store rather than making them yourself (both of which were once seen as a luxury by many).
This little seed grew.
Over the years I listened to other women I respected justify their decision to pay for help in various ways. All of them had started with an idea that it was ‘wrong’ but came to a point where it was one of the best decisions they ever made. These women came from all walks of life. Some had physical or medical reasons to outsource, some were busy, some were raised with household help and it just seemed normal. Some didn’t seem to have any reason that I could see and I could easily label them lazy or spoilt – but really, they had just made an economic decision – their reasons are their own and I have no right to judge, so I won’t.
Eventually, I found myself working two jobs and had two children and freaking hated how much time I spent cleaning. Some friends, neither of whom had a cleaner, listened to me complain and then listened to all my reasons why I shouldn’t get a cleaner: “It’s not like I don’t have time. There are better things to spend money on. I don’t have any health or physical conditions that make cleaning too hard.”. My friends pointed out that I wasn’t looking for the things I would gain by hiring someone. They were right. I came up with some ways in which I would benefit from a couple of hours of cleaning a fortnight and a budget. Justification in hand, I approached my partner like freaking Oliver Twist begging for food.
Despite never hearing any of those old stories from Mitch, I expected him to share that old opinion I had. As it turns out, he was all for it and had never had those beliefs! His mum was a hairdresser and spent enough time on her feet and cleaning at work so had hired a friend to clean for her for most of his childhood, just as friends paid her to cut and style their hair. What was there to be ashamed of?
I have no idea.
Hiring my very own cleaner
I asked around and posted on Facebook and soon a woman named Kristi came over to clean my bathroom and floors once a fortnight. That was about three years ago – maybe more. Now she comes weekly and it’s my favourite day of the week.
The night before we say a few times “tomorrow is a Kristi day!” which is our cue to do an extra good job of picking up the floors and making sure we don’t leave dishes until the morning. The morning is usually a bit more rushed than other days because I am on the kids’ backs to have “rooms tidy before Kristi gets here!”.
This was an unexpected benefit of hiring a cleaner. No matter what else is going on, once a week the whole house gets a once-over tidy up, because “Kristi can’t clean it if she can’t see it!”.
This is one of my favourite tools for keeping my house low on clutter.
Knowing that someone is coming to clean for me, I don’t want to make her job difficult, nor do I want to waste her time and my money having her clean around stuff rather than doing a thorough job. When I was doing my own cleaning, it was sporadic, and I could move stuff from one place to another to clean around it. By hiring help, I have created external accountability to help me maintain my goals. This might not be true for everyone, but if you have an obliger tendency like me or find it difficult to keep commitments to yourself if it seems like nobody else will notice, this could be VERY helpful. (You can also get external accountability by joining a group of like-minded people, say in my membership program D.C.L.T.R.!)
I’m not “too good to clean”, I’m not bad at it, and it’s not that I couldn’t take the time to clean for myself. Frankly, as great a job as Kristi does, I haven’t *really* hired her for the cleaning. I pay her to save me thinking about it, to hold me accountable for keeping my home tidy, and to prevent me from turning into a whingy monster for a day before, during and after, I do any kind of housework. When we have gone without her for a time, due to illness or holidays or lockdowns, oh my goodness do we notice a difference! Most of all, on a Kristi day, I come home, and everything looks, smells, and feels shiny and new. Let me tell you, THAT feels so effing luxurious that I honestly don’t care what past me, or anyone else, would think.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help, paying for help, accepting help, or providing the help – paid or otherwise. There’s also nothing wrong with doing it yourself if that’s what works for you. And, if you don’t know what works for you, I can help! Contact me to chat about what you might declutter to uncover the life you want.