When you have too much stuff, you can (with relative degrees of ease) get rid of some. But what do you do when you have too much stuff to do? A lot of my clients are faced with what seems like an impossible situation: they have more to do than they can possibly manage. The workload is such that, unless someone figures how to give up sleeping, it will never get done.

The ideal response to this situation would be to scale down the number and difficulty of these tasks, until everything that remained were easy to handle. And some stuff can be blown off without too much trouble: say, events you attend only out of obligation, hobbies you used to like but have tired of, a sale at a store when you don’t really need to buy anything. You can take a pay cut to work fewer hours. You can exchange your houseplants for cactuses.

But not everything in our lives is so easily modified. Choices we made in the past lead to jobs, school curricula, homes, children, pets, romance, friends. Love, values, or simple practicality keep them in our lives, and all these choices come with responsibilities attached.

So that’s fine; we should have all those fabulous things in our lives, as many as we want. But the thing is, the responsibilities attached to these things come in two types. Some of them are ones that only you can fulfill–making love to your partner, for instance, or studying for your exams. But many others can be delegated!

I’ve found that people (including myself) have these internalized assumptions about what sorts of life maintenance tasks they should be doing themselves, that sit so deep in the brain that it never even occurs to them that they don’t have to. I just worked with a client today who hates folding and putting away the laundry. So her bedroom had several baskets of clean laundry, and her dressers were half empty. The laundry was all hers; her husband’s was all put away. I suggested that she ask him if he can take care of her laundry in exchange for her doing some household task he hates. I also suggested hiring a mother’s helper high school student for $10 per hour to help with things like that. These ideas were a revelation to her!

On The Organizing Playground, I heard of the idea of a financial organizer, who can enter your financial data into Quicken for you, from your receipts and notes. I would love to get a barter deal going for this sort of thing, because that is one task I always put off, and it stresses me out. I always thought I was supposed to do it myself, because I’m single and a small business owner, and it’s just “what you do.” Aha, but no! I can have someone else do it for me!

Most* of us don’t make our own paper or clothing. We don’t farm our own vegetables or food animals. We don’t do our own dry cleaning or tailoring. If we wanted to take the time, we could all learn how to do these things, but we have chosen to focus on other activities. We have that choice, thanks to modern technology and our fairly cushy place in the worldwide economy. And that’s cool. So what things do you hate to do, that you always thought you had to do, that you could delegate to someone?

Who can you ask?
Strangers, spouses, Internet friends, real-life friends, family, neighbors, businesses, celebrities…

What can you offer them?
Money, a bartered task (or if you don’t have time, barter stuff!), just your sincere gratitude, or find a way that doing your task will also help them. For instance, typing up your notes could help someone improve his typing speed; watching your kid could help someone with her early childhood education curriculum; the dog gets to lick the plates clean before they go in the dishwasher!

As always, I’m curious to hear people’s input on this.
*Yes, yes, I know many of my friends and readers do a lot of these things, because you’re a very earthy crunchy crafty clever bunch. But not most people in the U.S., mmkay?

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