Do-It-Yourself Or Have Someone Do-It-For-You?
by Kimberly Lew
When I think of DIY, I often think of Pinterest or home design blogs, where people make coasters out of magazine clippings or refinish old dressers with antique drawer pulls. And while I like being crafty as much as the next blogger, I just don’t have a lot of time to make decorative mason jar tea light lanterns or buy wood to try to construct my own coffee table. It took almost six months for my boyfriend and I to put together my Ikea furniture, and we had help from our friends.
Mostly, when it comes to DIY projects, I either like to pay for what I need, ready to be used, or I just do without.
That being said, when you live in the city and are limited on time, it is surprising what you can pay to have someone do for you. This applies to extravagant things, yes, like hiring a contractor or stylist or buying gorgeous handmade items directly from artists. But there are also services available for the most mundane things, making some of the tasks that seems natural for you to DIY into possible outsourcing opportunities.
I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have a lot of money to farm out my day-to-day chores, but when I was working two jobs and living alone, sometimes convenience was worth paying for in exchange for time. Here are some of the services I’ve tried and my assessment as to whether or not having someone do these tasks for me was worth the extra dough.
I once managed to move all my stuff from uptown to downtown solely by stuffing all my stuff in a few cabs, and I’m still not quite sure why I decided to go that route. Over time, however, I have collected a good amount of furniture and stuff, and moving into a narrow five-story walk-up, it seemed like hiring movers was the best option that would not have me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I hired three guys and a truck from Rob the Mover, and the experience was nothing short of magic. The guys were all nice, and they had me set up in my studio in a matter of hours.
The most worthwhile part of the experience was having an expert take apart and then reconstruct my Ikea bedframe, which was a challenge enough to put together the first time, much less attempt to put together again.
Total cost: $500
Worth the cost: A resounding yes.
With my crazy schedule, having time to go grocery shopping was a luxury I didn’t have. There were a couple of grocery stores close to me, but they were overpriced, meaning if I really wanted to do a heavy-duty shopping trip, I had to go to a cheaper store and haul everything home on the train and up the five flights of stairs. Also, because my work schedule was so packed, there were very few windows where I could do this while stores were still open.
An old roommate of mine used to have groceries delivered, and so I followed her lead. While the prices of everything on the websites I’ve used are more than at Trader Joe’s or the like, their customer service is great and having food show up at my door encouraged me to cook at home now and not give in to more expensive habits like ordering takeout and going out for food. Now that I work a little less often, I try to supplement delivered grocery hauls with runs to the grocery store on my way home from the office. However, for large/heavy bulk items, I still think ordering online is great.
Total cost: Slightly more expensive groceries and delivery charge of about $3–7
Worth the cost: Worth it in time and effort but more cost effective if done by yourself
When I moved into my last apartment, I scheduled movers to come in the morning and cable and Internet to be set up around noon, and then I had to run to a shift at the bookstore in the evening. Because time was tight, I basically needed my apartment to be ready to be lived in as soon as possible. To help move that timeline along, I bought a housecleaning voucher off of Gilt City and decided to have someone come in to help clean my just-moved-into apartment, something I never thought I would have the money to do.
I thought that a two hour session would be enough to get a quick wipe-down of my small bathroom and tiny studio kitchen, but the woman who was cleaning ended up spending that entire time on the bathroom. I didn’t want to hover, so I let her do her thing, but she ended up running over the 2 hours, for which I was then charged extra, and my kitchen didn’t get touched at all.
The bathroom looked clean, but not in a life-changing way. I realize that part of this might have been the particular service I used, but I realized that I don’t mind doing a little scrubbing once in a while if it saves me $60.
Total cost: About $60 for 2.5 hours of cleaning
Worth the cost: If money were no object, maybe, but not something I would repeat any time soon.
Wash and Fold Laundry
I started sending my laundry out when an old roommate suggested we do it instead of loading up our carry-on suitcases and walking our laundry 11 blocks away to do it at a small laundromat. Some people hate other people touching their clothes, but for me, it was a huge treat. Everything came back clean and already-folded, and it certainly saved me long hours spent washing my clothes go in circles, waiting for the cycle to end.
Then, however, I moved into a building that had a washer/dryer in the basement, and I realized how much money I was wasting. Just like they sing in West Side Story, I’m pretty sure having a washing machine is indeed the American Dream.
Total Cost: $1.00/pound
Worth the cost: A nice treat, but I’ve learned that prioritizing an apartment with laundry can sometimes be a better deal
I had a bad habit to requesting taxis or, yes, even the occasional Uber when I was either running late or it was late at night and I needed to get home by myself. I realized how ridiculous the former was when, in a panicked attempt to stave off being 10 minutes late to work, I jumped in a cab, only to be stuck in crosstown traffic and 30 minutes late by the time I pulled up to the bookstore, sweaty and out of breath.
I did, however, give myself permission to never be ashamed of the latter reason for taking cabs. If I ever felt unsafe waiting for a late night train, I allowed myself to go upstairs and take a cab home. The hardest part of this, however, was that home was often far from the common dive bars where my friends and I tend to congregate, and rides were $20, at minimum, sometimes as much as $45 depending where I was living. Nowadays, I try to avoid taking cars more than ever, but I now feel like I have a better gauge of when the price will be worth it and when it won’t be.
Total Cost: $25–45/ride
Worth the cost: Yes, so long as the decision is not driven by just laziness.
Kimberly Lew is the proud writer of plays, blogs, and the monthly check when the rent is due. Check her out at www.kimberlylew.com.
This story is part of our DIY Month.