American Woman Cleans Own Sink: Boo Hoo

"Across the country, people are taking on chores that only a year ago were hired out to someone else. They’re dyeing their own hair, shoveling their own snow, washing their own cars and taking up paint brushes to brighten their living room walls."

I think I just threw up a little.

My gawd, has this nation become a collective group of Weenies and Whiners? Wait. Don’t answer. I know the answer.

The photo accompanying the AP story shows a 35-year-old Stay At Home Mom wiping her kitchen sink. A sink set in solid surface countertops (cha ching) accented with a $500 faucet ensemble, framed by designer topiaries and the $2,500 refrigerator in the background. This pitiful woman now cleans her own house. She and her husband also sacrificed their yard service and now work in the yard. Together. She cooks at home instead of eating out.

Is anyone reaching for the tissues with me here? Was anyone, besides me, raised by parents who grew up in lean times? Who could never keep up with the Jones and didn’t try since they too were raised by sensible parents?

You know, simple things like, if you don’t have the money to buy it, um, you don’t buy it. See that grass out in the front yard we are so lucky to have? Go mow it. And the car we let you drive? Grab the bucket.

A friend recently chided, "You don’t like to spend money, do you?"

"I don’t like to WASTE money." Even though I’ve caught up to a few of the Jones, I still refuse to pay someone to clean my house when I’m in it 24/7.

Now my hair? An exception. I tried dyeing my own hair. No matter what the ads claimed, I was not "worth it". But me schlepping over to Bliss Beauty Lounge? Worth it. I’ll paint my own nails and house, maintain my own yard, tutor my own children and iron my husband’s khakis (or pull them out of the dryer immediately and hose them down with Downy Wrinkle Release). The money I save can go for things that matter to me—perfect hair, college tuition and plane tickets to see family. And oh right– no debt. And a savings account. And sleeping at night.

I have calluses and short nails but I have enviable biceps and a manicured lawn.

I’ll never get my entire house cleaned in one day like a cleaning service could, but I need a little something to accomplish each day anyhow—you know, Productive Day Guilt and all that. Besides, my children play in the yard and dirty the bathrooms. They can mow and clean with the rest of us.

The above-mentioned family says by cutting out such luxuries, they’re saving about $10,000 a year.

Hi. $10,000! That’s a 2-year degree! That’s a hefty down payment on a house. That’s a reliable used car. That’s a hospital bill, get out of debt card and oh wait a sec. It’s more time with your husband. And family. In the yard. Around the safe haven of the dinner table. Hmmmm.

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  • Claire

    Great article, Karen! And no, I’m not shedding tears for the woman who has to clean her own house!

  • Kathryn

    That $10,000 is also money that could have gone to someone who cleans houses for a living, and helps her family put food on their table and a roof over their head.

    Remember how happy people where when all those bank and auto execs had to give up their private planes? Well, those planes don’t fly themselves and don’t maintain themselves. (You think your car needs maintainance? It is nothing like the private plane.) So it is likely that the pilots and maintainance people were thrown out of work, at least for awhile.

    How about all those people who are no longer having conferences at expensive resorts? Guess what, the hotel/entertainment industry (I am not referring to Hollywood!) has been downsized as well.

    What about the people who make their living mowing and shoveling snow? Serving food at restaurants. How is it wasting money to pay someone to do this to you? I don’t suggest anyone should go into debt having these things, but I fail to see how it is a waste of money to allow someone to earn it doing a service for you (even if that person you are paying is your own kids.)

    I am not shedding tears for this woman who must clean her own sink either, but frankly, this particular article smacks of class envy, which believe it or not, is a sin.

  • Mary Kochan

    I don’t think it is class envy to point out that somebody who who cleans her own house or mows his own lawn is not really “suffering” as the original article made out. I agree that the people who were doing those jobs may be truly suffering as you say.

  • Claire

    Exactly. Karen isn’t saying that it’s morally wrong for people who can afford to pay for these services to do so. But it’s also not a tragedy (for the person who has to give up these luxuries) when people have to do their own work for financial reasons.