HG: Annie Payne Column November 08, 2008

Removing the stigma of getting hired help

An indicator of lack-luster job performance or a genuine gift of time, Secret Agent Man, my husband, called a cleaning company to come over and give us a bid on cleaning our home.

Secret Agent Man stays in a hotel 50 percent of the time. When he is working in one of the far reaches of the globe, he will return at the end of every day to a clean hotel room.

When he is not “on a job” he comes home to my hair in the sink and the kids’ toys on the stairs.

As much as he assures me of the contrary, I’m sure he notices the marked difference between having the covers turned down with a chocolate laid on his pillow each night and having to move a stack of folded laundry somewhere else before he climbs into bed.

I didn’t think I needed any help. I thought I was doing fine job on my own.

When I questioned him on the reason why he called a house cleaning company, Secret Agent Man reminded me that I often look around at the stacked dishes in the sink or the towering mountain of laundry produced by a family of five and say, “Where’s Zoila? She must be late again. We’re going to have to let her go.”

Zoila, being the famous maid of America’s most famous house flipper, Jeff Lewis from the cable TV show, “Flipping Out.”

My husband told me on Monday that the cleaning company would be coming over Wednesday morning to give us a bid.

I should have spent Tuesday getting the house ready for what felt like an inspection, but I spent the whole day on the couch watching election coverage with the rest of the “McCain-iacs” and “Kool-Aid Drinkers.”

I couldn’t tear myself way from the minute-by-minute unfolding of history. I had to know whether my near future would entail shooting fireworks off my roof or drowning my sorrows in Halloween candy.

With some uninterrupted, focused effort, it doesn’t take me long to get my house ship-shape. My home would usually be judged as “tidy.”

But the level of disorder in my home Wednesday morning was at DEFCON 4.

I have a couple of levels of disorder. One of them I call “Weekend House” and the other I call “Holiday House.”

“Weekend House” consists of the normal disarray you may find from weekend full of activities such as shopping, participating in team sports or home improvement projects. The clutter might include pizza boxes, empty soda cans and maybe some blankets from a sleepover on the family room couch.

“Holiday House” includes lots more dirty dishes from feeding guests, some folding chairs scattered around and, because this past holiday was Halloween, candy wrappers galore with a Starburst or two stuck to the

After dropping the kids off at school on Wednesday, I had about an hour to rid my home of the perfect storm of “Weekend House” combined with “Holiday House.”

As I stashed toys and threw covers over the beds, I thought, “I just need 20 more minutes. Just 20 more minutes.”

The gal from the house cleaning company was regrettably punctual. I tried not to look out of breath when I opened the door for her.

For the very first time, I hoped that someone didn’t read my articles. But just in case, I gave her my legal name, on the chance that perhaps she wouldn’t recognize me.

It’s a particular kind of torture to tour your home with a professional house cleaner.

I pride myself on being able to perform a 15 minute emergency clean-up for any last minute guests, but you can’t pull the micro-fiber cloth over the eyes of these ladies.

They can tell how long it’s been since the blinds have been dusted or the baseboards have been scrubbed.

When she got a look at our office and the mountain of papers on my desk, I told her that we would just need someone to come in here to vacuum, because I have a very intricate and complicated filing system and I wouldn’t want it to be disturbed.

I tried hard not to look embarrassed or make excuses for myself, besides I’m sure she has seen a lot of messy homes in her time.

It only took her a few minutes, but for me it seemed interminable, to assess our needs and give us a reasonable bid.

We have yet to decide whether to get hired help or not.

As great as it would be to have someone else mop my floors, I worry that it would cause me to lose some “street cred” as a Home & Garden writer.

Shouldn’t a domestic doyenne make her own floors shine like a new penny?

I’ve taken Secret Agent Man’s offer at face value, as a thoughtful gift of time.

Perhaps I should look at the extra time this would afford me as an opportunity to hone my writing skills and bring my readers more informative articles.

No matter what your occupation is, there shouldn’t be any stigma attached to getting some “professional” help.

For more on an unpredictable variety of other topics, visit Annie Payne’s “Anniethology” blog online at Anniethology.blogspot.com.


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