Between Emily Pomeroy's job as a cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota and her Ph.D. program, the 31-year-old Minneapolis woman had little time for much else, especially household chores. Add in her husband's new, more demanding job last fall, and suddenly the couple's weekends were consumed with the household cleaning that fell by the wayside during the week.
"No matter how busy we were, I couldn't just let the house get dirty and be OK with it," she said. "It was becoming a huge point of stress for both of us, so we hired a house cleaner."
After five months of having her 1,100-square-foot home professionally cleaned every two weeks, the verdict is in: "It's worth it to come home and have the floors clean and everything smells good," she said. "We can relax now."
The cleaning business is booming, thanks in large part to millennials and post-millennials who are juggling busy schedules, demanding jobs and now kids. For many young, working professionals, cleaning falls low on the priority list.
Nearly half of 25- to 34-year-olds are now hiring cleaners because they are too swamped or would rather spend their time in other ways, according to research by national cleaning site Helpling.com. Many admit they'd even forgo their beloved lattes and avocados to afford the service.
Rachel Pemberton, office manager for Molly Maid of Maple Grove, said more than half of the company's clients are under 40, with folks born in the 1980s and 1990s making up the most common segment.
"Older people are shocked by the cost, but younger people think it's worth it," she said. "They are willing to spend the money to get more time with their family."
The increased demand for house cleaners is coming from newer generations that value experiences over material goods and reportedly place a higher value on work/life balance than do their parents.
"Hiring a professional cleaner gives you the gift of time," said Ernie Hartong, executive director of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International. "It's no longer viewed as a luxury; it's a lifestyle necessity."
Eyeballs rolling yet? Those avocado-loving millennials could be onto something. New research shows that spending money to save time may reduce stress and therefore improve happiness. That's the takeaway from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, whose findings suggest that people who outsource disliked tasks, such as cleaning, reported greater overall life satisfaction.
That was the effect that hiring a house cleaner had on Katie Gross and her family. The 37-year-old Minneapolis mother of two hired a house cleaner twice a month, but the decision wasn't an easy one.
"My parents didn't have a cleaner, and growing up I always felt it was so prestigious," Gross said. "That is probably one reason it took me so long to bite the bullet and get one, especially since I am a stay-at-home mom."
The cost/reward ratio of hiring help has been worth it, she said, calling it the "best thing I have done for myself and my family." She added, "I was always incredibly stressed about cleaning the house. Our home life and relationships with each other have become less strained."
Most of Jennifer Kraskey's clients are her age or younger (she's 38). While Kraskey intended to clean homes to get her through college, her growing customer base of 20- 30-, and 40-somethings has her busier than ever.
"The older generation was raised to do everything themselves; Saturday was chore day and they stayed home until it was done," she said. "The younger generations are so busy, they just reach a point where they need some help."
An $85 biweekly house cleaning service affords Mackenzie Hirschi more time with her husband and 11-month-old son.
"My husband and I both work full-time-plus; add in our commutes, and during the week we are lucky to spend two hours a day with our 1/8son3/8," the 37-year-old Lakeville woman said. "So spending quality time with him and each other is important."
To adapt to its growing millennial customer base, the cleaning industry is getting tech-savvy. Like finding a ride or preparing dinner, the internet has revolutionized how millennials keep their spaces clean.
There's an endless amount of apps offering cleaning services at various rates. A quick download of the Handy app reveals that a house cleaner is available within 24 hours to clean a four-bedroom, two-bathroom Minneapolis home. The cost? $128. There are also options to add on fridge cleaning and laundry services.
For some, the cost is out of reach. For others, adding house cleaning to the monthly budget is a matter of priorities.
With three kids, a new puppy and full-time jobs, Bonnie Sheridan says, her family has achieved a better work/life balance with a house cleaner, and that's the ultimate goal. The 36-year-old Plymouth woman said that the service is a luxury, but that she's OK paying for it.
"It takes us a lot of time to just keep the house picked up and organized," she said. "By the time we got the house put back together, we were out of time and/or energy to actually clean it."
But for Sheridan's mother, Michele Netka, hiring someone to clean is out of the question.
"What house cleaners do, I can do better in less time," she said. "Maybe it's mine or older generations, but I clean up after myself on a daily basis, so any big cleaning doesn't take too long."
While Netka can't fathom having a stranger in her home alone, the lack of face-to-face time with a cleaner isn't a problem for younger folks.
Jonathan Weinhagen said he has never even met his house cleaner of nearly a year. The Shoreview father of four said he believes that his generation puts a higher value on time than does his parents' generation.
"The concept of paying to have something done that you can do yourself is a whole different mind-set," said Weinhagen, 35. "Time is our most valuable limited commodity."
Is the $120 check he writes twice a month worth it for a clean house?
"It's like euphoria. All is right in the world," he said. "And I didn't have to do a thing, except pick up and write a check."