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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Get your life in order
By Ben Limberg
BBC Money Programme

Long working hours. Tiring commutes. Cheap migrant labour. More mothers returning to work.

Making beds
Guilt is not stopping many from seeking outside help

All these have led to a society where many of us are too tired - or too lazy - to do the cleaning.

A society of cash-rich but time poor workers has fuelled the rising demand for domestic help within the home, and is the reason behind the rise of lifestyle management companies that not only cater for the high-flying executives and millionaires among us but also for the "ordinary" people.

This social trend of outsourcing our private lives to "domestic professionals" has created an industry estimated to be worth 4bn a year.

Outsourcing

Lawyers Richard Perris and Tanya Biegler are among those who realised their hectic work schedules left them little time for socialising.

So spending their few remaining hours at the weekend cleaning their flat in North London was the last thing they wanted to do.

After they had tried various local cleaners with little success, they decided to pay a little extra and call Myhome, a professional cleaning company.

Lifestyle managers require a degree of personalisation not present in many of today's service offerings

Myhome, a franchise cleaning business, is typical of the new companies that have sprung up hoping to capitalise on the growing demand for home help.

One franchisee is Niall Power, who gave up a job in the City to buy the North London operation. He employs many staff from the new member states of the EU from Eastern Europe and has seen his business grow rapidly.

Guilty conscience?

The surge in demand for cleaning services is holding up a mirror to some rather unusual trends in British society.

For one thing, it appears that - for Myhome at least - Monday is the busiest day of the week. Its chief executive, Russell O'Connell, believes that is down to demand from couples who have had a domestic squabble over the weekend - and have resolved to do something about it.

For another, we are no longer a society which is entirely comfortable with the idea of help around the home. A survey done in 2006 for Gumtree.com - a website for local community adverts - suggested that almost one in four people felt guilty about employing someone to do their dirty work.

Still, the same website has seen a growth of 265% in people advertising for domestic staff. The other 76% clearly have no such hang-ups.

Lifestyle management

And it's not just cleaning: time-consuming tasks such as walking the dog or de-cluttering the garage seem to be too much like hard work for many of us as well.

As a result, lifestyle management is becoming something for ordinary people, not just high-flying executives and pampered celebrities.

A Myhome van
More and more people are outsourcing their chores

TenUK is the largest lifestyle management company within the UK. With 5,000 private clients who pay at least 100 a month, as well as some 75,000 corporate clients, its anticipated turnover for this year is 10m.

Major employers such as Microsoft and Cadbury Schweppes are now including lifestyle management services as part of their benefits packages for some staff.

Specialist services

Even if lifestyle management has gone mainstream, though, there are still companies whose services are tailored solely to the more archetypal client: that is, the very well-heeled.

One such is Quintessentially, which says that if it can't do it, nobody can.

Previous successfully-completed requests from members include organising six albino deer for a wedding, and organising Egypt's top historian to open up a pyramid for a private viewing.

But service like that comes at price: 24,000 a year.

The Money Programme: Get your Life in Order, Friday 30 March at 1900 on BBC Two.




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