I’d be deluding myself (and you) to pretend I can fix up my house all alone. I can’t. My knees are trashed from twenty-five years of running. Regrettably, hang gliding in my 20’s did not cure my fear of heights, as I had hoped. (To this day, the mere mention of “hang gliding” makes my palms sweat.)
From my experience, a homeowner whose inspections begin at knee level and end ten feet off the ground is a homeowner without a full view of reality.
If I am going to be a responsible homeowner, I need help. I need help with ground level tasks and I need someone who will go above the third rung of a ladder. I need a handywoman helper.
My Built-In Handywoman Helper Aged-Out
For years, my daughter was my built-in handywoman helper. My focus during her childhood was certainly not on maintaining my house. Yet she was a tremendous help in tackling unavoidable tasks that my knees, hips, agility, or fear of heights precluded. In fact, my interest in hiring handywoman helpers was a direct result of my daughter’s willingness and enthusiasm to fearlessly tackle any and all of my crazy brainstorms.
After my daughter left for college, things around my house continued to destruct at an alarming rate. I hired and fired a cadre of locally recommended handymen, and felt ripped off every single time. Their quality was never consistent with the quality of my home, nor was it anywhere close to my own personal standards. I even hired one handyman to fix a prior handyman’s work.
That’s when I decided that I didn’t need a handyman at all. What I needed was to replace my daughter’s sense of adventure, strength, perspective, agility, tenacity, enthusiasm, intelligence, and all-around can-do attitude. I needed an up-and-coming full-blooded feminist. I didn’t care if they were male or female. But I needed someone who would believe in me as much as I believed in myself. And I needed someone who would not double over in laughter when they saw today’s to-do list. (We’ll be moving 25 TONS of brick and sand, you say?)
College and University Students Rock!
I placed my first ad for a handywoman helper several years ago. I initially advertised at my daughter’s all-girls high school. I was quickly reminded of those horrid teenage years, and decided to forego “deja vu all over again” (Yogi Berra. Not Yogi Bear, as my daughter once thought.)
I decided to solicit a more mature audience. There are five major colleges and universities within biking distance of my home, assuming you like hill work. (That’s also predicated on you being in far better shape than I am!) I picked the closest college (all women) and the closest university (co-ed).
I’ve since had the privilege of regularly employing up to five helpers at a time. We work every Saturday and generally on one project at a time. I use Doodle to manage the schedule.
And Then They Graduate …
Historically, my helpers have been college juniors and seniors, so I expect them to set loftier goals (above and beyond home maintenance) post-graduation. So, after celebrating their graduation, I begin my search anew, hoping I’ll see my new grad at our reunion in 2018.
I’ve got the hiring process down to a science.
First – The Ad
I use whichever job boards are promoted by a given university and just generally follow their guidelines.
Next – Identifying Compatible Applicants
Once I receive queries and resumes, I next request qualified applicants to fill out this questionnaire. I offer to send them my own responses, too. Compatibility is a two-way street.
On one occasion, an applicant has pulled herself from the competition after receiving my responses. That’s fine. It proves my point about compatibility. Trust me – if my standards and ambitions frighten you, we’re not going to be able to work together.
Then – A Trial Work Day
Next, we schedule a four-hour trial work day. I pull together a representative set of tasks and we work while discussing future projects. Of course, I pay my applicants for this time. And at the end of our session, we assess how well we work together. When I’ve evaluated all my candidates similarly, I select the best. So far that’s been a lot easier said than done.
I’m convinced, however, that you can tell a lot about someone by doing manual labor together. In fact, I’m so convinced that I’ve decided to propose a work-party to my next suitor very early-on in our relationship. In retrospect, I could have avoided a lot of heartaches had I handed a man a hammer before I handed him my heart. Perhaps, had I done things in that sequence, the hammer would not have been wielded on my heart!
Finally – Hired!
And that’s how I find my helpers. So far I’ve ended up selecting and working with amazing helpers, so I’m feeling very confident that my hiring system works.