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January 21, 2008

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Many of the families in our neighborhood have a live-in nanny to watch their kids. While the kids are in school, they clean neighbor's houses. I have her come and clean every other week for about $40-$50/week. I really can't imagine a better use for my money than to never have to vacuum or clean toilets or mop. Many of these women have been nanny-ing for years and are super trustworthy and very sweet.

We have a maid. Given that we both work very demanding jobs, it enables us to spend a lot more time with the children than would otherwise be the case.

Also, in Hong Kong it is relatively affordable (even if you pay well above the minimum prescribed wage) and many middle class families will have a domestic helper where both parents are working. In purely economic terms, if having a helper enables both parents to work, it is an easy decision to make.

A good helper can free up a huge amount of time. A bad helper (usually just careless rather than dishonest) can be a nightmare.

I think all my neighbors have maids, some even have nannies (but they call them au pairs around here). My neighborhood is slightly above average, but certainly not rich. I wonder how many of our neighbors can easily afford a nanny?

I only had my maid come over to clean when I was home, and only had her clean designated dirty spots (kitchen, bathroom, mop the floor). Ultimately, though, I decided she didn't clean as well as I do, and I'm not a terribly busy person, so I don't use her anymore even though she only cost RMB 10/hour.

There's always a weird sexist overtone to hiring a maid, like outsourcing women's work is shameful.

Nobody blinks an eye when you hire a yard service or get your oil changed. It's when you hire a maid that you have to "justify" it, like all of these commenters.

All of your conerns are good ones. I would certainly want someone I could trust to be going through my house. A few years ago when I bought my house I had a roommate, but that didn't last very long. After he moved out, I ended up getting 4 jobs to be able to keep my house. The schedule wasn't bad, and after all I was single, but I didn't seem to have the time or energy to clean my house. So I bartered with my aunt who needed extra money. She would come every other weekend to clean my house, while I was at work, and I would leave her a check. It worked out great for both of us until I had a financial pinch again and had to let her go. I read an article once about how to keep your home clean and have adopted it and it works very well. Instead of trying to clean the whole house in one day, pick one room or two rooms a day and spend maybe 30 minutes to an hour cleaning and tidying and once you get things organized and put away, it becomes easier each week. I don't feel so stressed or tired cleaning a room a day as I would cleaning the whole house.

Dog --

If it's any comfort to you, I do my own lawn too. ;-)

I do neither. :)

I just find it strange that people seem to care a lot more about the maid for strangely sexist reasons. Maybe it would be the reverse for single guys. Logistically, I got my maid from a neighbor I am very close to. My neighbor had used her for years.

We have someone who comes by every three weeks to do the heavy duty cleaning. I was reluctant to hire someone at first, but I now realize that outsourcing this work ensures the cleanliness of my house and makes the most of my productive time. The cleaning person is the expert at cleaning; she knows how to get all the dust bunnies out from behind the furniture and she even cleans off the one-inch thick layer of grease that accumulates on the stove hood. I, on the other hand, would spend a lot more time doing the same thing with shabbier results. Meanwhile, not having to do the heavy cleaning around the house frees me up to work on my personal finance blog, develop my business, and have some downtime at home. If you feel that your time is more valuable than the money you would pay to a maid, by all means, do it!

Dog -- I think your comment about calling housework "woman's work" is probably the most sexist thing posted in these comments so far. I've been at a stay at home dad for three years now and do all the housework *and* yardwork. I think most of the people here would feel the need to justify the use of the maid because of the costs involved.

Interesting post. I think there is something psychological about having domestic help that may or may not be a hindrance, depending on your make up.

For me, there is no task as a homeowner that I hate more than mowing my yard (horrible grass allergies). I live in suburbia, and there is some sort of unwritten rule that seems to equate one measure of a man's worth to how well he maintains his yard. All my life, I promised myself that I would know I've "made it" when I outsource yard care. My salary has crept up into the 6 figures, and I'm still out there on Saturdays mowing my own yard (eating antihistamines and being useless for the rest of the day) just because I am either "too cheap" to pay a kid $15 to do it, or I can't stomach the idea of not being "man-enough" to get into the whole yard-envy scene.

My wife thinks I'm crazy (she mows it sometimes...which is equally bruising to the ego) and has actually begged me to hire someone because she knows how much aggravation cutting the grass causes for me.

Maybe when I'm a millionaire I'll outsource my lawn mowing...

We don't have a cleaning service or a lawn service. We've tried a couple of times, but didn't find them too reliable.

A friend just discovered that his maid has been hitting his liquor cabinet pretty hard and will be contacting her agency to let her go. I think that helps explain why she did such a lousy job.

Years ago when my ex and I had very demanding jobs, he insisted on hiring a maid because he didn't want to spend any of his free time on weekends doing cleaning. After I started telecommuting, I let them go because it was too disruptive to have them here while I was trying to work.

My roommates and I hired a maid before we moved out to different places. It was completely necessary because at that point one of my roommates and I were in investment banking and working 15-hour days, while my other roommate was a medical resident and not home for 72-hour stretches.

The med resident had used the maid previously. I don't even know her name. But the MSN Money article brings up a good point - I think even more important than getting good references is making sure that the maid is a legal worker. You could face a ton of paperwork and legal issues if the maid isn't.

Once or twice a year I hire a guy who, with his crew, cleans newly constructed houses. I clean all the clutter and then let them scrub the heck out of all the surfaces and do the windows. It takes them very little time and costs me very little money.

I had a lady come in twice a month for about a half a year several years ago. Only I wouldn't let her come if I wasn't at home. She was alright though I really couldn't afford it at the time. Since I let her go I haven't been able to justify to myself the expense of it. She was also getting just a little too CHATTY for my taste -- just because I was home didn't mean I wanted to make friends.

The thing is I absolutely hate house cleaning, so I have had to learn a routine that keeps my house clean enough even though it's ultimately not as clean as I'd like.

If I was completely debt free this would be one of the first luxuries I tried to bring back, if I found somebody really trustworthy and who did a better job.

P.S. -- I really like the idea from T of getting the twice a year scrubbing. I might have to look into that. I'd love somebody to clean the walls/windows/baseboards (don't look at me, just be happy if I vacuum/mop once a week)...

Lots of young singles have maids now, too. A single 26 yr old female I know has a maid come twice a month. Several late 20's males I know pay for the same service. None of these people make tons of money or are trust fund kids either.

As a mid-20's female I don't have a maid service (and I think it's weird that some of my relatively average friends do). I can't wrap my head around spending any money to have someone else clean my place since I am perfectly capable of doing it myself (in theory) and since I have NO shortage of time in which to do so.

But I will SO be having one when I marry, unless my husband just happens to love doing housework. I refuse to take on that role in addition to my regular job, and paying someone else to do it is doubtless easier and more pleasant than arguing with my (future) spouse over who should do what this week.

A lot of the perception about only "the wealthy" hiring maids comes from the Brady Bunch style maid -- someone who basically lives in your house, cooks your food, keeps everything clean, etc. There's a big difference between that and a person who comes in for 3 hours every other week to vacuum, mop, sweep, and dust.

I've never hired such a person, but I had a friend who cleaned others' houses for quite a while. She didn't have any really poor clients, but plenty of barely-middle-class types were willing to spend a few hours wages each month to save them from a few hours of cleaning.

My wife and I have a live-in nanny, and she is worth every cent. We are both busy professionals(my wife is an OBGYN). Before we hired her we had to take a strong look at our finances to see if we could justify the expense(about 2k/month). We figured that we could still save for retirement, fund our kid's college accounts, and save extra for investing despite the expense. It all comes down to your monthly income/expenses and if you live below your means. That second part is most important.

We have a live in maid too. She is a wonder and helps so much in maintaining law and order and cleanliness.

It's relatively easy to get a maid in our country though a trustworthy and "good" maid is something else.

Our longest term with a maid was for 6 years. My son tells his mother that he still sometimes dreams about her. It is sad that we have lost touch.

I have a friend who has had the same maid for the past 12 years. She is practically family now.

I'm single and live alone but have a made come in twice a week. Its the best thing ever. She leaves my house sparkling clean, scrubs everything down, cleans all the dishes and bathrooms, mops, vacuums, organizes everything, does the laundry and changes the sheets, etc. Basically I can leave the house in disarray and not care because it just resets to perfect every Mon and Thurs. Maids are not expensive at all any more, mine only charges $75 per visit and that includes everything including the typical cleaning supplies (if you want something specific though you may have to get it for her). She even brings the vacuum and mop and all that, I don't need to keep anything with me. I got her through an agency that a lot of my friends use as well so I had their recommendation. I've actually never even met the maid, just the agent. She comes in while I'm at work, the doorman gives her a key and she drops it back off to him when she leaves. I've had her for over a year and nothing has been stolen. I actually give her a lot of things as well. I hate throwing perfectly good things away but you always have good things that you may not need. For example I recently gave her my old computer because I got a new one. I've also given her a TV, an indoor grill, and my old Xbox with a bunch of games for her kid. These things would have otherwise been collecting dust, even though they're perfectly good. I hate throwing things like that away and I have no care or time to do the whole eBay thing.

@JD:

Doing the math, you're spending $600 a month on your maid service. I don't begrudge you for doing this, I just do hope you're able to save a chunk of money every month and don't carry any debt. Not to mention giving to charity or tithing.

That's what this issue comes down to -- how affordable is it really to have a maid? It costs hundreds of dollars a month for something you really CAN do yourself with a little self-discipline. It's a lot different than paying somebody $35 four times a year to change oil.

Twenty years ago, my parents had a "cleaning-lady" come about twice a month. She would do all the cleaning that my mom hated to do - dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing the bathroom. I have no idea what they paid for her, but it couldn't have been terribly expensive - my parents were pretty frugal.

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