Thursday, March 6, 2008

Having a Housekeeper Is Overrated

As I ran around the house throwing things under beds and into closets, my options for hiding our junk were limited. You see, I was getting ready for the housekeeper.

No, I wasn't embarrassed that the housekeeper would see a mess in my home. I would put items in their places (or at least out of the way) so that she would be able to do her job. I didn't want to pay someone to "neaten" up my house. I needed someone to clean it. So, I made sure that the beds were made and the toys were put away.

When we actually had money, we hired someone to clean our house every other week. For many years, we had a housekeeper who was extremely competent and loved what she did. When she moved, we found that her positive attitude and pride in her work were rare attributes of other domestic workers who we hired. Try as we might, we were never able to replace her quality of service.

We decided to try out a variety of new housekeepers to see which one did the best job. Since we didn't know any of them well, I was forced to stick around for the six hours that it would take them to complete the work. (That's for a flat fee. Somehow it would take longer if we paid them by the hour). This necessitated the kids and me to hide in other rooms as they moved throughout the house. I dreaded the days that my house was being cleaned. I would be exhausted from neatening it up and stressed from doing my best to keep everyone out of the way.

When our longtime housekeeper would be done, it would look like we lived in a well-kept hotel. I would take for granted how sparkly and new it felt. No dust. No crumbs. No hair on the floor. It stayed that way for about 45 minutes until the kids would mess everything up again. Sometimes I would delude myself into thinking that we could wait a whole month before we had her return in order to save money, but, after 15 days, and an inch of dust, it was obvious that two weeks were my limit.

However, once she moved and I couldn't find a satisfactory replacement, the house didn't look so great after the cleanings. I was left with streaked mirrors, dirt on the floors, dull looking appliances, towels that weren't folded into thirds, and no little crease on the end of our toilet paper roll. So I had to wipe, vacuum, and, well, clean, after the housekeeper left. Not to mention that everyone else we hired was way more expensive than our favorite.

Our rentals were a different story. We used services to perform the move-out cleanings after our tenants left. Considering what it looked like to start with, they did a pretty decent job. Yes, it costs three times as much, but it's worth it.

Maybe I would have been more satisfied if I had kept the house messy before our cleaner arrived, just like in the rentals. After making the beds, picking up a few toys, and placing them where we'd never find them again, I'm sure it would have appeared that they did a great job. Then I would have felt that I got my money's worth.

It's up to us to keep our house clean now. There are times when I miss having someone else take the time to do what needs to be done. But then I remember the hassle of having a housekeeper, and I rationalize that it's better this way.

I'm taking a break for a few days and hope to be back on Monday, at the earliest. I'll fill you in on what I've been up to then.