Is a House Cleaning Service Worth It?

This past weekend we did something we’ve never had done before – we had a house cleaning service come! What made us decide to let some strangers come into our home to scrub our toilets and such?  I’ll tell you…

We’ve always taken care of the home ourselves.  For most of the time, that meant cleaning an apartment.  Back in July we bought our first home.  For the Summer we were good at keeping up with the chores, since my wife and I were both home to do the work or watch the kids while the other did the chores.

But since the Fall, when my wife went back to work (she works in education so she works during the school year), we’ve found it harder to keep up with keeping the place clean.

Not that it was a pig-sty, mind you.  I’m not talking an episode of Hoarders here.  But little things like dusting all over and cleaning behind and under everything were getting tough to complete.  We were starting to notice some dust bunny’s in the corners even.

We needed to do something.

Cleaning the houseWe could have worked harder to clean up the house.  But cleaning takes two things: Time and Energy.  Those are a rare commodity in our household.  With three kids we’re running around making sure they are taken care of.  And really, the last thing my wife wants to worry about is cleaning when she comes home from work.  Me, I’m watching the kids all day.  Out little one, 21 months, is a handful and I can’t leave her alone to go scrub the shower stall.  I try to get what little things I can but it’s tough.  And most days we’re out doing some errand or I’m taking the kids to a class or the park.

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I’m also going to school at night and I publish two blogs (this and Free From Broke).  Time is valuable.  I could spend more time cleaning or work on this growing business I have.

We have the weekends, but to take time out of the weekend is precious time to unwind and spend with the family.

Again, it’s not that we don’t clean up at all.  It’s just that we don’t have the time and energy to really give the house the scrubbing it needs.

So we had a cleaning company come.

The first cleaning the company does is a giant cleaning where they really scour every inch of the house.  They started with a team of two and by the end of the job they had about 6 people cleaning (the others came off other jobs).

They did everything! From under the beds to cleaning under the books on the shelf to the oven to the bathroom ceiling, they did it all.

And they did an awesome job!

Mind you, it took them about 4 and a half hours to complete.  Think about that.  If it took a team of people that long to do the job, and this is their work mind you, how long would it have taken for us to do?!?  You can see why we wanted this.

My wife and I were very happy with the service the company provided.  The house looks great.

It’s funny how all the little things add up.  What I mean is, it actually feels like a weight has been taken off of our shoulders with the house cleaned from top to bottom.  A little bit of stress has been relieved in that cleaning everything is one less thing we need to worry about and plan for.

Is a cleaning service for everyone?

It really depends on you situation.  If you have the time to keep up on everything then you can save yourself money by taking care of it yourself.  You also have to consider the size of your home.  Like I said earlier, our house is larger than our past apartments so it’s been more difficult to keep up.

You also have to have the money to have it done.  I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t kill us to have to pay for the service.  You don’t need to be rich to have a cleaning service come either.  But if you are carrying credit card debt then your money, right now, can probably be put to better use.

Another note on money. As the cleaning team was here, I stayed home to keep an eye on things.  My wife took the kids out and visited a friend, both to keep the kids occupied and keep them away from the cleaning supplies, smells, and dust.  While the crew was working I was able to get a LOT done online.  My point here is time is money.  Yes, the cleaning crew cost us but at the same time I was able to work on building my business.  Used wisely, the time you get back by having a cleaning service come can be well worth what you pay.

We are very happy with the work.

If you couldn’t tell from the tone so far, we are very happy with the work that was done.  We plan to have the service come back once a month to do a cleaning.  Of course we still have to clean around the house, but we only have to maintain the cleaning that was done already.  The monthly cleaning, the service will do, won’t cost us as much as the big Spring cleaning they did.  This is still an experiment for us so we’ll see how it goes.

For us, the money spent was well worth it.

Have you used a cleaning service?  What are your thoughts?

Photo by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

About Glen

Glen is married and the father to four children that he spends the day chasing as a stay-at-home-dad. He took an interest in personal finance when he realized most of his paycheck was going toward credit card bills. Since then he's eliminated his credit card debt and started on a journey towards financial freedom.

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  1. Scott Messner says:

    Nice post Glen. You are correct on several points. Do not consider a cleaning service if you are working off debt. It’s a different story if you are debt free. One then has to know what their time is worth. Go for it if you can make more per hour than what you are paying the cleaning service.

    • That’s what I’m saying. I could spend hours on the weekend doing this work to clean or spend those hours building my online business. OR spend time with the family, which I value highly as well.

  2. I think cleaning services are a waste of money. There are a lot of sites on the internet that have cleaning lists that will show you what you should clean and how often. It seriously should only take you about half an hour a day to clean up.
    And you can’t use the “I have kids” excuse. Have them join in. Choose the job based on their age (except for the 21 month old). I lived in a huge two story house with my family. We never used a cleaning service and my mom was pretty anal, so our house was always clean. And we only spent a few minutes every day cleaning up.

    • I respect what you are saying Megan. Do you happen to have one of those lists you could post here? I think it would be useful to us all.

      There was a time when I thought I would never bother with a cleaning service. But we have the income to use the service and the freed up time is precious to us.

      In the past few years I’ve been seeing the value of outsourcing tasks that other people are better at so that I could be more productive with my time. If I were using the cleaning service so I could sit around on the couch all day then I could be called out as just being lazy.

      As for the kids, you are absolutely right! Just because we are using a cleaning service it doesn’t mean the kids aren’t responsible to help clean up. Each does what they can to help maintain around the house.

  3. I was just telling my husband that as soon as I make enough money from writing to make it worth my while to hire a cleaning service, I am going to! With a 2.5 year old and 11 month old at home all day, I am ALWAYS behind on the cleaning. Thanks for sharing your experience. Can wait until I can do this too.

    • Let me tell you it’s a great feeling to have everything clean again! Of course it only lasts until meal time and the little one “decorates” again.

      But little messes like that we can keep up with. It’s when you spend the day chasing those little messes that it becomes hard to do the overall cleaning the house needs.

  4. I’m with Scott. Once you’re out of debt, it’s a splurge you can justify, but until then, get a copy of Don Aslett’s “Speed Cleaning’ and make it a family affair one morning a week.

    • I’ll have to find that book.

      You made me think of something, during the Summer we have a lot more time with all the kids and my wife home. There’s a possibility we won’t need the cleaning service for the Summer as we’ll have more time to do things ourselves. We’ll see.

  5. There are hundreds of checklists on the web, but this (http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/daily-cleaning-checklist-00000000000953/index.html) is one of the ones I like the best. If you divide the list and give it to everyone something to do, it will take even less time. There are a few things missing from this list, but you can fill in what else you need. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I have to do it by hand so that takes longer, but otherwise having a clean shiny house takes no time at all. And on days you have more time on your hands, you can tackle the bigger more heavy duty cleaning. There’s also a list I like where it tells you what you should do daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found it.

    • Thanks for the link Megan! One problem I’ve always had is where to start and what to do. Have a list like this helps.

  6. Fly Lady ( http://flylady.net/ ) is a great program too. When I actually follow through with it my house looks awesome all the time. It’s a good program for those who don’t have time to do a big once a week cleaning. The theory is 15 mins a day will make your house shine!

  7. yes, and it was totally worth it! she removed all the mildew and mold which is something i would never do. totally made my house look like new!

  8. Monica Swanson says:

    Did you have an independent company or a franchise of a big corporate chain? Can you give us an idea of how many square feet you have and # of bathrooms? Also, about how much did the first cleaning cost and how much for maintenance cleans? Also, what part of the US are you in roughly? (I read this post as part of a carnival link so it’s my first time here, sorry.) Did you have to commit to a certain number of cleanings? I was very surprised by this post. I live in the Northeast. I’ve never had a cleaning service either and have 3 little ones. I was surprised to hear that they did a good job and that they did the really hard jobs. I have been to a friend’s house just after her cleaner left and she still had dust bunnies under her couch. I’ve heard from others, “They don’t use real cleaners, only vinegar and they really just move the dirt around.”. I also have seen lists of what the services do, and they are pretty ridiculous. They say things like “vacuum walk areas of rug, fluff throw pillows, change hand towels, wipe down counters and appliance fronts, make beds.”. Please, that’s pretty lame and not what I need help with!! Anything else is an extra charge. Talked to one person who charged $100 for a two hour initial clean. I asked her how many people would be on the team that came to my home and she said one. I said, that’s $50/hr!!! She said “That’s right.”. Needless to say, I laughed and did not hire her. Around here $25/hr per person is fairly typical and $20 hr per person is a pretty good price, but even at that they might not be insured, bonded, legal, etc. Also did they use your supplies or bring their own? Did they know you were blogging about it?

    • Monica – I appreciate all of the questions, I’ll see what I can do to answer them.

      The company we hired is an independent company that was recommended to us by a friend who has a much bigger house and uses them frequently.

      I’m not sure off-hand what the sq footage is here but we have 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Like you I’m in the NE, Long Island to be more specific.

      We didn’t have to commit to any future cleanings but the initial cleaning was relatively expensive.

      I can tell you I saw them moving furniture and cleaning up everywhere! They even removed the bathroom fan and cleaned there. They also did the inside of the fridge and the stove.

      They certainly used more than vinegar. They actually said that for the first big cleaning we might not want the kids in the house because of the smell of the cleaners.

      As for cost, ask yourself what the service is worth to you. That’s the real value.

      For supplies, we only had to have paper towels and garbage bags, they brought everything else.

      We haven’t had a follow up cleaning yet. We plan to have them once a month.

  9. Okay I found my favorite house cleaning schedule for you: http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/life/the-ultimate-house-cleaning-calendar-1481009/.
    I think it’s one of the best and most comprehensive lists out there

  10. I envy you! A cleaning service is the luxury I most miss from my pre-kid days, and the first thing I will pay for when I’m out of debt and can add luxuries back into our budget. It was SO GREAT to have a professional clean our house. They always did a better job than I would, and it really does free up your time. I freelance full-time now, and every hour I spend washing the floors or dusting I think, ‘I could be working and paying someone else to do this.’

    • I love how you put your finances first before the cleaning service! That was big for us too. If we couldn’t afford it we wouldn’t dream of paying a crew to clean the house.

      The power of outsourcing is something I’m really just starting to grasp. I feel the same way as you with my time – I can go scrub the bathroom or do more work online to build revenue.

      And if it’s not working then it’s more time I get to spend with the family.

  11. Hi!

    I’ve been using a cleaning service for years now. My wife and I are not great at cleaning the house, and some seven or so years ago I was working for a cleaning company with an IT department. I make a fair bit of money as a programmer, and it only costs me two hours of my salary to bring in a team to clean for four hours. Also, we’ve saved by not having to replace our really old vacuum cleaner or other tools.

    Sadly, with three cats, we still have to do spot cleaning, and with a daughter on her way, we’ll need to do a little more. But having more family time is great.

    • Yeah, a new child will make cleaning up – interesting. Let’s leave it at that. (Congrats by the way!)

      Interesting point on not needing to replace a vacuum cleaner!

  12. I completely agree with your decision, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing menial labor. Your saving yourself time and stimulating the economy.

    Many people consider a cleaning service a luxury and hence may criticize you for having one clean the inside of your house. But a good cleaner cost about the same as a gardener, who is responsible for cleaning the outside of your house. Most people don’t consider a gardening service to be such a extravagance. Sure I can mow my lawn myself, but I don’t want to and would rather pay someone else to do it.

    • Interesting comparison with a gardener. Way I see it, for me the garden and lawn are at least a labor of love so I do it myself. Cleaning around the house? Not so much.

  13. You note a lot of interesting points, and I totally agree that paying someone else to clean if worth the extra time working or spent with family. I also want to add that I think it is worth it in some cases, just to have some extra time doing things you enjoy! Going for a walk, reading, sewing,etc. As a mom of a toddler, with another on the way, I find myself already sacrificing many of my hobbies and personal time to be an intrractive and attentive parent. My only real free time is during nap time, or after bed time. About three to four hours per day! Although I’m always able to keep up with putting things back in thier place, I have a hard time deep cleaning. There are just so many other things I’d like to do. And I think those things keep me sane and happy. You bet that as soon as I can afford it, I’ll hire someone to take over the deep stuff so I can continue to keep up with the more important stuff!!

    • Wow, you are totally right about having some “me” time. When you have kids “me” time can easily disappear.

  14. Hiring a cleaning service you add much needed time back to your schedule. Instead of spending your Saturday mornings cleaning your floors and scrubbing your bathrooms you could be out getting exercise, or spending quality time with your children. You may can even catch up on other much needed chores like your gardening and maintaining the outside of the house.

  15. My wife and I have had a cleaning service come a couple of times, and I always find it funny because my wife always wants to clean up before the cleaning lady gets there. Something along the lines of “we can’t have them come here and see what a pig-sty we’re living in!”. Of course on top of that, my wife is never completely satisfied with the job that they do anyway because she’s such a stickler for a clean house. She always finds dust somewhere, or a toilet that they didn’t completely clean. Then we always have to clean again anyway. So needless to say we’ve stopped having a service come by. :) I love my wife, but she is a perfectionist when it comes to cleaning and organization!

    • Haha. We felt a little of that ourselves. We had to do an “unclutter” cleaning so the cleaning crew would be able to get to everywhere. It was nice because I can see most of my desk now!

  16. The problem with blanket statements either way (not saying you made one) is that circumstances differ for everyone. One thing I think gets overlooked is that not being able to keep up with cleaning is a cost incurred by the home you’ve chosen–meaning perhaps the house is too large to handle given the other demands/priorities in your life. Sometimes we get too focused on bigger, better, I think. My wife and I probably fall in that category.

    For my wife and I, it is important to us to show that it is a priority to have the discipline to take care of our things ourselves, even if that means a lot of hard work.

    One suggestion I might have for others is to pick certain rooms in your house and give those priority to minimize getting overwhelmed with cleaning. For example, we have decided that the kitchen will always be cleaned completely after use and will be maintained meticulously. The laundry room and kids playroom? Not so much. Our bathroom gets cleaned less often than the bathroom available to guests, for example. It’s not optimal, certainly, but it keeps us sane. :)

  17. I pressured my wife into getting a cleaning lady. I feel like my reasons are slightly selfish, but in the end it’s good for our relationship.

    First of all, I want a clean house. However, I’m not interested in doing the cleaning. I work and my wife works, leaving the weekends for cleaning. I would rather spend the time together on the weekends than watching my wife clean and feeling guilty sitting on the couch not helping.
    We hire a cleaning lady not to clean the house, but to keep my wife from hating me. ;)

    • I don’t think it’s really selfish. You want to do better things with your time.

      If you can afford it then I think it’s OK (if you can’t afford it, ie you’re in credit card debt say, then that’s another thing).

      I don’t like ironing and pressing shirts. That’s why they go to the cleaners. It’s not selfish. It’s a matter of time.

  18. I have a cleaning service come every 2 or so months. It keeps me sane and I hate doing it myself. I try to use Living Social deals to get more bang for my buck!

    • I’ve seen a bunch of deals on daily savings sites lately. It’s a great way to try out a service for less.

  19. Really? How long did it take you to write the blog? Instead of being on the computer, clean. The ‘I don’t have time excuse’ does not work for me.

    • Ouch Sarah. But you see, my business consists of online properties. The more time I have, the more I can put into the business. By running around cleaning the house I’m taking away time from my business. The opportunity cost of doing a big cleaning on my own is too great.

      So it’s more a matter of ‘how long does it take to clean’ than how long it takes to blog.’

  20. It’s absolutely worth it to pay a cleaning service . While they are cleaning you just have to do something productive.

    I work commission. If I work 3 hours extra while they are cleaning the house then it’s a no brainer. I suspect many people would be in a similiar situation.

    I think you can live relatively clean yourself. Do the basics and don’t be a slob. Let someone else do the deep cleaning once a month. Do something PRODUCTIVE though! Basically don’t just sit and watch TV.

    Having someone help out relieves so much anxiety. I’m sure this can give a much needed boost to quality of life.

  21. I used a cleaning company for a few months and I LOVED it. However, there were times I felt like they didn’t do as good of a job as they did the previous month and I started rethinking my plan. I decided not to use them anymore but I definitely may in the future when I have kids. Right now, my boyfriend and I just work full time and don’t want to clean – later on, I’m sure it will be more of a time thing.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using a cleaning service. For the happiness it provides, if you can afford it and it takes pressure off of you, why not?