Call for Help
As you look back on 2014, you probably think fondly of all the time you spent washing dishes, doing laundry, and scrubbing the bottom of the — wait, no?
Most people — completely reasonable people — see housework as a giant, unrewarding, never-ending time suck. And there are tons of tips for spending less time at it, including closing the chore gap.
Or you can get off the train altogether with a simple solution: outsourcing. From housekeepers to personal assistants, a support system of hired help can give you back your most valuable resource: time. Here are the top services that save hours, sanity, and even money.
The Power of a Housekeeper
If you can only choose one from this list, consider this: Having a housekeeper might be the most impactful outsourcing you do. "I cannot speak for every working woman out there, but our housekeeper is critical to maintaining a healthy balance between my family and business life," says Lisa Chu, owner of children's formal wear brand Black N Bianco. "Once she started working for us on a daily basis she easily reduced my stress level by half."
Motivational speaker Glenda Oakley agrees, noting that her days often span from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. between work and family, leaving little time for household tasks (or relaxation). She suggests having a housekeeper come once every three weeks, long enough for the house to get dirty again and short enough so you don't go crazy looking at the dust that's accumulated.
While referrals from friends or family are a good place to start, you can also try Homejoy cleaning service, recommends Lauren Kay, CEO and co-founder of The Dating Ring, which runs about $70/month for an apartment.
Better Than Takeout
Meal services run the gamut from companies like Plated, which delivers ingredients to your home so you can make your own healthy meals, to Postmates, which delivers dishes from your favorite restaurants for roughly $20/person. Both services allow busy professionals to enjoy quality dinners in less time. However, hiring a personal chef outright — which sounds super fancy (and expensive) — can actually save you time and money.
"My busy clients never have to think about what to cook, shop for groceries, or clean up a huge mess," says personal chef Elizabeth Prewitt. "One of my clients actually ended up spending less money on groceries overall, even when including my fee, since she didn't have to shop with her kids in tow, asking for whatever caught their eye."
At the very least, sign up for delivery from your local supermarket (if it’s an option) to avoid regular trips to the store. The first order takes a bit of time, but the saved hassle in the long run is worth it.
When you don’t have enough hands, why not hire two more? Developmental psychologist and writer Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. advises hiring a virtual personal assistant through eaHelp, like she did. "[My assistant] has been with me for a year and works 10 hours a week. She manages my social media, edits my articles, responds to email requests, and does online research for me," she says. "She definitely keeps me sane."
If you don’t need someone on-hand every day of of the week, you could hire help for one-time jobs. Enlist a service like The Henley Company, which helps professionals who need assistance with event planning, travel coordination, and household management (including holiday-related tasks like home decor installation, gift wrapping and personal shopping).
Or you can delegate tasks to an individual helper, like Kay does. "If I’m moving or setting up furniture, I’ll generally hire [someone through] TaskRabbit to lend an extra pair of hands, which can save a ton of time," says Kay.
Lastly, if you simply need a better way to manage your calendar, try a virtual scheduling tool like Calendly to set up meetings and appointments.
Business-school professor Kim Eddleston, Ph.D. advises outsourcing homework help or tutoring to keep your children on task and provide consistent support — a necessity given the litany of requirements heaped on kids these days. "A high school or college student can be incredibly helpful in making sure children finish their homework properly, receive assistance when needed, and perform well on those time-consuming projects," she says. "Sometimes they are needed Monday through Friday, for other families just a couple of times per week is enough."
Rather than hauling yourself across town to see a therapist, you can "outsource" the task to a virtual service, saving you precious time and allowing you to get in a session when it fits your schedule. Of course, some people may feel awkward spilling their intimate feelings to someone on the other side of a computer screen. But while virtual therapy does in a sense depersonalize the experience, seeing a shrink remotely (at least from time to time) can be a nice supplement to traditional therapy.
Kay recommends Pretty Padded Room, which allows you to lie on the proverbial couch via Skype. "I’ve moved a few times for my company, so Pretty Padded Room has been a lifesaver," she says. "You can book appointments with therapists as early at 6 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m. with only a day’s notice."
Do You Make House Calls?
When you can, hire services (or individuals) that can bring their help right to your home. "Always look for businesses that do the work for you — for example, a dry cleaner who picks up and delivers," says Eddleston. "Also, rather than have to drive yourself or your children to extracurricular classes or lessons, have the teachers come right to your home. This works particularly well for musical instrument lessons, physical trainers, and art classes."
She also notes that some car cleaning services and pet groomers will come to you, allowing you to complete other tasks at home (or simply spend time with your family) while the professional works.