These are just a few little things that- to be honest- when we actually do them, things go more smoothly than we don’t. I’m not saying we always follow through on these, just that IMO, things work better when we do. In no particular order:
If you have a dishwasher, train yourself and your children that whoever loads the dishwasher also comes back when it’s done and unloads it. Then train yourself and your family that instead of putting dirty dishes in the sink or all over the counters, dirty dishes are rinsed and put right into the dishwasher.
Before you start to cook, fill your sink or a dishpan with 100% hot, soapy water. Put the dishes you use directly into the hot water to soak. This will make clean up easier later.
Stop thinking in terms of recipes, and just eat food. For dinner last night the Cherub and I had stir fried vegetables- I used one bag of frozen cut okra and half a bag of frozen edamame (shelled green soybeans). I fried them in a bit of coconut oil and sesame oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I added anchovies to hers, but I just had vegetables. One of our favorite dinners is just to put almost any meat in the crockpot with some salad dressing (oil and vinegar, catalina, Asian sesame ginger) and cook it all day and have it over rice. The 17 y.o. and I even like heart this way- it’s very, very tender. The others still prefer their heart mixed with some other meats. Baked potatoes, steamed sweet potatoes, these make a cheap and nourishing snack for small children or a great side dish for a meal.
When I fixed our stir fry last night, I didn’t immediately throw out the bag the okra had been in. I spread it out on the counter and used it for a spoon rest. That way there was nothing to clean but my spoon and my pan- no spoon rests to wash, no residue on my counters.
Think about placement- our kitchen trashcan was near the cookbook shelf, and splatters from the trash did not get noticed, and when they did, it was time consuming to clean. I moved the trash can so that a plain wall is behind it- splatters are easy to see now, and it doesn’t take much time to wipe down the wall. In previous houses, with younger children, I put up vinyl contact paper on the wall behind the trash can to make clean-up even easier.
When my children were much smaller and we lived in a two story house I put patterned contact paper on the wall alongside the stairs- exactly where grimy little hands touched the wall all the way up. This made clean up a breeze.
Prevention is more time efficient than fixing things after the fact (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure). If there is a mess you are constantly having to clean up, a task that often takes much longer than you think it should, look over the area and the task and see if something can be streamlined or rearranged so it will work better for you. For example, in our house recently The Cherub started rearranging books on one particular book-case- taking the books off the shelf and depositing them around the house, sometimes tearing pages. I moved those books to another bookcase and put all the board books we own in those shelves, and we are no longer picking up books from all over the house.
If you have pets such as dogs and cats, assign brushing the animals fur to one of the children on a regular basis- outside. This will keep down the little piles of critter hair that air currents swirl up into corners of the rooms.
When my kids were little I usually cleaned the shower while I was taking a shower. The Church Mouse’s tips for cleaning the bathtub would work even better.
Consider a no shoes in the house policy. Go barefoot, wear socks, or have special slippers only for use inside the house. These tatami mat soled shoes with glittery green straps are my inside shoes for warm weather months. I also bought a cheap pair something like these slipper genies, and *really* love the concept. The FYG’s are bamboo sole thong flip flops with butterflies in the design. My husband’s indoor slippers are just average men’s Asian slippers for indoors. We bought them in Chinatown. The boy is problematic with his size 13 skis, er, I mean feet.. Currently, he just goes barefoot inside, but we may have to get him some shower shoes (Updated to add: I bought him these at Amazon- I did not spend more than 5.00 for anybody else’s shoes, and mostly I spent only 1 or 2 dollars).
We did the no shoes in the house policy for most of our married lives, and it really does do a remarkable job of keeping the dirt down. We got out of the habit when we moved into this house, but I am reinstating that policy.
The Cherub wears some slipper/boots because her feet are always cold.
It also helps to get a nice sized entry mat at all the doors where people come in. If you have a lot of outside doors and a tight budget, get one mat, and lock all the doors but one, and make that one be the one with the mat where you kids come in and out- they are the ones who will be tracking in the most dirt.
Keep a shoe rack near the entrance you mainly use, or get everybody to take their shoes to their rooms as soon as they come in. Because it was our intention to continue our shoes off in the house policy when we moved in, we put tile floors near all the entrances, and cork floors in the rest of the house- it makes it easier to remember to remove shoes if the flooring by the door is different from the rest of the house. Entry mats, a bench for people to sit down to remove their shoes, and a shoe rack (in our case we have an over the door shoe holder in the mud-room/laundry room) also help serve as reminders.
For shoe and other storage I love this idea– turn a tall bookcase over on its side, use the top for a bench seat (make a cushion for it), and get baskets to fit inside the shelves for storage. Adorable.
You eat at home 3 times a day, most of you, anyway. Instead of storing silverware in a drawer, leave it out- divide it between three large mugs, decorated cans, or an official utensil caddy (we have one, it’s mesh wire, and we bought it at the thrift store). These can go from dishwasher to table easily and it frees up drawer space if that’s what you need most.
Buy Cork Tiles and put them inside your kitchen cupboard doors. Pin recipes that you look up on a regular basis, emergency phone numbers, kitchen substitutions, etc.
Assign each family member their own bath towel- use fabric paint to write their name on it. Keep the rest of the towels tucked away. We now have enough bathrooms to keep towels in the bathroom, but in times past and other houses, everybody had to keep their own towel in their bedroom (we used over the door hooks for them). Those who like their own toiletries can keep them in a small totebag with the towel (just like camp!) and take them to and from the bathroom- cutting down on clutter and accusations that somebody used somebody else’s shampoo. Several years ago we also sewed an inch long strip of elastic along the outside edge of each towel, right in the center of that outside edge. This made it easier for small children to hang their towels up.
How about you? What is the most useful time or space saving tip you’ve used?