Develop long-term relationships with folks who can make your life easier. Here’s my list (and I’m assuming everyone knows the usual disclaimers—it’s up to you to assure safety, honesty, good pricing, etc. I’m just suggesting it is exceedingly helpful to develop and nurture these connections):
Personal Property Manager: Someone who can analyze, oversee and complete whatever your personal home may require. Examples of projects I’ve successfully passed on: tree removal (paid her to meet with three companies, suggest best plan, meet them here, etc.—all I did was write the check); general list of smaller things (I keep an ongoing list of problems like light fixture replacements, hanging things, broken drawers, etc; I usually ask her to take care of them when I am out of town); she follows general maintenance and reminds me when things should be done (clean gutters, empty septic tank, re-pave driveway, seal deck, fertilize, etc.—she then tells me , I say ok, and she handles it); assessment (her company also cleans my house, but she’ll pass on potential problems she sees—wood rotting in window casings, floor warping, etc.—stuff I don’t have time or interest to look for); referrals (if I know I need something done and don’t know who to call, she always has a referral and makes an introduction call to them before she passes their number to me). Another bonus: we’ve been working together for a decade now--I trust her and know she will give me the best price she can—I no longer need ‘estimates;’ she completes the work and bills me.
Babysitter: If you need babysitters, use trial and error until you find the best person(s) for your family. Then offer to pay them an hourly bonus (I’d suggest 20-40% above your area’s going rate) in return for giving you first preference, especially on hard-to-fill times (like the 2-hour spot you need on Wednesday afternoon, or the night when everyone is attending a special event, or New Year’s Eve). Also remember a holiday gift.
Personal Shopper Wanna-Be: You don’t need to pay one person to do this—just find your own helpers. Pick out a favorite person at each place where you like to shop. Work together a few times until they know your tastes, styles, colors, budget, needs, sizes, etc. Then set an appointment with that particular person and ask them to pull whatever they think will work for you and have it in the fitting room when you walk through the door. Let them use their expertise to create complete outfits for you to try on—clothes, accessories, shoes, jewelry, etc.—and ask them to present mix -and-match pieces so you can choose whichever pieces work the best. Make sure an alterations option is available at the store. Also ask that person to review incoming stock for pieces you might like and call you (or email a picture). One friend who considered herself fashion-challenged actually asked the manager to make her a ‘picture book’ of possible outfits. The manager later presented her with photos of all options—she had laid out the completed outfits and snapped a picture of each! Also helpful to have a person at your favorite gift store—just give a call, outline the occasion and budget, and let them suggest options, then wrap and ship. You will likely be more successful finding personal shoppers at boutiques (hence spending more money to save time), but it saves huge clumps of time.
Chef-When-I-Need-One: Take advantage of those willing to cook for you. There are businesses where you can order meals and pick them up/have them delivered. There are businesses where chefs will come into your home, cook as many meals as you’d like, portion and freeze them (with labeled heating directions). There are community ‘shares’ you can purchase with weekly pick up or delivery of fresh seasonal produce. These services also make wonderful gifts for friends who are recovering from health issues, grieving, or going through other rough times. Remember when someone asks, “Did you make this?” the proper reply is, “I made this possible!"
Ad Hoc Help: When you have a problem, put it through the ‘who can help me?’ test. Think outside the box for surprising results. Recent example--
Yard Sale Manager: I have a lot of ‘good’ stuff to get rid of. Normally, I list & donate (see previous post on Its Deductible software), but in this economy I want cash. What I’ll do: post ad on craigslist (wonderful source when you want off-the-wall kind of help) with following idea: “I have collection of furniture, higher end items, plus the usual yard sale stuff. Want someone to handle it all—from sorting, pricing, laying out in driveway, selling, delivering leftover items to Goodwill, etc. Sale at my home in one of city’s nicest neighborhoods. “ I’ll choose an experienced yard hopper (believe me, they exist) and give them a share of the profits. My goal is to make a few hundred and not even be at home when it happens.