The Blessing of Bartering
I am one of those ladies who have been known to hire help when it comes to cleaning my house. There is a sweet lady at my church who God has blessed with the gift of cleaning. She can take anything, no matter how nasty and grungy it is, and really make it sparkle! She can take something that already looks clean and make it look even better! I don’t know how she does it and it is absolutely amazing to me that she actually enjoys the satisfaction she gets from cleaning. I never thought about the ability to clean being a gift from God, but this woman has shown me that it truly can be.
So, when I married into a family of professional housekeepers I started paying this woman to come over and help me with the spring cleaning. She would make my house sparkle and shine, and it would make me smile.
“An investment in a happy wife”, is what my husband called it.
Last year my husband decided to leave his career as a software engineer and become a farmer instead. Our income took a huge hit! In that first year we made 25% of what we had been making. Needless to say, our new budget did not include a “cleaning lady” category.
But with a preschooler, a toddler and a new baby, I needed the help more than ever!
I prayed about my problem and an idea came to me. Why not barter something that I am good at in exchange for her house cleaning skills? I thought about it and I remembered how very much she likes to buy my handmade soap. So I called her up and asked. “I can’t pay you, but would you be willing to come clean my house in exchange for $100 worth of soap?” (Let me tell you, that’s a pretty big basket of soap!) And she said yes!
While she was cleaning my house, I watched her to see if I could discover her secret for cleaning so effectively. Want to know what I discovered? She is able to move faster than I can because she doesn’t have a 2 year old hanging on to her leg as she moves through the house! It is amazing how much she is able to accomplish because she doesn’t have to stop and attend to the needs of my children. In two hours she was able to do the same amount of cleaning that would have taken me a week!
I have since bartered my skills for housecleaning services on a few other occasions. Here are the steps I have learned are necessary to set up a successful trade:
- Examine your skills. You may know how to do something that you take for granted, but would be very valuable for someone else. For example, I play the piano and it occurred to me that there might be another mom in my neighborhood who would like to clean my house for an hour each week in exchange for free piano lessons for their children.
- Tell Everybody. Let it be known that you are looking for somebody to swap services with. I sent an email to my homeschool group and another email to our preschool playgroup asking if anybody wanted (or knew somebody who wanted) piano lessons in exchange for some house cleaning. The lady who responded lived right around the corner from me! Her children are older than mine and have never played the piano before so I wouldn’t have thought to ask her if she was interested.
- Make sure the terms of the trade are clear. This one is so important. You don’t want to lose a friendship because someone feels like they are being taken advantage of. The time and abilities of each person in the swap are valuable. Consider what each of you would charge somebody else for your end of the deal and weigh each side to make sure it is a fair, balanced arrangement.
- Create a win-win situation! An ideal trade is where each person walks away feeling like they got the better end of the bargain. I like to throw in an extra surprise so that the other person knows how much I appreciate them. In the example I gave of the lady who cleaned my house in exchange for $100 worth of handmade soap, I also surprised her with several extra bars of soap and some homemade body lotion. This didn’t take any extra time for me and the extra expense was minimal. The arrangement still cost me far less than if I had paid her in cash to clean my house and she walked away from the deal feeling extra-special and appreciated.
There is no reason to feel bad that you “can’t afford” to hire extra help if you need it. You may not be able to make soap or play the piano but you do have skills that someone else thinks are valuable. If you have an idea of a skill you can trade with somebody else, please inspire others by sharing about it in the comments.
Alina Joy Dubois writes the Good Old Days Farm Blog which is the story of what happens when a software engineer (her husband!) comes home one night and out of the blue says, “I wanna be a farmer!” then actually quits his career and takes up farming! You can follow her family’s adventures in homesteading, vegan & gluten-free cooking and nature study on their blog, or join them on Facebook and Twitter!