Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hiring a cleaning service

Speaking of exporting out help for improving our home, we have in the last several months hired a cleaning service for the first time, and let me tell you have much it has revolutionized our lives. One day over the summer I could tell that Matt had reached his limit with the gross-out factor of our bathrooms when he, while holding a flyer that had just been placed in our front door, said, "I'm calling this service for an estimate." We get about 2-3 cleaning service flyers a week shoved into our storm door. In the past I've always immediately taken them to the recycling bin, thinking, "Who hires a cleaning service?"

The answer: many, many people hire cleaning services. Having grown up, though, with the mentality that only the very wealthy or those who are incapable of basic household tasks hire cleaning services, I always vowed I would never be one of those people...

Deciding to hire a cleaning service
...But then our bathrooms would sit uncleaned not for weeks, but for months, and the mold would build and the task of finally breaking down and cleaning them became too daunting. Like anything that's allowed to fester, the problem just compounds itself.

Although I have been and continue to be an organized person, I have to be realistic about my limitations. I entered parenthood with an idealistic cleaning schedule that actually worked for a while, but then I started working more and my baby became a toddler (and toddlers are more time-consuming than babies, or at least that's been my experience). I have an ideal partner who truly splits household tasks and errands with me 50/50, yet between our jobs, our child care, and our desire to spend time with each other and maintain social lives, there are not enough hours in a day to get our house up to our level of cleanliness without spending all our otherwise unaccounted for hours cleaning.

What helped me mentality break away from the "no cleaning services for me!" philosophy of my childhood was putting the financial costs into perspective. Yes, a cleaning service is a luxury, and I know it is one that not everyone can afford. Putting it in terms of your personal hourly rate, though, might help you make the move if you're on the fence. How much is an hour of your time worth? How many hours does it take you to clean your home, even when you split the tasks with someone else? What can you do with the time you could gain by exporting out at least some of the cleaning duties in your house?

Negotiating a rate and a plan
After a quick consultation at our house, we were able to hire a cleaning service to come to our house once every two weeks. Four ladies show up and spend between one and one-and-a-half hours at our home (which translates to 4-6 woman hours that I am not cleaning!). Because we still devote a chunk of each day to basic household maintenance, and our two giant dogs' shedding habits necessitate that Matt vacuums our house 2-3 times per week, we figured we did not need every single service offered. We asked if the cleaning service would clean our four (! ridiculous, I know) bathrooms, dust the entire house, and clean all our wood floors for $75 every two weeks. The service's owner accepted our offer. Fortunately, though, the women who come every other week do so much more than what we signed on for -- they clean all baseboards and doors, vacuum the sofas and stairs thoroughly (no easy task thanks to our dogs), and clean the interior of all windows. They do not touch the kitchen, because I do enough daily kitchen maintenance and a bi-weekly deep cleaning so it's not necessary.

Having these women come to clean our house every two weeks is amazing on so many levels, but one reason I especially like it is that it keeps me to a reasonable bi-weekly cleaning schedule of my own.

Bi-weekly kitchen cleaning
Because our cleaning ladies usually come every other Thursday, I've added a bi-weekly appointment in my Google calendar on Wednesday nights to clean the kitchen. I make this my sole duty because Matt contributes his fair share of domestic goodness with frequent house vacuuming, grocery shopping, and cooking. Of course, I wash dishes and wipe surfaces every day, but every other week I now perform a deep cleaning of the kitchen that makes me feel like a domestic rock star.

Here's my kitchen cleaning order of operations:

1) Wipe down all granite countertops. I say granite to share with you the fact that in the last year I've discovered the wonder of Method Daily Granite & Marble cleaner and I love it. I've linked to because that's the place where I find the best price (though I always stock my cart with plenty of bottles so I can earn free shipping).

2) Clean stovetop, inside toaster oven, and coffee pot.

3) Refill any canisters sitting on our countertops (cereal, sugar, coffee, flour, salt, rice) and wipe down stainless steel canisters with Method Stainless Steel Cleaner.

4) Clean out and reorganize fridge. Wipe down shelves before restocking with food. Update the Our Groceries app with any items we've run out of (or will run out of soon).

5) Reorganize pantry as needed, restock any staples (oil, vinegar, salt, pepper), and further update Our Groceries list with needed pantry items.

6) Go over our white cabinets to clean up spills and marks with a Clorox wipes and/or Scotch Brite erasers as needed.

7) Wipe down dishwasher, fridge, and faucet/sink with Method Stainless Steel Cleaner.

8) Wipe down the highchair and highchair placemat.

I was not doing nearly this kind of deep kitchen cleaning before, so I am thrilled to be able to keep our kitchen this clean. By cleaning the kitchen thoroughly the night before the cleaning ladies arrive, I get all the crumbs and dirt off the surfaces and onto the floor, where they'll be vacuumed and polished away the next morning.

Other business that's getting taken care of...
So, yeah, not only am I performing a deep cleaning of the kitchen every other week, but having a cleaning service has also freed up time for some items that were not getting done as quickly as I'd hoped they would. These include:
  • Filing -- instead of allowing a pile, or several piles, to build up before I broke out the shredder/file cabinet, I file items away at least every other day.
  • Laundry -- I've been doing a good job getting Natalie's laundry done one week and mine done the next, as I originally set out to do when she was about six months old, but doing laundry is the easy part -- folding is another story. Laundry would go unfolded often for several days. Now I make sure that I fold the laundry the day it's done.
  • Cleaning outlet covers and switch plates -- These seem to get dirty so quickly, and they are not something the cleaning ladies cover, so I try go over them every other week.
  • Changing the sheets -- We are not the kind of people who change our sheets every week. Instead, the bi-weekly cleaning schedule gives me a reminder that I should change the sheets at least within a couple days of the cleaning ladies' visit.
  • Organizing kids' clothes -- As cliche as it is, kids really do grow incredibly fast. I feel like I am constantly sorting through drawers and bins for Natalie (and now preparing for her little brother). I like to make sure that anything in Natalie's dresser and closet actually fits her so that Matt and grandparents/babysitters won't dress Nat in something embarrassingly outgrown.

Of course, our world is about to get rocked come January, so who knows if our present household maintenance routines will still work for us then, but for now we love the day once every two weeks when for one perfect moment our home is impeccably clean. This would be impossible if we did not have a cleaning service.

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