On today’s podcast episode, Sarah and I discuss what we outsource, and why, and how to do it effectively in order to save time. (Please pardon my tinny sound — ugh! I recorded in a room with an echo. I was trying to get away from my children while recording, but it’s possible the alternative was worse.)
We opened with a discussion of what our children eat. We will probably do another episode on meal planning, and children’s nutrition, because it turned out we had a lot to say about that (or at least me…I kind of rambled on. Sigh).
Then we discussed our philosophy of outsourcing. Basically, everybody outsources. Unless you are churning your own butter, or driving your own mail to Wisconsin, you outsource. It’s just a matter of degree. People treat the outsourcing of household tasks as somehow controversial, but I think this is largely because these tasks are perceived as “women’s work.” Indeed, one of the most outsourced household tasks is mowing/yard work — which is often “men’s work.” Turns out many guys who are away from the house much of the week don’t want to spend their weekends doing this.
It can be the same for many in-the-house chores. Sarah and I both outsource a lot: grocery shopping, a lot of meal prep, laundry (all in her case, the kids’ laundry in mine), general tidying. We order most things online (Amazon, Nordstrom, etc.). My big boys buy lunch at school.
We discussed cleaning services briefly, as both of us have experimented with them. My experience — my own, and what I’ve seen looking at people’s time logs — is that a cleaning service can give you a cleaner house, but it doesn’t necessarily save people a lot of time. It’s the little daily recurring tasks (emptying the dishwasher, picking up toys, folding laundry) that consume people’s time, and these generally need to be outsourced to a person who’s in your house frequently. That could be a separate housekeeper (which we had for a while; once we established a payroll for employing a nanny, adding another employee wasn’t too complicated), or perhaps it could be negotiated as part of a caregiver’s job description, if that person has some non-kid time on the clock. In Sarah’s case, her nanny’s schedule consists of several hours while both kids are in school, so she does pretty much whatever Sarah would do during that time if she were a full-time home-maker. If you employ an after school sitter, you might be able to pay that person to come 1-2 hours early to do some of the home tasks.
One way to outsource effectively is to track your time and see what is taking a lot of time (or a lot of mental space — sometimes those tasks are worth offloading too). Then you can prioritize these tasks, and maybe find the money somewhere else. Buy fewer things, and buy yourself time instead.
We also discussed the question both of us get from time to time about outsourcing household tasks: but what does this teach your kids? I think this question should only be asked in a house where there is a completely equitable, non-gendered split of such labor, and the kids chip in a lot too. Because otherwise, what you’re teaching your kids is that the woman in your life should do all household tasks for free. Whereas when such tasks are outsourced, you’re showing that they’re economically valuable, which is true.
(That’s not to say we don’t have the kids do stuff too — we do. They do some general tidying, putting away clothes, clearing the table, emptying parts of the dishwasher, etc. And my husband and I both do stuff around the house as well. None of this is an either/or matter, as it’s often made out to be. In a household of 6 people, including 4 kids, there is more than enough work to outsource a lot and still have a lot to do!)
What do you outsource? What have you found saves you the most time? Have you tried to outsource anything and had it not work? (We have failed on finding a service or person who will do the non-mowing yard maintenance: planting, weeding, etc.)