D.I.why bother when they'll do it all for you?


JUST a couple of generations ago, few people would reach for the phone to call a takeaway because they couldn’t be bothered to cook or they were so late home from work, preparing food was just a task too far.

Now there can’t be many people who haven’t substituted a carry-out for a prepared-from-scratch evening meal. But cooking is only one mundane task that growing numbers of us are looking to bypass.

Britons now spend £22 billion a year on services to make life easier - little jobs that our grandparents would not have dreamt of contracting out.

More and more of us are struggling to find the time or the knowledge for what were once everyday jobs - a study by BT shows 53 per cent of people find fixing a zip hard work, 12 per cent say ironing is difficult and nine per cent have trouble sewing on a button.

Less than half the country would be able to hang their own wallpaper, 47 per cent wouldn’t be able to shorten trousers and 27 per cent would be clueless when it comes to growing their own vegetables.

The knock-on effect has been the creation of a whole army of helpers who will carry out the tasks we can’t - or won’t - for a price.

So what everyday chores can be removed from the busy schedules of people in Edinburgh - and how much does it cost?

Home Help/Handy Man

Dusting getting you down? Well, call one of the legions of home help agencies which have sprung up over the last few years.

One is Edinburgh-based Hectic Life, set up by Alan four years ago. He says: "We offer everything from gardening to DIY to cleaning and laundry services. A lot of our customers are IT professionals, lawyers, stockbrokers and accountants, we also have a couple of artists and even a few celebrities on our books. It’s not all glamorous clients - for £35 you can get your flat cleaned, whoever you are."

While Alan admits the company spent a while "in the trenches" when first starting out, he says that these days, business is booming. "People have much more expendable income these days. It’s more cost effective to get a cleaner in than spending four or five hours trying to do it yourself when you could be working."

One of Alan’s most loyal clients is Mark Crockett who owns a property portfolio in Edinburgh. He says: "I got involved with them about two and a half years ago. It started off with domestic stuff just in the house and then as my businesses grew so did my involvement with them. Now they look after all the cleaning for my pub and restaurant and they’ll clean and decorate the flats when a new tenant’s coming in too."

Crockett says the best thing about the service is that no job is too small. "It’s all the silly things, like picking up the dry cleaning and paying bills that you can never get anybody to do or find the time yourself."

• www.hecticlife.co.uk


Published Date: 20 March 2008

Time to bed down for a bit of spring cleaning


WITH her apron and Marigolds on, a home-cooked meal in the oven and duster and washing soda at the ready – the image of the model 1950s housewife is enough to send a shiver down the spine of most modern women.

While men were the breadwinners, women stayed at home to cook, clean and look after the kids. And at this time of year there was only one thing on their mind, the all-important annual spring-cleaning ritual.

The walls were washed, curtains cleaned and changed, beds flipped and carpets shampooed. Cupboards were emptied, scrubbed and re-ordered, rooms were made spotless, and unwanted items thrown out. But today we work hard and play even harder. For many of us cleaning is relegated to hangover Sundays and slapdash efforts with the Hollyoaks omnibus on in the background. Or left to the hired help.

So is the spring clean now entirely a thing of the past?

According to a survey by appliance manufacturer Miele, we are a divided nation, with less than half of all homes in the UK now getting an annual spring clean. And, according to another survey, by Persil, a quarter of us are too busy to do all our chores, and 31 per cent of people avoid dusting the house.

"Cleaning trends have changed," says Edinburgh cleaner Linda Edwards. "Time is money, and our time has become increasingly precious. More and more women are working so time is limited and spending hours a week cleaning just isn't on the radar for many today. Dirt and household duties are still the same as always, but attitudes have changed."

Events planner Siobhan McDonald, from South Queensferry, agrees. While the 31-year-old has to be meticulous in her career, her home is a different matter.

"It's a pig sty," she laughs. "My bedroom is littered with clothes, the wardrobes are open and the corners are piled high with bags. The living room has old cups and glasses still there, dust on everything and my shoes on the floor where I kicked them off – last week.

"I just don't have time to clean, nor do I particularly want to. I work long hours and the last thing I want to do when I come through the door at 7pm is pick up a duster and vacuum the place. My mum has a fit every time she's round and cleans for me – and one day I'll get round to hiring a cleaner . . . when I've got time. To be honest, the mess doesn't really bother me. There's more important things."

"I live by the mantra that there's always tomorrow," agrees makeup artist, Dawn Walker, from Stockbridge. "I can always clean up the following day and the mess isn't an issue for me – my flat is messy, not dirty.

"Women today lead busy, hectic professional lives and even busier social lives. We work more hours, take more crap from employers and the last thing we want to do is come home and stick on the Marigolds. Give me a glass of wine any day. And spring cleaning? No way. I'm off to Paris this weekend instead."

But for every Marigold dodger out there, there are those who will happily take off their work suit and slip out of their heels at the end of the day, and get scrubbing. And Emily Walters, owner of web design company EW Multimedia, does just that.

"I clean every day," admits the 25-year-old who lives in the city centre. "In fact, I try and get the flat organised before I start work. There's nothing worse than coming back to a messy house. I'm actually a bit of a Monica from Friends when it comes to cleaning. I am a very organised person and I work at quite a fast pace. An untidy house definitely upsets my balance. I actually find it therapeutic."

She continues: "I give the flat a good clean and a dust at least three times a week, and I'm definitely spring cleaning. It's actually quite exciting getting everything clean and ready for the summer – after months of hibernating in the flat I want to be able to start the new season fresh. It's also a great time to clear out the wardrobe and invest in some great summer clothes."

According to Emily, her mum is behind her tidiness, drilling it into her from a young age. And her mum learnt from her own mother. "My Gran is in her 80s and manages to keep her house in pristine condition with no outside help," she adds.

"Attitudes have changed. Our lifestyles are a lot more rushed. People work longer hours than ever before and the last thing they want to do is clean. But there's no excuse. Technology around the home has given us more efficient appliances that do many of the household chores for us such as self-cleaning ovens and self-defrosting fridge freezers.

"And as far as I'm concerned your home says a lot about you. It's such a personal place and it reflects the kind of person you are and what styles you like."

Fellow "Monica" – otherwise known as Gillian Frame – agrees.

"I clean so often I was awarded the 'Biggest Monica Award' in my school yearbook," laughs the 23-year-old trainee management accountant, from East Lothian. "It's important to me because I always like to take pride in my own things and it helps to keep things organised.

"I ensure the house is clean by doing the basic daily chores – vacuuming, ironing, making the bed, rinsing the shower after use and fluffing the cushions. And then there's my weekly cleaning routine, and heavy-duty clean which happens more than once a year.

"I think the trend change is down to more and more women having careers – we spend less time in the home and more time in the office, hence less time to clean. Individuals, couples and parents spend more time with their families going on outings, holidays and school trips rather than in the home too."

But, Gillian stresses, it is no excuse. "These days people are becoming more lazy and take less pride in what they do as well as their personal possessions. More and more people create excuses for things whereas decades ago people just got on with it regardless. There's no excuse to never having a clean."

And as Emily sums up: "We all like to unwind at the end of the day, but how can you when everything is a mess and unorganised. Tidy 'desk', healthy mind."

If you can't make the time to keep your home in tip-top condition or do the annual spring clean, the Capital is full of professionals who will do all the hard work for you. And no-one need ever know . . .

Can't face cleaning your oven, stove or cooker? Well let local oven specialist Keith Lamb of Ovenu Edinburgh (0131-308 3435) do it for you, restoring your oven to near showroom condition. Prices for "oven valetting" vary, but start at as little as £20.

Hectic Life - www.hecticlife.co.uk (0845-644 7501) offers both spring cleans and blitz cleans as part of their extensive household services throughout the Capital, from as little as £35. Sparkling Clean

0845 644 7501

Hectic Life Cleaners Edinburgh Midlothian Scotland


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