Time-Saving Tips for Parents

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Twelve Time-Saving Tips for Parents

Note:  SCROLL DOWN to download my free report:  “30 Time Saving Tips“!

1. Go through your house, room by room, and get rid of anything that is not useful, beautiful, or joyful. Set the timer for 10 minutes per room.  (Allow extra time only if a very heavy item must be moved.)  Do this quickly and put everything into boxes in the garage.  Give yourself a few months to decide if you want to trash, save, donate, or sell these items.

Reward:  You’ll save time:  Not having to wash, maintain, dust these things.  These things won’t hinder your access to important things that you need in a hurry.  (Imagine if the only things on your nightstand were your glasses and keys- nothing else!  They’d never be lost or buried under useless stuff!)

2. Read EVERYTHING with a pen and a pad of post-it-notes nearby, so that you never have to spend time thumbing through a book or magazine to find what you wanted.  Keep a small square of post-its in your wallet, on your nightstand, in your magazine bin, and even in the bathroom!

Reward:  You know exactly where that recipe, website, or product review is when you decide to check it out.

3. Declare gadget-free zones (both geographical and temporal) to really enjoy your leisure time.  (Isn’t that what voicemail was created for?!)

Reward:  Family time is not spent dealing with clients, and business time is not spent chatting with family members.  Create a space surrounded by things you love without any electronic communications devices.  It can be as simple as a beanbag with a book and no Blackberry!

4. Trust yourself to make decisions: Clutter represents the inability to decide what ought to be thrown away or where to put things.  A consistently hurried pace of your life represents the inability to decide what does not need to be done or what can wait for another time.

Reward: Less stuff impeding your steps, and more time to do the things you love.

5. LABEL all of your chargers with silver Sharpie markers, so you don’t wake up one morning with a dead cell phone as you’d plugged it into your child’s gameboy charger the night before, and it didn’t quite fit.  (Based on my personal experience last week!)

Reward:  A fully charged appliance when you expect it!

6. Each bedroom should have its own hamper. Laundry should be done one hamper at a time- never combine hampers in the washing machine.

Reward:  This enables you to take a basket of clean clothes from the dryer and put it in the room in which it belongs and saves enormous time sorting and putting away the clean clothing.  BONUS- if you dumped the clean laundry on the bed, that person must deal with putting away the clothing if she wants to sleep in an empty bed that evening!

7. Why touch clothing twice– once to put it away, and once to get it ready to be worn?  Buy several hanging sweater organizers – and put away your clothing in groups- each shelf should contain pants, shirt, underwear, socks.

Reward:  This way, when it’s time to get dressed, you grab one shelf instead of opening 5 drawers to find what you need.  Exceptionally helpful for children and people that think slowly in the morning, like myself!

8. Prepare dinner in the morning in a crock-pot.  Or even get it ready the evening prior to a busy day; keep it in the refrigerator overnight and turn it on in the morning.

Reward:  Quick preparation, no worries about burning dinner, stirring, mixing, etc.   This is especially useful when you’ll be out of the house all day.  Bonus- the house smells delicious when you walk inside after a long day!

9. Have lots of zip-lock bags handy.  When you are unsure what to do with something (is that a charger for an appliance that we still use?)  put it in a zip lock bag in the closet.  If you decide you need it, you can find it easily.  If you keep seeing it in the closet, you’ll realize you don’t need it, and toss it.

Reward:  No more clutter taking your space and time in the middle of the house.  I used to have a pile in a corner of each room consisting of things that didn’t belong anywhere.  Now, that’s history!

10. Prepare a master grocery list that corresponds to the aisles of your local shop. (Or ask an organized friend in your neighborhood to email hers to you!  Or, put up a notice that you’re looking for this type of list on your supermarket’s bulletin board- that is how I found mine!)  Keep copies on the fridge, and circle the items you need for your next shopping expedition.

Reward:  No more last-minute errands for things you forgot, and no need to sit and write out a shopping list each week!

11. Create a standard system for storing and remembering your passwords, so that you don’t need to spend time requesting new passwords or digging through old emails or post-it notes each time you visit the site!  My system goes something like this:  The site’s first and last letter, my hometown and old phone number, the sites last and first letter.  (Security experts advise changing passwords every 6 months and not using the same one for each site.  In 6 months, instead of my hometown and phone number, I’ll use my college town and zip code, still using the site’s first and last letters.)

Reward:  No more wasted time requesting and renewing passwords as you log into your favorite sites.  Especially useful when you switch computers!

12. Buy a timer on a cord to wear as a necklace when doing chores.  This way, you’ll hear the ring no matter where you are!  Allow yourself 10 or 20 minutes to clean each room, and move on when you hear the ring- even if you’re not done!  This will encourage you to move faster, avoid getting lost in tiny details.

Reward:  More focus means more is accomplished!  That means more leisure time for you!

Question:  What kind of time-saving tips have worked for you?  Please share your tips below!

BONUS:  Looking for more tips?  Download my free report, 30 Time-Saving-Tips right here! Share it with your friends and do post your personal tips and tricks in the comments below:)

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  1. Ellen, your emails somehow always come on the days that I need your advice most!

    I was just moaning that I have to quite being a mother or wife or employee- all 3 are just too much for me now! Great tips, thanks!

  2. I love the idea of tip #1- ten minutes per room getting rid of extra junk. I have so much junk here we could probably supply a 3rd world country with junk for a month! And I am going to order the timer-on-a-string- what a brilliant idea! I often set my oven timer, but it doesn’t help if I go upstairs or downstairs and don’t hear it.

    Thank you,

    Arlene P.

  3. As soon as I posted this article, I received this email from a friend, which made me laugh out loud:


    I am passing this on to you because it definitely works, and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives.

    By following the simple advice I heard on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace.
    Dr. Phil proclaimed, “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.”

    So, I looked around my house to see all the things I had started and hadn’t finished, and before leaving this morning, I finished off a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates.

    You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now.


    • This should be a framed up somewhere in my kitchen!!!
      What a great way to make yourself laugh each day when you start feeling overwhelmed and underpaid:)


    • oh, this advice to finish things off–Priceless. I would love to give credit where it is due.
      I am sharing with friends and can hear them laughing right now!

  4. Wow! your advice is the best. I’ll have to start coming here more often.

  5. Sunday is shopping day for us and before putting all of our groceries away, I make up the weeks school snacks in zippered baggies/containers. After portioning all of the crackers, cookies, cheese chunks, grapes, veggie sticks etc, I put them all in plastic baskets that are stored on a cupboard/fridge shelf that the kids can access. Morning lunch bags are packed in a couple of minutes by the kids, and they eat what they pack. 🙂 Simplicity that has saved us a tonne of stress!

    • I like this idea Jackie. Now, I challenge you to do away with the plastic bags (30+ years each in a landfill) and use reusable containers for a waste free lunch. My kids have made it a competition to see who can produce the least amount of waste from a lunch and the school is in on the act too. I’m off to pre sort my snacks for the rest of the week…

  6. Always love to read your post. They are good handy advice! Thanks for posting.

  7. I also group all errands together to be only on one day a week, so I’m not running out every day. And, I’ve streamlined my grocery shopping so I can do one major trip each month, and just pick up a few minor things about half-way through the month. And, I follow a schedule. I’ve found that the Managers of Their Homes book from http://www.Titus2.com was very helpful with this.
    To your success,
    Dr. Laura

  8. My son and I have started using your password hint – and it’s brilliant!

    My hint – I make my menus and grocery list on the same page of a spiral notebook. I divide it into three columns. Menus on the left, the shopping list in the other two columns, divided by section of the grocery store. If I have two stores to visit, I just highlight the items. When I’m in the store, the notebook sits upright in the child seat. (Yep, mine have outgrown it!)

    My other hint: One brand and color of socks for all our boys. No matching required.

  9. Maria Vasconcelos says:

    What great advice you offer Ellen. I also like the idea of a time limit. It helps to speed things up, and when your done you can feel good about taking your earned break. Clear storage boxes are also great because you can see what’s in them at a glance. Under bed ones are perfect for out of season clothes. If you haven’t used something in over a year its time to donate it.

  10. P-Touch Labeler. All I can say is, get one! My kids, ages 12, 10, and 3, even put things where they are supposed to go now. I label the bottoms of drawers so that they stay organized in the kids’ bathroom. Hairbrushes get put in the hairbrush spot, toothpaste in its area, and hair accessories go right where hair accessories are supposed to be. It’s not 100 percent, but wow, is it an improvement! Also, place kitchen items that kids use, like plastic cups or bowls in low cabinets so that they learn from an early age to serve themselves AND can help put clean dishes away, too!

  11. Hadassah Aber says:

    I have found that having three basic hampers in the laundry room works best for me and my family. I have one for white, one for light and one for dark. the kids sort their own clothes into the hampers. As they are growing up they ask which does this go in. Then when I see a hamper is getting full I can just run a wash without spending time sorting by color or water temp, bleach etc. This has helped my son who learns away from home understand how to prepare his clothes for washing.

    • I do something similar to this, except we use one hamper for shirts, one for pants, one for whites, and one for socks and underwear. It is faster to fold or hang all the same type of item out of the dryer, and simpler to just deliver them in a stack for putting away in one place. We also use zip lock bags for outfits. I do a weeks worth of outfits for each kid and then in the morning all they have to do is pick which ever bag they want from the bags. Everything is there and all matched up. No arguing over choices or searching for socks, underwear etc. This also works great for travel.

  12. Laundry on bed has been my best motivator to put it away before sleeping! 🙂
    Thanks for all the other wonderful tips! I’m ready to clean house now!

    • It’s true, Lillie- although (confession time) I’ve occasionally dumped the laundry from my bed onto the treadmill in order to make room for ME in the bed, LOL!

      • I used to put the clean clothes on the bed, but my husband usually goes to bed before I do, and he gets in with the clothes there. When I get in there, they are usually on the floor, and I won’t wear clothes that have been on the floor, so I have to wash them again. 🙁

      • LOL, my husband has done the same! But the treadmill somehow seems cleaner than the floor in case of total exhaustion!

  13. Ryan's Mom says:

    Donate, dontate, donate. Whenever I receive a call from Am-Vets, Purple Heart, etc. – I gladly say YES!and jot pick up day on my calendar to be sure to have my donation on my porch on pick-up day. Very little effort required for me, reduces clutter and I get tax deduction in most cases!

  14. Just want to agree with H. Aber about using the 3 hampers to sort the clothes. I don’t think it’s a good idea to put all colors of clothes together such as you would get from a hamper in each room. And sounds like H. Aber’s kids are learning a lesson of sorting and clothes washing. Kudos to H.A.

    I do like many of the tips and ideas on this website. Thanks, Ellen!

    • I realize that I’m a little nutty about not caring much about washing whites with darks…. I know. I often do a separate load of pure white dress shirts; otherwise everything gets washed together here! Things do seem to be pretty clean:)

      • Color Catchers by Shout are miracle sheets! Pop them in the wash with the clothes and you can wash all of colors together. The Color Catcher comes out with the colors that bled and the whites and lights are in perfecr shape. They allow me to wash each child’s hamper of clothes together without sorting. I love them!

  15. Just like Arlene, sometimes when I do the laundry I think we could honestly clothe an entire village in some third world country with all the clothes my kids have! How did it ever get to be so much? 8-/

    Great post Ellen, thanks!

    • I recently ordered 2 pairs of pants per child from Land’s End- my favorite shop for my boys- after months of only having 2 decent pairs per child. However, we do have enough boys’ socks to clothe a small town!

  16. great article!
    I wonder if people who love to save clutter
    can actually find something when they need it!

    • No way, Michelle! I know a family that has about 25 can openers (to take one example) because every time they can’t find something they buy another one…

  17. Great tips! But being a control freak, I guess I still want to do everything myself! I make sandwiches for three kids every morning (not at night, since they won’t be fresh), incl. snacks, mostly cookies and vegies.
    Regarding the laundry sorting, I only have one hamper in the bathroom and I only separate white from color (and by white I mean my and my husband’s whites and button down shirts for the kids, but underware, socks and T-shirts for the kids I usally do together with the color).
    I will definately have to look into the “old” items that haven’t been used in a year (I still have clothes from 10 years ago!!!) I just can’t seem to be able to get rid of them, thinking the time will come again where I will need exaclty that item!
    Thanks anyway for all the tips and info!

  18. Keep a bag in your closet for clothes you’ve identified that you’re no longer wearing or would like to give away. That will free up your closet and make room for more 😉

    Thanks Ellen for the great tips.

  19. pateachermom says:

    Those are all great ideas to organize your house. I heard about a website called www,aboutone.com.that organizes your special moments and milestones of your entire family, as well as organize all of your life data including finances, career,health, children,receipts,education and so much more. Give it a try.

  20. Laura Sullivan says:

    Some things I do to save time:
    I keep my silverware in my dishwasher seperated, so I can grab a handful of forks at one time.
    Meals are planned the night before so they are already thawed and all ingredients are pulled out of the cabinent – no last minute trips to the store.
    I have one place to toss things like catalogs, coupons, etc until I am ready to deal with them so that there are not piles of tossed things in every room.
    Most important, I plan time for me each night after dinner, chores, baths and games with the kids!

  21. pateachermom says:

    Guys. If you take the about one survey at AboutOne/ you can win a free iPod Touch. I won an iPod Touch two months ago. They award a new one every month.

  22. Christopher says:

    Sometimes there are no time savers. Knowing that and allocating the time it takes to do a job right the first time is stress relief in itself. And, who knows, you may even enjoy this time with yourself doing something constructive to benefit all.

    This is from a father, husband and employee who does it all so mom can finish school.

    • Very profound, Christopher. Thanks for sharing.

      I’m a hobby gardener, and there are definitely no time savers when it comes to growing plants… the law of the farm does apply to many areas of life.

  23. Wow! Awesome ideas! I wish I would have thought about the sweater bag hanger organizer when my kids were small!!!

  24. Thank you for inspiring me to get rid of the clutter. There were somethings that I was already doing but now I have more time savers. I am a single mother of 4 that works full-time and I have my own at home business as well. The house can suffer, hopefully I can now keep it the way I want it with using more of your tips.

  25. I have found it most useful to get my children’s clothes out for the next day and put them on the table the night before. That really makes it a lot easier to get out on time.