I often hear from blog readers or friends incredulous cries: “How do you get so much done all the time! Do you ever sleep?!” (Spoiler alert: Laundry service.)
Actually, Many nights I’m in bed by 9 p.m. (not proud of that, it is what it is), and I spend plenty of time dawdling on Facebook. But it is true: I produce a lot of creative work I am very proud of, make a handsome living, pick my kids up from the bus most days, hit the gym, jogging path, or yoga studio five times per week and enjoy a hot date or evening out with my friends once or twice weekly. Not to mention day trips, vacations, weekly Movie Night and family dinners every week night with my kids. No complaints.
Outsource household duties
My secret – the one all those incredulous friends do.not.want.to.hear? I outsource shit I don’t like to do. I even outsource stuff I DO like to do, because it makes more sense for someone else to do it! In my business I hire people in my business to do things I can do but am not efficient at — like podcast production and editing, web design and marketing.
On the homefront, my gorgeous house cleaner takes care of my apartment, I rely on the occasional sitter to give me freedom to balance work, home and a personal life, and since becoming a single mom I have been adamant about not ever doing laundry. I send it out. I live in New York City, where every neighborhood has wash-and-fold services for around $1 per pound. Most places will pick-up your filthy sack of poopy, pee-y, spit-up-y, avocado-y, spaghetti-saucy, grass-stainy laundry in the morning, and deliver it after work, neatly folded, sorted and smelling fresh as your baby’s butt that you just washed.
How to find laundry service near you
If you don't have one of these services in your area, it's easy to find someone to come to your home every week or two and take care of business. Care.com is one of my favorite resources for finding housecleaners, as well as people happy to take your money — often far less than you think — in order to relieve you of the constant, omnipotent and infinite chore that is laundry.
Laundry, ladies! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. women on average spend nearly two hours weekly on sorting, washing, folding, stacking, pairing, and putting away. Two hours. Now, men spend on average 28 minutes– 28 too many, if you ask me — but they have it figured out. They get that spending time on laundry is a waste when you can easily send it out or hire in and use those precious minutes and hours living an awesome life.
Because that is what it is all about:
Outsource what you are not good at, what you do not enjoy or otherwise bogs down your life, and do the rest.
Now, over the years I’ve heard all kinds of sanctimonious pushback about why every American woman, man and child should do their own laundry. Really, I’ve heard it all. Here are the arguments, and why they are wrong:
Laundry is just a part of life, you spoiled asshole!
Not so long ago dying in childbirth was just part of life. Economies and technology changed since that was a valid point, and you are now free to unload unsavory tasks to people who want to earn a living doing them.
Laundry doesn’t take that long, I don’t see what the big deal is, jeeze! So lazy!
One, two hours is a lot of time for me — as you will see below my long list of other things you might do with those minutes. Second, it is actually far more than just two hours of labor to do your laundry. Because you spend countless hours thinking about and remembering and stressing about when and how you will do the laundry. You might fight with your spouse or kids about the laundry. Get annoyed with yourself if you forget the wash overnight — or the drying and wind up with a crumply, wrinkly mess.
So it is two hours, plus countless brain cells and energy and emotion spent on laundry.
It’s a big picture thing.
You are such a snotty, rich bitch. Not everyone can afford spending all their money on house cleaners and laundry service. I hate you.
Muah back atcha!
Look, no one has ever gotten rich without outsourcing. No one. You can’t do it all — I don’t care if you are sculptor slaving away in your attic, you rely on an agency, a gallery, someone to publicize your shows and host boozy after parties where hedge fund guys will feel all important and buy your stuff. Or if you are a tech entrepreneur, you simply cannot work alone in a Starbucks and create a bazillion dollar enterprise. You are one person. Successful enterprises consist of people doing what they do best, and being wise enough and humble enough to pass along other tasks to others who are more competent and enthusiastic about those things.
So instead of spending 2 hours on laundry, what if you spent two hours weekly on online courses, or on finishing your degree, or networking — things that may be fun, enriching, and help you EARN MORE MONEY?
Listen to my Like a Mother podcast episode on this topic!
If you spend your energy and time on sorting and washing and drying and ironing and sorting and matching and folding, your energy is on a low-skilled task that is likely attached to resentment.
I don’t know of one really fabulously successful person who does his or her own laundry. Do you?
Here are 49 things you might do while all that damp and filthy laundry is being manhandled by a more qualified person than you:
- Play checkers with your kids.
- Host a dinner party.
- Have a glass of chardonnay while watching The View on Tivo.
- Hit the gym.
- Go to yoga, zumba or pilates.
- Go for a jog, hike or power walk with a friend.
- Finish your degree.
- Get a new degree or designation that will give you a new direction and earning power in your career.
- Take steps to launch that dream business new business.
- Grow your business.
- Attend a networking event.
- Take an online course.
- Network online via LinkedIn, professional associations, Facebook groups, following up on email communication or setting up meetings.
- Call your parents.
- Teach your kids how to jump rope.
- Just hang out alone together in the same room with your kids without engaging in electronics. Maybe some of you are reading, or doing a puzzle or Legos.
- Cook as a family.
- Fire up that online dating site, if you haven’t/
- Go on a date.
- Read. A book. An actual real, paper book. Fiction even!
- Have sex.
- Listen to podcasts.
- Get a massage.
- Give a massage.
- Work in the garden.
- Declutter like a mad woman. Go nuts! Feels so good!
- Get sun on your body. Even in the winter, just some sun on your face and hands is amazing.
- Bath. Take a great, long bath.
- Catch up with that best friend or cousin who lives far away.
- Visit loved ones.
- Write birthday cards, and send them!
- Thank-you notes!
- Gratitude. Start and maintain a gratitude practice -whether sharing by email your thankful thoughts each day, or writing them down in a special notebook, or verbalizing them on a voice app on your phone.
- That skill that you always wanted to learn but did not? Do that. For me: I’m going to take tennis and acting classes. Maybe you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, use power tools (that kind, or that kind, too) or juggle.
- Volunteer. Animal shelter, teen center, nursing home.
- Mentor someone. Officially, through a program at work or in your community, or informally offer your guidance to someone you know.
- Listen to a friend who needs to be heard.
- Create something. A craft, a poem, song or essay.
- Make your home prettier. Paint a room (better yet: go to the paint store, select a color, and hire someone else to do it), hang a few new pictures, rearrange the furniture, change up the bed linens. Make it pretty, make it yours.
- Library. When was the last time you hung out at the library?
- Help a friend reach her dreams.
- Go to a service where you worship. Or, if you’re in the market, find a new house of worship.
- Do a new activity with your kids — learn to rollerblade or pogo-stick together. Take a community college class on woodworking or CPR.
- Start a family give-back project. Raise money for a cause, give volunteer time, or reach out to people you know who need company, help around the house or meals.
- Attend live performances – music, theater, dance. Free outdoor summer concerts, college and high school productions, Broadway or community theater.
- Stroll the streets of a neighborhood or town you’ve never visited.
- Visit a travel site, and brainstorm and daydream and drool – then budget!
- Dream! Dream big and beautiful and outrageous! Write those dreams down! Create a dream board, tell your mastermind group, a trusted girlfriend, your cat! Spend those two hours each week teaching yourself to believe you can and will fill those hours will more wonderful incredible life than any top-loading, energy-saving appliance can afford you.
This post was created in partnership with my friends at Care.com, where you can find qualified, vetted housecleaning, laundry services, elder care and babysitting. I only work with brands I use first hand, have researched and fully endorse.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.