Don't know how to balance a checkbook or change a tire? Companies want to teach millennials how

Samantha Mayo (right) looks at her computer as her fiance Kevin Buttery screw a cornice in their South Philadelphia home as his father Alex Buttery (left) watches on Saturday, November 4, 2017. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Home and car repairs were handled by her father and brother. Cooking was mostly her mother’s responsibility.

So Liana Yocavitch — her childhood filled with school and athletics — grew up without those basic household skills. And these days, the 27-year-old’s schedule is too busy to go out and learn them.

Lucky for Yocavitch, of Society Hill, many companies know this about millennials, and they’re here to help.

There are approximately 67 million 20- to 34-year-olds in the United States, and many turn to technology to acquire necessary life skills they never learned growing up. Sorting laundry, changing a tire, and balancing a checkbook can be learned through a three-minute YouTube video. TaskRabbit and Thumbtack have stepped in to fill the void for those who can’t or don’t want to do household chores. Apps can remind you when to seed your lawn. (And you’ll never need to learn how to read a map.)

Yocavitch wishes she were better at tasks like gardening and fixing things, but, “afforded the luxury of the internet and apps,” there’s no need.

“Having the information of how to do things so accessible means you don’t have to internalize those lessons — you can just look it up,” said Emma Steiner, a licensed clinical social worker at the Council for Relationships in University City and Center City. “This generation doesn’t need to have a repertoire of recipes, because the internet is a click away, telling you what to make for dinner and how to do it.”

Lawrence Fried, 33, cooks by relying on Blue Apron, which provides exact recipes with ingredients.

“I think of it as paint by number,” said Fried, of Queen Village. When he is left with questions, like what size onion pieces qualify as minced, he answers with the help of Google and YouTube videos. “There are actually entire video libraries that tell you how to do this, so I use modern technology for my cooking challenges. The problem was, because I had to look everything up, it took me a couple of hours, not the 30 to 45 minutes it was supposed to take.”

When Sharon Leeks-Morgan started S&B Organic Cleaning Solutions in South Philly in 2007, about a quarter of her clients were millennials. Now, that age group constitutes roughly 75 percent of her business. They seek her out because of convenience, time, and disinterest in doing the job themselves — but it’s also a lack of know-how.

“Many millennials weren’t taught how to clean when they were raised,” she said. “I get questions about how to clean a floor, run a dishwasher, or do a load of laundry.” But unlike older clients, the millennials “know all about my company before they even call me. They do a lot of research and call references.”

Samantha Mayo, 27, relies on Google and YouTube whenever she has a question. So when she and her fiancé, Kevin Buttery, set out to renovate their South Philly townhouse, the how-tos were just a click away. “We replaced our ceilings, put a tile backsplash in our kitchen, painted the cabinets, and built out drywall to create a wall,” she said. “Trying to renovate yourself and save money is common, so while all the videos aren’t good, there’s a bank of knowledge with multiple tutorials on the same issue.”

Camera icon YONG KIM
Kevin Buttery (right) and father Alex prepare to glue a piece of molding, using YouTube tutorials.

ScottsMiracle-Gro is one of many companies using technology to attract millennials to their brands. Their YouTube channels share gardening hacks, lawn tips, and simple how-to videos with step-by-step instructions. Its two apps — My Lawn, launched in 2015, and GRO, in 2016 — have been downloaded more than one million times, said Patti Ziegler, chief digital and marketing services officer. My Lawn makes recommendations on feeding, seeding, and watering your lawn, all based on the user’s specific property, climate, and environment. GRO helps turn complex garden tasks into bite-size projects.

The most-sought gardening skills include basic backyard care and projects that center on edibles, particularly basil, bell peppers, and tomatoes, Ziegler said.

But tutorials aren’t always enough, insisted Ruth Lamberty, who started Adult Prep in July 2017, an educational consulting firm teaching independent life skills. “When you’re talking about prepping for independent living or learning how to budget, it’s going to be so specific to your needs and what’s happening in the world at that moment, and a video isn’t going to get you what you need.”

Lessons the Baltimore company offers include how to do laundry, cook, find a roommate, budget, file taxes, and write a check. “As a young adult, you might have vendors coming to your home to fix something who aren’t going to have [credit card processing] Square on their phone,” she said.

Lamberty believes shifting child-rearing priorities have led us to this point. “You’re spending time on SAT prep and what you need to do to get into college, but what do you do when you get to college or get your first job?” she said. “It’s not being taught in school or in the home.”

Social worker Steiner has seen adolescence become a longer life stage, in some part due to young people’s living longer in their parents’ homes. “The way millennials were raised by baby boomer parents was reactive to the way baby boomers were raised by their parents. There’s been a move to more supportive parenting,” Steiner said.

At some point, though, “the young adults need to take responsibility for themselves and their own development.”