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I love a good hack. Simple tricks that turn on the ‘Aha’ bulb in my head and make things easier.
I had three kids in three years and five months, and the first five or so years were absolutely manic, in a good way. To make things extra challenging, messiness came easily to me. I was not a tidy or organized person.
As a messy stay at home mother of three tiny mess makers, I needed all the help I could get! A breakthrough moment occurred for me when I read Sandra Fulton’s book, ‘Neat Mom, Messy Kids: A Survival Guide’. While I was not in any way a neat mom, I learned a lot of little tricks that made a big difference, and the search for family hacks began.
Here are my top 20 hacks to simplify family life
When you have small children:
1. Buy clothes with pictures on the front. Got a toddler learning to dress themselves? Purchase clothes that have an obvious front and back. Buy undies that have a picture on the front like these, rather than an overall print. Same with t-shirts, dresses and pyjamas.
2. Stack socks and undies in a pile rather than individually folding or pairing them. It saves time and keeps the drawer tidier for longer, so long as your kids are happy to just wear the pair on the top of the pile.
3. We tend to naturally store our clothes together in like kind – all shirts together, all shorts together etc. With young kids it’s great to use an organiser like this that has a compartment for each day and set out the clothes for the whole week. Everything they need for that day is together – underwear, clothes, socks and accessories. This makes it super easy for a preschooler to get themselves dressed in the morning!
4. Assign each child a color (or better yet, let them choose a color) and buy everyone two towels, one for the bathroom and one for the cupboard. Then it’s easy to see which towel belongs to who at bath time, and whose towel is left on the floor.
5. Replace towel rails with hooks. Rails can be tricky for kids, and they can easily unhang someone else’s towel while trying to hang their own. Hooks like this are quick and easy for the kids to manage. It was a bit of an investment but eliminated at least some of the bath time frustration.
6. Keep a basket at the bottom of the stairs for each family member to collect bits and pieces through the day, then everyone takes their own upstairs to put away in the evening.
7. Teach your kids how to do their own laundry. I had girls that liked to try on a few outfits before deciding what to wear for the day. The discarded items, after a few days living on the bedroom floor, ended up straight back in the dirty laundry basket even though they had never been worn. So, when each of my kids turned 12, they were responsible for doing their own laundry. Our washer and dryer were easy to use, and they learned pretty quickly to save their favourite red shirt for a separate wash.
Beat the clutter bug:
8. Is your linen cupboard over-stuffed with things you rarely use? When you buy new sheets and towels, be sure to donate an old set so that you don’t end up with an accumulation of old linen that you never use.
9. Turn all the hangers in your wardrobe around, so the hook is facing towards you. Then, as you wear each item and put it away, hang it the normal way, with the hook facing the back. At the end of the season, donate any clothes that you haven’t worn.
10. Keep things close by to where you will use them. Put your mugs, tea bags, tea spoons and sugar bowl all in the shelf near the kettle. Keep spare towels and mirror cleaner in the bathroom. You get the idea.
11. Eliminate the duplicates. If you are anything like me, you accumulate duplicates of items, and you stash them is all sorts of places around the home. Put all like things together and eliminate the unnecessary duplicates.
12. Are toys taking over your home? We used a rotation system, so some toys were packed away while others were easily accessible. We switched them around regularly. It helped to keep the toy room mess under control, and every month or so it was like Christmas with a whole new set of things to play with.
In the kitchen:
13. Keep a grocery list on the fridge and get the whole family to use it. When the last packet is opened, add it to the list. I use cute magnetic ones like this.
14. Set up a three-week rotating meal plan, with corresponding online shopping lists. Each week you just need to select the correct list and choose your delivery time. It takes a bit of planning to set up, but once it’s up and running, it’s a wonderful time saver. (Thanks to my friend Tracy for this hack!)
15. Limited storage? Buy things that stack easily – containers, cups and glasses, mixing bowls etc.
16. Never go grocery shopping without a meal plan. Don’t buy random ingredients that look interesting, or are on special, without a plan of when and how you will use them. I often treat myself to a coffee before my grocery shop to give myself some intentional thinking and planning time. I am much better at only buying what I need, and I waste a lot less food than I used to.
In the laundry:
18. I hate pairing socks. I find it frustrating and time consuming, and there are always odd socks left over at the end. My husband wears business socks to work each day. He found a brand he likes and bought ten pairs of the exact same sock and got rid of all the rest. No more laying out five different designs to find the right colour stripe. Perfect!
19. Spin your good clothes on a slower spin cycle so they are still quite damp, and then hang them up straight onto clothes hangers to airdry. If you hang them neatly they will need hardly any ironing.
20. Use a dirty clothes hamper with two compartments, one for lights and one for darks. This avoids double handling when you sort clothes and makes it easy to do a quick load of one side or the other as time allows.
That’s my top 20 list of hacks to simplify family life. What have I missed? Leave your favourite in the comments below. Let’s share the simplifying love!