Spring Cleaning: When Is (and Isn’t) a Task Worth Your Time?

Allison Kade

home in springtimeChase Blueprint
It can be simultaneously satisfying and overwhelming to imagine ourselves finally scrubbing every nook and cranny of our homes come springtime.

Cleaning behind the fridge? (Do we really want to know what’s back there?) Dusting the ceiling fans? (Where does all that filth come from?) And don’t even get us started on how to begin going through that jam-packed closet …

Spring cleaning is a rite of passage—and we all want to live in sparkling, clutter-free homes—but our time also has value. If you try out our time-worth calculator, you’ll quickly learn that sometimes it just doesn’t pay to scrimp and save if it costs you too much time.

In anticipation of the upcoming spring cleaning season, we wanted to know: When does it make sense to spend our own time brightening living spaces—and when is it wiser to just spend the money and hire someone else to do it?

To arrive at the right answers, we gathered intelligence from a variety of different sources to get estimates of how long certain classic spring cleaning tasks might take an average person to complete, and how much said tasks might cost if a professional tackled them for us.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint®, respondents said that they’re willing to spend $24 on a dinner entrée and $71 on a pair of shoes. Viewed through this lens, would you be willing to skip a few dinners out to hire someone else to help you sort through all those old shoes in your jam-packed closet?

A Few Notes on Our Spring Cleaning Numbers

All of the figures in our chart are estimates, of course, and will vary based on where you live. Since the size of someone’s space is a big variable, we asked our experts to estimate based on a two-bedroom, two-bath home, with an average-sized kitchen and living room.

Most of the tasks involve paying someone to do something for you, but a few involve getting someone to help you. When you hire a personal organizer, for example, you’re getting expertise on what to keep and what to toss—but you obviously can’t pay someone to go through your clutter and throw things out without your input.

Also note that, while we’ve broken down the cost of specific cleaning tasks, in most cases, you won’t be able to hire someone to come out for just one quick task. So although our experts broke out separate estimates for reference, you’ll need to buy a package through most services.

Introducing the experts: For cleaning rates, we spoke to Lariza Diaz of Sweeping Dimensions in the Chicago area. For details on having a personal organizer help you sift through your closet, we consulted Jeanne Fiorini of She’s NEAT in Maine and Suzanne O’Donnell of Los Angeles-based My LA Organizer. When it came to expertise on how to declutter piles of paperwork, we consulted Schae Lewis of Mission 2 Organize in Chicago. And for outdoor work—like window- and gutter-cleaning—we referred to the crowd-sourced wisdom of Costhelper.com.

Task Time to Do It Yourself Cost to Get It Done
Dusting the house 30 minutes $15
Sweeping and mopping hard surfaces, including baseboards 1 hour $30-$60
Cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom 1 hour $30
Degreasing exterior kitchen cabinets 1 hour $15-$30
Cleaning the fridge 1 hour $60
Cleaning bedrooms 30 minutes $30
Going through your closet (small) 2-2.5 hours $80-$100
Going through your closet (medium) 3-6 hours $120-$140
Going through your closet (large) Full day or two $250-$400
Carpet shampooing This is hard to do yourself! $100-$200
Window washing 5 hours $75-$150
Gutter cleaning Few hours $70-$200

  • HJ

    Seriously?!? Shampooing your carpets is not that difficult. If you like to do it often, it may be worth the investment to buy your own shampooer for $300-$400. You would recoup the investment after 3 or 4 uses.

    • Sondra

      I agree. It only takes about twice the time it would to vacuum a carpet. However I’ve never had luck when I’ve purchased my own shampooers.. I’ve had to return them because the tiny little water line gets clogged up.

      • Will

        I rent a rug doctor from the grocery store. They work well and I can usually find coupons so it’s less than 35 bucks for the machine + cleaner. I’d probably buy a rug doctor if I had the space for it… it would take a while to pay for itself, but I’d probably clean the carpets more if I owned one.

        • julie_318

          My daughter in law bought a rug doctor and it’s trash in my opinion. It doesn’t have a brush or heat the water.

    • CrankyFranky

      I’m in a small unit so don’t have the storage space for a shampooer – as a DIY guy I prefer to rent a Britex for $30 for 24 hours rather than pay a guy like $120 for 1 hour – I find half the guys are dodgy, do a single pass or leave the carpet too wet – I do a double pass, get tons of black stuff out of the cleaning water and am good for a year – mind you I’m never sure that warm/hot water isn’t damaging the foam backing as the carpet is getting a bit hard – tho’ it is nearly 20 years old so probably due for a change.

  • suzieq

    I bought a shampoo machine at Costco and do my rugs every summer when I am off from work (teacher here!) While I do have a housekeeper during school hours to help do many of these tasks, my closets are my own domain!

  • CRbirdie

    $24 for a dinner entree and $71 for shoes? I WISH!!!! I’m too busy trying to keep our heads above water (financially). Let’s try <$20 for shoes at Payless and <$10 for a dinner entree.

  • Esme

    From this chart, window washing might be worth hiring out, but most seem better to do yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.farrell.79 Christine Farrell

    Most of it is better to DIY for me, except for washing the outsides of the windows – which I can get done only at the front because I’m in a terraced house :(

    And I’m with CRbirdie – as if!
    Those 2 items are so NOT at all realistic for a huge number of us.
    I get out for a meal, maybe 3 or 4 times in a year – all the rest of the time is home-made and home-cooked.

  • Tania Ginoza

    I used to pay someone to clean my carpet once a quarter using a dry wash method (it is very easy to ruin your carpet doing a diy job and a steam cleaner). I have allergies so it’s worth it. I also used to pay a gardener to do the big jobs (cutting the tops of trees/palms) once a month. I can’t see myself paying for cleaning my house unless I had a lot of extra cash or changed professions where lost time is lost income. I think window washing and gutter cleaning would be worth it if I lived alone in a house. I don’t have a need for a professional organizer or someone to help me go through my closet. I study organization and minimalism as I’m striving for a simpler life so I can make progress there on my own. I think you do need to to do some internal work even if you do hire someone to help you or you’ll just end up back where you started.

    My #1 tip for saving time on house cleaning? Less house! I converted to small space living and I’m never going back again. More time to write, relax and go to the beach and less inclined to buy as much due to limited space.

  • http://twitter.com/KarenC_79 Karen C

    If you say that carpet shampooing is hard to do yourself then obviously you haven’t tried doing it; it’s no harder then vacuuming. It only takes a little longer.

    And just who were the respondents for that survey? They weren’t the average person because there is no way that $71 for one pair of shoes is something that an average person can spend on that unless they’re willing to put them on credit.

    And I’m sure that first part about the fridge was sarcasm (or at least I’m hoping it is). Moving the fridge and other big items is a must for that very reason; you never know what’s behind it. If you drop something from the fridge it also goes under the fridge, things can grow back there…it’s important to do too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Rowynyew Beverly Sadler

    I can understand why some people would pay others to do these tasks, but I wouldn’t want someone else going through my stuff. The way I see it, my money is more valuable than my time. My partner and I can clean our entire 2-story, 4 bedroom, 2 bath house within about 5 hours if we both work together (that’s including scrubbing the walls and everything). We get together and bust out the cleaning, then we can take the money we saved and go out for one of those $24 dinners you talked about up there! :)

  • TLC

    The comments are more realistic than the article. Real people living in the real world.

  • http://twitter.com/AprilHunter April Hunter

    Cleaning is therapeutic. It doesn’t take 30 mins to dust. if I take just 7-10 mins a day here and there doing random things, the house stays clean. Don’t have to pay anyone, don’t have to spend hours.

  • MrsB

    Yesterday, my daughter and I went through an old storage closet (actually the bedroom closet she has never used because it’s crammed full of my clothes and her toys). We folded all the hanging clothes and put them into dry storage containers, that can be stacked or used as tables, etc. We sorted out 3 large Barbie and Bratz cars, a huge toy container of doll odds and ends. Nice dolls and their (expensive) clothes that I hated to part with. They belonged to my child when she was young and I may have grandchildren some day. There were some children’s puzzles and books (I kept the best ones-for those future grandkids). I have to donate in small steps. All those things and 6 pairs of jeans went to Goodwill.

  • http://sureclean.org/ SureCleanWindow

    Interesting article. In the case of window washing, there’s a bit more to consider – especially with exterior window cleaning. It takes a lot more than rinsing the screens and windows with water to get them clean…and that doesn’t include the safety issue of 2nd story or hard to reach windows. A professional service is well worth the money for the time, effort and safety they offer. sureclean.org