Thoughts on professional cleaners

After putting our house on the market, we hired professional cleaners because we couldn’t keep up with keeping the house spotless on top of everything else.  Normally we live in squalor and we’re fine with that (so long as there’s no mold or anything growing).  But when you’re regularly showing a house and the people you have a verbal agreement about the lease with drag their heels for a month, it’s best not to have deep cleaning on the list of things to constantly worry about.

The first person we tried charged $120/session (so ~$60/hr), which we would have been fine with if she’d done a good job cleaning.  But she didn’t.  There were crumbs on the dining room table, dust on the bookcases, toddler hand prints on the windows, cat hair on the carpet and in tumbleweed form and on and on and on.  I came home and couldn’t tell anybody had been there to clean, except she’d apparently spent a large amount of time scraping soap out of a soap holder (but not cleaning any of the rest of the shower).  Even more than I hate spending money on things I don’t value, I hate spending money and not actually getting what I don’t value.  I hate paying someone a lot of money for something I could do myself and then I have to do it anyway.  If I’m paying a lot of money, they should do as good as or better than I do.

So then we tried a local agency (that everyone who doesn’t use the lady we tried first uses), bonded, insured, etc.  $175 for the first clean, $100 for a weekly clean.  They left the place mostly clean and I could tell things had been cleaned when I walked in the door.

$100-120/week is $400-500/mo is $5000-$6000/year.  We could give someone at DC1’s school an 80% scholarship for $6000/year.  It’s such a waste for something we don’t even need and I don’t even get to feel noblesse oblige about paying for it because most of that money is probably going to the owner of the company– the women who actually do the cleaning are not getting $100/clean.

Also I don’t like the smell of cleaning products.  And it lasts for two days after they’ve come.  And a few times they’ve come after 5:30 on Friday, which means I’m home while they’re cleaning which hurts my midwestern sensibilities– I feel like I can’t just kick back and relax (or make dinner because they clean the kitchen last) and I should be cleaning too, which is ridiculous.

So that’s me being grumpy.   DH, of course, likes having the cleaners, probably because he’s the one who usually does the bulk of the cleaning given my dust allergies.

Do you have someone clean the house?  Do you love it?

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On budget constraints, endogeneity, and interconnectedness: A deliberately controversial post

I was reading another mommy blog off a blog roll and came across an article talking about another article.  The original article made the argument, Fly-lady like, that if your life is a mess, then your bathroom floor is a mess, and to make your life less of a mess, you need to clean your bathroom floor because this is all interconnected.  Sort of a broken windows hypothesis for your life.

How do you know your life is a mess, asks the article?  The proof is whether or not the area behind your child’s car seat is sparkly clean.  Ignoring for the moment that that test says that all but the most OCD or wealthy enough to afford servants have lives that are messes, there are several logical and mechanical reasons that making a causal link from cleaning your house to cleaning your life doesn’t make sense.

Let’s start with the mechanical arguments.  As Laura Vanderkam is fond of noting, there are 168 hours in a week.  Every hour you spend cleaning behind the car seat is an hour you don’t spend organizing your paid work, your meals, your finances, your exercise routine, or anything else that people find worth organizing that makes them happier.  I’m guessing that area behind the car seat that is just going to get messy again ranks pretty low on most people’s priority list.  (Unless, of course an apple core got wedged there, then clean away!  But the example in the article didn’t include potential for rot or bad smells.)

Adding to the time-based mechanical arguments is research on willpower.  If cleaning is unpleasant, it takes willpower to do.  We have limited reserves of willpower that are replenished with sleep, rest, and food.  Willpower used on cleaning behind the car seat is willpower not used at work.  Or it is willpower to be replenished with sugar leading to unhealthiness.

Finally, even if there is a correlation between having a clean bathroom and feeling together with the rest of your life, that doesn’t mean that the clean bathroom *causes* you to have (or to feel like you have) the rest of your life together. There could be endogeneity.

Endogeneity comes in two flavors.

The first is reverse causality.  Here, feeling together would be the cause of the clean bathroom, not vice versa.  Maybe you have free time from being organized and good at delegating so you can clean the bathroom.  Maybe you’re so awesome at work and confident in yourself that you can easily hire a housecleaner.

The second source of endogeneity is omitted variables bias.  That means there is something else that causes both your bathroom to be clean and you feeling like you have your life together.  An omitted variable could be something like, being Martha Stewart.  Or having a really low sleep need and high reserves of will-power.  If you only need a few hours of sleep per night you have more time to do everything and to have a clean bathroom.  Or maybe having a partner who is supportive and enjoys cleaning– that could lead to both clean bathroom and the rest of life working.  (Just like having a partner who acts like an additional toddler rather than a caring and sharing adult can lead to messy bathrooms and unhappiness in other areas.)

 

Do you think that if you want to be perfect at one thing, you have to be perfect at everything?

How to clean a shower stall

For my birthday, I asked DH to recaulk the master bath shower stall, specifically where the glass meets the shower bottom. The caulk is icky and no amount of cleaning makes the stain go away.

He decided, instead, to deep clean the entire shower.

Turns out that many aspects of cleaning a shower stall are not that simple.

For the hard water stains on the glass doors, DH recommends vinegar and elbow grease.  He also tried other stuff like something from the store specifically for hard water stains, and he tried barkeeps friend, but that didn’t do its usual magic.

Here’s what he has to say about the plastic shower floor:
After many, many hours of trying random cleaning agents and voodoo, I have verified that The Works (applied vigorously with a stiff plastic brush) will actually clean that junk off the textured shower floor. Sure, it’s a toilet bowl cleaner, and an acid. Who knows why it’s legal to pour such stuff down the drain so it runs to the water treatment plant? But the proof is in the pudding you could eat off my shower floor…because it’s so clean…never mind, bad metaphor.

Nothing, however, works on the caulk.  So he recaulked.

What do you use to clean a shower stall, if anything?