Outsourcing chores can make you happy
On my living room floor, I pressed the last cotton shirt into a perfect square in pseudo-Konmari style. Pure joy is taking me over as I look at separate, well defined piles that I will be transferring to their respective places, in order to give every cloth a “home.”
Then I hear thunder.
My toddler comes running over. She kicks two piles and grabs polyester pants to hide under a rug, behind a hard-to-move couch, and in a large vase. She is in a dinosaur phase so my underwear is now in Parasaurolophus's mouth.
One any given day, there are two parts to me. One where I am amused by her sense of fun and play. The other where I have uncontrollable, unrelenting rage. On that day I had just finished my fourth load of laundry for the week. I'm a ticking time bomb.
She is laughing and I am trying to control myself. I feel uneasy and even ashamed that getting the stacks of clothes tidy means so much to me. I wish I could just say it’s just clothes or that it doesn’t matter if it is nicely folded. Or more importantly, that my daughter is just a kid.
The phone rings and I forget that I had an online consultation with a designer who I really badly wanted to hire, at a reasonable price. I wanted to seem put together and that I wasn’t desperate for her services. Key for any negotiation.
I pace around the room trying to pick up all of my masterpiece that has been flung apart. I then see my toddler take one of the fleece blankets into a pile of trash that spilled over onto the kitchen floor. Everything from specks of food, sauces, hair, and plastic stuck onto the blanket as she dragged it out of the kitchen into the living room that now looks like post-clothes fireworks.
I yelled into the phone Goddamnit!
My daughter stops. There is silence on the other line. I end the call abruptly with no excuses.
I felt bad for the next hour and wasted that time being passive aggressively upset with my daughter. I could not convince myself to play with her that afternoon.
I constantly debate whether I should do the laundry (or any of the chores) versus having it outsourced. At its base, it is truly a question of time versus money.
When it comes to home chores, where are you in terms of sacrificing time or money?
On my more enlightened days, I would say I value time over money. But in reality, I don't see that as the case with my own behaviors. I end up doing all of the laundry without fail almost all of the time.
What would be much better is if I learned to consistently value time over money and be more mindful with the extra moments I am able to claim back. If I outsourced more, I could be happier.
Ashley Whillans in Time Smart argues that we would be much happier if we outsourced.
$18,000 more happier in fact.
Her work is fascinating, because she tries to really quantify happiness in dollars. These dollars then can be applied onto whether or not certain tasks are worth doing.
Her concept of time affluence is similar to Laura Vanderkam's conception of time abundance - the feeling that you are time rich no matter how busy and full your life is.
Whillans argues that the happiest and most time affluent amongst us are deliberate with our time.
The power of intentionality and being present simply cannot be overstated. And it has to happen now.
It was a Seattle winter day, where rain was unrelenting and I had another load to do. I sorted, organized, and folded everything. Perfect piles. Toddler coming around again. She kicked over the pile of my slippery workout clothes.
I exhaled. Grabbed her. Let out a dinosaur roar and tickled her.