Help, a Direct Mailing For a Cleaning Service Actually Worked On Me And I’m Worried It Will Ruin My Relationship


Dear Life Partner,

I am using the Billfold to tell you that I paid $29 to have someone come clean our apartment in a few weeks, the day before my mom is coming to visit.

I know if I discussed this with you first you would NEVER stand for it, and use it as a way to guilt me into cleaning the house more. I know I am bad at cleaning. I know you are good at cleaning. To make up for my inferior standards of cleanliness, I am investing 29 of my own dollars into two hours of professional service.

DO NOT PROTEST. Or do, but do it as you read this, when I am not around. I am telling you this via the website I work for because I do not want to hear you protest.

As for the rate, it is $29 because I got a flier in the mail from some startup called Handybook which yes, I am worried is VC-funded and underpays their employees. I am not going to Google it for fear I find a Kevin Roose article about it or something. Twenty-nine dollars is an introductory rate. They basically automatically sign you up for recurrent cleanings and it’s up to you to cancel before they come back, and charge you at a higher, more humane rate. I promise I will try to cancel before then.

I know we both feel weird about someone coming in to clean our house. I KNOW. I did not really think this through—$29 seemed like such a great deal! It still does. They say that tax and tip is included but I would like to see a breakdown. They did not provide one. What if they tip badly? Should we leave an extra tip? You will want to.

They’re coming in the afternoon, when I am on baby duty and you are working. Maybe I could have not told you at all. Maybe you would have come back and I could be like, “Oh yeah the baby took a really great nap and I cleaned the whole house for the first time in our four-year relationship!”

I booked the cleaning a few days ago but it was on the same day that I made plans with an old friend, for both of us to have lunch with her and her husband, and I could only break one of these things to you at once. So here it is.

On September 10th someone will be cleaning our house for $29. I am sorry. I love you.



Photo via Flickr


33 Comments / Post A Comment

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

Reading this post made my day, and it’s only 10 a.m.

NoReally (#45)

Of all the intractable issues of adult relationships, housecleaning is the easiest. You cannot hire someone to have sex more often for you, or go to dinner with in-laws, or listen to the same story over and over, but if someone wants to spend their money instead of their time to get a clean house, and the other party objects, no.

@NoReally That’s an excellent way of looking at.

sariberry (#4,420)

@NoReally I second that.

garli (#4,150)

@NoReally Oh my god, what if you could hire someone to have dinner with the in-laws? Figure out a way to make this work and you’ll be the richest person here.

Wendy T (#7,420)

Please tip them well. If there’s a deal that good, it means somebody’s getting ripped off, and it’s usually the cleaner.

I have a housecleaner and we pay them a lot more than that to come every 3 weeks. It is worth it. We don’t have to fight about chores. We don’t have to spend our weekends cleaning everything. The house stays clean enough that I don’t get stressed out and don’t have to play catch up right before someone visits. The hard part is letting it go when things are not cleaned to my standards or the way I would do it, which is probably too high and too detailed. That and tidying up the night before they come so they can get the real work done. Tonight happens to be that night.

readyornot (#816)

I am really just here to commend the reversal of gender roles in your relationship in terms of who is the better cleaner and doing the hand-wringing about doing more of it yourself. Hooray for non-cleaning hetero women! Sit on your ass in protest of millenia of patriarchy.

And though I can’t save your relationship or convince Life Partner to give up his hand-wringing, I can offer my experience. I desperately wanted our house to be cleaner for the first six (seven? sheesh) years of our relationship, did most of the cleaning myself, and resented many moments of Life Partner’s luxurious weekend recreational time, all the while experiencing class-based angst about why I should be able to hire someone to do the dirty work. Finally, a year ago, we hired our landlord’s housecleaner. She asks $12 an hour, which we gladly pay, along with employer taxes, she comes weekly for four hours, and IT IS AMAZING. The house is dust-free, the dishes get done, the sheets and towels get changed. And we’re a job creator! I don’t actually miss the feeling of satisfaction of having cleaned my kitchen myself, because, don’t worry, there are always other chores to do.

I did sort of hate, for a while, that although there are lots of compromises we both make for each other, for the good of our relationship, I ask, “could you please scrub the toilet?” and Life Partner’s answer was “hire it out!” That seemed facile, stubborn, and also icky. EVEN IF IT IS ALL OF THOSE THINGS, it was also the best solution for us.

Meaghano (#529)

@readyornot I love that I am being commended for not-cleaning. WOO.

shannowhamo (#845)

@Meaghano I will admit that I kind of feel like I’m doing my part for feminism by not being a woman who cares about how clean the house is. There is definitely some gender stuff about how women were historically judged for the cleanliness of the house and I think some women still feel that pressure even if they have a full time job just like their partner. I refuse to feel the pressure; if the cat hair wafting everywhere bugs my husband, then he can clean it up! Who ever is bothered can handle it and whatever doesn’t bother us just stays there until we have company!

andnowlights (#2,902)

This is the best thing I’ve read all day, even compared to the synopsis of a very violent version of The Notebook my former coworker sent me.

My sweet husband does literally all the cleaning, all the laundry, all the dishes, etc. Sometimes I ask him if he wants help, but he says no so… that means I’m off the hook in every way except crushing guilt. I’ve thought about getting a cleaning person once we’re done with the loan, but the husband is against those, too. There’s no winning!

garli (#4,150)

@andnowlights Dude, me too! Well, I do the laundry but my husband does all the cleaning, dishes and grocery shopping. Forget gender expectations, he’s just better than I am.

Meaghano (#529)

@garli Same here. And now he’s better with the kid, too. I’m…good in bed? Lol

twofish (#5,481)

@andnowlights @garli @Meaghano I like it when it’s about skill and not gender. I’m in charge of cooking (including meal planning and grocery shopping) and I do a lot of the “other” stuff like planning our social life, making appointments, depositing checks, paying bills, etc. He does everything else: all dishes, all laundry, all vacuuming, etc. It works out extremely well because he is MUCH better at those chores than me and I am a MUCH better cook and errand-doer.

Nibbler (#5,331)

Get over your guilt by blaming it on the patriarchy. You should not feel bad for choosing to use (a very reasonable amount of!) your hard-earned money to pay someone else to do a very legitimate job, just because it has historically been done by women for free. Then once you have gotten rid of the guilt, let the cleaner come back as often as you can afford it. It is the best.

Signed, a formerly guilty person who now has a much cleaner apartment

Allison (#4,509)

I eye groupons for this constantly. But what I really need to do is convince a friend in Boston to come on vacation to Chicago and organize my closets etc.

la_di_da (#1,425)

@Allison My sister shares your name and i just DEMOLISHED her closet in Chicago. Like, complete overhaul. Made me feel like an organizational superstar for like 20 minutes. Plus she bought me sushi. If your friend from Boston can’t come, don’t be afraid to bribe other organized friends with ethnic food.

honey cowl (#1,510)

Meaghan, you are The Best Blogger.

clo (#4,196)

quite possibly my favorite billfold post ever. also ‘i could only break one of these things to you at a time’. OMG YES. constant negotiation in a relationship.

clo (#4,196)

Also, I googled it and the cleaners make at least $15/hr. Phew!

kellyography (#250)

This is a totally great post, and I completely get why a person would do this, despite me personally feeling totally icky about hiring someone to come clean for me. My boyfriend wants to hire out all cleaning and laundry in our future (fantasy) home, but I am willing to live with a little grime because I don’t think I can just sit around while someone cleans all my personal things for me. Is that crazy? I don’t know how to handle a situation like this. Even when my house flooded really terribly after Irene and Sandy and my landlord hired just some lady to come disinfect the house, I was skeeved out about being a young, white woman hanging out while an older Hispanic lady mopped my bathroom and did not know what to do.

sheistolerable (#2,382)

Yeah, I really don’t think it’s OK for one partner to be like “you should be doing it” if a) you can afford to hire a cleaner and b) you’re doing child care during the hours you’d supposedly be cleaning.

erinep (#4,236)

I just want a dishwasher. That would resolve 90% of our chore tension.

readyornot (#816)

@erinep We are buying a portable, rollaway dishwasher this weekend! And I just ordered the faucet with no pull-out sprayer that is compatible for hooking it up! I really couldn’t be any more excited.

RosemaryF (#345)

I pay way more than $30 to get my house cleaned every two weeks and it is worth every damn penny. I am generally leaving the house right when my cleaner arrives, we say hello and goodbye, and I come home to a perfectly clean and sweet smelling home. I made sure that my service paid a living wage and taxes and all that business, so my over-privileged guilt is at the minimum.

jjjsmith (#6,938)

Having cleaned houses for money before, I have no qualms about paying people to do it for a fair wage. I don’t think you need to clean your house before the cleaners come, but I do think extra pay is required if your house is filthy or has unusual tasks involved. I’ve hired someone for an aging parent’s house. The first time was above and beyond the call of duty and I found that the service did not warn the person doing the job or charge more, so I tipped super duper well to compensate and then after that first bad time it was a reasonable job for a fair price.

Theestablishment (#7,469)

Having a cleaning service will change your life. Once you see the result, you’ll realize how much stress you’ve been pouring into keeping your house clean (or thinking about having to clean it), and how much easier it is to have someone else do it for you.

If you can at all afford it, I highly recommend making room for it in the budget. It’s seriously like living in a hotel (I mean that in the best possible way). Even if you only have them come every couple of weeks, it’s still incredibly helpful only having to deal with ‘maintenance’ cleaning between visits.

Factor a healthy tip into the cost for the go/no-go decision. It’s hard work, the cleaner deserves to be well-paid.

Theestablishment (#7,469)

Also, committing to a lunch with LP in tow is pretty much the issue that will cause a fight. Housecleaning is a non-issue.

oiseau (#1,830)

OMG not to guilt trip you, but YES IT IS VC-funded, and YES, they DO underpay their employees. Also their interview process involves spending one day at their offices doing a “try-out”, for which you are not compensated, as well as being subjected to the worst racist/sexist jokes and made to feel obligated to laugh.


Someone who did the try-out day and turned down the offer

oiseau (#1,830)

Also, the founder said he came up with the idea when he was in college and couldn’t find a reliable cleaning service. He then expected me to be like “whoa, I know what you mean!”. Ugh, I’m still grossed out by that interview process. Yuck.

Meaghano (#529)

@oiseau OH GODDDD. Now I want to cancel it. If we can’t we will just tip huge. I feared it was one of those things, where it’s like Oh don’t worry we staff WHITE PEOPLE that you can TRUST. :(((((

oiseau (#1,830)

@Meaghano Yeah, go for it and tip huge! I definitely don’t judge the desire to have some extra help, or the ability to pay someone to help you – I just can’t even with that particular company.

One thing I noticed and hated during my try-out day was how they treated their employees. They had a “three strikes you’re out” policy when it came to the service people being late/no-shows, regardless of excuse, and made it a huge deal whenever they made an exception (due to traffic jam verified by client expecting the service, who called to say she was stuck in same jam). They also made fun of a lot of their employees and customers as soon as they hung up the phone, notably, by mocking someone with a Chinese accent and guffawing about it heartily.

The founder and his partner are both from India, from well-to-do families. I think having maids/servants is really commonplace in upper-class Indian households, and I noticed that neither of them realized how badly they came across when explaining their business plan. Definitely born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

Also the marketing guys that worked there really enjoyed picking on this one customer support guy in a really frat-bro douchey way that could easily qualify as sexual harassment (touching his hair, “pretend”-flirting with him, riling him up). He was trying to take it on the chin but I could tell it was getting to him.

The people that worked there were testing my limits to see if I found 4-chan-worthy jokes funny or if I got offended. I sort of played along but was getting pissed off… ugh. When I got home I recounted the whole thing to my boyfriend and we laughed and laughed. But I really needed a job and it was a huge waste of time, too. Idk, hopefully they’ve gotten better, but it was super gross when I was there last summer.

sony_b (#225)

I’d go ahead and do this as a one-off and tip the cleaner very well.

We have a housecleaner – my relationship would not have survived if we couldn’t afford to do it. Over the years I tried a mix of services and independent people and always felt better about the independent people, because I know they’re getting every penny I pay them, and I pay them well. We live in a ridiculously tall and skinny four story townhouse and pay $140 every week – a bedroom and two offices, three baths, deep clean the kitchen, vacuum/mop all the floors and ALL THE STAIRS. She is the best. It’s expensive, but it’s Bay Area so everything is expensive and she’s doing work my husband won’t do for any price (not out of revulsion or thinking he’s too good for it, he doesn’t notice the mess and is too lazy to deal with it).

My advice, if you like having someone come, start asking around for referrals to independent people. We found the person who works for us that way – she’s been working for several of our friends for more than a decade now.

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