Submitted by Don Doman
I grew up in a mom and pop motel. I did everything from washing linen to renting rooms. Making repairs, moving appliances, painting, and mowing was all just part of my chores. I began renting rooms when I was in the seventh grade. As an adult, my wife and I owned a number of house rentals, so fixing things was just something I needed to do. Saving money and time was the result. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t do all of that work any more, so people are shocked when I actually do something physical or practical around the house. They don’t know I have hidden abilities. I want to keep it that way.
I would rather pay someone else to do a job I could do, so I can do something else that I enjoy. Time is short. I see my friends working much of their weekends around their houses. If they truly enjoy it, then that’s fine, but . . . I received vindication for my viewpoint in a New York Times Article “Want to be happy? Try spending money to save time, study says” by Niraj Chokshi. The article, based on several surveys, starts off with a basic question “Do you spend money to save time, or spend time to save money?” Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School says, “People who spent money to buy themselves time, such as by outsourcing disliked tasks, reported greater overall life satisfaction.”
My ninth and tenth grade summers were spent digging walkways, and building foundations for sidewalks around the motel units and parking lots. I shoveled gravel, cement, and sand into an electric cement mixer, dumped it into a wheelbarrow and trudged concrete out to my dad for troweling. This year when I needed to have a foundation poured for a metal sculpture, I brought in a contractor. Three people worked on the foundation, while I sat at my computer. I was more than pleased to let someone else do the hard work, even though I had the skills to do the job.
Whillans, who was the lead author on the work study revealed that the same satisfaction or pleasure was not seen when money was used to purchase material goods. Whillans also said the study hinted that the Protestant work ethic might provide some guilt when paying someone to do a job that people could easily do themselves. Personally, I feel no guilt when I can hire someone for a task I don’t want to do so I can see a film, read a book, or just go for a walk with my wife, Peggy. To me that’s a bargain.
Peg and I work from home, but if we were working eight hours plus travel time everyday, you better believe that we would have maid service and yard work done every week, if not every weekday. Actually, Nasim and Sons mows our lawn, rakes and blows off the deck and driveway each week. If the Seattle firms The Maids (house & office cleaning) and Chinook Services (handyman jobs and general contracting) did work in the Tacoma area, we would give them a constant “to do” list.
Whillans may be right. However, when someone is cleaning our house, washing the windows, or doing repair work I do feel a little remorse and guilt that I’m not doing it myself. I say a “little,” which means it’s not enough to alter my behavior . . . as long as they are doing a good job! I could to it, but . . . why?