Monday, April 2, 2018

On House Cleaning and Sometimes Living Like a Student


Because of the gigantic student loan balances we graduated with (and the yet to be determined extent of our financial obligations to our parents and extended family in the future), K and I still live like students in some ways.  Our apartment is furnished almost entirely by IKEA. We are extremely slow and frugal in buying home essentials like a new vacuum cleaner (while my ancient handheld Dirt Devil Scorpion [affiliate link] is still powerful enough to keep a small NYC one bedroom apartment clean, we're starting to feel too creaky to keep bending over or crouching to use it) or new cutting boards (I waited two years after our old set started warping to pick a new one [affiliate link] - the key is to use food-grade mineral oil [affiliate link] for maintenance). We don't pay much for our entertainment, and rarely go to movies, concerts, shows, or bars (in part because of lack of time and energy). We also, don't, er, clean as often as responsible adults probably should.  

Every time we've had visitors blunt enough to express their opinion about our cleaning, i.e. immediate family members, they've expressed distaste, if not outright horror. Both our moms (who raised us mostly frugal) separately and cheerfully observed, as one of their first comments about our new home, that we made more than enough to hire someone to come in and clean on a regular basis. My younger sister (who had never been the responsible one with chores when we were growing up) bluntly said that we were gross. And we, er, actually did clean before each of those visits. 

All of that is an incredibly roundabout way of getting to the point. We're the exact people who probably should just hire someone to clean our apartment and be done with it, though I'm still struggling with that decision. If we hire someone, it will likely cost about $120 a session, and we'd tip another $20 on top, about once a month. This really should be worth it to us, as we're lucky to earn well, student loans or no, and we both work so much and get so mentally exhausted that there's many a weekday evening or weekend where the effort of buying groceries and cooking a meal is too much, never mind cleaning the kitchen or bathroom for real. Also, we seem to lack the cleaning products and know-how to actually get our bathroom completely clean - the white tile floors and shower walls just will. not. be. restored. to their original state. That may reflect an embarrassing lack of crucial life skills on both our parts. 

Except on those less often than once a month times when either K or I gets the energy up to a "big clean" alone or together, it never actually takes us long. There really aren't that many spaces and surfaces to clean, actually (partially a product of the small space and our slightly too-big IKEA furniture), and most of it isn't too difficult, except the aforementioned bathroom, for which none of our efforts are ever adequate. So hiring someone might not actually be worth it to us. 

Somewhat miraculously, It's also never been the cause of any relationship tension, because our habits and preferences for cleanliness have proven remarkably compatible, with no great effort on our parts. It takes a long time for the apartment to get to a state where either of us are annoyed by mess, and when we do, for both of us, our natural response is to roll up our own sleeves and clean. Despite our unpredictable and hectic working schedules, we've ended up with a fair arrangement, completely without talking about it. The vast majority of the time, he's the one who proactively takes on the "big clean" sessions and I chip in only a bit, if anything, while I'm generally the one to handle the smaller, day-to-day tasks a few times a week, i.e. taking out the garbage and recycling, wiping down the counters, and loading and unloading the dishwasher.  (We each do our own laundry and would not have that any other way, and when I cook, he cleans, or vice versa.) I tend to handle the lion's share of grocery shopping, often at times when K's busy with work, and making sure household supplies are replenished (we split the cost, but I handle the inventory management, if you will). 

Do you hire someone to come in and clean? Was it a difficult decision? I suspect that, if we had a bigger living space, it would be a no-brainer, but with our current apartment it just doesn't make much sense. It takes about two hours max for one of us  to complete one of those "big cleans", a little less if the other person helps, though that amount of work from us has imperfect results, as I've mentioned. Hopefully, we don't come across as being a gross and messy couple! I really do think our moms and my sister were exaggerating a bit.

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