It must be the ultimate in middle-class guilt. Every other Monday I answer the door to another woman, then hurriedly scurry out of the door, leaving her behind to clean my house. I’m mortified at the whole notion of it, of course, so much so that I have to make sure I get up early and do the cliched pre-cleaning-lady-clean-up. Some days I’m genuinely busy, and heading into the office. On other days I go and sit in a coffee shop, drowning my shame in overpriced matcha lattes and wondering why I’m not at home mopping my own kitchen floor. But since I succumbed to the lures of domestic help, I’ve never looked back.
It turns out that I’m not alone, which is a huge relief. One in three households across the UK now employs some form of domestic help, driven by the surge in under-35s paying someone else to do the chores they don’t want to. Typical, eh? Bloody millennials dossing about. The same bunch who moan about low wages and high property prices are more than happy to fork out for someone to scrub their loo while they spend their precious time Instagramming their food.
I (just) scrape into the millennial age category, so I hold my hands up here. In some respects we deserve our label as a mollycoddled generation who wouldn’t understand the notion of getting our hands dirty if it smacked us in the face with a wet dishcloth. We never had to bring in coal to build a fire. We never had to clean and prepare our own meat (if it doesn’t come shrink-wrapped with a date stamp, I don’t want to know). We don’t darn our socks – who would, when they’re £2.50 for a pack of three from Primark? For those on the younger end of the millennial grouping, they never even had to do something so arduous as to dial up to get online.
So, ok, yeah, we may be a little soft around the edges. But we’re also busy bees. The work day is getting longer and we are constantly on call, permanently tethered to email. My friends and I bandy about the word “busy” like a badge of honour. “How was your day?” “Oh BUSY! I left at five to beat the rush at my gym, was at my desk by eight, but then a conference call to the States ran long so it was late by the time I left. Oh and then it was Julie’s leaving do, so I had to cancel my Tinder date, but we’re going to squeeze in lunch the Thursday after next…”
Before you say it, I know. It’s our own fault, of course, this busy-ness. We’re too connected, too tied to all our so-called “timesaving” apps. We Uber everywhere, consume instant, live news, and make damn sure we document every moment of our busy, busy days on social media.
So it makes sense that more of us are employing a cleaner - why wouldn’t you, when there’s an app for it? If the only place to find a cleaner was through the Yellow Pages, I’m sure I’d still be doing my own hoovering – at least when the dust bunnies got big enough to be demanding their own hutches. But when it’s at the touch of a button, anything is possible.
“God!” I hear you groan. “Can this lot get any more coddled?” But why not? Despite handing over half our wages to landlords every month, we millennials may just be spending our disposable income on different things than our predecessors. Statistics suggest that the younger generation is drinking less, smoking less and going for quality over quantity when it comes to shopping. Nowadays, time is money, and it is at more of a premium than ever.
For me, it all goes back to my Damascene moment, when my friend told me: “Why wouldn’t you? Life’s too short to spend it cleaning my bathtub.” Perhaps it’s spoiled. Perhaps it’s lazy. But, guilt aside, I don’t think it’s the worst way to spend the money that I’ve earned. Now if I can just find someone to clear my email inbox...
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