It takes a village to clean my house
Pre-COVID, we hired a woman to come and clean our house twice a month. She or her daughter-in-law would come out as a group or by themselves and spend about four hours vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and mopping, cleaning clutter, changing the beds and that kind of general housework that we couldn’t keep up with because we were too “busy”. We paid them $130 every time they came out which was much cheaper than hiring one of the professional franchise companies.
When lockdown came we weren’t comfortable having them come to our home anymore, so Missus gave them a couple months pay as severance and let them go. So for the past year we’ve gotten into a bit of a system where I would take the kids out of the house for a couple hours each weekend and Missus would do as much decluttering as possible, cleaning bathrooms and the like. No one is really happy with the arrangement, Missus because she does most of the work, and me as I think the girls should be doing more for their part to help out. Myself, I do most of the kitchen work and cooking, so I guess I feel like it’s an upstair/downstairs kind of thing.
All this talk of my early retirement has rubbed a sore spot with my wife. If we’re so rich why can’t we afford a maid, she’s remarked to me several times. So I’ve been mulling over the decision to bring back our cleaning lady.
However, I’ve been listening to the Business of Family podcast, and one of the guests was talking about allowances. Now, for the last year or two, I’ve been giving the girls an allowance, one dollar a week times their age. I read a book at the time which recommended splitting the allowance into three pots: spend, save and give. The give pot was originally for charity, but I modified it for birthday and Christmas gifts instead. I found an inexpensive app called RoosterMoney that allows me to automate the process, and I can even offer interest on the save pot. The money gets deposited in their accounts on Friday, and I give them mostly free reign with the spend money. The save pots were supposed to be for big-ticket items that I would let them choose on their birthday, but as we’ve gotten more into downsizing and financial independence, I’ve decided to show the girls the value of compound interest. The money stays in the save pot, but I’ll let them disburse the interest gained once a month if they want. Elder has over three hundred in her account, which is giving her about a dollar and a half each month.
My plan is to stop giving them allowances when they turn thirteen, and allow them to start managing the save money, but I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do yet. I’ve also been saving up $50/month for their “education” fund, which through my investing success has grown to around five figures. I figured by the time they turn thirteen I would start getting them involved in the management of the funds, and I would hand it over to them when they turn eighteen. But if bitcoin continues compounding at two hundred percent a year like it’s been doing for the next decade, then that might be a serious amount of money, and I’ll have to reconsider how I hand it off.
So the guest on this podcast said that instead of giving kids an allowance and falling into the entitlement trap, that one allows them to earn it. He didn’t advocate paying kids to keep their rooms clean, but instead give them the opportunity to earn money doing something that you were going to pay someone else to do anyways, like yard work. Now I had originally experimented with doing DadPoints through the Rooster app, but it was too cumbersome to do daily chores in it. I used it one time to make the girls earn a trampoline for the backyard, but that was the end of the DadPoints system.
So I got it into my head yesterday that I was going to pay Elder to help clean the house. She’d been begging me for some money for whatever, and I told her that she could earn up to $130 to clean the house, top-to-bottom for four hours. She got very excited, and we decided to go for it. So around 11:30 yesterday morning we got started. I made a list of every room in the house, as well as all of the tasks that need to be done. It was about three pages long. Then we got started, and set a four hour timer on the kitchen stove. She went upstairs to start on the bedrooms, and I set to work in the kitchen.
I had sent Younger out of the house to play with her adoptive family. The kids came to ask if Elder could play but I told them she was working. After a while they came back to ask, but I sent them away again. I furiously cleaned the kitchen, doing some much overdue deep cleaning. One of the girls, Younger’s age, asked if they could come in and play. No, I said, we are cleaning in here, and if you come in here you have to clean also. Okay, she said.
I wasn’t ready to have a house-full of little ones running around, so I gave them a test. Clean up the back deck and yard, and then they could come in and start on the living room. It took them a while to get that done, and by the time our timer was down to ninety minutes, I let them in.
That last hour and a half was a blur. I was trying to clean, keep Elder and my three other kids busy cleaning. Missus puttered about but mostly kept herself locked in her office watching Netflix. I threw out so much trash and pulled stuff out from under furniture that hadn’t seen the light of day in months. I even found my car keys, that had been missing for weeks, underneath he upholstered chair next to my desk. (I blame the cats.)
When the timer went off I pulled all the dollar bills out of my money jar and set down with everyone to divvied the spoils. We weren’t able to conqueror the dining room table or our main office, so we knocked the total amount down to a hundred dollars. I wound up giving the younger kids five dollars for the help they did, and gave Elder twenty-five. The rest was mine, since I did most of the work anyways.
I was actually quite impressed with how things turned out. We got most of the house clean, no small feat, Missus didn’t have to do all the work, I didn’t have to pay for a maid, and the kids got to earn a bit of extra cash. It was such a success that I went and marked the third Saturday of each month on our calendar cleaning day. I figure I’ll let them do it again in April, and see if they get better at it and can get the house even more clean.