Gold Dust

Anika Hedstrom

FOR THE FIRST TIME in my life, I’ve hired a housecleaner. It’s absolutely worth it—but embarrassing to admit, at least at first.

I’ve always been a neat freak, demanding clean, organized and tasteful living quarters, so I’ve spent a good portion of my life cleaning and organizing. A lot. I have even declined an invitation to go boating and hiking because I was color-coding my books.

Lame, I know.

After purchasing our home, I realized something had to give. My frugality and can-do attitude had driven me to do it all, even toilets, at the expense of experiences.  But now, there were endless projects, organized books to read and the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest to explore.

On top of that, I was finally living in the city I had longed to live in, with my lovely husband, and doing work I was passionate about. My behavior needed to change. I let go of trying to keep the perfect house and outsourced it. Turns out I’m much happier.

Researchers at Harvard wouldn’t be surprised. A recently released study suggests that spending money to save time can reduce stress and increase overall life satisfaction. Spending on material goods didn’t produce the same effect.

Interestingly, although outsourcing tasks brings increased happiness, it isn’t that popular—even among the millionaires surveyed. When pressed as to why buying time wasn’t that popular, despite its benefits, lead author of the study and Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans believes it’s due to our work ethic. Perhaps we value being busy or suffer guilt when we pay someone for tasks that are easy to do ourselves.

A woman, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for years, lives on a farm. For years, she would run around her house, complaining about the dust that accumulated due to the harvest and other farm activities. After a while, she realized that the dust she tried so hard to get rid of was actually her gold dust—providing her with a roof over her head and the clothes on her family’s back. She began to see the dust as a sign of prosperity.

My sign of prosperity—my gold dust—now comes in the form of a wonderful housecleaner, who provides me with more quality time and, in turn, allows me the opportunity to provide value to others. I’ve volunteered considerably more, met new people, experienced new activities and cooked healthier meals for the people I love. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re willing to establish your priorities, spend according to your values and embrace your dust.

Anika Hedstrom’s previous articles include Growing Up (IV), Getting Schooled and Site Seeing (Part IV). Anika is a financial planner with Vista Capital Partners in Portland, Ore. Follow her on Twitter @AnikaHedstrom.

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