For almost two months, I’ve been paying a maid service. After the initial cleaning, I waited a few weeks, and then set up a recurring appointment for a cleaning once every two weeks. For years leading up to this arrangement, I’ve balked at hiring a cleaning service. Cleaning is not a particularly difficult task, and this is not by any means a necessary expense. Furthermore, I live only with my cat. I do not have a family to look after. When first thinking about bringing in professionals, it seemed excessive.
Several months ago, I decided it was time to bring in the professionals. I had two full-time jobs that left little time for tasks like vacuuming and scrubbing the bathroom. I asked friends and co-workers living in the area for cleaning service recommendations, but this yielded no results. I turned to the internet for suggestions, and I decided to give Maids.com a try. There is a relatively local office. I called, the company provided an estimate based on my description of my apartment, and we arranged an initial visit.
The initial visit consisted of a deeper cleaning and allows the maids to determine the scope of the job. The cleaning is deeper than usual based on the assumption that this might be the first time the location was professionally cleaned, and regular upkeep would help reduce future cleaning needs. A team of four spent an hour and a half during that initial visit handling the dirty work. They did a good job, particularly in the bathroom and kitchen. However, living with a cat, the apartment never feels fully clean without cleaning the carpets. I quickly steamed some of the more troubling spots after the maids left and was pleasantly satisfied with the apartment’s appearance.
I waited several weeks before inviting the maids back, but when I did, I agreed to a reduced price by arranging a visit every two weeks. The knowledge that the maids will be arriving within days motivates me to keep the apartment tidier throughout the week. If there is no need to clean, I could still cancel a cleaning without increasing the price. At the same time, if I found myself in the position of needing to reduce my expenses, this would be one of the first luxuries to be eliminated.
There’s often a psychological barrier that stops someone from paying for a service one could do on one’s own. Some people refuse to pay for financial advice, some don’t think it makes sense to pay someone to clean a house, and some don’t want to call the plumber when there’s a problem with the pipes. It’s not always psychological, either. Hiring a professional costs money that might not be immediately available. Some people prefer taking a do-it-yourself approach to their lives, and that’s an admirable attitude. The psychological barrier comes in the thought that it isn’t worthwhile to pay someone to do something you could do yourself.
In my case, my time is valuable, and I’m sure most people have the same opinion of their time, as well. My effort is better spent working on a project or enjoying my life than scrubbing toilets. I’m not completely averse to this type of labor; I’ll do it, but I have found that it’s worthwhile for me to hire professionals who do it better and more efficiently, while my time is free to concentrate on other aspects of my life and business.
On Twitter, @27andfrugal asked how I was able to fit this expense into my budget. This cleaning service adds up to about $250 on a monthly basis. I understand that this is a price many people would not be able to pay for a service they could theoretically manage without hiring professionals. I consider myself fortunate that I can handle this expense without much detrimental effect on my finances. The $250 comes out of my net savings. This is $250 less each month I won’t have in savings, which, depending on interest rates, could add up to tens or even a hundred thousand dollars over the next thirty years. Of course, looking at that view, it’s harder to make the argument that the expense is worthwhile, but these are the caveats:
- I can make up some of that theoretical loss with increased productivity.
- My quality of life increases, and that has a value that’s hard to pin down with financial terms.
Cleaning is one task of several I hope to outsource. My next step is to find a virtual assistant to help keep me organized from a business perspective.
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published April 27, 2011.