Best Home Investment I Ever ‘Maid’

How home cleaning help can save marriages

They say money can’t buy you happiness. I beg to differ.

If you use that money to pay for a cleaning service, it comes close.


I used to fantasize about having a maid, and spent way too much of my life cleaning up. But my Midwestern blue-collar roots kept me from caving into such a luxury. I wrote about this and received some life-changing responses: If you want help cleaning your house, why don’t you just hire someone?

That got me thinking. Saving for retirement is certainly important, as is saving for my children’s college funds. But so is being happy right now. My whole family will be better off if I’m less stressed. My children’s memories deserve to be of a mother engaged with them, not one constantly vacuuming and scrubbing.

As a result, I brought in a cleaning service to come once a month. The day they came felt like Christmas morning. I was ecstatic. One of my children had been in the hospital with pneumonia that week and I was a wreck. While the cleaners worked, I took my baby for a run and we got coffee. When I came home, my place was immaculate. Rather than my cleaning for several hours over several days, they did it in two while I spent time with my children and did something for myself.

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It was good for the soul in so many ways. And most importantly, it was worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY.

When I told some friends I took the plunge, they expressed surprised I waited so long. My friend, Darcey, a mother of three who works part time, told me she and her husband hired a cleaning person soon after they got married. They were both working long hours and her husband insisted he not spend his free time cleaning.

“I felt like I would have gotten resentful doing all the cleaning myself,” said Darcey. “I don’t enjoy it. So we hired someone. It’s cheaper than a marriage counselor.”

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Melanie (not her real name) told me that she and her husband are not “clean people” and would live in filth without outside help. It took some convincing to get her husband on board. His mother did the majority of the cleaning when he was growing up, and she thinks that he believes “someone just magically cleans when he is out of the house.”

For Lindsay, it took the combination of a newborn and her husband being deployed to give in. She is a self-confessed neat freak and didn’t think someone could clean up to her standards. But she said having someone help with cleaning at that point in her life helped her during a very difficult time.

There you have it. Cleaners can save marriages. And sanity.

The History of Help
Turns out, middle-class families not having help around the house is a relatively new phenomenon. Up until the 1950s, many families had a maid or nanny, or both, living in the home even when the mother wasn’t working. Domestic workers were often abused, however, and starting fighting for fair wages and better treatment. Live-in help for the middle class soon faded as wages went up and the technology improved household appliances such as washing machines, vacuums and dishwashers.

Related: The Home Cleaning Wars

But we’re now entering a new era. Families are busier than ever. Both parents are working. Schedules are jam-packed. Maids are no longer abused servants. They are savvy entrepreneurs. Lindsay says she’s developed a relationship with her cleaning person.

“She’s a small business owner, and I feel good being her customer,” Lindsay said.

Darcey feels similarly.

“We’ve developed a friendly relationship. I know the money we’re paying her is helping her daughter to go to college,” Darcey said.

Finding a Cleaning Service
Keep in mind that finding someone good and reliable is not easy. During a difficult pregnancy (I wasn’t allowed to vacuum or do any heavy lifting) a few years ago, I went on a Living Social and Groupon buying binge for every cleaning service deal they offered. Prices and quality of service vary widely. One mother-daughter team damaged some furniture with their harsh cleansers. Another team finished and there were still crumbs on the table and dirt on the floor.

Do Your Research
Read the online reviews. Look at Yelp. Just picking a service because their available or affordable doesn’t work. You are trusting these people with your home, your valuables, and your security.

Plan Ahead
Many of the better cleaning services are booked well in advance. It might seem like a good idea to have someone come in for a holiday deep cleaning or for a try out after a party, but it’s not that simple. If it’s something your interested in, you have to book a good service weeks, if not months, in advance.

Ask Around
The best thing you can do is ask your friends or neighbors if they have someone they like. Ask what they like about them. We all have different standards and expectations. I asked several friends who were as Type-A as I am when it comes to cleanliness. If you’re lucky, that cleaning person or service will have some openings.

The cleaning person I now use has a twice-a-month policy, but we worked out a deal. She splits her time between our house and a friend’s. It’s the best investment I’ve made all year.

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