Have you made a New Year's Resolution to try to be more organised? Do you often feel there isn't enough time in the day, and struggle to fit things in? Do you wish your house was tidier, or long to find some space for yourself now and again? When a question about managing time was posted on the forums, members came up with some excellent suggestions for getting through the household chores, cooking and laundry quickly and efficiently. We've compiled some of the best tips to help you on the way to a more streamlined New Year.
- I try not to iron if I can help it. I buy clothes that don't need ironing, or I just hang clothes on the line and more often than not they don't need ironing. That is only because I HATE ironing. My husband irons his own clothes, as that is one job I refuse to spend more than ten minutes on.
- I have a to do list which I used to use for work that works for me. I also break up the cleaning during the week, doing upstairs one day and downstairs the next. The ironing is one afternoon's work and the washing is a weekend chore. Shopping on Thursdays and darn all on Fridays. Oh and somewhere I have to find the time to study - I'm doing an Open University MBA!
My daughter loves playing on her own which helps but I do make sure I spend time with her too - I can get too task-focused if I'm not careful.
- I'm not naturally tidy person but I don't want to pass this on to my kids and I do feel good when everything is clean tidy and in its place. So here are my 'tips' from an aspiring-to-be-organised-someday person with three children under three! First, only do what is necessary! They aren't babies for long so I try not to stress about housework - as long as there are clean clothes, healthy food and they won't get sick from living in the house!
Don't go up or downstairs without something in your hand.
Sort one thing or drawer or cupboard out at a time so it only takes around 10 to 15 minutes.
After I get the children to bed, I don't sit down but just get stuck in to clearing up and essentials. Then when it's all done, it's time to RELAX!
Plan meals for up to four weeks and have a list when you run out of something so that whoever is going out gets all the things you need.
When doing chores, try to include the children as much as possible. There is a book called 'Baby Days' which has lots of ideas for things you can do to play with the baby and also get a few of the chores done- suitable from birth to three!
Have a list of lots of different games/activities you can play with them and also things they can do independently. Pin it on the wall so you always have something up your sleeve.
- I got an iPod for Christmas and find that I get so much done in the evenings while listening to music, audio books and so on. It's really relaxing and you don't notice the work you're doing! I got my kitchen totally sparkling - it took an hour but didn't feel like it as I was having a ball just listening. Also great for exercising, ironing and other tidying up. So get an iPod instead of TV!
- One of my New Year's Resolutions was to stop watching TV in the evenings during the week, and little by little I am finally getting around to doing all those jobs I have putting off for ages!
I do minimum cleaning during the week but luckily I have a very good cleaner who comes once a fortnight to do the lot. As for cooking - I have a four-weekly meal planner. All of the meals are very easy and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes which is really important when time is short. Otherwise, one washing load a day, a general five minute tidy up every evening and as early to bed as is reasonable - if I am tired, I get nothing done the next day and just end up grumpy!
- The best thing we've done is draw up a really simple list. In the mornings before I go downstairs, I make the beds, open the curtains and windows and do a quick tidy up. Whilst my younger daughter is having her morning nap, I make phone calls, do any admin, empty the dishwasher and washing machine etc.
Every night we empty the kitchen bin and recycling bin. I put bread on in the bread machine on timer so we wake up to yummy fresh bread, put the washing in the machine on timer and put the dishwasher on. We also cheat by having a cleaner come in once a fortnight.
- With meals, I try to plan a week or two in advance. When planning them out, I write a list of meals that they'll like and eat (hopefully!). Then I aim for two red meat, two chicken, two fish and one veggie meal each week and try to spread them out through the week. The meals we have at the minute are usually near enough the same thing each week, trying to add different veggies or different grains where possible. When cooking a dish I always make loads for freezing or for keeping for the next day.
I cook either first thing in the morning and put it in casserole dish to cook slowly or in a slow cooker, or cook something to reheat so we can go out and come back to ready-made lunch. Or sometimes I cook during the lunchtime nap to reheat or eat for dinner.
- I have a diary for the week's social fixtures, and then I also roughly jot down which chores I am going to do on which days. I do find it helps to think ahead like that. I also shop weekly, to a menu, so that I don't have to be forever popping to the shops. When my sons are at school, I can get a lot done while my daughter follows me round in her walker, and when it comes to putting laundry away she happily sits in each bedroom in turn with a separate set of toys. I always cook while she has her morning nap, so that the kids' evening meal is either completely prepared or almost ready, and while the boys finish off their tea I start preparation for the grown ups' dinner. In the school holidays very little gets done as we're often out and about a lot, but I just have to accept that on those days the house will be a tip! It gets easier as they get bigger, and both of my boys as toddlers loved helping with the chores and will happily help in the garden now. I'm lucky, as my husband is pretty good at giving me time off at the weekend, but if he slacks off then I just demand it, on the basis that while he works during the week at least he gets away from the house and the kids (in the nicest possible way!) and being at home with them at the weekend is a rest and a change for him. My rest and change has to involve me doing something other than the house and kids. Keeping a diary for a week or so might actually help you to negotiate time off for yourself - it will show how every minute of every day is filled, and how you rarely get any substantial time to yourself.
- I read a really good tip on the website called FlyLady.net. She said that whenever you leave a room, you should take something with you which should be put in the next room you are going into. I've started doing this and it's amazing how much stuff you can have in one room which actually belongs in another!
She also says that whenever you have to clean, do it in 15 minute bursts. So you set a timer and blitz the area you need to clean. To do this, she suggests that you stand near the door to the room and the first area your eyes are drawn to is the area you should blitz. It's such a simple idea but I tried it today and it really did work! I stopped after 15 minutes and even though it wasn't all done, it felt good to have made an effort!
- I like meals that can be prepared earlier and are ready for later, such as baked potatoes, casseroles or soups There are also the super-fast meals like fish done in the microwave, couscous and salad. Also, potatoes can be done in the microwave and mashed with veggies and cheese. For pasta you can get some ready-made sauces that don't have salt or other junk in them - handy just to heat up with cooked pasta. The best kitchen thing is a rice cooker - it cooks the rice perfectly, then keeps it warm for up to three
- With laundry, I put a load in the washer as I'm going to bed. Then in the morning I can hang that straight out on the line (or clothes horse depending on weather) and put my scheduled load in, so by 8.30am I have two loads on the line already.
- With regards to windows and walls, I just spot clean on the day with a wet soapy rag, wipe away where it needs it and buff with soft dry cloth so this job only takes about fifteen minutes or so instead of a whole day once a year!
- Master the art of managing your husband. I left this one a little late myself - should have started practicing when I was pregnant - but now the words 'Will you do it' flow with surprising ease!
So do the words 'I love you'. Very important to make your husband realise he is not just a skivvy, but a human with feelings too.
Batch cook a month in advance. I just can't face doing it every week, but a day with the blender is quite fun.
Food shop Mondays, White wash Tuesdays, Coloured wash Thursdays.
Now this really does sound control-freakish, but I have worked things like my shower and cup of tea into my daughter's morning routine, just so I know I can get out the house on time.
- I keep a daily diary in which I plan my every move. I do meal plans ahead (I have about six weekly menus of dinners) and correlate them with grocery lists. I plan a cleaning schedule with the same tasks every day of the week. Exercise is listed, and any appointments, bills due, phone calls to be made.
My weekly cleaning schedule is:
Daily chores = Kitchen, nappies, sweep, bedrooms, general tidy
Mondays - Whites, floors (vacuum/mop), windows, daily chores
Tuesdays - Colours, living rooms, daily chores
Wednesday - Darks, bathrooms, daily chores
Thursday - Linens/towels, budget/groceries/office, daily chores
Fridays - Kid's laundry, floors, walls, daily chores
Saturdays - Gardens, batch cook as needed, daily chores
Sunday - Pool, daily chores
Daily schedule: I get the kids up and have breakfast, then 8 have put the laundry on and got the meat out of the freezer.
08: 45 out the door for morning activities (park or gym, mothers' group or swimming)
Come home for lunch (usually frozen Gina meal or sandwiches)
Lunchtime nap - finish the cleaning while kids in bed
15:30 get dinner going
17:30 Clean up after dinner
18:30 milk and stories
19:00 bed, dinner for us if we haven't already eaten
19:30 veg out - ME TIME! Thanks Gina!
This works for me MOST of the time although some days I just can't be bothered, so it waits until the weekend, or next week. This way, there is only one load of laundry a day (plus nappies), one major area of house to be cleaned - it usually takes an hour - and the stuff you do every day anyway.
- For the first few months, I honestly didn't do much at all. A beautiful midwife told me not to worry about the housework and spend as much time with my daughter as possible. Housework will wait, but my daughter would change every day and I should treasure every moment - I'm glad I took on that advice.