Is a Maid Worth the Money?

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I thought hiring a maid would clean me out as well as clean me up. But I learned it can be a cost-effective decision. You just have to do the maid math.

I’m a 27-year-old guy who lives in a 700-square-foot apartment. Vacuuming the entire place takes me 15 minutes. Cleaning the bathroom (including the dreaded toilet) takes 20 minutes. Scrubbing the kitchen is another 20. If I dust, which is rare, tack on 15 minutes more.

Add up the time spent polishing the table, changing the sheets, cleaning the inside of the microwave, scrubbing the bathtub, and cleaning the stove, and I’m spending two hours a week to clean my small apartment.

What are two hours worth to me? Well, my employer (thankfully) thinks that I’m worth more than $20 per hour. And to me, my free time is even more precious. I don’t want to waste it cleaning. So I recently decided to hire a maid. Here’s what happened, and what I learned…

Finding a maid

There are three ways to go here:

  1. Maid company – locally owned or part of a chain, you get a maid dispatched from headquarters.
  2. Maid referral service – these national companies have contacts with local independent contractors .
  3. Solo maids – individuals who work for themselves and often get work through word of mouth or websites like Craigslist.

Maid companies and services abound, with peppy names like Maid Brigade, Merry Maids, and Molly Maid. All are just an Internet search away. Most maid companies and referral services are bonded and insured – they boast about this on their websites. They also tout their screening process for maids. (Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how one small company hires its maids.)

But individual maids will most likely come cheaper, since there’s no office overhead. That’s the route I went…

Paying a maid

My friend knew a maid that had the two characteristics most important to me: She was local and trustworthy (since maids will be alone with your valuable and personal possessions).

I paid $60 for the initial visit and $40 per follow-up visit. Since my place needed a good, deep clean, the initial $60 didn’t worry me. And $40 after that seemed like a good deal – based on how long it takes to clean the apartment myself and the value of my time, I was breaking even having the maid do the cleaning for me. Factor in my hatred of cleaning, and $40 was a real bargain.

Whether you hire a local solo maid or from a referral from a national service, make sure you do the following before sealing the deal…

  1. Get an estimate. Many maids and maid services will insist on a visit before giving a firm price. But you can at least get ranges via phone or e-mail, which helps you narrow your choices.
  2. Ask questions. It’s not insulting to inquire about your maid’s background. While services will provide background checks, your local solo maid probably won’t. That’s why a good review from friends or family is so important. Even without a background check, you can chat about how long they’ve been in the business and in the area.
  3. Ask about a referral discount. Some maids and maid services offer a discount for a referral, either to you, the person who hooked you up, or both. In my case, that didn’t happen. Still, can’t hurt to ask.

Was it worth it?

In a word, yes. She cleaned much better than I did, and I learned to spread out my maid visits. I ultimately scheduled follow-ups every other month, because I found I could do minimal cleaning on my own that would keep my apartment from descending into disgustingness but not consume too much of my precious free time.

In fact, I’d still be using a maid if I hadn’t moved from my own small apartment to a bigger one with a roommate who doesn’t mind cleaning as much as I do – so he refuses to split the cost with me. Since I’m a frugal guy, I refuse to subsidize the cleaning of his half of the apartment – and not surprisingly, maids don’t offer discounts for half an apartment.

I now look back fondly on the time I was cleaning up without getting cleaned out.

Stacy Johnson

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