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Delegation as Life Skill (Or, How to Clean House While Sitting on Your A**)

By the end of the day tomorrow, my house will be cleaner than it has been in a year. I plan to spend those days sitting on my screened porch, watching the hummingbirds buzz the feeder as I write. How is this possible? Delegation.

Our lives at work and home are not distinct and separate entities. We may lean on aspects of our personalities differently when working for money, but we have the same core strengths in all aspects of life. Messy Desk Consulting encourages clients to apply key skills across sectors, building strengths and making connections for a holistic and balanced existence.

I talked about delegating at work in this post, but today I'm going to focus on delegating at home, which is one of my favorite things. Let's start with what I'm doing today--


The simplest way to delegate work at home is to hire someone to do it. It can be well worth shifting budget from other luxuries to hire someone to do things that you hate to do or simply aren't good at.

Some (expensive) examples: When laundry has piled up so much you are overwhelmed, take it to a drop-off service. Have meals and/or groceries delivered. Hire someone to do odd jobs and routine maintenance around your house. Hire landscapers to mow your lawn and tend plants.

Or, indulge in what I'm doing today--hire a housekeeper. Having someone come to your house every couple of weeks to dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, and mop can be life-changing for a Messy. If you have other tasks you procrastinate on, negotiate with them to add to the basic list. The folks who clean my house strip and make the beds and throw sheets in the washer for me, for example. Spring cleaning is an extra-special treat, and that's what Marlena is doing in my house today.

Budget-friendly alternatives: Trade or share tasks jobs with a friend or roommate. They may enjoy what you hate and vice-versa, or you may have skills they lack. Online barter networks can also help you find people to trade with. Hire a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn or wash windows, or work alongside them to finish any manual labor in less time. Teenagers might be unskilled, but they work inexpensively.

Think of your circle of friends and how you can help one another. Car pooling is a classic example. I was once part of a soup exchange, where everyone made a few quarts of a favorite soup and traded with others in the group.

Delegating to your spouse or partner

Delegating might be about sharing household responsibilities. My spouse does the grocery shopping and walks the dog; I deal with all thing technological and clean the cat litter.

You may be the boss at work, but you can't delegate to your spouse the way you do to your personal assistant. You have no position authority over them. Sure, there are ways of coercing your spouse to do what you want, but everyone is happier if you work collaboratively to decide who will do what tasks. If you are married or living together already, you've probably worked this out. If not, this piece of household division of labor has suggestions.

Delegating to kids

I'm not a parent and I don't offer parenting advice, but the general consensus is that it's good for children to have chores and help around the house. They learn vital life skills and responsibility, and you get help. How you approach this work with them is important. I like this article from Talented Ladies Club, which covers benefits, approaches, and the types of tasks to delegate to what age children.

"Delegating" with technology

You can also “delegate” tasks with technology. Set up automatic bill pay for everything. Use online banking. Have a robot vacuum and mop your floors. (They have robot window washers, too, now) Write text or email messages when you have time and schedule them to be sent at the appropriate time. To avoid wasting time talking to robo-callers, use an app to screen calls (like Google call screening) and then block those numbers. Check on children and elderly relatives with tracking systems, baby monitors, nanny cams, or emergency alert systems. Automated pill dispensers help keep track of dosages.

Give yourself the gift of delegation

You don't have to do everything yourself. Repeat after me: "I do not have to do everything myself." One of the tricks of delegation is to allow the person doing the work to do it their own way. If you are a perfectionist about how vacuuming is done and your spouse leaves an inch of dust around the edges of the carpet, you have to let it go a little bit. Following afterward to "fix" their work (or, worse, being hyper-critical) will make your volunteer delegates reluctant to help in the future.

When someone else is doing work for you, do what I am doing today. Sit back, enjoy the day, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


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