today’s question asked: “how do you keep your house clean as a freelancer?”

i think bri and i will be on the same page here: we don’t.

after working all week, the last thing i want to do is clean. it feels like such a waste of those precious hours of free time. it’s not worth it to me. i also don’t want to waste that time arguing with my husband on who’s turn it is to scrub the bathroom. so last year after many “it’s your turn” disagreements we decided to hire a house keeper. best money we’ve ever spent. my favorite days are now tuesdays because when i come home from work our apartment is sparkling. we pay her $90 each time for a 1 bedroom apartment around 800 sq ft in brooklyn. my friend down the street pays $60 for the same thing but i like and trust my lady. she makes these little ocd arrangements of things around the apartment when she isn’t sure where things should go.

before we got help i would just put in the extra 5 minutes to clean up my work station wether it was on my desk, the living room floor or the kitchen. wherever. bri and i wrote about this a little bit ago. just taking those extra minutes made it easier the next day. there wasn’t a mess for someone to look at and get annoyed by.

clothes piled in the closet…that is a different story…

yes, i admit it. i used to be the messiest kid in the nation. my mom is the NEATEST and would get so mad when my closet would fill up with clothes and i would just walk on the pile to get to the other side. some people hate cilantro, i hate hanging up clothes. it’s my weakness  while i have grown up a little bit and don’t usually leave a pile on the floor, i am still not great at it. i told myself i would eat out 3 times less in the month (and just cook at home) and hire a house keeper once every two weeks. some weeks i barely have time to even hang out with a friend, and i decided it was time to splurge and get some of my free time back. and like katie said, before the house keeper, there were fights with my guy. this helped that too.

so, do you splurge on cleaning help? or do you have a cleaning routine that works for you? i remember a friend told me once that she loves to clean, that it’s her favorite activity when she’s overwhelmed. this shocked me! it’s funny how different people can be, huh?

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are over here!)



Add your own

  • 1. Trinidad  |  March 27th, 2013 at 4:19 am

    This might be the push I need to hire a housekeeper. I’ve been thinking about it for years.

  • 2. Allie  |  March 27th, 2013 at 4:27 am

    Hey Bri and Katie,

    I think I’ve about read every advice post on your blog. Thought I should open my mounth and show some appreciation!
    I’m trying to set up a blog myself, the design has been finished for months now, but I want to learn how to code it myself. Which takes up some time and I’m planning a wedding too. Crazy stuff going on!
    About the cleaning part: my hubby-to-be is a clean freak and I can be a freak about it too. I do the cleaning myself on a regular bases, so I never really have to pull out a lot of time to clean everything. The cooking part is something else. I work late and when I’m tired of working I THAN have to get creative again on how to magically get a healthy meal on the table!
    Anyway, I hope you can give some advice on the fact that when you’re freelancing you don’t have co-workers sitting next to you to complain to when it’s not going so well or to give you a push in the back when you’re stuck in the creative part of the brain. What do you do then? Go to forums or dribble ? I wonder.
    Also while I’m at it, I would like to know how you deal with all the design ideas you want to accomplish for yourself, not for clients. Do you try to design them in your free time (which is almost non-existing).
    I hope these questions aren’t too confusing or too much.

    Thanks for reading this very long comment! x Allie

  • 3. Liz  |  March 27th, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Funny thing about our apartment is, it is never dirty but it’s always messy. As in my stuff is EVERYWHERE. My mom always said housework makes you ugly. I tell my boyfriend that weekly but he doesn’t buy it. I say a housekeeper is the way to go!

  • 4. Daniela D  |  March 27th, 2013 at 5:08 am

    I love my housekeeper! I splurge and have her come once a week, on Tuesdays. We just cook more at home instead of doing take-out to make up the cost. It is sooo worth. I have a home studio, husband, two kids and a dog, my man works crazy hours, as do I…I am sooo not doing the cleaning and he’s pretty messy so he is not cleaning either! I would rather hang out with my family and pup.

  • 5. Morganvsmorgan  |  March 27th, 2013 at 5:12 am

    I really like Katie’s answer – at times I’m amazed by how much people value the amount it costs to hire a cleaner vs spending time fighting and potentially damaging a relationship. I think its a really good idea if you can manage it.

  • 6. Reptilia  |  March 27th, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Love the illustrations and the answer! For me it´s really relaxing!



  • 7. Maddy  |  March 27th, 2013 at 5:48 am

    This has been the topic of conversation on my house lately. I’m Team “Housekeeper”. He’s Team “DIY”. As someone who has a full time job and part time business, free time is limited and oh so precious. I completely agree with everything that you said. Now it’s just a matter of getting my guy on board!

  • 8. Molly  |  March 27th, 2013 at 6:03 am

    I am a natural slob too!! My husband *thinks* he’s clean but in reality he isn’t all that clean. Not as bad as me, but still not a neat freak. We don’t have a cleaning lady, although I think in our next apartment we’ll start getting one. I have found that I can clean up our 1000 sq. ft apartment by setting my timer on my phone and cleaning up for just 15 minutes a day. The place is never spotless, but I feel like I make some progress each day. I will spend 15 minutes washing dishes, or folding clothes, or wiping all the counters.It is a good amount of time for me because I feel like I’m making a difference but it’s not an overwhelming amount of time where I don’t want to do it. And when the timer goes off, I’m done!

  • 9. Stephanie (afunhouse)  |  March 27th, 2013 at 6:31 am

    It’s so fun to hear how different we all are! Cleaning and organizing relax me. On a good day, I enjoy the daily tasks, but, if a stressful moment arrives, I’m a whirling dervish of cleaning mania! By the end of a major cleaning session all my stress has dissipated. We do eat out more, though, because imo if my house didn’t contain a kitchen all would be right with the world ;)

  • 10. Amanda Gross  |  March 27th, 2013 at 6:43 am

    I hate cleaning! So I clean while I do other things. My mom called at least once a week and can talk forever so I walk around and pick things up and hang up clothes. My favorite time to clean is when I cook ( I also hate cooking so I knock out two bad things at once.) Once you throw something in the oven or wait for something to boil run around the house and dust or wipe down the kitchen.

  • 11. erin aka eef  |  March 27th, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Cleaning is my favorite thing to do when I’m overwhelmed–it just makes me feel productive and calms me! I will admit that our house can get pretty messy during the week though–but having a proper place for everything helps keep clean up time to a minimum!

  • 12. bri  |  March 27th, 2013 at 7:55 am

    i wish i was more like you erin!!

  • 13. Ashley  |  March 27th, 2013 at 7:56 am

    What a relief to hear I am not the only freelancer with a messy house! Before I started working from home we never had a problem keeping our flat clean, but somehow now with a puppy and me owning my business our space is always on the messy side. It is impossible to run a business and be a good housewife/keeper so I feel so much less guilty knowing I am not alone. We have been toying with the idea of hiring someone to come once a week and tidy things up and after this post I am definitely pushed to make it happen!

  • 14. Alex  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I’m so happy to have an open conversation about hiring a housekeeper. There’s definitely a stigma among my 26-35 year friends, with all of us in very different places in our lives. I often don’t admit to it because I’m worried my friends with perceive it as pretentious or, even worse, a “waste of money on something you could do yourself for free.” And to be honest, I used to think that way too. That is, until someone pointed out to me that the time I spend cleaning the house or walking the dog isn’t free at all. As a freelancer ESPECIALLY those hours are hours amount to lost income. I know it may seem obvious, but it was a big aha moment for me. If you make $75/hr freelancing and your housekeeper charges $90 for 3 hours of cleaning, it boils down to economics. (And, admittedly, maybe just a TEENSY bit laziness in my case…) And it can save you and your relationship stress, then all the better!

  • 15. Diana  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:15 am

    OMG, I thought I was the only one! My working & SAHM friends are all mind boggled that cleaning isn’t something I can ever get done. I suppose I would make the time to do it if I enjoyed it, but cleaning is not fun for me. Blech. In any case, thank you for this post. :)

  • 16. alicia  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:36 am

    A friend of mine loves cleaning too. I don’t. At all.
    My friend used to work in housekeeping at some fancy hotel and would love cleaning peoples rooms and would sometimes leave cute little notes to make people smile.
    I can’t wrap my head around the cleaning thing. Luckily my guy is helpful and we both usually reach the “omg it’s so messy lets please clean NOW” point at the same time and make it a team effort.
    How are you guys on grocery shopping? Although buying food is awesome cause…well….you get to eat it after, we both hate that chore….

  • 17. bri  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:36 am

    alex, i know what you mean! i was scared to even post this because i definitely didn’t want to come off as bratty or pretentious. but the truth is, it’s truly helped me and my stress! thanks for your comment.

  • 18. bri  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:38 am

    alicia….we eat tortillas with cheese and cereal ALL THE TIME. we are both pretty terrible at the grocery store too. hahahaha

  • 19. Tiffany  |  March 27th, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Bri-It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one that doesn’t like hanging clothes! When it comes to cleaning, I usually let things get pretty messy before I do something about it. I know, so bad!

  • 20. Deeyarah  |  March 27th, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Bri, it’s hard to envision you walking over clothes, your blog is the most clean, organized place on the internet. But I get it cause I’m similar.
    Up until a few weeks ago I too was too ‘busy’ and ‘tired’ to clean up. I dreaded laundry, dishes, cleaning, any kind of domestic activity which I was no stranger to as a young girl but as I grew I just depised it all.

    It was a problem that I did want to fix with a housekeeper, and just before I was about to schedule the appointment, I put the phone down because I realized that there was something more going on.

    I mean these are my clothes, my dishes… my mess. And I had to take responsibility for it, I had to make the time and figure it out. One of my coworkers who “Loves to clean” (whatever that means!)taught me the most profound lesson that I meditated on and mulled over. She said, “Every thing has a home.” And it’s true. If I take that extra nano second to put something back in its place immediately after using it. And somehow after doing this with everything, my home doesn’t get messy. It feels good. It feels in control. It feels like I know and respect my space.

    However, Spring is here… and a nice big clean with the help of additional hands and eyes from a housekeeper is money well spent!

    Bri, you’re awesome,


  • 21. Sarah  |  March 27th, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Oh my! I am happy to hear i am not alone. Working from home and constantly being reminded of the growing pile of clothes on mine and my husbands bedroom floor, and the never ending dishes (anyone else have that problem? I swear, it never ends!) has really forced me to use my time wisely. Instead of breaking for sunshine or tea, most days i wash a dish or two, or focus on getting laundry done. Im learning to love it.. Kind of.

  • 22. bri  |  March 27th, 2013 at 9:47 am

    hi dee, i WISH everything had a home in my home. i guess i am just too cluttered and unorganized. my drawers make no sense. my clothes are all just shoved in there. which makes the task of organizing them even more daunting. i totally get what you mean about taking responsibility for it…i SHOULD. i am probably being avoidant or lazy. i wish i could just suck it up and make better habits! maybe someday…

  • 23. Alexandra Pettinato  |  March 27th, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Ah a housekeeper.. that would be fantastic.

  • 24. Sera  |  March 27th, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I used to be a messy freelancer but something changed when we bought our own home, I got all house proud and I take extra time to keep it looking how I want it. I couldn’t let anyone else clean it! I always make sure I leave time to clean, just like scheduling in lunch breaks and dog walks and phone calls to my folks! Husband and I argued a lot too in the beginning but I assigned him 2 household jobs and I do the rest, fairly big ones but it gives him his responsibility and me mine. I find that works. Don’t get me wrong there are times when the house isn’t the cleanest and its taken years to get here but now I love my home even more. Love the insight into other people’s cleaning habits. That and other people’s finances fascinate me in a weird way!!

  • 25. amy  |  March 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am

    My husband and I made this change when we first got married over 12 years ago and I couldn’t be happier. We never argue about who cleans more or whose turn it is because we have help. With four kiddos its a must!

  • 26. Alex  |  March 27th, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I share a room with my boyfriend at his parents’ house. It. is. a. mess. Ok, it’s more clutter than dirtiness, and I can’t switch out the furniture without hurting mom-in-law’s feelings, but I still get embarrassed about having people come in. I told him that we are not the most tidy people (first step is admitting) and should invest in a bi-weekly house keeper when we have our own place. But he insists he’ll be my house keeper (and my gardener) so…hm. Yeah we’ll see.

  • 27. Mommy Dearest  |  March 27th, 2013 at 11:29 am

    haha When I saw this was the topic for the advice column, I wondered if you would bring it up that I was neat and you were sloppy as a kid. I think you’ve gotten better, but I remember when we even had a counselor try to help us solve the dilemma so we’d have one less thing to argue about. Remember? She said you only had to clean your room 2 days a week and I could pick those days, and on the other days I just wouldn’t go look in your room and get all upset. Well, as usual, in your uber creative way, you found a way to still upset me by only cleaning on those two days right before bed. They getting ready for school in the morning you would trash it all over again, so I hardly ever got to see or enjoy it the two times a week it was straightened! haha I think a cleaning lady is a good solution for you. One more plus about having a cleaning lady besides it giving the homeowner time to work on other projects is that you are giving money to another person who may really need the income! Love, Mom : )

  • 28. shannon  |  March 27th, 2013 at 11:30 am

    i was just discussing this YESTERDAY! i work from home and i feel like the last thing i want to do is clean but i also cannot work in a messy space. i think we came to the decision to have a cleaner as well…once a month, for a deep cleaning!

  • 29. Eden  |  March 27th, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Before I got married I had a cleaning gal come twice a week. I work full time and do volunteer work, and my friend’s cleaning business was just getting off the ground. It was a win win.

    My new husband insisted that between the two of us we could certainly keep up with everything, so I reluctantly laid off my cleaning gal.

    Fast forward a year. I stood crying in the middle of my messy apartment ranting about how I never have time for anything and we live in a pig sty. Hubs said “you wanna call V and ask her to come back?”. He got a teary hug and V got a $20 per session raise.

  • 30. Katy  |  March 27th, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    We have a house cleaner come once a month to do deep cleaning. We get really excited on that special day to come home from work and she the house sparkle. In between our cleaner we’ll do 10 minutes clean ups with a swifter or bleach wipes.

  • 31. Araya @ Wind and Willow Home  |  March 27th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Love this post. I have to admit I HATE cleaning, I just feel like it is an inefficient use of my time. Being a work at home mother of two small kids, I could be cleaning in one room and they are making messes in the other.
    When I was a kid, my parents always said I was lazy but that is clearly not so. I once spent an entire weekend updating my kitchen, ripping down wallpaper, repainting the walls and cabinets, new light fixture and hardware just to avoid doing the dishes (hey, it was a sink FULL). Finally my husband did the dishes after he saw how exhausted I was :)

  • 32. Sarah  |  March 27th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I also work from home, AND have an almost 3 yr old running around. Having a super clean house is just not in the cards for me right now. We cook a ton, so the kitchen is never completely sparkling and put away. I probably spend 30 min or so every day just picking up after myself, husband, and kid. The constant effort helps the house from getting completely out of control, but it’s never as clean as I wish it was.

  • 33. jenny  |  March 27th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    i fought having a housekeeper for years. raised middle class in the midwest, mom’d never fork out extra money to have our house cleaned. my fiance was raised very differently. this was a priority in their home so she made the push. we’re both busy busy freelancers with so little extra time on our hands and when we do, we’d rather spend it together doing what we love. we have a lovely housekeeper who comes every other friday and its HEAVEN! we would never be without her now. and, feels good to boost our economy by providing work for someone else. my mom teases us, call us fancy pants :) but it has really reduced stress and added value to our life.

  • 34. Kim Boswell  |  March 27th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I used to hate everything about cleaning. Though, I also hated everything about a messy house, room, closet, kitchen sink, etc. I think creative people usually tend to be on the messy side, but even with the chaos, we tend to be organized and can find a needle in the hay stack of cloths.
    Now, I enjoy cleaning. I don’t love it, but I enjoy the motivation that comes with a clean area: I’ll cook a meal if the sink is empty, I’ll hang up my cloths instead of adding them to the pile on the floor, and I’ll be less embarrassed if a friend randomly stops by.
    Plus, you never know what you have until you clean your room!

  • 35. Nicole  |  March 27th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Bri and Katie! Love love this column, and have been a long time follower of your blog :)

    This is such a great topic, and I was just having this conversation today actually. I do chair reupholstery from home, and as you can imagine I have scraps and staples, horsehair and foam, cotton and old nails all over the place! I am one of those women who also gets a little OCD about cleaning up clutter haha. I kinda love cleaning! With chair upholstery, after a few steps and before I move on to another one, I sweep the floor and move all the scraps and loose staples into a pile that is out of everyone’s way. Doing this creates a brand new work space (essentially my living room floor) each time and I can move on to the step knowing I’m cleaning as I go :) Plus, it’s to ensure my boyfriend doesn’t accidentally walk on one of the rusty old nails I removed :) But I tell you one thing, I would not turn down a cleaning lady if we had an offer! Thanks again for the great column and for speaking so openly! And I love that our mom commented. So sweet :)

  • 36. jen a  |  March 27th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    My husband and I BOTH work from home and still have a cleaning lady. Best.money.ever.spent. She comes every two weeks and we love it. I don’t mind cleaning the week in between and it keeps resentment down to a minimum.

  • 37. Melissa  |  March 27th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I have just started working from home and the whole cleaning thing can be a nightmare. This morning I just stood in the kitchen staring at the mess. In the end I did one little job, did some work and then cleaned a little lady. I am sure this is not the answer! Interesting reading all the comments.

  • 38. Jenna  |  March 27th, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    My husband and I both work outside our home full time. We have three (very furry) cats. We are both relatively neat at times and both kind of messy at times. About a year ago we decided to try out having a housekeeper come every other week. I hired the lady that has been cleaning my mom and sister’s houses for years. We LOVED it immediately (even though I am a bit of a control freak and always find things to be bothered by… I still love coming home to a clean, smelly-good house on Thursdays). After a few months we decided to have her start coming every week (she lowered her rate by $10 per session if she came every week). I will NEVER give this up! It is sooooo worth my sanity to pay for this service. And, yeah, most of my friends coworkers that are around my age think I’m crazy or spoiled but whateves. We budget for it and its our business. : )

  • 39. Natalie / Half Asleep Studio  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    My trick is to leave it as long as possible and then all of a sudden you wake up and realize what a huge mess it is and go into a cleaning frenzy for a day. Works every time! ;)

  • 40. carlye ignatenko  |  March 27th, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Neither of us are freelancers, but we are both incredibly busy. My husband works fulltime while working on his masters degree, I am a fulltime law student, top all of this off with parenting a toddler. It is amazing how two people who are rarely home manage to constantly have a messy house. We realized that we have very limited time with our daughter, so we decided on paying for laundry services (we drop off the dirty clothes, they launder the clothing to our specifications, and we pick them up folded/hung on our hangers). This was the BEST decision EVER! Our family time is worth so much more than the money we spend on laundry.

  • 41. Latrina  |  March 27th, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I have always been a neat freak… so I don’t mind cleaning up my apartment — luckily, I have a husband that helps out a lot!

    I’m the type of person who feels more motivated + inspired when working in a clean environment — so before I sit down at my desk, I clean! It’s somewhat of a routine… and I like it. :)

  • 42. Bruna @morgbu.com  |  March 28th, 2013 at 5:13 am

    I don’t really like the idea of someone else taking care of my house, I just prefer doing it myself. I have a really nice schedule and following it makes not a huge deal at all. And saves money and makes me feel like a real house owner. I try to make time to take care of my place because it makes me happy. If you want more details on my cleaning schedule, just go over my blog. And thanks for the sincerity, I believe the fights with the hubby about cleaning is common after all the comments here ;)

  • 43. lei  |  March 28th, 2013 at 5:48 am

    i would definitely agree with your friend that cleaning really helps me when i’m stressed. but sometimes i feel too busy for it and don’t do it, but the urge to do it lives inside of me. then one day i give up and just do it. (i’m in this situation right now, and that day is coming very soon.)

  • 44. Bettina  |  March 29th, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I think we’re about to take the plunge and hire someone. My fiance both work 2 jobs, one in the day and our side gigs at night and on the weekends, so the last thing I want to do is clean and he just never gets around to it. It’s annoying to have the, it’s your turn to do the dishes or clean the kitchen fight when we’re both busy so I think it makes sense to hire the help! I used to feel guilt b/c our apt is only a little over 800 sq ft, but it’s going to make life so much better!



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