Young people hiring housework help

Marketplace Staff Jul 24, 2009

Young people hiring housework help

Marketplace Staff Jul 24, 2009


Bob Moon: Just when you think you’ve heard everything,
a story like this next one comes along. Maybe to you and me, domestic help sounds like a luxury, even more so in times like these. Housekeeping services say they have lost clients, but it turns out they’ve also had a steady stream of new ones.

This is the now-I’ve-heard-it-all part: Some are students and recent college grads
paying to have their dorm rooms kept clean. Yeah, that’s how I reacted, too.

Sally Herships has the story.

Sally Herships: It’s Wednesday morning and I’m now going to wash the dishes before the housekeeper gets here.

Herships: Yeah, you heard me correctly — I’m cleaning up before the housekeeper. Why? Flash back a couple of months. I had a talk with one of my roommates Cara: Help clean up our tiny New York City apartment or else.

Cara: You were freaking out.

Herships: But you guys weren’t cleaning up!

Cara: I work 12 hours a day and the last thing I want to do when I get home is clean the toilets.

So my two roommates hired a housekeeper instead for 150 bucks a month. I found it embarrassing. Which is why I clean before the housekeeper arrives. My roommates are in their mid-20s. Yes, mid-20s. Why do they need to hire help?

I’m a bit older, but am I old fashioned? I asked my friend Shana. Like me she’s in her thirties. Her sister just graduated from college and has a housekeeper.

Shana: There is a sense of entitlement amongst some of her friends and her peers that I have a real hard time relating to.

So what is going on with the kids these days? I asked Kit Yarrow. She’s a professor of psychology and marketing. She’s also a step-mom. She just wrote a book about Generation Y. That’s people ages 9 to 30 — like her two kids, my roommates and Shana’s sister.

Kit Yarrow: In general, they’ve been indulged more then previous generations have.

Yarrow says Gen Y is seen as being more knowledgeable about products than previous generations. So they were given a lot of influence over household purchases, like electronics. And she says, more then other generations, their parents wanted to be their friends. They ended up with a lot of money to spend, like one high school grad she spoke to.

Yarrow: I asked her, tell me about a purchase that you really liked that you made to get ready for college and she said she got a Chanel handbag and I just about fell off my seat.

I can understand a Chanel handbag, but why a housekeeper? To find out I talked to Shana’s sister, 22-year-old Kelsey.

Kelsey: This is a luxury for us, this is the splurge.

Now Kelsey has a full-time job. But when she and her roommates hired their housekeeper, they were still in college. At first she says she was hesitant. Her share of the monthly bill was seventy bucks. That, seemed too expensive for something she could do herself. But then…

Kelsey: I remember coming home and just thinking, “Oh my god, the floors are done, the shower is like, less moldy, this is incredible.”

And she says, they don’t own cars, they cook at home and don’t go out much. Kelsey’s roommate Tara says the majority of her income is spent on rent and utilities, so a housekeeper, that’s almost like an investment.

Tara: When you consider how much you’re putting in for where you’re living, it doesn’t seem so extravagant to put in a little bit more so that all three of us can live comfortably. But I would say that it’s embarrassing to tell people that we have a housekeeper.

Kelsey: Yeah. It is outrageous, but we all do outrageous things.

Tara: But we don’t take cabs.

Kelsey: No, or go out to fancy dinners.

So, back to psychologist Kit Yarrow.

Herships: Do you have a maid? Do you have a housekeeper?

Yarrow: Yes, I’m old though. I got my housekeeper when I was 40. Until I was kind of financially knew what was going to happen, I didn’t feel comfortable spending money.

Gen Y does feel comfortable.

Yarrow: They didn’t have much money in the stock market so there wasn’t much to lose; they didn’t have homes, so there wasn’t much to lose. You know, there’s a kind of natural, also completely understandable reason why they haven’t pulled back on spending as much.

Herships: So what is Gen Y cutting back on right now?

Yarrow: Big blank silence over here.

Big blank silence. Actually Yarrow says Gen Y-ers have cut back on pricey purchases, but they’re not cutting back on much.

Yarrow: It’s not so much that they’re selfish or greedy, which is what I think we think of when we think of entitled people. It’s more like, they haven’t felt fear.

Unlike us Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. But Kelsey and her roommate Tara say they’re planning to take on their own cleaning and cancel their service. And as for me, all my extra dimes are going into my piggy bank. So for right now, if my roommates want to hire a cleaning person, that’s fine. But I’ll stick with my own elbow grease. It’s free.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace Money.

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