Family

30 tips that will make organizing your life a breeze

Author: Canadian Living

Family

30 tips that will make organizing your life a breeze

Like most working moms, you probably find yourself juggling family, work, friendships and time for yourself – it's a challenge we face every day. September often brings a new set of routines: back to school, a change in the weather, and extracurricular activities on evenings and weekends. So what better time to incorporate a few new coping strategies?

We came up with one for every day this month. But, above all, stay focused on the big picture, and remember that the time you actually get to spend playing, talking, reading and laughing with your kids or your partner – or nurturing yourself – trumps any errand, email message or cleanup chore on any list.

1. Embrace Skype – the free video-calling service. It's a quick and easy way to stay in touch with kids at university or with a spouse away on a business trip.

2. Stock emergency items in a bin in the car – a few school supplies, extra tuques and mitts, snacks and juice boxes. If you're already on the road, you won't need to turn around to retrieve them when you hear "OMG, Mom, go back, I forgot my...!"

3. If you commute on rapid-rail transit, you may be able to save time and frustration for a small fee. For instance, Ontario's Go Transit offers a reserved parking spot for a monthly fee – so you don't have to drive around in the morning looking for a spot. A similar service is available in the Vancouver area at many Translink stations. End-of-day bonus: You'll be first to your car and out of the lot quicker.

4. Use websites like MapQuest (mapquest.ca) or Google Maps to plan your route to an appointment or unfamiliar destination. If it's the kids you are shuttling around, have them be responsible for getting the directions and downloading a map.


Page 1 of 4 – Find our most popular slow cooker recipes, plus time-saving advice for making grocery lists and more on page 2.

5. Put your slow cooker on the countertop now and find a few easy recipes to make. Prep ingredients the night before then throw them all together in the morning, so dinner's ready when you get home.

6. Scramble up a chores list by writing little jobs on pieces of paper, tossing them in a jar and asking kids to draw one each day. Tip: offer one re-draw if they really hate that job.

7.
Don't fight with your kids over who walks the dog. Do it together – you all get exercise, and it's an opportunity to connect. Kids not buying it? Then bribe them when they want something from you. "I'll drive you to your friend's place, but first…"

8. Create a grocery checklist on your computer, organized by departments and aisles. Print and go! Or set up a list on your smartphone, adding items as you think of them, so you can go whenever you have time. Involve older kids – give them a cart and half the list, then meet back at the checkout.

9. Food processors make short work of time-consuming jobs such as chopping and grating. Grate a month's worth of cheese and store it in resealable plastic bags in the freezer. Voilà – an instant topping for pizzas, lasagna and nachos, or a fast addition to a sandwich.

10. Dedicate 20 minutes every Sunday to cutting up a week's worth of veggies, such as sweet peppers and celery. They make for healthy grab-'n'-go lunch additions, after-school snacks or ingredients for a quick stir-fry dinner.

11. If you've got teens, assign them one night a week to cook dinner. To get them started, create a binder of healthy 15-minute recipes, such as quesadillas or specialty omelettes.

12. It takes the same amount of time to cook an enormous pot of meat sauce as it does a single meal's worth. Make enough for one or two meals to serve during the week, and with leftovers to freeze in family-size portions, so you have the base for meals like lasagna or spaghettI bolognese on hand.

13. Consider buying a phone headset or talking on speakerphone so you can chat while unpacking groceries or folding laundry.

14. Create "Planning Central" with a large magnetic calendar that sticks to the fridge door. Write the week's activities on it – from soccer games to birthday parties – colour coded for each family member, so everyone's on the same page. Or, create an online calendar and place it "on the cloud" through Google Docs (docs.google.com).


Page 2 of 4 – Do your kids dread doing chores? Find out how to get your kids to help around the house on page 3.


15. Stock up on eco-friendly cleaning supplies – they're safe for kids, so they can help clean.

16. Enlist the help of other parents and give each other a break by taking turns driving kids to and from extracurricular activities.

17. Sometimes paying for a service makes time-saving sense. If laundry takes up half a weekend, pay for a wash and fold service. A little extra for a cable movie package saves trips to the video store. Hire a teen to wash your windows.

18. Keep your home clean by losing the clutter. Create a giveaway box and toss in items that are no longer useful. Ask yourself "Does this thing bring joy to my life? Is it still useful?" rather than "Will I need this in 10 years? Will I lose 30 pounds so I can fit into this pair of jeans again?" Once a month, donate the items to charity and get a new box going.

19. Make it a rule to put things back in place. Even a youngster can learn to toss clothes into a laundry hamper or to put books back onto a shelf.

20. Divvy up household tasks with your partner and play to each other's strengths when deciding who will be responsible for what. You're the math whiz? No point in him struggling with bank statements and bill payments. He's happy vacuuming while listening to a podcast on headphones? Let him go for it!

21. Teens love to hang out late into the night on weekends, which can mean you're on call for a pickup. Meet your need to sleep by booking a taxI in advance and providing cab fare.

22.
Be creative with carving out time to be with your significant other. It can be anything from a walk in the park to a bike ride together. And it doesn't have to happen at night – coordinate vacation or personal days from work so the two of you can stay home while the kids go to school.

23. The electronic world of email and social media can be a time-saver, but it can also be a time-waster. Whenever possible, turn off email and hide the tweets while working, and cap your social media time.


Page 3 of 4 – Find out why skipping a lunch in favour of doing more work can be counter-productive on page 4.

24. Invest in a great pair of black pants for the office. They always look good and are easy to dress up with accessories for an out-of-the-blue evening function. Be good to go at a moment's notice by keeping a clean white shirt and a pair of heels in your bottom desk drawer.

25. Keep takeout menus for your two favourite restaurants in your purse or glove compartment. On a busy night, you can call before you leave the office and pick up dinner on the way home.

26. Try to do one fun thing with your kids each week. For example, make Wednesday night "egg night" and draw faces in the eggs with ketchup or salsa. Or rouse the kids out of bed to go outside and look at a meteor shower in their pyjamas.

27. Get into the habit of getting up an hour before the rest of the household. Have a cup of coffee, read the news and catch up on personal emails. It's a good way for you to start the day – with time to yourself. In the winter, a sunlight lamp or sunrise clock (used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder) can make waking up easier.

28.
Avoid lineups – and save time – by purchasing tickets for movies, the theatre and sporting events online.

29. A relaxed, less-stressed-out you does everything better. Resist the urge to stay glued to your desk at work. Use your lunch break to take a walk or meet up with a friend for a bite to eat. At home, hour-long breaks may not be realistic. Take shorter ones – 15 uninterrupted minutes to enjoy a cup of tea, read a magazine or indulge in a few yoga stretches, for instance.

30. Instead of having to dash out for a last-minute birthday or hostess gift, keep a small supply on hand and ready to go, such as a nice bottle of wine, special teas, gourmet jams and chutneys, already popped into bags tied with ribbon. A supply of small cards will save the day – write an inspired note, sign it and go!

This story was originally titled "Make It Work" in the September 2011 issue.

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30 tips that will make organizing your life a breeze

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