Parenting young children can feel a lot like you’re constantly juggling, running late or looking for lost socks. Try some - or all - of our life hacks, simple ideas to simplify life.
1. Make the bed as soon as you get up. Sorry for being bossy, but making the bed brings both a sense of calm to your morning and a welcome sight at the end of the day. But don’t make all the beds in the house yourself – teach the kids as soon as they are able. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says that bed-making is “the number one most impactful change people can make”, basically because it is a keystone habit – a habit that is a catalyst for other good habits.
2. Make a kit of useful things. Ever struggle to find the sellotape, scissors or string? Kids love to use ‘mum’s stuff’, but are not as passionate about putting it back. Create your own kit of useful bits and pieces (pens, cards and envelopes, glue, blu-tack, scissors, stapler, note paper etc) and stash it somewhere handy – yet out of reach of little hands.
3. Centralise paperwork in a family filing cabinet. Computers were supposed to reduce the amount of paper on our desks (and coffee tables, dining tables and kitchen benches) but family life still has a way of generating piles. Cut down on paper by getting your bills sent via email and then create files on your computer to store accounts, if need be. A small filing cabinet should take care of the rest, with clearly labelled hanging files for the different categories of your domestic scene, from kindy enrolment packs and passports to medical records and knitting patterns (that you are totally going to knit, one day…).
5. Plan the week’s menu in advance. There are administrative types who will read the words ‘menu plan’ with eager anticipation, while others will be filled with dread. Spontaneity may be the spice of life (and many an evening meal), but planning ahead makes grocery shopping and cooking so much more efficient. There is a reason companies like My Food Bag are so successful – they totally alleviate 5pm ‘what on earth are we having for dinner’ panic. Use the recipe section on Countdown's online shopping website to select recipes for the week ahead, and then, with a click of the mouse, you can add the ingredients straight into your trolley.
6. Create a ‘spares’ drawer. You never know when you’ll need to replace a light bulb or battery, but chances are it won’t be when you’re just about to pop out to the shops. Allocate a drawer or shelf in a cupboard for ‘spares’ – light bulbs, batteries, rubbish bags, extension cords, bin liners, vacuum cleaner bags, matches, candles and torches – and keep it stocked and ready for anything.
7. Have a secret stash of gifts. Buy items that would make good generic presents (craft supplies, books, fun T-shirts, for example) when they are on sale and stash them in a present box. Keep some card-making supplies on hand too and you’ll avoid that whole ‘panic buying on the way to the party’ scenario.
8. Cook once, eat twice. This is an idea OHbaby! lifestyle expert Jessie Jarvie shared with us recently, and we love it. Basically double the recipe quantities for things like pasta sauces, mince-based meals, curries, pizza dough, rissoles, pie fillings, even cookies and muffins, and freeze half for another day.
9. Do something each evening that will make the next morning easier. This is editor Ellie’s new strategy to calm the morning madness. Even just a little thing, like putting lunchboxes on the bench at night, ready to be packed in the morning, can make a huge difference to starting the day feeling more in control.
10. “If it doesn’t make you smile, make it leave” said Ann Voscamp. We love this neat attitude towards decluttering. The things in our house are very personal. No one should tell you what to keep and what to chuck, but clutter can be very overwhelming, physically as well as emotionally, so it pays to have some sort of strategy for keeping ‘stuff’ under control.