:::: MENU ::::

Lessons from Therapy: Day #1


I just had my first therapy session this week and I’m happy to say that it went better than I’d expected! I was nervous about whether we would “click” and be a good fit, but we really gelled in terms of personalities and it felt like I was chatting with a friend (albeit a friend I’m paying to listen to me. heh).

I’m only one session deep at this point so, obviously, this person doesn’t know all of my “issues” yet. We mostly focused on my Dad’s health issues (and the time it takes to deal with said health issues – there’s a literal crisis every week) for my first session. And while I don’t plan to divulge all the inner details of my therapy with everyone reading (sorry!), I do want to touch on some things that come up as they relate to my finances.

For instance…my therapist suggested we hire a nanny/house-keeper. She got that one of the key stressors in my life right now revolves around time. Lack of it, to be precise. So she suggested I look into agencies where I could hire someone to come and help with the kids, drive to/from school if needed, do laundry, clean, cook, etc. etc. etc.

omg – that would cost a small fortune, right?

But even though I really don’t think that’s feasible, I kind of liked the idea of trying to hire out some help. I started thinking about “what if we hire a cleaning service to come monthly?” That’s not something I’ve ever done in the past. Never. But, given our imminent move (and likely to a place that’s a little bit larger), coupled with the fact that we’re already always behind on cleaning, it does relieve a good bit of stress to think that – at least once a month – our house could be thoroughly cleaned.

Again – the therapist doesn’t know all my “issues” yet, and we haven’t even touched on finances, financial goals, financial stressors, etc. etc. etc. But seriously….maybe not a terrible idea if it helps keep my mental health in check???

What do you guys think? Is it silly to even be considering hiring a cleaning service when we’re still so entrenched in our debt payoff? Or could I think of it as one of the costs I pay to have such a great income (meaning – since I’m working 2 jobs and making more money than I’ve ever made before, I have to make some trade-offs in other areas. Like, paying for cleaning help so I can spend that time focused on work)??? Thoughts???


  • Reply Jax |

    If spending some extra money would help with your stress levels and give you more time with your family (or to do work) then I would say the trade off is worth it. You have been killing it with debt repayment and have just gotten a raise and an extra class. You can use some of the extra income to keep your sanity while working so hard and so much.

  • Reply Gayla |

    What does a cleaning service cost in your area? Are you comfortable with someone you don’t know being in your home when you aren’t there?

    • Reply Ashley |

      I found one that came out and gave a quote for $150 (for 2 hours of cleaning time). They’re licensed, bonded, and insured. I think I’m going to take the advice of readers and kind of hold off on using them until we’re in a new home. I’ll use them once in our current place to help clean up when we’re moving out, but won’t initiate the more regular monthly cleanings until we’re somewhere new. Either way, I thought $150 sounded pretty reasonable (especially after reading some comments with prices for what others pay!)

  • Reply Maureen |

    I think it depends on if you can find someone/an agency that meets your standards. I debated this last year and interviewed several cleaners. None passd the test. I don’t want to have to come home and clean after the cleaner has been there. I’m anal retentive how I want my house cleaned (to a fault). If you aren’t going to swift under the furniture and dust the base boards when your cleaning you don’t pass my test. So, I still want help, but having help at this point adds more stress. As our income has gone back up the one thing I’ve given in to us taking more stuff to the cleaners (dress shirts, sweaters I could hand wash and iron, etc.). This is my itty bitty sanity saver.

  • Reply Judi |

    I definitely think you should get a cleaning service. I get our house deep cleaned twice a month for less than $200 a month (we are in Utah so I’m guessing you could find something cheaper). I used to have all sorts of guilt surrounding the idea of having a cleaning person because we started when we still had debt and for some reason it made me feel like less of a woman/wife. However, I’m so glad we did! It freed up an amazing amount of time that I could devote to loving life, family and friends.

    You talked about entertaining more and slowing down on the debt payment a bit in a past post, I think this would be a good first step in the process. We did something similar, when we paid off all of our high interest unsubsidized loans we took the rest slower and steady to be done with debt in 4 years from our start.

    • Reply Maureen |

      WowI I would do it for that price too. That same service in Chicago for a house my size (I might have more square footage than some) would be $600 a month. If I wanted it weekly it would be closer to $1000-$1200.

      • Reply Ashley |

        Good night! Wow, I’m definitely lucky to live in a low cost-of-living area like Tucson! I’d never do it if it were going to cost $1,000+

  • Reply Megan |

    I think it is 100% worth looking into especially if you find that just the thought of it is appealing to you. You deserve self-care and if paying to have the house cleaned once a month gives you more calm in your life? Why not consider it?

    Any choice like that does not have to be forever too. If having someone come in to clean works for the next few months, great. If you find your situation changes either because you have less money or more time or whatever: you can stop.

    I am currently almost 9 months pregnant and I am looking into a cleaning service coming at least once before the baby comes. I know mentally, it will be worth the money to feel like the house is clean but also not exert the energy myself.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    Absolutely get a cleaning service for the next year or two — as long as you have what amounts to nearly two full-time jobs. It’s not going to be that expensive, and I think you’re looking at it right; you have a great income because you’re working so much, and this is part of what you can do to make those two jobs sustainable long enough to pay off debt. After the debt is paid down more and you let the second job go, the girls will also be old enough to seriously help with cleaning, and you can get rid of the service.

  • Reply Theresa |

    In our area a cleaning service would run $200 a month and it would not be worth it to me. Although i know of a few people with a lot of debt that do it. I am sure that it will be cheaper in your area. But go back and read your posts about Navient and see how you feel. I do think that the “self care” loop hole is one to be wary of. It is a slippery slope in my opinion.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I agree that “self care” is a slippery slope. But on the other hand, I also think self-care has been essentially nonexistent in our house for the last 2.5 years. I’m fearful that if we don’t start doing little things here and there (not even the house cleaning specifically, but stuff like date nights, etc.) that we’re not going to make it through to the end of our debt payoff. We’ve been feeling the need to slow down a bit to try to seek a bit better balance.

  • Reply Kate |

    I’m glad it was a good fit! What a relief!

    If a cleaner is what allows you to work more do it. I bet that you’ll pay less than what you make up with the extra class. We did for a while but then our cleaner started to outsource to her friends who were not doing a great job and so we ended it, but would definitely consider again in the future.

  • Reply AT |

    Get it done once, now to see if you even like it. Then for the future, how about tying it directly to your pay-off goals? You have about $65K to go, right, and want to kill it, right? So every time you pay off a certain amount, say $3 or 4K, you call the housekeeping service. Everybody wins and you are extra motivated to stay on the rest of the budget.

    And definitely call them once when you move out of the rental into your house. That should be part of everyone’s house hunting budget, a move-out special deep clean. Moving is hard enough.

  • Reply Katie |

    I’m all for a cleaning service. Both DH and I work full-time and the lack of cleanliness used to stress me out. I would get behind and then it was just overwhelming. We started doing every other week and never looked back.

    Recently, we moved into a new (bigger) house. Obviously, a bunch of our expenses have gone up and if we decide to keep up with the cleaners, it will be more expensive to clean the new house as well. We still need them to come over and give us an estimate, but I think we may just step down to once a month, which will be less than we were paying for 2x a month, but will at least keep us in check and get a fresh start to keep up with once a month. DH thinks we can keep up with it, but with 4 kids, once school starts up again, we just get too busy and I don’t want to spend all my free time cleaning. Not too mention the new house has 3 bathrooms and we used to only have 1.5 (Yay! But Ugh!) Also, just FYI, I remember from when I got the cost for the old house, 1x month was more than 1/2 of 2x a month- in other words if it’s $100/every other week, it won’t be $100/once a month- it would probably be something like $120. I guess they figure that in a month, it gets dirtier or something?

  • Reply Nicole |

    You should absolutely do it. Having your house cleaned once a month is hardly an extravagance. You work 2 nearly full-time jobs (you just said your part-time job is adding more work and pay – that alone probably covers the cost and would help you find the time needed), you have 2 young girls, you’re doing so much with your dad, you seem to run most of the household (finances, cooking, etc.) Good grief girl, just reading your posts makes me tired! You have been so dedicated to your debt payoff all along. You don’t want to hit total burnout. Not that you’d go off the rails and spend like crazy, but just being completely overwhelmed with the million things you’re balancing. If a cleaning service once/month helps you keep chugging with the part-time job, and the huge benefits to your career and finances that provides, it is more than worth it.

  • Reply AJ |

    My therapist also suggested a housekeeper and I was against it for years. Too much money! Finally I caved and called a few companies for estimates. I’ve about 6 months in to having hired cleaners, and it’s been worth every penny. $112/mo. and my house is sparkling. One less thing for me to have to do! I work from home and have 2 little ones. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Heck yeah, that sounds fantastic! How often does your house-cleaner come? I got an estimate from a place for $150 (2 hours of cleaning; once a month). Just curious if the $112 is one cleaning per month, etc.

  • Reply Tricia |

    I am also a full time working mommy of 2 little ones and while I would never consider us “financially set”, I can’t stress enough how worth it it has been to have someone come in every other week and do a deep clean. The amount of stress that never having a clean house added to my life was ridiculous! It is definitely money well spent! If you decide to go down this route, my only recommendation is to be as explicit as possible on exactly what you want cleaned, how you want it cleaned, etc …. good luck!!!

  • Reply Angie |

    Wondering if you have any advice on how you found your particular therapist? I’ve been having some stress lately and wanted to go through my employer’s EAP benefits. The problem is you they send a list of providers and there’s literally like 50 on there! I mean other than just choosing randomly did you find any resources to help you make your decision on who or where to go? Its overwhelming.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I found mine through the Psychology Today site. It allowed me to customize certain criteria I cared about (e.g., insurance type, location, “issues”, etc.).
      For me, it was important to find a licensed marriage & family therapist (because there are lots of “certificate” programs, but I wanted someone with more advanced training and licensure). I was able to look at all of that stuff on the Psychology Today site. Once I narrowed it down to about 3-4, I just read their profiles and selected the person whose bio was most appealing/seemed the most similar to my mindset and views. I think it’s important to do some research on them/their therapy style/their perspective/etc, particularly since it’s important to find someone you click with. If you’re just picking a name off a list there’s more of a chance for misfit and then you’d have to start over with someone new.

      • Reply Angie |

        Thank you so much! I’ll take a look into that site for sure. I really had no idea what to look for or research. And well when you’re stressed and feeling down its a big hurdle to navigate.

  • Reply Walnut |

    I would wait until you’re in the new house. Look for groupons or other deals and hire someone to do a deep clean before you move in. Decide after if you would like someone to come in periodically. For what it is worth, it took me a bunch of times before I found a service I liked, but recently service has slacked again. Be careful about signing up one more thing to manage.

  • Reply Isabella |

    Even when I was super busy with 4 young children and working, I never could consider a housecleaning service. I could not justify the expense, and I really wasn’t sure sure if they would be thorough enough. What I did find that worked was just being more EFFICIENT in my approach to housekeeping. This meant I had different tasks I did every day on a consistent basis. This was all before the internet. Now, there are all kinds of sites that help you lay out a schedule for 20 to 30 minutes each day on cleaning. (This is over and above the basics like keeping up with the laundry, meals, dishes etc.) And of course, my children had chores while growing up (I know there is no help at the baby stage!), and hubby was and is a better cleaner than I am.

    Do a google on “cleaning your home 20 to 30 minutes each day.” I think Apartment Therapy had an article on this. Also, there is a blog called “Stone Gable” that shares her plan. I guess I am just so averse to paying someone to do what I know I can. I know that most of us waste at least 20 minutes a day on our phones or online, so the time is there if we really want it!

  • Reply Kina |

    Only you know what you need as far as help. Personally, I would try and figure out a schedule for cleaning and enlist your husband into helping clear your list daily.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    When kids were small and money was tight, I did my own cleaning. But I did not work outside the home so my labour was part of my contribution to the family. As Isabella recommended, I learned to clean more quickly/efficiently. Things like a proper cleaning apron (actually a carpenter’s apron) with dusting cloth, magic eraser, window cleaner in a small spray bottle, and a grocery bag tied on so I had a place to put the stray dirty Kleenex without having to walk across the room to the garbage can. I’m ADD so any distraction from the task at hand can slow me down terribly. I also put cleaning supplies in each bathroom so I could spiff it up without having to go downstairs and get all the supplies. It is amazing how much you can clean in 5 minutes if you do it regularly.

    When the kids were teens, I had so many part-time projects, we hired someone weekly. The kids rooms were barely touched – they were to do that themselves. She did dusting, vacuuming and mopping. I did bathrooms and kitchen since I wanted them cleaned to my standards and had a good routine in them. It worked well.

    It forced me to be better about tidying up after myself because you can’t properly vacuum/dust a house with stuff lying all over the place. And a tidy house looks clean but a messy house looks dirty. Unfair but true….

    It only lasted about 3 years but it was good for me to develop the tidying habit.

    Now I live in a much smaller place. Just today vacuuming, dusting and mopping took 90 minutes and that was with a couple of distractions along the way (I’m prepping for a weekend party so there was some furniture rearranging happening too.) Bathrooms take 20 and kitchen takes no more than 30 so I have just 50 minutes more of cleaning and the house will be clean for another week.

    But at the moment it looks awful because it is messy. I know it is clean underneath but if someone walked in now, it would look bad because after cleaning, I pulled out stuff to do another task and haven’t put things away.

    Cleaning lady once a month and well developed *daily* tidying habit with the kids (10 minutes of PUPA before reading a story – Pick Up Put Away – should be enough once you get things under control with the cleaning lady) should be just what you need to help feel more relaxed in your own home. Set a timer and agree to stop when the timer goes off. I play “beat the timer” a lot as well (again, I’m ADD so it helps me focus on the task at hand.)

    Now I’m going to *poof* and spend ten minutes of tidying before heading to bed.

  • Reply Judi |

    I think these are great tips but I don’t know if you guys are appreciating the volume of work Ashley has to do, mostly because she is being modest. Her work ethic is incredible, and I’m always inspired by her example and positive attitude. I have been teaching graduate and college courses for a decade now, it is a bunch of work. I’m not trying to get into a competition about who works harder or more just give you an idea of what she may be facing. Here is a break down of time involved for me:
    -a new graduate course usually takes 20hrs/ week in prep and grading
    -a repeat graduate course usually 10hrs/week
    -college courses usually take 10hrs/week even if its two sections of the same course there are still added grading hours
    -on top of this is office hours, committees, and weekly department talks you are expected to go to
    Ashley is teaching 6 courses this semester, she has two small kids, her dads stuff, plus a husband with his own business (also not a 9-5). Even though her hours are flexible that is insane. She may be a faster at prep than me because teaching is her primary academic role but I’m guessing she still pulls many long hours without complaining.
    I just wanted to give everyone a little perspective when they suggest 20minutes a day cleaning because I genuinely can’t imagine how she does it all.

    • Reply Anon |

      There are many, many people who work harder and longer for less pay. A cleaning service would be out of the question for those people as in there would be no money for food. Ashley should do what is best for her family at this point. But getting in this much debt in the first place was just insane, and that is something that nobody wants to bring up. It’s a long, tough slog to pay off that kind of debt, and I would feel at this point that a cleaning service is just a luxury. Yes, I will be the first to agree that Ashley has done very well in her debt pay-off, but she’s not there yet, and these kinds expenses that are justified in one way or another can derail you. Also, with a new house on the horizon, there will be lots of expenses she is not aware of yet as a homeowner.

      All this “self-care” is really more of a modern day approach. Who did this one or two generations ago? And I would be very skeptical of a therapist who immediately wants you to spend that kind of money on a nanny/housekeeper just so you can lower the stress levels a bit. It’s easy to spend someone else’s money with no thought that this solution might just create MORE financial stress!

      • Reply kate |

        To be fair, two generations ago there were probably very few families where both parents worked and the mom had a graduate degree and the equivalent of two full-time jobs. I also think for those families with higher incomes, household help would have been pretty common.

        • Reply Kiki |

          It’s this helicopter generation all grown up! They think they are the only ones who ever had to work hard for a living!

        • Reply SCM |

          It occurred to me that Ashley has the equivalent of THREE full time jobs if you factor in the child care, the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the meal planning and all of the other myriad tasks of running a household. Her University job is full time and now the part-time job is full time, too.

          I really do think a housecleaner is a good idea. Not every week, but a good deep clean the first time and then bi-weekly help going forward.


        • Reply Jen From Boston |

          I agree. My grandparents didn’t have a housekeeper, but my grandmother didn’t work outside the home and my grandfather owned his own business, which back then closed at 5 PM M-F, earlier on Saturday, and was completely closed on Sunday. And he could leave work at work – no checking e-mails after hours, no being on call, etc.

      • Reply Kili |

        two generations ago people weren’t aware of the risk of smoking either…
        two generations ago soldiers weren’t diagnosed with PTSD either…
        and still… smoking was already harmful back then…
        and still… there were soldiers suffering from trauma back then…

        I definetly think “self care” is a very healthy approach.
        Taking care of your body and of your mind is essential in my book.
        And if that’s an area where some stress can be decreased with a reasonable ammount of money , i’d also say: go for it.

        • Reply Ashley |

          This reply isn’t just to Kili, but to all in this thread. I really hadn’t even considered the now vs. two generations ago conundrum. I really appreciated seeing the consumer reports link and reading these different views of “now” vs. “then.” I don’t have a real resolution to make (though I do think I’m going to move forward with a house-cleaner. Maybe not now, but especially once we’re in a new house), but just interesting to see this debate that came out in the comments. I love reading these different opinions and views!

  • Reply SCM |

    I like the idea of doing it once to get things put back together after this long summer of patchwork childcare. Once the girls are back at school, have some cleaners come to do a deep clean, perhaps including changing beds. Your prep for that will be somewhat difficult, as you will need to pick up toys, put away all laundry, etc.

    Depending on your schedule — I can’t remember if you have to be on campus every day or not, you may be able to have the cleaners come once or twice a month to do the heavy stuff like mopping, intense dusting, deep cleaning the bathrooms, etc. This will make things so much easier when it is your turn … you should be able to just wipe things down and do regular vacuuming, etc.

    I know you don’t want to spend money that could go toward debt, but I truly don’t know how you have time to even take a breath. I have no outside job and only one child who has (yay) just started kindergarten. Even with all my new-found free time, it is next to impossible to do all of the housework and laundry and cooking and shopping. Every time I sit down (rare), I notice something I should be doing. And I swear my kitchen floor just makes its own dirt spots.

    I think as hard as you are working, and considering the fact that you are really paying off your debt so well each month, that it is worth exploring help with house cleaning. Ask around at your office to see if anyone else does this. You may find some good leads.


  • Reply Dh |

    I definitely think you should do it. You are basically working 2 jobs, and you have two small girls, and you have blown away a huge proportion of your debt since you started blogging 2 years ago.

    As you yourself said, the intensity of the last 2 years is unsustainable long term, it’s time to enter the next “phase”. Only you can know if you prefer that to be hiring a cleaner, but it sounds like it would be a good thing for you to try at this point in your life.

    This said, you will be moving soon. I don’t know your area at all, so if you are not staying in the general area, it might be worth holding out until you move. Dunno.

  • Reply Dh |

    I had a nanny/housekeeper when my kids were small. Caveat, I’m in a Europe.
    I have 4 kids, the two oldest are 1.5 years apart. I didn’t get a place in daycare for the first, so it was a hit to the budget. By the time the second came along, it was actually cheaper to pay someone than to pay 2 spots in daycare. And then I had 2 more lol.

    It was such a joy to be able to spend my days off with my kids as they grew up without having to worry about regular cleaning. (I often did/still do the deep cleaning).

    Now they are all grown (youngest is off to college in sept) but I work more than I did before, so I still have a weekly cleaner. (No such animal as biweekly or monthly here, so it’s weekly or not at all.)

  • Reply Alexandria |

    I would absolutely hire a house cleaner. Surprised to see so much support. Culturally it is not very acceptable and I’ve seen crazy discussions on this topic. Me personally? Screw it. The world doesn’t end because I choose to pay someone to free up some of my time. Best money ever spent.

    When deciding what you can afford, I’d consider if you would still maintain a profit with the additional part-time work. Maybe use a small fraction of that money to make your life easier? On the flip side, if you have to use up all of that money, then what is the point of working so hard? I would just work through the cost/benefits. I am a strong believer in working “smarter not harder”.

    Also, hiring nannies is very common among my friends. I don’t mean like rich people nanny stuff (what people tend to presume). But hiring a college student to help with the daycare in the home. The more kids you have the more cost effective these options are. I have a neighbor who hires nannies from abroad and pays $7/hour in addition to providing room and board. She has 4 kids! $7/hour is a steal for daycare for 4 kids (certainly in my state). That might be a more extreme option for your situation. But I notice culturally a lot of the time that nannies are considered the “hoity toity” option when it’s really the practical option if you have multiple kids and daycare is really expensive. Hiring a college kid for a little help is probably more helpful in your situation.

  • Reply Joe |

    I say go for it, but it’s all about the cost, right?
    For instance, I’m guessing that 90% of people would agree that $1000/month is not acceptable, and $100/month is a no-brainer.
    A realistic number to actually get a quality cleaning service to come at least twice a month is probably going to fall between those two numbers. We pay about $300/month for two cleanings and are very happy and comfortable with that. You just need to figure out what number you are OK with.

  • Reply Kari |

    I’d definitely do it. My husband and I both work full time but have no kids and have someone clean every other week. It is wonderful. I can’t imagine working as much as you and your husband do and having two young children. We pay $100 every other week just north of Atlanta for a 4 bedroom/2.5 bath house. You have made great strides paying off your debt. Also, you can always try having a cleaner out and if it’s not for you or you decide you don’t want to spend the money you can discontinue the service.

  • Reply Jay |

    Remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. You’ll get the debt paid off, and it looks like you are doing great at it. But if there is something that helps with your life balance and/or marriage, I would do it(especially something like a housekeeper which seems like a minimal cost). A full-time nanny or something like that I would think twice about.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I totally agree! Just to preface my reply, my husband and I are doing great (probably better than the past couple years), BUT I did joke to a friend recently that doing monthly date nights is sure a heck of a lot cheaper than divorce!!! I think the point is that we’ve been putting ourselves (individually, in terms of the spousal relationship, and even to some extent as a family unit) on the back burner for quite some time. I’ve always said it wouldn’t be sustainable forever. I do want to sit down and really crunch some numbers to get a new goal debt-free date (it’s changed drastically since I’ve been blogging here). But the point is that we need to add some expenses (like date nights, or a monthly cleaning service) back into our lives. I know others that do perfectly fine without, but for the health of our family/marriage/psyche, etc. we need to start spending money on ourselves a bit more. Nothing crazy, but just a little bit more “normal stuff” here and there. Maybe I can even write a post about this sometime soon.

So, what do you think ?