Here's How to Outsource Your Way to a Saner Existence

This was never more clear to me than on the day I decided I no longer had the time (or patience) to do my own laundry and began dropping it off and picking it up.
Publish date:
December 19, 2013
elizabeth street

Once we began cohabitating, I came to understand that my partner wasn't a slob--he just didn't see the mess. And his time management skills for getting stuff done around the house needed a major upheaval. I'm no neat freak, but I know how to keep a house, and I do not like clutter. I might leave the dinner dishes until the morning, but I will get down on my hands and knees until that toilet bowl is spotless. I can handle the weekly sheet changing too, but I can't stand putting away flung-about articles of clothing. So it happened. Just a few weeks after we'd made our blissful arrangements in Brooklyn, I started to turn into--gulp--a nag!

Every little disorderly thing bugged the crap out of me. And I wasn't quiet about it. We were busy people, my partner and I, but no matter what, I always ended up doing the lion's share of the cleaning. The day my partner announced that he would never ever clean the bathtub was also the day he offered to pay for a housekeeper. "I just want you to be happy," he said. "Will this make you happy?" he asked.

Happier, in any case.

Maybe if I'd read the brilliant "New York Times" article about outsourcing one's way to success before I hired Esmerelda to come to our apartment twice a month for 4 to 5 hours, I wouldn't have suffered any initial guilt. Although my mother had a woman come to the house once a week to clean when I was a kid, the home I grew up in was several times larger than our two-bedroom apartment. Plus, my mom had three children, a husband with a growing medical practice, and worked part-time. My partner and I have only a dog between us. If we needed help now, what on earth were we going to do if we decided to have kids one day?

In the "Times" piece, Catherine Rampell writes that most people don't understand the value of their own time, particularly if they're salaried. But, she explains, "buying yourself an extra hour to work today can be good for your career tomorrow, if doing so improves your chances of getting a promotion or a raise."

Along with the apprehension of throwing money down the drain by paying someone to do what you technically are able to is the issue of "cultural aversion." Aha! I knew there was a reason I was nervous about telling certain people in my life that my spotless kitchen was due to Esmerelda's fastidiousness.

"Hiring people to work essentially as servants smacks of classism or insufficient self-reliance," writes Rampell who goes on to suggest that the time spent performing this minutiae could be used with family.

In an age where the word "artisanal" has taken on new meaning, I can better understand the cultural aversion people experience when it comes to outsourcing your holiday meal or having your annual Christmas party catered. We're worried about getting judged.

But the truth is, if you lead a busy life--and, let's face it, who doesn't--between dropping the kids off at school, catching the last half of the soccer game, making it to the school play, there isn't much time left over to do the dirty work much less enjoy some necessary leisure time. So that well worn cliche is true: time is money, money is time. This was never more clear to me than on the day I decided I no longer had the time (or patience) to do my own laundry and began dropping it off and picking it up. (Soon, I imagine, my partner and I will look into delivery for this service.)

Above any other time of year, this is the season to abandon all notions that you can be everything to everyone. Take our advice: Figure out what you can handle doing--and what you like doing (making bread from scratch may be therapeutic for you)--and then outsource whatever you can afford to. If you're going to a holiday cookie exchange, you'll probably want to bake some cookies, but for dinner at your boss's place, pick up some fancy cheese and a baguette and nix the idea that you've got to slave over a hot stove. Next year, reconsider your traditional family outing when you choose the tree, and hire someone (TaskRabbit,Gigwalk) to bring it home and stand it up. Oh, and when it comes time to take down the house-framing Christmas lights, would you please just pay someone to do it for you?

Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?

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