How do I find a personal assistant: Ask the Grumpies

Houstonian asks:

I just got a huge raise at my corporate job and am now making $180K as a single childless person with two cats.  I have way more money than time.  I’ve heard of people hiring personal assistants to do things like wait for the plumber or figure out how to get someone to refinish the front door and so on, but I don’t know how to go about doing that myself.  Have you ever hired a personal assistant?  How did you find them?  How do you figure out what to get them to do?  Any recommendations for working with them once I’ve found somebody?

At first I was going to say that we’ve never hired a personal assistant, but then I remembered that’s not actually true.  We’ve had mother’s helpers do additional personal assisting stuff.  So… I guess the lesson there is have a kid, then find a nanny or mother’s helper, and then hire them for more hours.  Kidding!  That is very much not useful advice!  Kids suck away way more time than personal assistants bring!

My first thought is that you should ask around and see what your higher paid colleagues are doing for personal assisting.  (Hopefully not all answers are, “My wife takes care of everything.”)  If they’re using someone part-time maybe you could hire the same person.  You can ask around to other folks as well– you may find that you have friends of friends who would love to get paid to sit at your house waiting for the plumber so long as they’re allowed to take their child along.

Otherwise, you might have luck with some of the online services out there.  I know some people swear by care.com for nannies, and I’m pretty sure they also do longer-term personal assistants.  People talk a lot about upwork.com and taskrabbit.com for smaller jobs.  Possibly you could try one of those out with a smaller project and see where that goes.  Alternatively you could advertise at a local community college or university.  I bet there’s a lot of Sam Houston State students eager to do odd jobs for $15 or $20/hr depending on where you live.

In terms of how to figure out what to get them to do– we wrote a really long list of tasks we needed to get done that just weren’t getting done.  For us this was things like painting DC1’s dresser or getting rid of a bush in the front yard.  There were a bunch of small deep cleaning things as well and some web-searching.  Once we got someone to take care of things, all of a sudden we had a ton of other stuff we realized she could just take care of and we wouldn’t have to.  It was great!  (Sadly for us, but happily for her, she graduated and her husband came back from Afghanistan and she left us for a full-time job.  But by then our list of delayed chores was empty.)  Some people use personal assistants for regular tasks like grocery shopping or laundry.  There’s a ton of stuff that people can do for you in exchange for money.

In terms of working for people– make things clear up front.  Make sure you know what their limits are and they know what your limits are.  What happens if they don’t show up or if they’re late?  How and when should they communicate questions?  How much autonomy do you expect them to have?  You may need to make this clear generally or on a project-specific basis.  It’s probably not that different than any kind of management you do at your corporate job, except that they have a different set of job responsibilities.  Be willing to fire people if you need to.

Here’s one person’s experience with hiring an assistant.

Here’s another person’s recommendations— I especially like the cat litter rule (yes, you can have a personal assistant clean out the cat litter box).

Here’s an entrepreneur article.

Grumpy Nation– do you have any experience with hiring personal assistants?  Do you have experience with being a personal assistant?  Any advice for Houstonian?

Rewards

Young house love has a podcast talked about how in the Hygge book, the guy who wrote the book rewarded himself with a chair.

For example, this guy who wrote the book had saved money for a new chair that he really wanted. But he waited until he published his first book to buy the chair. And so that way in buying the chair it reminds him of this accomplishment, and it feels like more than just the time I bought the chair. It’s like, “Remember when I wrote that book, and then I bought myself this chair to celebrate?”

I used to reward myself.  I’d read a part of an article for a referee report and then I’d get to watch a 4 min youtube video or read a section of a chapter of a novel.  If I got X done, I’d get to read a book.  And so on.

But… forcing myself to be productive via rewards has been harder to do lately… If there’s a reward I will just take it without actually doing the work.

I want it I got it.

I think I’ve been losing this ability since we got really comfortable with our finances and there’s really nothing reasonable that we can’t have (so long as we don’t want a house in Paradise).  I feel like no longer needing to deny myself monetarily has spilled over to other areas of my life as well.  Like, even if DH and I lost our jobs tomorrow we still wouldn’t be forced to live in a van by the river any time soon.  I’ve also been listening to my hunger a bit less… though my desire to not have to buy any new clothing helps a bit there.

Do rewards work for you?  How do you reward yourself?  If not, did they ever work?  How do you get yourself to get through unpleasant tasks?

 

AIEEE ROACH in my closet

Pooping on my clothing

AIEEEEEEEE

After DC1 was born we stopped letting the exterminator spray inside.

We’re making an exception now.

Roach poop looks like mouse droppings.

DH convinced me not to burn the house down.

We cleaned all my clothing, moved my shoes out to the patio, washed the walls, vacuumed in depth, put out roach traps, called the exterminator and he sprayed the attic, the garage, the patio, my closet, and our bathroom.

He found no other evidence of roaches, and DH only found the one roach (it was big though! and on one of my dresses!) and said that if we see any more he would bring scarier chemicals.

Also I’m allergic to roaches according to my post DC2 allergy test and am getting a lot fewer hives now.  This is the first chance I’ve had to test that allergy.  Thank goodness.  Oh man I hate them so much.  (Though to be fair I’m also allergic to dust and getting everything clean helps with that too.)

My friend says at least it wasn’t bedbugs.

February Challenge Fitness ladder update

Recall this February challenge I did the calisthenics Fitness Ladder.

I got up to Rung 4 and was on the cusp of Rung 5.  The sticking points are push-ups (my arms have gotten weak) and, oddly, running in place.  I keep getting lactic acid build-up.  DH tells me that as my circulation gets better the lactic acid build-up will gradually become less of a problem.  The fact that I have this as a problem makes me concerned about my lack of circulation!

My progress wasn’t as impressive as when I did the 7 min workout (for example, I can barely do 5 pushups, but I ended that challenge with 9).  I don’t know if that’s because I’m 4 years older and in worse shape, or if it’s just not as intense a workout.  However, I did not hate this workout.  I kind of like it (except the lactic acid part), and DC2 and DH are also into it.

Of course, on March 1st when the challenge was over, I was like, I don’t *really* need to do this, so I didn’t.  And March 2nd I completely forgot until after I’d showered and was already in bed.  If it had been February I’d have gotten out of bed and done it, as happened a few times, but since the challenge was over I felt I didn’t need to.  I have no willpower.  March 3rd I decided to do it in the morning.  I kind of felt like doing sit-ups which is the first time I can say that in 4 decades, give or take.

I think the big thing for me if I want to keep up with this is to have some sort of regular time and reminder for me to actually do it.  Mornings would make sense except that I am barely making it to my 8am classes this semester.  There’s just too much packed in the mornings already (and I don’t shower in the morning like DH does, so if I get to the point of sweating stinkily I’ll have to add a second shower to the day).  Right before bedtime is what I’d been doing because that’s when I would remember, but now that there’s no challenge going on, that’s not a great idea because I have no willpower before bed.  Though I suppose it could be fit in before the shower in theory.  I also don’t know if I have willpower to do it right after work– usually at that point in time I’m trying to get dinner ready.

I’m still doing a walk every day at work– generally sometime between 10:30am and 1:30pm.  That happens because I have a motivated colleague who also needs an exercise and gossip/work break in the middle of the day.  It’s also a good vit D pick-up for me since I’ve given up on trying to stagger my pills (I generally forgot the second one and it would take a couple hours to realize why I’d been so tired) and just take both of them after I brush my teeth in the morning.

It may be that I need to set a timer for calisthenics for sometime in the evening.  It helps if DH is doing it at the same time too.  I don’t know if he’ll be going back to doing it in the morning though.  I also think I should add some stretches because the ones in the workout are kind of silly… or at least seem silly to me because they’re not stretching the muscles that my American education has taught me should be stretched.

For any of the self-care things I need to do every day, showering, teeth brushing, etc. it’s important that I have a regular process for each– finishing showering means it’s time for teeth, and so on.  For things I really don’t want to do, it’s extremely helpful to have someone else there to nudge it along.  Though I can’t use another person as a crutch or excuse– I just need to be grateful for being included.

How do you get yourself to do self-care things regularly? 

What do you do when your local library is going to be closed for 7 months?

It’s not a great library, but it’s better than nothing!  The closest other library in the system is 30 min away in the next town, which we only go near when I have to drop off voter registration forms.  (That will drop off a lot once students settle in.)

DC1 will be ok because hir school library is already better than the local library for hir reading needs (they have multiple copies of popular YA books, unlike our local library which has long wait lists and series gaps that take a long time to replace when a kid loses a book).

What would you do?  Where do you and yours get reading material?

How do you get enough fruits and veggies?

Our local CSA went out of business about a year ago.  That was great for getting more veggies in our diet because we’d get a box of mostly veggies that we would have to use up, so we’d plan recipes around what was in the box.

It’s harder to go the other direction.  We were brought up to plan meals around a meat, so when things get busy that’s the easiest thing to do.  We do pretty well on bananas and apples and whatever fruit is in season because those all make great snacks, but our veggie consumption is way down without the weekly box.

#2 has a subscription to Purple Carrot.  That’s really not a fit for our life since it’s optimized for 2 people and at $12/plate we could get pretty fancy take-out around here.

How do you get fruits and veggies into your diet?