The only time I look forward to mopping my floors, cleaning out the stove, and scrubbing dirty pans is when I’m really, really mad about something.
Fortunately—for my soul, but not for the interior of my refrigerator—I’m not angry very often.
But I do like a clean place. I think more clearly when my counters aren’t full of crumbs.
Unfortunately, my daughter, who’s nearly three, and my husband, who’s old enough to know better, do not have such high standards for cleanliness.
So like many women, I spend a ton of time tidying up. One study found that women spend 2.6 hours per day cleaning, cooking, and taking care of other house-related stuff.
A year ago, I started seeing Facebook ads for Handy, the Uber of housecleaning, furniture assembly, and other handyman tasks. They were offering two hours of cleaning for $38 (I’ve seen offers as low as $29 for two hours).
Over the past few years, Handy has hooked up about 10,000 cleaners with people living in 28 cities.
One night at midnight, as I swept the floor, I realized I needed some help maintaining my house. So I downloaded the Handy app, entered my credit card information, and booked my first appointment for the very next day. I’ve been using the service every three or four weeks since then.
But many people on Yelp aren’t so happy with Handy.
If you look at their reviews in any city, you’ll come across some pretty shocking stories. Some people claim:
- They’ve been robbed by Handy’s contractors
- They’ve been unable to reach customer service to cancel plans
- They’ve been charged for services that were never performed
But my experience has been exactly the opposite. I think Handy is well worth the cost, as long as you’re willing to deal with a few snafus here and there.
Here are some questions to help you figure out if Handy is right for you:
What is an hour of your free time worth?
I have a full-time job as a professor. But since I’ve been 28, I’ve also worked as a freelance writer.
I’d always managed to balance the demands of both gigs very well—until I had a child.
At first, I got a lot of my freelance writing done on days I wasn’t working while my daughter napped.
Now that she’s three and has adopted a naps-are-for-losers attitude, she wants to play all the time. Seriously. All the time. Zero work ethic.
I suddenly found myself with less and less time to clean, freelance, and do other things that are important to me—like binge watch Netflix, exercise, and see friends. Oh, not to mention hanging out with my husband alone occasionally.
When my daughter does finally go to sleep for the night, I’m often so tired myself that I don’t want to do anything mentally challenging, like put a sentence together.
I felt guilty using Handy at first. After all, a two hour cleaning every two weeks meant spending an extra $76 per month (And then there’s tipping, which isn’t required but I feel bad not doing when a job is well done).
For a month, I timed how long it took me to research and write various things. My tracking wasn’t perfect, but in general, I figured four hours of freelancing nets me around $200.
This means an hour of my time outside of my full-time job is worth about $50.
And by spending $76, I could earn $124 more.
Equally important, the more I write, the more additional freelance work I’ll qualify for in the future (no one will hire a writer who hasn’t had anything published in years and years).
Side work contributes to my long-term financial health.
If your work situation is similar, the numbers may prove an occasional cleaning service is worth it.
Of course, you don’t have to get a cleaning service just so you can use that time to work more. But it’s a good idea to put a value on your free time, no matter how you spend those hours—even if you’re watching Netflix.
If you’re not sure what an hour of your free time is worth, take this survey from Clearer Thinking.
It’s long, but it will help you figure out, among other things, when paying someone to do something is more cost efficient than doing it yourself, especially if you’ll spend that time making money.
Do Handy’s perks matter more than the potential downsides?
A basic cleaning by Handy includes:
- Wiping down of surfaces
- Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping of floors and/or carpets
- Washing and sanitizing the toilet, shower, tub, and sink
To save money, I only hire someone through Handy to come in for two hours every two to four weeks. That means the person can’t clean my whole place in one visit. But I’m OK with that.
For $38, Handy cleans the area I spend the most time in, the first floor of my house.
A few times, I have had cleaners who friends have recommended give me quotes. One told me that cleaning the whole house would cost $100. Another said the first floor would run me $60.
When I looked up cleaners on Task Rabbit, another platform that connects handy people with those in need, they were charging around $25 per hour, and that was if I provided the cleaning supplies.
Handy’s contractors bring their own supplies and cleaning equipment.
That saves you money. One study found the average American spends $42 per month on cleaning supplies. That’s $504 per year. That figure will be higher if your cleaning service uses your Windex.
Granted, the referrals I got from friends were probably better cleaners than those I’ve gotten through Handy. For example, Handy’s cleaners make you pay extra for cleaning any of the following things:
- Inside cabinets
- Inside fridge
- Inside oven
- Laundry wash and dry
- Interior windows
But the app clearly lays out what each extra service will cost, usually around $8-15.
For me, the biggest perk of Handy is the flexibility of scheduling
Sometimes, I look around and realize that I need someone to come in before the two weeks I’d planned.
Sometimes, I look around and realize I’ve miraculously kept the house clean, and don’t need someone for another week.
As long as you cancel or reschedule your cleaning more than 24 hours before the cleaner is scheduled to arrive, Handy doesn’t charge you a fee.
If you cancel between two and 24 hours of your scheduled appointment, a $15 late fee applies.
Within two hours of your appointment, you’ll be charged the full amount.
This has angered some Yelp reviewers. But I think it’s more than fair. The cleaners have blocked out time to work for you. They turned down other potential cleaning gigs, expecting you to keep up your end of the deal. It’s only fair they get some payment if you cancel at the last minute.
I’m on top of my calendar, but if you aren’t, you’ll probably get burned by late fees at some point
Handy doesn’t send you push notifications through the app to remind you of your appointment. They do, however, send you an email reminder 48 hours before your appointment.
Of course, like Uber, some contractors just aren’t good at their jobs. But like Uber, you can rate every contractor to warn others. You can also ban someone from ever being matched with you again.
When someone does a great job, you can mark the person as one of your favorites, so that the next time your place is due for a cleaning, the offer goes to them first.
For my past three Handy appointments, I’ve had the same contractor. She even cleans the baseboards. Baseboards!
Of course, you won’t necessarily get matched with a favorite. The most common complaint on Yelp is that some cleaners do a bad job.
I’ve only felt like “WTF…I can’t pay for this” twice. One time, the cleaner yelled upstairs that she was leaving. I thought it was suspicious—the two hours weren’t up yet.
When I came downstairs, I noticed that she had only swept and mopped the floor. She hadn’t touched any counters, the sinks, or the toilet. She had misunderstood my directive to “just clean the first floor.” She thought I meant to only clean the floor of the first floor.
I texted Handy’s customer service right away, and they immediately offered a free cleaning on them. The fact that they don’t give you a refund when you complain has angered many Yelp users. But I’ve liked when they comped my next cleaning. It meant I felt less guilty about spending the money a few weeks later.
So is Handy worth it?
It all depends how you feel about that old saying, “Time is money.”
For me, that adage is true…even if I’m secretly downstairs watching Netflix on my laptop.
Some people hate Handy. Others, like me, swear by it. Much depends on the monetary value you place on your free time, and what you’d spend those extra hours you would have spent cleaning doing.
You’ll probably be happiest with Handy if you get an introductory special rate through them that beats rates on Task Rabbit or from other services.
The benefits of Handy include the ability to cancel and reschedule at the last minute and pay without exchanging cash. The downsides include that you never know who’s coming over, and some cleaners may not be so great. Mark your favorite Handy professionals so that they receive offers to clean your place before those you’ve never met before.
Not happy with Handy? Complain. Their customer service team will often offer you a free cleaning so that you don’t give up on them. If you’re very picky about the way your place is cleaned, Handy will likely disappoint you.