Do you look forward to the day your housekeeper comes? Or do you rush around frantically, cleaning up the clutter so the cleaner can actually clean the dirt?
Most of my friends and coworkers have a lot of help at home. They have housekeepers, pool cleaners, nannies, landscapers, and meal subscription services, and it works for them, which is fantastic. They have busy careers and hate doing some of these tasks, so they buy back their time and it’s worth every penny.
We don’t have kids or a pool, though, and we truly enjoy cooking, so those categories are easy for us. We enjoy spending mornings outside gardening, so while we tried hiring a landscaper, we prefer to care for our yard ourselves.
But who enjoys scrubbing toilets and mopping floors?
It’s Not About The Money
If it were a priority, we’re lucky and grateful we could afford to hire a housekeeper.
If there were no other benefits to cleaning our own home, we might even work extra to pay for the service and never
fight nag animatedly negotiate who cleans what. But for me, the benefits include so much more than just saving money.
Every family has different priorities, so this isn’t the path for everyone, but here’s why I made this choice.
Satisfaction Of A Job Well Done
Most of my days are spent working at a computer. I talk to patients, then I type. I click. I scroll. Then I type some more, make a few hundred phone calls, and type and click some more.
At the end of the day, the computer and phone look exactly the same as at the beginning (my dreams of their demise have not yet come true, but see how Mrs. Groovy’s did). I might be physically exhausted and decision-fatigued, but all that remains of the day’s events is the same nondescript heap plastic and wires. The patients have gone home or upstairs. Not a single physical item remains from the shift and it can seem as though the day never happened.
Happily, cleaning offers immediate and tangible results. After a few hours’ work, my surroundings transform from dull and depressing to shiny and energizing. The air feels fresher, and my spirits are restored. I can stand back and appreciate the obvious progress. When my husband helps, we bask together in the glow of successful teamwork.
Am I more thorough than most hired housekeepers? Probably. My standards for myself are high (too high???) in all areas of life. Even if I’m not, though, I am now keenly aware of the time and effort required for each task and have consciously decided whether scrubbing each seam of grout this month is worth it (usually not).
It’s also easier to keep toxins out of the house by making our own cleaners–water, vinegar, baking soda, Dawn, and elbow grease can work wonders. We’ve chosen to use these green ingredients whenever possible to minimize harm to both our health and the environment.
We also clean what is dirty and nothing more. Some people clean on a schedule, needed or not, but there’s no compelling reason to take out the trash if it isn’t smelly or full. Since we recycle and compost, one kitchen trash bag can sometimes last for months and we rarely have a dumpster full enough to merit taking it to the curb for pickup.
Owning My Messes
Cleaning my own home also forces me to come to terms with my own messes.
There’s no magic cleaning fairy here, so I can’t just let it all build up until someone rescues me from the disaster. It keeps me humble and responsible and helps me stay mindful and learn to take better care of my things.
If I turn on the blender without its lid, I learn the lesson and grab the sponge. You can bet that only happened once.
If I spray toothpaste all over the mirror, I wipe it down and remember to put my electric toothbrush all the way in my mouth before turning it on. If I dirty every bowl in the kitchen while baking, then I get to do all the dishes. When my hair clogs the shower drain, I pull it out.
Just as you’d clean up your own mess in a public place out of respect for others, when you clean up after yourself at home it shows respect for yourself–and you get to enjoy the resulting peace and tidiness.
Finding More Messes
Several times, the process of cleaning has unearthed evidence of major problems that a housekeeper might not have interpreted as the red flags that they were.
Drip stains on the inside of our dining room window heralded yet another leak. Water spots on the floor of the kitchen revealed a leak from the upstairs bathroom. Little black specks on the porch signified an infestation of crickets. The strange aroma in the dryer exposed a bird stuck in the duct. A pool of water under the kitchen sink clued us in to the cracked garbage disposal.
If someone had simply taken these messes at face value and cleaned them up, the underlying issues would have persisted unresolved. Instead, we were able to intervene before too much damage was done.
All The Stuff
In addition to confronting my messes, cleaning our home forces me to confront all my stuff.
Like most Americans, I have more stuff than I truly need. We’ve decluttered and donated multiple carloads of the excess, but we’re far from being minimalists. Opening our closets and cabinets to see all our belongings on a regular basis helps keep us from accumulating more. Often when I’m cleaning, I’ll even find more items to donate. By looking in all areas of our house regularly, we maintain an accurate inventory so we don’t purchase duplicates or triplicates, and when we’re tempted to buy anything we’re keenly aware of the space we have (or don’t have) available.
Cleaning our own home has actually made me wish for a smaller house. No more keeping up with the Joneses–more clutter just means more time spent dusting and maintaining things we rarely use. While we won’t be downsizing our house anytime soon, we have made a conscious effort to invite more guests and entertain more often so we at least put the space to good use.
First World Problems
This blog is all about choices. Hopefully, it helps you make better choices that lead to a better life more in line with your own values. It’s important to remember, though, that having options is a privilege.
Being born in the USA is a privilege. Access to higher education is a privilege. Having the option to hire help around the house is a privilege. I benefit from and appreciate all of these privileges and many, many more.
Cait Flanders, Mrs. Frugalwoods, and She Picks Up Pennies describe the privilege of choice more eloquently than I ever could, so thanks for indulging me as I write about one particular choice that falls squarely into the category of #firstworldprobs.
What choices do you make that your friends and neighbors don’t understand? Share your thoughts in the comments below.