How to Ask for Help Around the House

updated May 4, 2019
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Last week I had a cold. Nothing too serious, but I needed lots of bed rest and a break from the mile-long to-do lists that normally make up my daily routine. While I felt better from taking much-needed time to rest, it also meant a huge pile-up of stuff around the house that didn’t get done, from laundry, dishes and weekly vacuuming to a bunch of home maintenance tasks that all seemed due at once, like changing filters and testing smoke detector batteries. I knew that if I was going to get everything done on time and not make myself slip back into sickness, I’d have to ask for help.

With the holidays coming, we will all be saddled with new to-do list tasks (some that you do and don’t actually have to do, which is worth reminding ourselves about). There are holiday parties to host and go to, gifts to buy or make and all kinds of holidays tasks that are unique to us all. There might come a time when you look around your house and realize you just aren’t going to be able to do it all (or at least, not do at all and keep your health and sanity intact).

And when you reach that point (or actually, hopefully before you reach that point), you should ask for help. Because everyone needs some sometimes, and a lot of people are happy to provide it when you do. Here are some tips for asking for help around the house when you need it.

Figure out what exactly it is that you need

This is an important step, and one that it pays to figure out before you get very stressed or overwhelmed. And that’s being very specific with the kind of help you need. You might feel like “help cleaning the house” sounds clear to you, but if you’re going to be enlisting the help of someone, be very detailed with the exact tasks that need doing, from folding the laundry to making the beds to scrubbing the toilets.

Find someone to help

Look to those who share your house first. Could a partner, the kids or a roommate temporarily pull a little extra weight to help cover some home tasks that you don’t have time to tackle? If you live solo or they’re busy, ask a friend or family member you can trust. But don’t be afraid to pay for help if you need, it, too. From hiring a house cleaner for an afternoon, to splurging on a personal assistant app to buying some groceries online to be delivered, there are plenty of ways you can get help that might not be in your regular budget most of the year, but makes sense to spend on right now so you’re happier and healthier.

Be honest, direct and give them enough time

The actual, physical act of asking for help can be tough for many people. But don’t be passive. Don’t drop subtle hints hoping someone will pick up on them. If you need help — just be honest and say that, even if it’s tough to feel vulnerable sometimes. And don’t keep putting the asking act off until the last minute so that the person helping is now uncomfortably pressed for time. It can be difficult, but leaving your emotions out of the asking (particularly if it’s with a spouse or maybe a roommate) can make the message received clearer, too.

Keep up a good attitude

Be willing to accept imperfect help or help that isn’t quite how you would have done it. It’s better for something to get done, even if the floors aren’t vacuumed how you prefer them to be. And don’t forget to express your thanks and gratitude for the help. And don’t feel like you’re now going to “owe” someone something; people help out to do just that — help, not expect something in return.

Remember that we all need help sometimes

If you’re still feeling weird about asking for help or having trouble taking the steps to ask, remember that we all need help sometimes. And you might actually make people like you more if you ask for help! There’s something called the Ben Franklin effect, and it basically implies that doing stuff for other people makes us like them more, because we tell ourselves we must like them if we’re doing something for them! This short article on Forbes explains a bit of the science behind it.

Do you have trouble asking for help around the house? How do you ask for help when you need it?

*Special shout out to my dad, who totally came in and changed all the filters and tested all the batteries and even got my vehicle inspected, too!