Readers share how they succeeded without even trying.
Two years ago, when I was teaching and had absolutely no time to spend with my two kids, my husband gave me the greatest gift for Christmas―-two three-hour visits from a housekeeper during the month of January. At the end of the month, I realized that my time and memories with my children were worth more than the small amount we were paying for the housekeeper. I found myself so much more relaxed that I kept our housecleaner on a regular biweekly schedule. It has been by far one of the best tasks I have ever delegated.
OK, I admit it: We have a cleaning lady. It is divine to come home from teaching on Thursday afternoon to a house that is scrubbed and vacuumed. We still pick up shoes, books, and tons of Legos; we still do mounds of laundry; and by Wednesday night the house is still a disaster. But then Thursday comes again.
It's taken me nearly 30 years to rid myself of the need to keep a perfectly clean house the way my mother did, but since I've kicked the habit I clean only twice a month and no more than three hours each time. I savor the hours that not cleaning has freed up. I finally have my priorities straight.
El Paso, Texas
If there's one thing I hate doing, it's cleaning the bathroom. So my husband and I made a deal: I clean downstairs, and he cleans upstairs, where the bathrooms are. I save hours every week, and best of all, I save myself from a bad mood. Melissa Tirado
I have a toddler who, in the grand tradition of toddlers, leaves a wake of things in her path. I used to follow her everywhere, trying to keep the house as tidy as possible, but now I don't worry about picking up until the end of the day, when I'm listening to the news. So what if I (more than) occasionally trip over a toy or the bottle of red wine vinegar she loves to drag out of the cupboard? I'm now actually enjoying these weird, delightful toddler games.
My mother would die if she knew it, but I rarely make the beds in my home. I have a full-time job and four children ages 4 to 12. Every family member has housecleaning responsibilities, but I've let bedmaking go. It's been so liberating.
We've started taking our laundry to the dry cleaner instead of hauling it to the Laundromat, fishing for quarters, and fighting with our neighbors for free machines. For 90 cents per pound, somebody else can wash it, dry it, fold it, and pack it up. It saves us an entire day. My time is worth 90 cents a pound!
There's one task I can't stand: ironing. This wasn't much of an issue until my husband traded in his maintenance job for a teaching career. Suddenly, there were all these dress shirts! I realized that having the shirts laundered and ironed was worth the money. Anything so I wouldn't have to face a pile of wrinkled shirts on wash day.
Mary Alice McLoughlin
Los Angeles, California
I delegated almost all the errand running to my husband. As a teacher, he gets off work much earlier in the day than I do, so he makes trips to the bank, post office, or anywhere else I need him to go. Since he takes care of these chores after work, we can enjoy our evenings and weekends together without running all over town.
I delegated the banking duties: balancing the checkbook, writing in the transactions, making sure the register is accurate. It's now being managed by my husband, and he and our checkbook are doing just fine.
El Dorado Hills, California
I have completely let go of gardening. Six years ago, before my children were born, I planted daylilies, azaleas, red climbing roses, and a pure white clematis vine. Now whatever blooms, blooms.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
I don't do vegetable and fruit gardening anymore. A few raspberry bushes and a couple of plants in containers keep us happy, and the constant pressure of upkeep is gone.
Cottage Grove, Minnesota
I've let go of trying to be perfect―doing too many things to please everyone else and too little to please myself. Now, if something does not get done this weekend, there is always next weekend. I go with the flow instead of struggling with too much.
I no longer strive for perfection―the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect yard. I'd much rather let go of these ideals and embrace life.
I no longer pair up socks for the men in my family. I leave the socks in a big pile for them to match up themselves. Elizabeth Browning