How to Outsource Your Life

Melissa Kossler Dutton
Katie Vincer Sears with husband, Scott, son Scotty, 19 months, and daughter, Stella, six months. Sears is a Clintonville dentist who relies on the help of a nanny, housekeeper and personal assistant to keep her family organized.

Katie Vincer Sears enjoys taking her children to story hour, going on walks with them and reading to them.

But the working mom knows that the house must get cleaned, errands need to be run and dinners have to be prepared.

Rather than try to do it all, the Clintonville mother hires people to help her and husband Scott Sears manage their household.

As a dentist who owns her own practice, Vincer Sears had a cleaning service even before her children were born. Since the arrival of 18-month-old Scotty and 5-month-old Stella, she has added other helpers.

"It's been gradual," she said. "You just start to realize you can't do it all. You slowly figure out what help you need."

The idea of outsourcing household chores has taken off as busy moms and dads try to manage chores, kids and work, said Cheryl Reed, director of communications for Angie's List, a company that offers online compilations of consumer reviews for household services.

"It is absolutely happening more," said Reed from her office in Indianapolis. "People are realizing their time is valuable."

Vincer Sears spends about $2,000 a month on help. She sees the money as an investment in her family.

"You have to pick what you want to do and what your priorities are," she said.

Begin by deciding what you hope to accomplish by hiring help, Reed said: "What are you looking for? An extra hour a day? An extra day in the week?"

Once you have a goal in mind, make a list of all the chores that need to be done and determine how much time they take, suggested Julia Romanow, an editor at the blog.

Consider hiring someone to do things that take up the most time or that you really dislike doing, said Romanow, a lawyer and mother of two in Castle Rock, Colo.

Cleaners are one of the most popular services people hire, Reed said.

People love coming home to a clean house, said Tanya Adair, owner of Tidy Moms Cleaning Service in Delaware.

She encourages clients to ask for whatever help they need. She will spring clean, organize drawers and closets, or do laundry.

"I try to be very flexible," she said.

Professional cleaning costs about $120 a visit, according to Angie's List.

Patricia Witman was considering cutting her hours at work when she discovered Dinner Rescue Crew, a company that prepares, packages and delivers wholesome meals throughout central Ohio. Witman, a doctor at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and her husband, Richard Gumina, realized it made financial sense to pay chef Melissa Hura and her team to make meals for the family.

"We easily justified the cost," said Witman, who was commuting from Powell to downtown Columbus and arrived home too late to start dinner. Hura's fees were similar to eating out, and she uses quality, fresh ingredients, said the mother of four.

"It all comes down to time management. It took a lot of stress out of my life," said Witman, who recently moved to Bexley and uses Hura less frequently now because she arrives home from work in time to cook.

Many clients turn to Hura because they want to feed their families nutritious meals but don't have time to prepare them, she said.

"Usually it's the mom who is really concerned about what's going into the kids' bodies," Hura said.

She customizes each family's meals to their likes, dislikes and dietary restrictions. She also will grocery shop for her clients.

Dinner Rescue Crew's charges vary, but a family of four could buy enough food for three nights of meals for $399.

Cleaning up after pets is another chore that Angie's List users have begun to hire someone to do, Reed said. The company started compiling lists of pet waste removal services because so many customers were asking about them, she added.

If you or your family does not want to clean up after pets, it's a good idea to pay a professional to do it, agreed Martin Deely, executive director of the International Association of Canine Professionals, headquartered in Lampasas, Texas.

"It can cause a hygiene problem," he said.

The organization maintains a large list of professional services that pet owners can purchase. Services range from dog walking to grooming to dog sitting.

Waste removal costs about $15 per week for one pet, according to Angie's List.

After the birth of her son, Vincer Sears found it difficult to run errands. She disliked dragging the baby in and out of stores. She opted to pay one of her employees to do errands for her. It's a relief to know things will get taken care of but to have them off her plate, she said.

Hiring a personal assistant or an errand runner can save valuable time, Reed said. They can help with everything from shopping needs to handling personal communications.

"There is someone who will help you do any chore you have," she said.

Hourly rates range from $30 to $60 an hour, according to Angie's List.

When Jodi Marsh helps parents plan their children's birthday parties, they often remark on how the service enabled them to relax and enjoy the party.

"The parents are able to sit back and watch," said Marsh, owner of Three Cheers, a children's event planning service in Worthington.

She offers varying levels of help. She can make all the arrangements and run the party or just take on certain tasks. She usually works with parents to identify a theme and location for the party. If parents opt to have it at home, she helps with the itinerary and activities.

"I have a time-tested flow that works really well - an order of events," she said.

She has a variety of reusable decorations that she provides clients.

"I try to do things a little greener," she said.

Marsh's prices vary, but she typically can organize a party for eight children for less than $300.

When looking for help, it pays to be creative, said Romanow.

"The end game is making working work," she said.

Find help and resources that suit your needs, Romanow said. Look at your friends and family and see if they have a skill they could put to work for you, she said. Think about acquaintances - college students and older neighbors - who might want to earn a little extra money, she recommended. Ask them if they would consider helping your kids get ready for school, shopping for your groceries or whatever else you may need.

"Don't be afraid to ask. The worst thing that could happen is they could say no," she said.