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The Best $120 I Spend Every Month

Photograph by Twenty20

It felt decadent. Decadent and indulgent. Hadn’t I been raised to clean up after myself even if I hated it? What kind of spoiled brat was I becoming at 39, I wondered, as I dialed the number that I’d resisted calling for months, maybe years.

But it was my birthday and I was giving myself a present: a clean house. OK, a cleaner house.

Honestly, I was sure that Mary Poppins herself couldn’t make our 1,000-square-foot, 1950s ranch look even close to pretty. I mean, our family of four shared six small rooms and complete disinterest in confronting the accumulation of crap and dirt.

Not one of us got the clean gene that drove my mess-abhorring mother to vacuum daily, or my father to line up his shoes like soldiers along the kitchen floor and then systematically polish each pair.

My family is not that. We are piles and crumbs and scuffed shoes and a sink full of last night’s lasagna dishes. We are dust bunnies and coffee mugs on top of magazines, on top of Monopoly, on top of “Oh there’s that paper I’ve been looking for since last week.”

Which is why, after I booked that house cleaning, I knew my family had some serious work to do. I’d heard of people “cleaning up for the cleaners” and this was that—on steroids.

With all hands on deck that Saturday morning, the four of us put away toys, folded clothes, shelved books, recycled papers, paired socks, until we finally got the house back to neutral, with everything mostly in its place. In fact, it looked good enough that I considered cancelling the cleaning job, but my husband convinced me not to.

The next day, as I worked, I felt different.

Then, that Monday while I was out, two women came and did something that I appreciated more than any other birthday gift that year. With muscle and might, they cleaned the hell (and everything else) out of that house. It cost $120 dollars and it was worth every cent.

When I walked in that evening, I was greeted by floors that gleamed and crud-free counters. The beds were made—and not in their usual haphazard way, but with the pillows fluffed and sheets tucked in tight. Under the bed, there were no dust bunnies. Not one.

The next day, as I worked, I felt different. With the space around me clean, something cleared out inside of me, too. “It’s feng shui,” my husband joked when I tried to explain it. Whatever it was, I wrote more easily and focused better. And, when the kids came home, we all felt inclined to keep the space tidy. Best of all, when it was time to eat dinner, we had a few clear surfaces available to us.

We all had space that we didn't even know we were missing.

When the cleaners called the following month to ask if I wanted to set up a time, my first instinct was to say no. Again, it seemed decadent and indulgent. But then I did the numbers and realized that, yeah, I was going to find a way to make a monthly cleaning work. And I did.

It’s helped us all. My kids have learned to keep ahead of the mess, so “cleaning for the cleaners” doesn’t take hours. Plus, I’m totally over the “decadent and indulgent” part now and see that it’s perfectly OK to hire someone for a job that they want to do. I mean, we pay people to do any number of things for us, so why not this?

For years, I had some sexist stuff stuck in my head that I’m a woman, so I’m supposed to have a clean house. And it’s supposed to be that way because I make it so. Well, I’m over that.

For $120 a month, I now buy myself some space and serenity. And that is 100 percent worth it.

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