12 ways to save time when you’re a mum
Most mums I know run around like headless chickens pretty much every waking hour of the day, every day. Trying to fit in the million and one jobs that being a mum entails.
I have been asked quite a few times recently how I do it, so I thought I’d share how I save time where I can. For those who don’t know, this is what “I do”:
- Work 35 hours a week as a childminder
- Write two blogs, this one and Franglaise Cooking food blog (with Hubs)
- This year I brought out a free e-book, Kids’ outings in the London area: Insider tips, to share with my blog subscribers
- I have just become a published author with the first book in my series of bilingual children’s books, The Adventures of Elodie / Les Aventures d’Elodie, more on that to come very soon, so watch this space!
- Then there’s the usual – mum, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, neighbour, dog & cat-owner…
For those of you who find that there are never enough hours in the day, here are my top tips for getting things done and even having time for yourself.
I have been a SAHM, a WAHM and a working mum in the past, as well as running my own company and working in high-pressured job roles, so all of this advice is a combination of what works whether you’re going out to work or not.
1) Get the kids to help
It doesn’t matter how old your children are, they’re pretty much never too young to help out. When L went into Reception we told her she was old enough to help around the house, in exchange for weekly pocket money. She had to lay and clear the table with her things at mealtimes and tidy her toys away every day.
Now she’s 8 she is responsible for tidying her clothes away, preparing her things for school (and dealing with the repercussions if she forgets things). She also has to do her hair every morning (no mean feat when you have curly hair!) and get her own breakfast.
As for C, she has just turned 2 so has fewer jobs 😉 However from the age of 18 months she has helped me tidy all her toys away at the end of the day. She knows that when it’s done she can watch a bit of Peppa Pig, which seems to work!
2) Ease up on the baths
So many mums I know fight with bathtime every day. Now some children do need daily baths for their routines and for calming down before bed, so that makes sense. BUT if you are doing it from a cleaning point of view then stop! It is highly unlikely your small child needs a daily bath. We tend to do baths here every 2 or 3 days, which is fine and it really helps to save time.
Finally on the subject of baths – put the kids in altogether. There are 6 years between our daughters, but they still have baths together, and seem to love it still!
3) Sort your laundry out
It’s a sad fact that when you have kids you will forever have a washload on the go. So how on earth can you save time here? Several ways in fact:
– get a tower airer (available pretty much everywhere), and do two washloads one after the other. These airers take up very little floor space and a tall one will easily dry 2 loads of washing at once. So instead of doing laundry every day, do two loads every 2 days, which means you’ll be folding and putting away 2 loads in one go, this helps me save time too.
– programme your washing machine to finish first thing in the morning, hang that load up straight away, then put a second load on, you should have time to hang the second lot up before going to work/on the school run.
– get the kids to help you with the washing. L loves helping to hang the washing on the airer, whilst C thinks that helping me fold the clothes up is a new game.
– get everyone to help you with their dirty clothes: if everyone empties their own pockets, turns clothes the right way round, zips jeans up etc it will save time.
– 99% of the year forget hanging clothes up outside (in the UK), as you’ll spend so much time bringing them back in and hanging them up indoors when it rains.
4) Ditch the iron
Stop ironing now. Here’s how:
– buy clothes that don’t need ironing, so L has school skirts without pleats, and I get non-iron shirts for Hubs (ours are from Olymp)
– don’t even consider ironing sheets, towels, serviettes, underwear, pyjamas, that’s just craziness!
– do not tumble dry clothes, they get far more creased in the drier (use a tower airer, it’s kinder to the environment too)
– hang clothes up to dry as soon as the washing machine has finished. For anything that might need ironing, put it straight onto coat hangers to dry – the creases will drop out whilst it dries.
I was reassured that I wasn’t alone here when I read Katy Hill’s round-up of her parenting tips from her time on This Morning recently.
5) Grocery shop online
Stop wasting hours of your life going out to do your grocery shopping, there are some excellent online shopping options in the UK, use them! We have used Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Ocado in the past, we are sticking with Ocado for now (although their packing leaves A LOT to be desired), as they have the best stock of reasonably priced French food (cheeses, charcuterie and more!).
Grab yourself a shopping list on a magnet, whack it on the fridge and add to it as you go through your week – as things run out or as you think of other bits you might like to have/as the kids request stuff. Then once a week get your list and a glass of wine and head to your computer.
Most supermarkets will let you set up a weekly list which you can tweak, then just go through your list, searching for each item so you’re not tempted to buy lots of things you don’t need, and before you know it your shopping will be done. Shopping this way will save time and then some. (It’s also so stress-free – the glass of wine is obligatory to add in the zen factor.)
Unfortunately most supermarkets’ fruit and veg leaves a lot to be desired – in-store and online – so Hubs or I walk the 10 minutes to our local fruit and vegetable market, and stock up on a week’s worth in one go. That can be time-consuming but it is so worth it. You’ve got to know when to spend the time and when to cut corners.
6) Eat together
Eat the same meal as your kids, at the same time as them. When I’m childminding the kids eat around 5pm, but they have the same meal that Hubs and I then have later on.
The easiest way to make this work is to eat as soon as you/your partner gets home from work, and have the kids already bathed and ready for a story and bed post dinner. If you both work then the slow cooker and leftovers are very much your friends here, get some slow cooker inspiration from our food blog, Franglaise Cooking.
7) Leftovers & meal plans are the way forwards
You should never cook a meal that will only serve one meal. Save time and money by doubling the quantities, giving you leftovers for the next day/the day after. (Good luck if it’s a dish the kids didn’t like first time round!)
As for meal planning, it is boring but not only will it save time but money too, as you won’t have to resort to takeaways or frozen pizzas in a blind panic. It is more likely that your kids (and you) will eat more healthily, so it really is a win-win.
Use a meal planning list like our fridge magnet, or as Hubs does, a Google doc online. To help you get started here is our meal planning template, which we then fill in each week:
8) Learn when to multi-task
There are times to multi-task and other times when it’s just not a good idea. Catching up on emails when your child is telling you about their day is really not the time.
However if your children have an early tea, take this time to clear up the kitchen and do the washing-up. This means you can be with them, chatting to them and supervising, but not breathing down their necks, and clearing that huge pile of dirty pots and pans at the same time!
9) Get synchronised online
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time feeling like my children’s PA, as I arrange playdates and school discos and after school activities. Not to mention work commitments and my own social life. Many moons ago I got a Palm Pilot and my calendar became digital. Fast forward to 2014 and Hubs and I share an online calendar, which is synced between our phones, tablets and computers.
This means I always have my calendar on me, and I can see Hubs’s at the same time too.There are various different calendars you can use, Hubs and I use Google calendars, which works well across all our devices.
It sounds like such a simple thing but it means I save time with this admin side of our family life.
10) Lists, lists, lists
I am, by nature, a pretty organised person, so I love a good list. But it’s easy to get caught up writing list after list after list. My advice is to have one list, or at most two – one for business and one for personal – then enjoy crossing tasks off as you go along. If you want to know just how satisfying this is, and to have a good laugh at the same time, check out Hurrah for Gin’s the bad mums to do list.
Trying to run a family and its household, a childminding business, 2 blogs and a book with its own Limited Company means I’ve got to be organised, and have a list to help me get everything done. I use an app on my phone called “Task List”, which allows me to have two lists side by side (business and personal), and this works well for me.
11) Invest in a cleaner
If you can possibly afford it, get a cleaner. In London they tend to cost £10/hour with a minimum of 3 hours. £30 is a fair amount of money to shell out every week, so work out where you can save this cash elsewhere to limit the time and stress. Unless of course you like cleaning, in which case let me give you my address 😉
12) Get your head round the paperwork
Fortunately in the UK there is very little paperwork to do in general (bureaucracy isn’t a French word for nothing), but you do still need to get your head around it. When you receive email, post or just letters from school with tasks that you need to do, add them to your to do list, with the deadline date.
Wherever possible try and clear your inbox and your in-tray every day. Dealing with these things little by little can take just a few minutes, but when it’s built up into a big pile you end up losing a whole evening or Saturday morning to get back on top. Don’t let it swamp you!
And those are my 12 ways to save time when you’re a mum. The main reason for these tips is so that you can actually spend time with your kids, your partner, your friends, your family or some precious me time. To enjoy life and to not burn out. Remember your kids are far more likely to remember time spent with a chilled out mummy than a pristine house.
Do you have any tips to add? Have I forgotten any big ones? Do share below 🙂