Updated Oct. 15, 2014
Note: This post ranks as my No. 1 most popular, which surprises me, but also makes sense. After all, in professional women’s eternal quest for that elusive work-life balance, we often chose to do far more housekeeping than our homes actually require — or our budgets afford. We tend to salve our working-mom guilt by folding towels and sorting socks, when a small investment in paying a professional towel-folder-sock-sorter would afford us many hours to do things that are meaningful or profitable– investing in your business, or dancing in the kitchen with your partner or rolling down a hill with the kids.
Here is my story. Share your own thoughts in the comments!
I refuse to do laundry.
That’s a bit of an overstatement, but I really, really hate to do the wash, and I really, really hate the fold. The sorting and cycling and hauling of this never-ending chore so tedious, so mundane and omnipotent that it a joke for moms everywhere.
Except that it will make you poor. Nothing funny about that!
Outsourcing household chores is just one of the ways to thrive as a single mom.
There are two ways I have other, better launders take over my laundry:
Until the past few months , every week I spent about $25 to have a very nice man from a local laundry service come to my apartment, take way a giant black bag full of soiled garments and return them to me folded, sorted and often still dryer-warm. The same day. Not every zip code has these amazing wash-and-fold services, but you can find someone to do your laundry in your home through sites like Care.com. That same bagfull of laundry would cost me about $8 to do in the coin laundry, including detergent (I live in a New York City apartment) each week. I figure it would also cost about $10 per week if I had my own washer and dryer, factoring in said detergent, water, electricity and wear and tear on a Maytag.
Lately, however, I have been paying my weekly housekeeper, Sandra, an extra $20 to take on the task. I also pay for the coin laundry and detergent, but by having Sandra means that I am saved the extra task of rounding up all my filthy things, or even putting away the clean items. Plus, I prefer that Sandra (of whom I am very fond) earns the money over the laundry service (nothing personal guys, you do great work!). If you live in my area, give me a shout and I am happy to refer her! Otherwise, check out Care.com for some great options.
But all this outsourcing really isn’t about the saved $15 or the extra $15 or the wear and tear. Sending my laundry out is about economizing time and energy. Investing in laundry service makes me richer because it makes me happier.
Most people adamantly refuse to get this. I found this suggested laundry schedule on Unclutter.com. These “experts” suggest a routine dedicated to running your washer and dryer every day of the week – your big break being Sunday, when you are permitted to lazily launder your delicates:
Monday: Launder all the sheets from all three beds. (1 load)
Tuesday: Launder child #1 and child #2′s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Wednesday: Launder adult’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Thursday: Launder towels. (2 loads)
Friday: Launder child #1 and child #2′s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Saturday: Launder adult’s clothing. (1-2 loads)
Sunday: Rest, or launder a load of delicates.
Now, if you could skip this whole mess for the wee sum of $25, would you? What if you invested just half all those loaded hours in your career, a business or freelance gigs? That $25 weekly could be worth thousands monthly. Take it from me.
We haven’t even mentioned the happy factor. Some people just love laundry. I have never met one of these people, and I suspect I would not like her. For me, wiping laundry off my weekly to-do list has been the most incredibly liberating exercise. Before, it was a constant gnat swarming around my mind – what was clean when, when would I schedule a load, when to haul the dripping sheets into the dryer and to remember to take out my lacey things for an air dry.
Now, I spend a fraction of that mental energy to coordinate a single pick-up and drop off, and to make sure I have enough singles in my wallet to tip out the delivery guy.
All this laundry business is but a metaphor for how I like to live my life. My friend Laura Vanderkam is a time management expert, and wrote 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think, and she convinced me (and thousands of her readers) of the importance of outsourcing the mundane tasks that can take over life. When you are a single mom, money and time are especially precious. Our professional lives, our kids and we ourselves simply cannot be weighed down by regrouting the tub (unless that is your thing, of course) or keeping your kids chonies sparkling white. You are better than that.
When I get on my soapbox about this topic, I often hear people – and by “people,” I mean “women” – who whine:
“Oh, but I feel like doing laundry is just a part of life. I’d feel guilty for sending it out.”
or “I feel it is my duty as a parent to teach my kids to mop the floor.”
To these lame arguments, I counter:
“Do you feel guilty for using a dishwasher, instead of cleaning every grimy fork and sippy cup by hand?”
and, “Do you think Barack Obama does his own laundry? And why not? Because he has more important things to do! So do you!”
and, “Really? Do you really think that your child will grow up incapable of knowing how to mop a floor in an emergency? For real?”
Today, in addition to Sandra, I have a handyman on speed dial for various projects, and a power drill, bottle of 409 and common sense for times when I find myself in a pinch. Sure, I could do these things myself. Instead I use the time these services afford me to build my business, enjoy my kids, lavish in a constantly-more-or-less-clean home and just chill out.
My friend Aleksandra Todorova worked on this infographic for Dashlane.com about just how to outsource your life. You can pay someone to do just about anything – and this lays out not just how to do so, but compelling stats on why it is simply silly not to: