Busy Mom’s Guide:
How to do Everything Faster (and better!)
By Genoa Sibold-Cohn
Here are 50 ways to save time by doing things faster, so you can spend more time doing the things you really enjoy with your family.
1. Assemble your children's outfits when you put clothes away in their drawers. Then you can quickly grab a full outfit without having to waste time scouring the drawers for a matching shirt and pair of Give your grade-schooler a "homework box" with pencils, an eraser, a stapler, a calculator, and a ruler. Ask her to bring it to the table whenever it's time to do homework.
2. When you see a great toy on sale, buy several and sock them away for your child to give to friends at birthday parties throughout the year.
3. Forget about addressing your party invitations by hand. Go to the United States Postal Service website to create party invitations that can be shipped to addresses you upload to the site. Or, have your own photo printed onto a postcard invitation at Snapfish and they'll stamp the cards and mail them for you.
4. Stock your produce drawer or a lower shelf in your refrigerator with snacks like carrot sticks and apple slices that your kids can grab without your help. Set up a similar area in your pantry with baggies full of dried fruit or graham crackers.
5.Skip ironing and get wrinkles out of a shirt or pair of trousers by putting them in the dryer for 15 minutes with a damp hand towel.
6.Stop wasting time looking for things you use often, like scissors, reading glasses, or baby wipes. Stock up and keep duplicates in the rooms where you spend the most time.
7.Designate 30 minutes after dinner for cleaning — and get everyone involved in folding laundry, doing dishes, and clearing away clutter.
8.Store sets of sheets and pillowcases inside unfolded pillowcases to make bed changes fast and easy and minimize clutter in your linen closet.
9.Program the phone numbers for your favorite take-out restaurants into your cell phone so you can call to pick up dinner on the way home and avoid paying for delivery.
10.Create a file for coupons for your favorite restaurants and file them with take-out menus. Put the coupons that expire soonest at the front of the pack.
11.Set up a box for bills that need to be paid and stock it with stamps and envelopes.
12.Organize your favorite articles, parenting information, and recipes so you can find them more quickly. Place pages from online sites, magazines, and newspapers in page protectors and stash them in a three-ring binder.
13.Store your child's outgrown clothes in large plastic bins and affix labels such as "0 to 3 months", "6 to 9 months", "9 to 12 months", and so on. Once your child has grown out of a size, you can easily store the clothes, loan them to a friend, or take them to a consignment shop.
14.Shop for holiday and birthday gifts year-round. Whenever you see a great
gift for someone you love, buy it and set it aside for giving later.
15.Start a monthly meal exchange program with five friends and neighbors. Once a month, cook enough for two dinners. Stash one in the freezer and take the other to meet up with the group and swap healthy, freezer-ready main dishes. Then go home with four other meals, and put them in the freezer alongside the extra one you made for your family. Suddenly you're stocked up with a variety of easy, homemade dinners.
16.Limit personal e-mail and computer time to twice a day.
17.Do all of your errands one day a week, working off a list and taking the most efficient route.
18.Hire a babysitter for a couple of hours on the weekend so you can tackle household duties and errands without kids in tow.
19.Chop all your vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the week's meals at one time so everything will be ready for cooking.
20.Add important appointments and activities to a master calendar in your e-mail in-box and set up reminders for up to one week ahead. This calendar can be shared with family members via e-mail. (Google Calendar, a free Web-based system, even sends reminders to cell phones.)
21.Sort belongings into clear, labeled bins that can be stacked and stowed so your child can easily find things like DVDs and toys without your help. Use brightly colored labels and picture labels for toddlers and preschoolers who can't read.
22.Stop by the post office before 3 p.m. on weekdays, when the long lines usually begin to form, so you can get in and out more efficiently.
23.Keep disinfecting and glass wipes in the bathroom for quick cleanups around toilets, sinks, and mirrors. You could even do a speedy wipe-down while you bathe the kids.
24.Keep a phone book in your car to avoid unnecessary calls to 411 and to quickly look up addresses.
25.Set up two folders related to your child's schoolwork — one for school notices and the other for schoolwork you want to keep.
26.Skip folding laundry and instead hang up all clothing except for socks, underwear, linens, and towels.
27.Grocery shop on the weekends or, if you don't want to waste precious weekend time, go to the store after the kids are in bed. You'll whiz through the store with much less frustration because you're not also feeling the pressure to get dinner on the table and everyone into bed on time.
28.Choose meats or other proteins that can be used for several meals during a week. A store-bought rotisserie chicken can be shredded and used for several dishes, like chicken enchiladas, homemade chicken soup, and chicken salad. Slow-cooked pork tenderloin can double as barbecued pork sandwiches with just a bottle of barbecue sauce. Cooked beans can go in salad, tacos, and vegetable soup.
29.Open mail with the trash can (or recyclying bin) nearby so junk mail and catalogs can be thrown out immediately. Even better, sign up with a free service for reducing junk mail like the National Do Not Mail list
30.Keep cardboard boxes labeled "donate," "trash," or "consign" in the garage or storage closet to routinely rid your house of unused items and clutter.
31.Save time and money on routine shopping trips by buying items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, light bulbs, and batteries in twos when they're on sale.
32.Keep an overnight bag in your car with an extra outfit for each child, including diapers or underwear, nonperishable snacks, and toiletries. In the event of an emergency, messy meal, or whirlwind overnight trip, you're set!
33.Stock a binder or folder with a list of emergency contacts and household instructions for things like watering plants, pet care, and mail collection so you won't have to write everything out each time for a house sitter or babysitter.
34.Designate a cabinet in your kitchen for medicine so you'll have easy access to everything from pain reliever to bandages when and where you need them. Make sure it's secured with a child-safe lock.
35.Sort medicine into small, labeled storage bins — one bin for children's medications, one for adult cough and cold remedies, one for first-aid supplies, and so on, and keep them in the locked cabinet.
36.Tape the dosage instructions for common medications like children's acetaminophen to the inside of your medicine cabinet.
37.Splurge on a super fast-drying hair dryer and cut hair-drying time in half.
38.Keep a pack of thank-you cards in the glove box of your car or in your daily planner so you can write notes while sitting in the car or waiting for a doctor to see you.
39.Turn your hangers backward at the beginning of every season. Anything left hanging on a hanger that's still turned backward at the end of the season hasn't been worn — give it away
40.E-mail your thank-you notes instead of sending a card.
41.Schedule your child's doctor's appointments for first thing in the morning when you're less likely to have a long wait.
42.Get rid of one bag of clothes, toys, and books for every bag that comes into the house. It means less stuff to clean up.
43.Write down or print out all-important phone numbers — for people like your child's doctor, the next-door neighbor, your veterinarian, and so on — and place the list in an inexpensive picture frame that you keep in your master bedroom or the kitchen. This way, you won't need to write out contact information for a sitter or grandparent — just point out the list, and they'll know who to call in case of emergency.
44.Fill a basket with socks and keep it near the front door so kids can quickly grab a pair. Put the shoes they wear most often next to the basket.
45.Order diapers and wipes online — no more lugging big boxes home from the store.
46.Label shelves in the linen closet so family members know where items like beach towels and guest room sheets belong.
47.Keep an assortment of greeting cards on hand, filed by occasion. You'll save time on trips to the store, and you can quickly take care of an unexpected birthday or send off a heartfelt condolence.
48.Forget sorting laundry. Wash everything in cold water.