Well, all of our company is officially gone and this is the first week that I’ve slipped into full-time mom and part-time working mode. What that means is that I have very little room for error if I’m going to keep all of the balls in the air. For me, almost everything comes down to thinking ahead and getting organized. Let me begin by saying that I do not profess to be an organizational expert of any kind. Lord knows there are days (and weeks) where I just want to throw my hands up and damn it all. But most of the time, I manage to stay somewhat on top of things regardless of how crazy each day gets. I’d love to share with you what works for me and hopefully it will help you feel a tiny bit more sane at week’s end. As always, feel free to share any tips that you have for getting it all (or mostly) done.
Tip #1: Anticipate your needs
Well, I can tell you that without fail, all four people living in this house need to eat. Whether that’s a balanced homemade meal or mac-n-cheese from a box tends to fall squarely on my shoulders as I am almost always home first. I also know that laundry needs to be done, toiletries need to be stocked and so on and so forth. Since my husband gets home around 6pm on the weeknights and I’m usually in bed by 8pm, the weekends are the only time that I have to take advantage of having another sets of hands and eyes to supervise the kids while I get things together around here. I try to always plan our meals for the week on Saturdays and prep things for the entire week on Sundays. For example, you’ll see that homemade mac and cheese is on the menu for this week. I went ahead and assembled it on Sunday and the only thing I didn’t do was bake it. This way, all I have to do for it to be done is take it out of the fridge and pop it in the oven (it only takes 20 minutes to bake). I did the same type of thing for taco night and burger night. I chopped all of the veggies I needed and made a batch of my homemade taco seasoning. All that’s left is browning the meat and putting the rest of the ingredients on the counter. Here are some other food time-saving tips:
- Hard-boil and peel 6-8 eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick snack or easy breakfast. They’ll keep for the whole week and you can either eat them as is or slice them up for salads to add some extra protein.
- Chop enough veggies for a single omelet (I like green peppers, onions and mushrooms) and put them all together in a sandwich bag or small tupperware so all you have to do is saute veggies and pour 2 beaten eggs over them.
- To make sure that you reach your 5 fruits and veggies a day, put them all on a dinner plate and store it either on the counter top or in the fridge. I usually include an apple, a banana, an orange, baby carrots and sliced green peppers. Beyond that, I’ll add seasonal fruit (like strawberries, pineapple or watermelon) depending on what is freshest at the store.
- If you have kids, designate one shelf in the fridge for kid-friendly foods (string cheese, yogurt, apple slices, etc..). This way, they can help themselves to a healthy snack (if they’re old enough and with your approval, of course) without you needing to prepare it for them. I also have single-sized servings of Goldfish and other crackers on the counter top within Parker’s reach and we have a “pick 2” rule for snack time. He can choose one thing from each food group for snack time, but he has to pick his second snack item from a different food group (so apples and cheese or yogurt and pretzels, etc…).
- Always make lunches the night before. There never seems to be enough time in the mornings.
For the laundry, we generally do it on Saturdays (and set the kitchen timer to remind us to switch out loads). I go ahead and lay out Parker’s clothes for the week in complete outfits (shirts, shorts, socks) so that he can just grab his clothes himself each morning. When he was younger and couldn’t dress himself, laying out the clothes would help the Irishman get him dressed quickly in the morning. It’s simple as pie…as long as you’re prepared and trust me, the time you save in the planning adds up big time by the end of the week. Oh and make sure that shoes, jackets (and gloves and hats) always get put back in their rightful place when they are taken off. Parker knows his shoes go behind his bedroom door as soon as he takes them off (and he isn’t allowed to play until they get put in their place). I know this seems anal, but there is nothing worse than looking for a lost shoe as everyone is trying to get out the door in the morning.
Tip #2: Do not procrastinate
I know this is a hard tip to follow, but think of it this way: if something truly needs to get done, it’s not going to take care of itself. As a rule, I do the least pleasant thing on my to-do list first. That way, it’s off of my list and I won’t be dreading it for the rest of the day (or week). I also try to do things as soon as I notice that they need to be done. This applies to squeaky cabinets, dirty dishes or sweeping the porch. This accomplishes multiple things – (1) it keeps chores from piling up and (2) I don’t have a chance to forget to do it. Plus, most things aren’t as bad as I think they’re going to be once I get started on them. In our house, I enforce a “work first, play later” model of operating on the weekends and while there is definitely some grumbling about it, we’re all happy to relax without pending work weighing on our consciousness.
Tip #3: Turn off the TV and the computer
Man, there is no greater time suck than electronics with screens. When we used to have cable, I would get sucked into random shows and before I knew it, half of my day was G.O.N.E. and I had gotten nothing accomplished. Nowadays, the TV is off and as soon as I’m done with work, I shut down the computer and crank up the music. Whether I’m cooking, cleaning or just puttering around the house, music keeps me moving and makes all of those things feel like less of a chore. If you don’t believe me about how much time can be sucked into watching screens, try going a whole weekend without screens (that includes TVs, computers, smartphones, etc…) and just see how much more you get done. With as much as I had been working this past spring, I promised the boys that on Sundays, I wouldn’t even turn on my computer. Regardless of being productive, it’s amazing how much more ‘together’ we felt when we weren’t distracted by articles, games or shows.
Tip #4: Don’t bite off more than you can chew
I used to be notorious for starting huge projects without thinking them through or having adequate help. Nowadays, I make sure that I have adequate time and help before engaging in big projects like cleaning out the garage or rearranging rooms. For the smaller projects, I tackle them piece by piece. I never organize more than one room a day and even then, I focus on each part of the room separately. For example, if I need to clean our bedroom, I’ll start with making sure that the dresser is cleared off and all of the clothes are put away. Then, I’ll make sure that the closet is organized and the shoes are put away. Finally, I’ll dust the furniture and vacuum the floor. The worst thing to do is flit around from one project to another (start on the desk in the office and then clean the kitchen sink before trying to straighten up the coffee table, etc…). You’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated without finishing any one project. Set yourself up to succeed instead.
Tip #5: When in doubt, throw it out.
I know I’ve said this before, but seriously, do not let your life be overrun by stuff. I would strongly encourage you to purge your house of anything and everything that is just taking up space without serving a purpose in your life. Chances are, you use the stuff you need on a daily basis and the rest just takes up space. Sell it, donate it or give it to a friend – whatever it takes to get it out of your space. I promise, after that initial pang of making the decision to get rid of it, you won’t miss it. If you do have stuff that you only use seasonally (like gloves, hats and scarves), make sure that they are stored together and labeled appropriately.
Tip #6: Be decisive.
One thing I noticed is that the decisions about what to eat, what to wear, where to go, etc.. are what take up the most time. Making the food, putting on the clothes or getting to our destination generally take very little time once the decision is made. As such, practice making decisions as quickly as you can. When I plan our weekly menus, I have a list of our “go-to” meals in front of me as well as a folder with clippings of new recipes that I want to try in case I need inspiration. I also enlist the boys’ help. Parker and Patrick each are responsible for picking two dinners a week and I come up with the other three. When it comes to picking outfits, I do the same thing. I pick something out the night before and hang it on the outside of the closet. I almost never spend time in the mornings staring at my closet and trying to decide what to wear (unless Lexi spits up on the outfit that I had previously picked out). If your family members aren’t any help in the making decisions category, make decisions for them. If they don’t like the decisions you made (about food, clothes, or whatever), they’ll be more inclined to offer suggestions the next time you ask.
Finally, remind yourself that perfection does not exist. Just do the best you can and try not to succumb to the guilt that follows most of us around on a daily basis. It doesn’t serve a purpose and probably only serves to undermine your efforts.
This Week’s Menu
– Three Bean Salad
– Egg Salad Sandwich
– Tuna Salad
– Shrimp, lettuce and tomato Sandwich
– Homemade macaroni and cheese
– Hamburgers and potato salad
– Spaghetti, meatballs and steamed broccoli
– Taco night
– Pasta fagioli and grilled cheese
As always, most recipes are already available on the blog and can be found using the “Search” feature on the right-hand side of the page.