Here's a few things I'm doing to create more time for what matters:
1: Little-to-no-cooking. I'm tired of spending 30+ minutes preparing a meal to eat it in under 3 minutes. And it's summer, so the heat makes cooking a bit more arduous than usual. And I'm really, really tired of mountains of dishes. (Because I'm a green/eco-friendly lady, I refuse to use paper/plastic eating-ware). I continue to be dedicated to healthy eating (including organic/free-range/GMO-free/local/plenty of raw foods). So for the summer, I'm going much more casual with meals and snacks, including:
- sandwiches/wraps: hummus, veggies, nut-butter/jelly, cheese, honey mustard (Use a variety of breads: bagel things, sandwich thins, leftover frozen buns, waffles, etc.)
- salads: Mexican (beans, salsa, tortilla chip crumbles, etc.), Asian (pineapple, edamame, etc.), Cobb (egg, tomato, etc.), fruit/nut
- smoothies: Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, low-sugar lemonade, fresh spinach
- raw fruits/veggies with dips (peanut butter, hummus, Greek yogurt)
- muffins: tofu banana with chocolate chips, berry/carrot, pumpkin apple, etc. (bake and freeze in batches, pulling out a few when needed)
- frozen pizza: Trader Joe's makes a fabulous feta, mozzarella, and spinach pizza (pair with fresh fruit, and voila!)
- dressed-up oatmeal: add in pumpkin puree, nut butters or nuts, agave nectar, chocolate chips (dark, of course), fresh fruit, etc.
- Have a picnic in the living room in front of a favorite movie, or picnic in the yard, or eat on the porch.
- Don't be afraid of making meals "match." The other day, my kids had nachos, salmon pasta salad, and corn casserole. :) Just make sure the meals are balanced: protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
- Potluck! Summers are great for hosting and attending potluck meals. Again, don't worry about the foods matching. Why not just have everyone bring a favorite? Or, you can always assign a side, a dessert, a drink, etc., but keep it general to give your guests some freedom to be creative!
- With easy-to-assemble meals like wraps, let your kids custom-create their meal by choosing the ingredients and assembling the wrap.
- sweep (using mini-brooms/dustpans)
- vacuum (area rugs)
- clean windows (with vinegar spray and a rag---non-toxic)
- pick up toys (obviously!)
- fold towels/washcloths
- match socks
- put away some of their own laundry (like socks and underwear)
- make their beds (pull blanket over the bed, put stuffed animals and pillow on bed neatly)
- put away silverware and put lids on storage bowls from the dishwasher
- dust (lower items, like the bottom of the buffet table, or the end-table, nightstands, etc.)
Just my thoughts: don't turn chores into a greater chore by using chore-charts too early. You'd be surprised how many little ones enjoy just being with mom or dad and don't need a reward for helping out the family.
3: Don't care for the things no one cares about!
- We use cloth napkins to be eco-friendly and save money. But there's no reason to fold them or iron them (though my kids do like to fold them...which is fine). Just shove them in a drawer.
- We use rags to clean with, because they are eco-friendly and save money. But folding them is pointless. Just have a large basket to house them, and when they are clean throw them in the basket!
- When making beds, focus less on making them perfect and simply pull the covers up. Get rid of the 15,000 extra pillows. Or, better yet, like us, we don't make our beds 75% of the time. What's the point?
- Focus on cleaning/caring for the areas that are most visible and used. A tidy living room invites guests into a cozy, clean environment. A guest bathroom should be clean and welcoming. Keep your kitchen in semi-good shape, especially if it's a high-traffic area like mine is.
4: Do put effort in now to save time later.
- Put outfits together for kids (I roll them together), so they can easily grab outfits and dress themselves in matching clothes.
- Sort and stack towels so that you aren't demolishing a drawer or closet to find a washcloth amidst the piles of hand towels. Some people put a set together to make things easier at bath time: a towel and washcloth.
- A bit off topic, but couponing and having a small (reasonable) stockpile makes shopping trips less stressful. You will typically go to the store less (because you will have on-hand what you need, which you purchased at a great price, instead of multiple mini-runs to the store for a full-price item you need NOW).
- Figure out what you need and order it online instead of going to the store. Amazon and Vitacost have been incredibly helpful to me. Both offer cheaper prices if you set up automatic orders for certain items. I order lotion, beans, pumpkin and squash purees, cereal, and my kids' favorite crackers through these websites. Benefits: the shipping is free, there's no sales tax, and the products come right to my door in a matter of just a few days.
- Shop without the kids when possible. Leave them at home with dad or a sitter. You can accomplish so much more without them (and you can leave the store without forgetting three items you needed for the week, saving you another trip later). Sometimes I take just one child with me to give her more focus while getting the list taken care of.
- Work with my oldest on reading, tying her shoes, and learning her address/phone number. Work with my middle child on shapes, colors, and letters.
- Spend more time just hanging out with my kids: imaginative play, coloring, reading, swimming.
- Holding my baby and not doing twenty other things at the same time.
- Enroll my kids in the activities they enjoy. This month it's gymnastics and karate!
- Host more play dates. Attend more play dates.
- Be in a Bible study one night a week with friends.
- Read for pleasure.
- Relax with my husband after the kids are in bed.
- Get the kids to bed at a decent time and not rush the bedtime routine (which never turns out well).
I'd love to hear what you are doing to save time and create space in your life for what you really want!