I remember the day we hired a housekeeper like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday and I should have been spending time with my kids. Instead, I was busy quietly mumbling and crying while I cleaned toilets, dusted blinds, and completed chores I’ve loathed for years.
I worked full-time then just as I do now, but I didn’t think we could afford to pay for bi-weekly or monthly housekeeping. I was also stubbornly resistant to the idea of paying someone to do work I could do myself. By cleaning my own house, I was saving at least $80 or $100 every two weeks.
But, on this particular day, I totally snapped. I was angry that I was cleaning while my family sat cozily on the sofa downstairs. I was angry at my husband for not helping, even though I knew deep down he was a hard-working man who deserved a day off, too. I was angry that, in addition to that weekend morning, I had already cleaned up a few times that week.
Most of all, I was just angry at my life. I worked too hard to spend my Saturdays scrubbing floors and cleaning counters, or at least I thought I did. And I was tired of doing the bulk of household chores just because no one else would.
Revelation #1: Maybe I Was the Problem
At one point on that particular day, I remember seething at my husband for playing UNO with the kids while I slaved away on our home upstairs. If I was cleaning, then he should be right here with me folding sheets and scraping the toothpaste out of the bathroom sink.
I cried as I put toys away and threw laundry in the washer, mostly because I felt like I was the only one who cared. When did this house become my sole responsibility to take care of? Also, how could my husband relax so peacefully when there was always so much to do?
I mean, it wasn’t like the housework was hiding; a few piles of laundry sat plainly on our bedroom floor, splashes of water and who-knows-what sat dried on our bathroom mirrors, and the dust on our wooden floors was too thick to ignore.
I glared at him as I walked through the living room with yet another pile of colors to wash and eventually fold and put away. Our eyes locked and he gave me a look of utter sadness. He felt sorry for me, but not for the reason you might think.
But his thoughts on the whole thing would become apparent very soon.
A little later, he cornered me in our bedroom closet and told me he was going to hire someone to clean our house. “Just every two weeks,” he said. “I’m not going to spend our weekend cleaning, and neither should you.”
He went on to say that maybe my standards were too high, and that I should give myself a break. Maybe the house wasn’t the problem, he said. Maybe I was the problem. And, you know what? Maybe I needed to start caring less about the house instead of insisting he care more.
His words stung, mostly because I knew they were true. I needed to let a few things go if I wanted to work full-time and maintain my sanity. After all, it’s impossible to do a good job at everything – to be a rock star at work, to be a great mom, and to keep the perfect home. If I had to sacrifice something, the dream of a perfectly clean home should easily be the first thing to go.
And, that’s when it hit me. It’s not that my husband didn’t care about dried toothpaste in the sinks or the fact our sheets weren’t washed that week; it was that he wanted to spend his limited free time doing other things. Our kids were in school full-time, and at the time he frequently had to work nights and weekends for his job. When he had a Saturday or Sunday off, he didn’t want to spend those precious hours sweeping floors or vacuuming blinds – he wanted some time off.
Revelation #2: Maybe I needed to listen.
Okay, so maybe I was a little hard on my husband up to that point. Cleaning had never been his strong suit anyway, and I have been a raging clean freak for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t fair to strongarm him into caring about housework that would never be a priority in his eyes.
He’s not messy or dirty – not at all. It’s just that he can accept the fact that the kids leave their toys strewn all over the living room at times – or that the TV has fingerprints on it, or that the kitchen sink is dirty. He’s more relaxed about nearly everything in life, and in a lot of ways, I wish I could be more like him.
Not only that, but I was wrong to be mad at my husband for not helping enough. It’s not like he’s some lackey who never did his part. He isn’t huge on cleaning, but he does the dishes and helps with laundry, and he does more than half the childcare most of the time. He also does all the outdoor work. In 12 years of marriage, I’ve never taken out the trash and I only mow the grass when I feel like doing some forced cardio. He rakes the leaves and shovels and driveway, and he picks up dog waste in the back yard.
He’s also the kind of dad that will get up with his kids and play UNO on a Saturday morning instead of doing something for himself.
With all this in mind, I relented and let him look for someone to clean our home. That night, he put up a message on our neighborhood Facebook page asking if someone had a recommendation for a bi-weekly cleaning service. Even if it cost us $100 every two weeks, it would save me from spending entire weekends cleaning – and him from my wrath.
“Isn’t $200 a small price to pay for household harmony?” he asked.
I went along, but I wasn’t happy about any of it. I didn’t think anyone could clean to my specifications, and I didn’t want to shred $200 or more so wastefully every month. But I agreed because I wanted to stop being so angry all the time. I wanted to spend my weekends like my husband, curled up on the couch or playing board games with the kids without a care in the world.
Revelation #3: Letting go actually feels good.
A few weeks later, the cleaning crew my husband hired showed up at my house to do their work. I worked on my computer in my bedroom while the three-person crew deep-cleaned every room of my house down to the last detail. They cleaned blinds and drapes, made beds, and dusted baseboards better than I ever did. By the time they left, I was actually in awe of the qualify of their work.
When I walked downstairs, I was in shock. There was something strange and exciting about seeing my home so sparkly and clean without having to lift a finger to get there. By the time my husband told me the cleaning service actually cost $120 every two weeks (instead of $100), I was so obsessed with the idea of housekeeping service that I probably wouldn’t have cared if it cost even more.
“This is worth it,” I told myself as I looked around at all the things I wouldn’t have to do that week – the countertops I didn’t have to polish, the floors I wouldn’t need to sweep or mop, and the bathrooms that I might never have to clean again in my life.
As I looked around, I also thought about what the $120 spent actually purchased us. Peace of mind. The household harmony my husband hoped for. But more importantly, it bought us Saturday mornings with our kids – moments in time we will never get back once they’re gone.
When you look at it that way, $120 every two weeks is a small price to pay.
These days, I don’t always have the cleaning crew come every two weeks – sometimes it’s every three weeks or every four weeks. Either way, this one splurge has changed our lives. Not only does having a housekeeper save me from many dreaded household chores, but it saves both of us from feeling resentful toward one another.
I no longer spend weekends crying and smoldering at my husband. I no longer wake up wishing I could hang with my kids but feeling like I can’t because there are too many chores to do.
I have peace in my home, and I have days where I wake up with absolutely nothing I have to do. And I have more time with my kids – kids who keep getting bigger with every Saturday that passes us by. If that’s not worth $120 every few weeks, I don’t know what is.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .
- Five Things I Was Willing to Give Up to Save Money
- Finding the Line Between Frugality and Deprivation
- 10 Things I Refuse to Do to Save Money
Would you ever pay for household help? Why or why not?