A few more life hacks

People seemed to like my last post on this topic so here are a few more things making my life easier these days.

Emailing myself. I imagine a lot of people reading this do at least semi-regular processing of a primary inbox. If that is the case, then emailing yourself a note means you have a high chance of seeing it later at a time when you are making decisions/putting things on a calendar/batch processing. So, for instance, last night I remembered that I needed to contact a handful of people. But it would have been rude to text them at that time. So I emailed myself a reminder to do it and then did at a reasonable time in the morning — when I sat down and looked at my email.

Or writing it on my hand. I sometimes do this to remind myself of things while out and about. Very sophisticated I know. But my kids have done it too (willingly!) if there’s a change in pick-up procedures that they need to remember. If it says SPU (student pick up) on your hand in marker maybe you won’t get on the bus…

Putting a little water in it. It is very satisfying to use things up. Perhaps this tendency gets me into trouble with things like make-up, but there is often a lot of usable shampoo or soap in a bottle even after it stops reliably squeezing out. Add a little water to thin things and you can get several more days out of it. This is particularly helpful if you are, say, in the bathroom and need to wash your hands and no one else seems to have replaced the used up soap (hmmm….). Last night I put water in the tomato sauce jar to get all of it out!

Storing extra toilet paper in each bathroom. Not in a central place. People still won’t replace the rolls (why????) but at least they are closer.

Puzzle + computer. So, at the end of the day, especially if the 3-year-old has had a long nap and will not be going down early, he watches an episode or two of Catie’s Classroom or Animal Mechanicals on the YouTube Kids. Our home computer is in the dining room which…I now consider my puzzle room (we eat at the kitchen table usually). It’s gotten a little crazy — there are two 1000-piece puzzles usually on the table at any point. I’m currently doing a 750-piece one and it is seeming a lot easier. I think the difficulty level is geometric with piece number, or some version of that whereby a 750-piece puzzle only takes half as long as a 1000-piece one. Anyway…I get 45 minutes of puzzle time while supervising the toddler. Multi-tasking!

Shelf-stable yogurt. One of my picky eaters likes yogurt, but it’s not the world’s most portable snack…until now. GoGo Squeeze makes shelf-stable pouch yogurt, which I have to imagine tastes better cold, but I’m not the one eating it, so whatever. It can be brought on a car trip or stashed in a purse just fine.

My tote bag/purse. I’ve figured out that it works best for me to carry a leather tote as my purse. Maybe for you too? It’s a gray number from Longchamp, bought on clearance…of course…which is why it is gray, but I have come to think the color is smart — it goes with everything. The bag can fit my laptop, and can function as my carry-on personal item while traveling. It can also fit diapers and wipes (it’s a banner day when I need to carry the laptop AND diapers and wipes). I bought it in late 2018 after my old tote fell apart. I realized that the size was exactly right, so I bought a near replica.

The accessory notebook. About two years ago, Sarah suggested I use the Whitney English weekly planner (academic year version). She bought me one that I used for a year, and then I bought the next year’s version. I likely will re-up for a third year. BUT! I often need to take notes on stuff or brainstorm ideas and there is limited space in a weekly planner. Enter the accessory notebook. I always have another random notebook going on my desk to write down anything that occurs to me that isn’t to-do specific. I didn’t always separate these things (my old planners have lots of notes from stuff like voice mail messages) but doing so makes a smaller planner possible.

Charix shoes. Another Instagram purchase…but they are really comfortable. Will I be able to walk 10 miles in them with no blisters as advertised? Unclear but they’ve been good for regular walking around so far.

Succulents. Like a little greenery but don’t want much upkeep? They’re good. I have a few in my office. Honestly, fake plants could work in many cases too.

Not folding (some) clothes. Many clothes don’t need to be folded. I know this might be a controversial take, but things like workout clothes and pajamas can just be tossed in a drawer.

Storing clean towels on top of the dryer. Hear me out. We have a linen closet in the laundry room, which would be a good place to store towels. However, when my older children decide they need a clean towel before a shower, they are not always careful as they pull them out, and suddenly, the stack of neatly folded towels is a mess, with collateral damage to other things in the closet. Store a handful of clean towels on top of the dryer and they simply grab a towel and go.

Keeping a screwdriver in the kitchen junk drawer. And batteries nearby. I am amazed how often this need comes up. If I had to go retrieve the screwdriver from a toolbox there are a lot of toys that would just sit there, not fixed.

Keeping a travel size pack of floss in my purse. (As in, the tote bag described above.) I seem to get stuff stuck in my teeth a lot. Quick trip to the ladies room and the problem is solved.

Introducing teens to tea. I’m not sure it’s great to start a coffee habit as young as I did. Too many frappuccino type beverages aren’t that wise either. But tea is something kids can sip while studying or order while out with friends and it seems more sophisticated than juice. We now go through a lot of green tea around here!

The “recording” sign. I put this on the office door when I can’t be disturbed. Usually it’s because I’m recording. (Rule of thumb: Anyone not old enough to read and respect that sign should have childcare coverage even if you are working at home).

22 thoughts on “A few more life hacks

  1. Yes to the screwdriver in a junk drawer – ideally the type that can switch from standard to Phillips head. I feel those quick tightening jobs are more likely to get done if I don’t have to head to the basement and pull out a toolbox.

    1. @JD – ooh, neat idea on one that switches. We just have both. So I guess I should have clarified screwdriver(s) though the Phillips gets used most often.

  2. A million times yes to the batteries and screwdriver. We keep these right in the kitchen! Along a similar vein, I have two stashes of ‘trashy towels’ – one in the basement laundry room, one in the upstairs linen closet – for random spills, vomit (who wants to walk far at night for a towel with a kid throwing up? this is unfortunately fresh in my mind and I’m grateful the towels were right there!), my in-laws dog’s dirty feet, etc. Not having to trek down to the laundry room from the 2nd floor to get them is key here. I also keep all my running stuff in a bin next to the garage door, including gloves, light-up vest and headlamp, running shoes, and gel. And maybe my biggest life hack for early-morning running: sleep in your running clothes! (this is HIGHLY controversial in my group but works well for me!)

    1. @KGC – I can see the controversy, as I am imagining sleeping in my sports bra, and that might be more than I could handle in the name of convenience…

  3. My teens and tweens have also gotten very into tea recently too. My kids interestingly prefer decaffeinated black and earl gray teas (who knew 10 yos like bergamot???). My favorite thing about it is watching my 10 yo jockey with adults at the coffee/tea station at our church’s coffee hour.

    1. @Gillian – bergamot is indeed a bold choice. My least favorite part of the tea habit, alas, is collecting mugs from kids’ bedrooms when we mysteriously seem to be running low and finding the 3-day-old dried teabags in there…

  4. I love posts like this!

    We also keep batteries and a multi-head screwdriver in a drawer in our kitchen – and tape, and so many pairs of scissors (I tend toward minimalism but I believe there can never be too many pairs of scissors in a house). I store extra TP under the sink in all bathrooms, and also keep 1/2 of our towels on a shelf in our laundry room! If I put all the clean ones back in the main linen closet, they get messed up very quickly which makes me grumpy.

    I e-mail myself regularly, too. I try to get (close) to Inbox Zero each Friday, and it’s a great way of reminding myself of small tasks that might otherwise fall off my radar or get misplaced on a paper list.

    I just finished reading How To Keep House When You’re Drowning and one of the suggestions by the author is to NOT FOLD CLOTHES. I hang almost everything (which I find much faster than folding) except workout bottoms which I just fold messily and keep in a drawer. I also don’t fold my underwear! I remember reading about an underwear folding method in a Marie Kondo book and shaking my head. Ironically, I grew up in a household where every single pair of underwear got folded after it came out of the laundry. WHY? (I mean, I guess some people could say the same thing about why make a bed…).

    1. I have strong feelings on this! Non-folded underwear (which is what mine also is) lives in a drawer and is not visible. The bed, on the other hand, is seen as soon as you walk into the room. I am adamant about making the bed because it pleases MY eyes (I know not everyone shares this, so you do you) but do not fold my underwear because all I see is a nice clean drawerfront, not what’s inside. On the other hand, I started doing the Marie Kondo fold method for clothes in a drawer (like vertical file folders for tee shirts, for example) after I read her book years ago and never looked back. It is life-changing!!!

    2. @Elisabeth – yes, I think clothes folding is over-rated. Most of the children’s clothes never get folded. This is because they are responsible for their own clean laundry (well, anyone over 10) and as long as it is not a special occasion outfit that would be ruined by being thrown in a drawer (in which case it is probably not in the regular laundry rotation anyway) then your clothes, your responsibility, your call.

      1. It just gets so wrinkly if it’s not folded and I don’t want my son to be the kid with the wrinkly clothes.

  5. Wow, thank you so much for the screwdriver in the kitchen drawer suggestion! This really will make my life easier.
    Since my divorce I am slowly making changes around the house. Decluttering stuff I never use or never liked and moving other stuff around, to places that are way more logical. But I find it hard to make these changes, I have lived here for so many years, things often have a place just because it was their place for so many years and not for a good reason.
    And while I am writing this I want to thank you for something much bigger: your books, blogs and podcasts have given me the courage and the arguments to work more hours so I can provide for my family and pay the rent all by myself so my children could stay in their home after their father (rather suddenly) said he wanted a divorce.
    I have two young children and had a small parttime job. But I took on a second job so I work fulltime now and I went back to college. Yes, that’s lot. And I had to convince my second employer to hire me (‘is this even possible for a mother?’) But you made me think about time in 168 hours so I could work out a schedule and gave me ‘permission’ to get more help/childcare. Life is not easy but it is doable. And I still have time for/with my children. So really: thank you.

    1. @Annemieke – thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you found my work helpful as you navigate this new phase of life. Yep, life is often not easy but it is doable. I absolutely believe that!

  6. In addition to your lotion and shampoo hack, Consider cutting the toothpaste tube open with a pair of nail scissors. There is a whole lot more in there!

    1. @BethC – I feel like I almost never finish an entire tube of toothpaste. Life intervenes (like I move and lose the tube…) before I can finish it. Hmm.

  7. The screwdriver is not my problem but I finally put scissors closer to the kitchen (they were in a cupboard because of the toddler). Really helped!
    Can you rewiew the Charix shoes now that you’ve had them a while? You mentioned them on the podcast as well and I want to try them but they are quite an investment…

  8. Yes to the emailing yourself hack. I often do this before bed so I don’t have any open loops to not forget in the morning!

    1. @Anne – I do it at night too, but sometimes can’t remember what I meant in the morning (and autocorrect can always strike). Yesterday morning I saw “robe pack and play.” I knew I needed to remember a crib for a trip but “robe”? Then finally yesterday mid-day I remembered I meant returning my choir robe to church…

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