Ask any busy mom what's on her wish list, and "more time" inevitably comes up. Turns out those extra hours may be right under our noses: Too many of us waste our precious minutes rounding up the kids, scrambling to pull together dinner and sorting through our email inboxes.
We asked the experts to give us their tips for streamlining daily routines. Try incorporating a few of these suggestions and you may actually find yourself with a little "me" time at the end of the day!
1. Start your day with mommy-and-me time.
Have a designated day of the week for each of your kids and wake him or her up 15 minutes early, says Tonia Tomlin, a professional organizer and the author of Chaos 2 Calm: The Moms-of-Multiples' Guide to an Organized Family. That way, you both know you'll have some special bonding time, no matter how hectic things get.
2. Take stock of your kitchen.
Each month, take a quick inventory of your pantry and do one big grocery shop to stock up on essentials. Even if you can't get to the market one week, at least you'll have the basics to whip together a few quick meals. (Consider using an app like Coupons.com, which keeps your list online.)
3. Invest in a slow cooker.
It's a mom's secret weapon: Toss a few ingredients into the pot in the morning, and your family can sit down to a home-cooked dinner with minimal prep in the evening.
4. Divide and conquer.
Delegating chores to every member of the family will save you time and stress. To keep everyone accountable, create a chore chart that everyone can check off, and put it up on the fridge, says Tomlin. Kids can tackle age-appropriate tasks, like helping to put away the dishes, feeding the dog, picking up toys and hanging up coats. “I also like to give incentives,” says Tomlin. “I schedule a special date with my daughters if the chore chart is completed at the end of the month.”
5. Take control of the calendar.
Keep a reusable wipe-off monthly calendar in a central place so everyone knows exactly what's going on and there won't be any miscommunications.
6. Have laundry day.
Designate a specific day of the week to do laundry so the load won't sit in the dryer and get wrinkled, suggests Tomlin. When you get it all done in one day, you won't have to dread coming home to a huge pile of clothes. Make the chore more fun by scheduling phone dates with family and friends.
7. Place trash cans strategically.
Children are notorious for leaving trash in the car (snack wrappers, water bottles), so keeping a trash can by the driver's side door can save you from having to clean out the car every week, says Tomlin.
8. Have a place for everything.
Getting out the door in the morning is no easy feat when your kids are hunting for schoolbooks and you’re rushing to get your makeup done. Designate an exact place by the door for your kids' school supplies, jackets and lunch bags so they won't go missing when you're leaving for school. Also set up a mommy beauty station at the same place: Simply hang a mirror and fill a basket (ideally out of reach to your kids) with beauty essentials, including a hairbrush, dry shampoo, concealer, blush, lipstick, mascara and a box of facial tissues for quick touchups.
9. Prioritize your inbox.
We all get way too much email, says Tomlin. Consider sorting your messages into simple categories like "To do today," "Follow up by week two," and "Unsubscribe from this email chain." Send email replies to only those who need them, and avoid hitting "Reply all" -- unless it's necessary.
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