You can find all sorts of cool life hacks on the web, like how to organize gift wrapping supplies with empty toilet paper rolls, and how to keep your kid’s arts and crafts orderly with a drying rack. I’m not the Pinteresty-type of mom, but I do have some tricks up my sleeve that actually work. Here are 21 of my real life mom hacks for underachievers:
1. Make your child’s “pajamas” work for the following day.
I put my toddler to sleep in sweatpants and a T-shirt, and guess what he wears to story time the next day? The only thing I change is a diaper. T-shirt style rompers also work well.
2. Keep shoes in the car.
Don’t bother asking your child 296 times to put on her shoes to go somewhere. Keep some in the car, carry her out, and put them on her once she’s restrained in her seat. When my preschooler is being too picky about his clothes, I do something similar — take him out half-naked and present the clothes in the car when he has no other option but to put the damn shirt on.
3. Get a family water bottle.
I seriously cannot manage sippy cups. Cleaning them, filling them, knowing where they are — it’s all too much. I recently bought a huge Camelbak, and carry it for the whole fam to sip from.
4. Make good use of leftovers.
Cook extra of whatever you’re cooking and then say to your family, “I hope you like these meatballs because we’re having them again tomorrow.”
5. Practice the art of 10 minute clean ups.
Set the kitchen timer, and have everyone straighten up until it goes off. You get the benefit of a tidy home without hating your family in the process. Yay, team work!
6. Place bins strategically.
It took me 28 years to realize the bulk of organization has to do with copious amounts of baskets and containers. Put one by the front door to catch shoes, and on the kitchen counter to collect the keys, mail, business cards, and other random items.
7. Get your partner a shit box.
My friend shared this genius idea with me. She hated seeing his stuff lying around, so she found a box and used it to create a special home for all the belongings he sprinkled around. Gone was the random golf tee under the coffee table and all the paperwork he left here and there. Whenever he wanted to find something, he knew just where to look.
8. Reuse clothes that aren’t dirty.
You know those items that don’t deserve to be washed yet, but shouldn’t be mixed back in with the clean clothes either? Put a special hook for them in your closet and wear it again.
9. Create a daily priority list.
Before I go to bed, I write down three (and only three) things that I want to accomplish the following day. Usually, it’s some type of house hold chore, an errand, and a personal goal. Today my list says to clean toilets, shop for health insurance, and write this post. Remember, don’t be an overachiever!
10. Put a fussy child in the bath.
Water has a way of calming and entertaining children. If your child is small enough, put him in the sink while you put dishes away or make lunches. If your sink is endlessly stacked or your child is older, bring a chair to the bathroom and turn the water on a light drizzle. Put your child in the tub with some measuring cups, and soon he will (hopefully) calm down, and then you might be able to accomplish something.
11. Keep a tube of mascara in your purse.
Red traffic lights are very well known to serve as an excellent opportunity for its application.
12. Save your Amazon boxes.
When your child is at your knees while you’re trying to cook, bust out a box and throw some markers on the kitchen floor. If they’re not instantly excited, say “Make a space shuttle!”
13. Keep scissors in your diaper bag.
Not for impromptu haircuts, but to cut slices of pizza into perfect toddler-approved, bite-size pieces.
14. Keep snacks in the center console of your car.
You know that bag of pretzels you opened in the grocery store to keep your hellions quiet in the cart? Don’t even bother bringing them into the house. Keep them in the car, and throw a couple plastic bowls in there too. (I’ve heard the best way to handle children’s emotions is to distract them with food…)
15. Give your child a roll of painter’s tape.
Tell her she can put it all over the walls, and you will find yourself with like 40 minutes of quiet time. Taking the tape off won’t be a problem at all. (Except destroying her creation might be.)
16. Do playdates the French way.
I know it’s fun to hang out with mom friends, but solo time is also glorious. Instead of getting together all the time with your mom friends, take turns watching each other’s kids.
17. Keep hangers in the laundry room.
In fact, buy a shower rod and squeeze it in between two walls. It gives you a place to hang shirts as soon as you take them from the dyer. Even if you only open the dryer to look for one particular sock, instead of going through the clothes recklessly, get them out of your way in a wrinkle-free manner.
18. Turn vacuuming into a game.
One of my friends tells her kids that any toys on the floor will get eaten by the vacuum. Entice them to help by saying once all toys are picked up, the vacuum will chase them around. My kids love this game, and it prevents them from making another mess while I’m cleaning the current one.
19. Don’t stress about cleaning your car out.
Leave all that stuff! The extra clothes and random toys will totally come in handy. Extra diapers, too.
20. Give a cranky toddler corn-on-the-cob.
It works better than a pacifier at quieting fussiness.
21. Live with less.
Biggie said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” I say, “Mo’ stuff, mo’ mess.” Bag up and donate regularly.
The secret to efficiency is working smarter, not harder. Do what works!