Clean or be cleaned?


Neither my parents nor Heath’s parents had housecleaning help when we were growing up. I don’t know the reasoning behind that decision in the Robinson household, but I’m pretty sure my mom nixed the option because she felt no one could do it as well as she could. I, however, do not share her enthusiasm.

I bring this up because while the question of whether or not to hire some bi-monthly help to tend to baseboard cleaning and oven scrubbing may not give others pause, it does for me because it’s not a luxury I am accustomed to having on a regular basis. Like manicures or massages. Nothing is wrong with either habit, but it’s difficult to embrace an indulgence like that if it’s not what you regularly grew up. I also feel like the maid debate is somewhat of a taboo, at least in our social circle. Before writing this post, I never brought up the subject to friends, it just wasn’t something anyone discussed. But as I started thinking more about it and asking questions, I found out that a surprising number of close friends benefit from the assistance of a professional housekeeper. The fact that it wasn’t discussed but was nonetheless present, makes me dwell on the topic even further.

The truth of the matter is, I am an employed adult in a two-income household with no kids and an affinity for exploration, and the last thing I want to do with my free time is engage in scrupulous cleaning.  I’m not good at at.  I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it. I feel this same way about making sushi and going to the dentist.

So, is enlisting the assistance of an expert in cleanliness the right thing for Heath and I to do at this moment in our lives?  I see a pro/con list in my future.

Pro: The time I currently spend cleaning house would be free to focus on other things.

Con: I don’t currently spend that much time cleaning house, so realistically that doesn’t add up to much.

Pro: I get a clean house, a cleaner house than I could ever imagine…a home where there isn’t a layer of dust on the tops of all picture frames and even places like the sides of the refridgerator have a lustrous sheen. Ok, I clearly can imagine it, and I like it.

Con: Unlike, say, plumbing or electrical work, cleaning house is something I could do myself. I have the tools and the know-how to sweep and shine, so forking over the cash to let someone else do the dirty work could feel a little off. But to be fair, I call cabs despite knowing how to drive and eat at restaurants despite knowing how to cook. Why think differently about housework?

Pro: Technically, hiring a housekeeper would be providing employment, and I’ve always wanted to be one of them “job creators” the Republicans have been going on and on about.

Con: It’s a new expense, something else to budget for, which means less money to spend on some of the fun stuff like concerts or vacays.

Pro: I’m fairly certain the overall quality of my life would improve. I’m not going to put all my eggs in the hiring–a-maid basket, but having a well-kept home would make me feel all warm and squishy inside, like I’m kinda sorta getting good at the being-a-grown-up-thing. Impressing my mom with my spic and span space would be a nice benefit too.

Con: I can see myself feeling what Ranjana coined “lifestyle guilt.” I’ve had a pretty privileged life—got a car at 16, studied abroad in college, own a home—and I’m not obtuse the fact that these are things that many, many harder working people than myself will never have or experience. I don’t pretend that I wouldn’t feel sort of awkward about “flaunting” my good fortune before a stranger. I think this is the reason my friends aren’t quick to fess up to having a housekeeper.

Pro: Having a clean home is better for the house itself. If I bring someone in to regularly maintain the corners and crevices, the house will experience less rust, ware and deterioration. That’s just responsible homeownership.

Con: I would be letting a stranger into my private spaces. Things like dirty underpants, medication and embarrassing dance movies would all be out there for the housekeeper to see. I don’t know if  there’s a universally accepted moral code that housekeepers abide by that demands they refrain from judgement, but I hope so.

Pro: While a housekeeper would be a stranger at first, I hope that eventually we’d form a bond. I know many people who have developed strong ties and relationships with the people who provide them services, and I would really value building that unique relationship.

There’s clearly a lot to consider, at least from my perspective. But in the end, I think the good outweighs the bad. At the heart of it, hiring a housekeeper isn’t a reflection on me—it doesn’t mean I’m a spoiled and lazy so-and-so, it just means I would have a cleaner house. And that is something worth trying.

12 Comments on “Clean or be cleaned?”

  1. I don’t see anything wrong with it, personally. You made some great points. Why not do a few interviews and see how it feels? Maybe talking with these professionals will help you better understand their career. I hate cleaning and I’m not particularly good at it. If you have the money for such a luxury, I say go for it. If you’re budgeting to save up for something, you may want to suck it up and simply learn to do it better. Youtube can probably help you with simple household tips. There are games you can play while cleaning to make it less of a bore. Good luck!

  2. Glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with this internal debate! Maybe a compromise is in order–hire someone to help with big cleaning jobs (like spring cleaning) a few times a year? This way the things that are typically neglected–I’m looking at you, baseboards–will be tackled and you won’t have to clean a whole house top to bottom by yourself.

  3. Reblogged this on deepcurvesahead and commented:
    When I was cleaning out my apartment for the last time, I came to a realization–I’m not very good (or consistent) at cleaning. Anyone else out there considered hiring help?

  4. RobotDancing says:

    One more thing you might want to consider is the possible awkwardness you might feel when it comes to the actual moment when you ask this person to do your cleaning. Even though they have come to you as an employee with cleaning in mind, you might find yourself having a cringe or two when you have to list their “duties.” What if you build up a great relationship with this person and then have to point out a problem, or reduce their hours, or let them go altogether? If you are already in turmoil over hiring a cleaner, these are things you might want to rehearse mentally before they arrive. 🙂

  5. EatDrink&DIY says:

    My mum actually cleans peoples houses, but I can’t bring myself to ask her to clean mine. And if she knew I was paying someone else I’d just feel awful and lazy. Mind you, I feel awful and lazy when my husband says “we should have people round more often, it’s the only time the house gets thoroughly cleaned…” he’s right. I’m not very consistent. Sitting down is much more enjoyable 😉

  6. I love that you used a picture of Amelia Bedelia! While I’m not at the point where I can afford a hosuekeeper, I’d probably lean towards hiring one if I could. Why? 2 teenage boys.

  7. It is funny you brought this up. I moved in with my boyfriend a few months ago and he had a housekeeper come every other week to clean his, not very big, 2 bedroom apartment. When we decided that I would move in, with my dog and cat, I naturally assumed the cleaning responsibilities. Not because I am a woman but because I was a second person and adding two animals to the mix. I also just like cleaning. When I mentioned that he could cancel the service we got into a bit of an argument, because to my surprise he didn’t want to! I told him not only would it save him money, but I felt like having a housekeeper for such a small space implied that we were unable to keep up with it. On a deeper level it made me feel inadequate as a woman admitting that I needed help cleaning. Keep in mind we don’t have children. Long story short, we agreed to keep them bi-weekly and it is the best thing I have ever experienced! My family never had help so I was totally unfamiliar but there is something magical about leaving for work and seeing all the things that need to get done around the house and then coming home and magically it is all done! When you want a career and an active life, it is ok to have help to do so! Way better than pedicures or massages if you ask me 🙂

  8. kmom says:

    I was briefly a house cleaner when I was in college. Sometimes I was treated like a servant, other times as a friend. Didn’t know you were considering this, but why not? Just steer clear of Amelia Bedelia.

  9. Kerry Cooks says:

    I would love to have a cleaner, but I do always fall back on ‘you can do it yourself so it would be a waste of money’. I think when I have a couple of kids running around it would definitely be worth it to get someone in fortnightly to do big jobs!

  10. The problem I have with housekeepers is that they want you to have everything cleaned up so all they have to do is dust, vacuum, and mop. They don’t want to do dishes, laundry, or have to pick up anything. They do not want to move furniture either. My purpose for hiring a housekeeper is that I can’t do these things myself. Finding one that will actually clean your house is difficult.

  11. I’m pretty sure anyone you hired wouldn’t see you as ‘flaunting’ – more likely to be grateful for a job. I read a book recently wherein the writer recommended tidying before cleaners came so that they could do their job more quickly. I used to laugh at the idea of cleaning before the cleaner came but it makes sense… and then they don’t see your dirty underwear. It’s good to time yourself doing each chore so you know how much work you can expect a cleaner to do and therefore don’t expect too much or too little.
    I used to have a competent friend clean my house – that way she didn’t care about seeing aspects of my personal life and I was helping out someone I knew. I usually get friends who are unemployed to come help with the garden. Everyone benefits!

  12. Best thing I ever did when I went back to work full time was to get a cleaner. We still do the easy stuff like hoovering and cleaning the kitchen surfaces, but she cleans behind the fridge and hoovers the sofa, and scrubs the hob. These are things I would never get around to..

Leave a Reply to Lena Scalercio Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s