Thursday, November 29, 2012

Coming Clean

I’m about to come out of the closet and tell you something I don’t often admit.

I pay people to clean my house.

Feel free to direct your judgment towards me. Call me lazy, over privileged, or spoiled.

I choose to call myself smart and I dismiss any guilt that comes along with my decision.

When I was fifteen, I picked up one of my dad’s self-help books, a gem I still have, called Coach Yourself to Success: 101 Tips from a Personal Coach for Reaching Your Goals at Work and in Life by Talane Miedaner.

This wasn’t typical adolescent literature, and some of Miedaner’s tips like “Date your Spouse” or “Take a Sabbatical” clearly didn’t pertain to my moody, zit-covered teenage self.

But tip #14, “Hire a Housekeeper” resonated with me.

I was brought up to do chores and whenever possible do a job myself. I thought only really rich or very lazy people had housekeepers.

But Miedaner’s argument for hiring a housekeeper was a compellingly simple one: if you can afford it, and hate spending hours scrubbing things, why not delegate that task so you can direct your time and energy to the things you are passionate about?

According to the OECD Better Life Index, Canadian men spend on average 146 minutes per day cooking, cleaning, and caregiving and Canadian women spend an average of 248 minutes a day on domestic work as well. That equals six and a half hours! Think of what you could accomplish if you are able to reclaim a couple of those hours by outsourcing them to a local cleaning service.

I know a number of women my age who use a housekeeping service, but are completely mum on the subject, because hiring someone to scrub your bathroom seems like a shamelessly indulgent thing to do.

I experience this guilt too. I have two hands. I am perfectly capable of doing it myself.

But why should I feel guilty paying someone to clean my house, and not feel guilty paying someone to grow the food that I buy at the grocery store, or not feel guilty for paying a waitress at a restaurant to serve me food? Technically, I could do those things for myself too. How are these things different?

Maybe the guilt has something to do with the lingering effects of the term “women’s work” from a bygone era, or maybe it has to do with this era’s assertion that “women can do it all.”

Either way, our society disregards the value of housework. We have a tendency to assume that if there is a woman in the house, she will instinctively whip the house into shape in her free time.

Now, there is nothing I love more than a clean and organized home. I value the work required to keep it clean and organized so much that I’m willing to pay someone to do it, rather than do it poorly on my own during my precious downtime.

As soon as I was in a position to afford it, I started paying for a cleaning service.

The benefits to my personal wellbeing were astounding.

I became a neater person. It is not the job of the cleaners to organize my house. Before they can wipe down surfaces, those surfaces need to be clear of clutter. This forces me to steadily keep things in their place.

My house became cleaner than it would be if I cleaned it myself. This is because the cleaners use professional equipment that cleans more deeply and effectively than my pathetic excuse for a vacuum ever could.

I used the time I regained to work on the things I’m passionate about. I wrote, or read, or researched things I was interested in. I painted and built things. I pursued my dreams without being interrupted by the niggling desire to dust.

Now that I’m at home with my daughter full time, I’m even more grateful for housecleaning services.

I have more time to give to my loved ones. I use the time the cleaners are in my home to call my mother, or take my daughter to the library, or exercise my dog. I don’t have to spend the precious time I have with my husband cleaning. It is hard to quantify how much maintaining relationships with my loved ones is worth, but the small monthly fee I pay for my cleaning service feels like a steal.

Finally, hiring a cleaning service is my one way of taking extremely good care of myself. I don’t want to start playing a violin or anything, but being a stay-at-home mom with a husband that works long hours can be emotionally and physically taxing.

The $140 a month I now spend to get my house cleaned every two weeks is a luxury I’m loathe to part with.

Some people spend that each month getting their hair and nails done, going out to eat, paying for a gym membership, or buying cigarettes or alcohol.

I don’t.

I put that money towards the exquisite feeling of coming home twice a month to a sparkling clean house. It is like magic fairies visited and left my shower free of mildew and my baseboards free of dog hair.

That’s not to say I do nothing around the house. There is still the laundry, cooking, dishes, and other things that must be done. It is important to know how to clean a house. I would want to teach basic housekeeping skills to my children, so that they can live on their own in relatively clean state.  And if I needed extra money, the cleaning service is probably the first thing I would sadly cut.

 However, for the moment I take the following Miedaner quote to heart.

“The danger of cleaning your own house is that it may give you the illusion that you are accomplishing something when in reality your time would be better spent working on your big goals and dreams.”

So if cleaning your house doesn’t thrill your soul, and you have the means to get a housekeeping service, don’t let guilt stop you. Stimulate your local economy, use your time to do the things that are important to you, and leave the cleaning to the professionals!

Don’t worry. I won’t tell.

Published in The Clarenville Packet.

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