In this post: Avoid these wastes of time to make room in your busy schedule for the things you enjoy doing with your family.
I’ll be the first to admit I prefer to be lazy. In fact, it’s kind of the whole premise for the things I do: find the stupid easy way to keep up with any system. Not putting an item back where it belongs? Maybe it belongs close to where you actually left it! And so, keeping our Nutella in the mug cupboard, by the coffee station and toaster, became a thing. Peanut butter joined it. And marshmallows for hot chocolate.
Always removing used k-cups from the Keurig and setting them on the counter while in a hurry to get to your coffee? Put a tiny trash can as close to the Keurig as possible so you can remove and toss the k-cup in one smooth motion.
Consistently leaving a throw blanket on a chair? Put a basket right smack up against that chair and just … DROP it in.
Always having to clean up tissues and trash on the nightstand? Put a small waste basket right next to the bed and drop those trash items there, instead, mere inches away.
Hate sorting socks? Get rid of all the unmatching ones and go out and buy a huge bag of all matching socks.
A million teeny tiny kid toy pieces dumped on the floor for the thousandth time make you want to scream? Don’t keep those toys where kids can get them. They go on the TOP shelf of the closet and only come out by request.
Y’all. I’m not kidding. I’ve done all these things … and more. Because. I. Am. “Lazy.”
Or am I?
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Top 10 Biggest Wastes of Time for Moms
I’m guilty of this all the time, mainly when my neurodivergent brain desperately needs mental stimulation and dopamine hits. Unfortunately, checking my phone, even briefly, for a random “I’m bored what’s new” check of social media can turn into 30, 60, even 90 minutes gone before I know it. Even just checking your phone for a second or two can be enough to distract you into not noticing time going by while you keep scrolling.
When you’re moving piles from one surface to another, but not really addressing the root cause (a broken laundry system, for example), you’re wasting time on repetitive tasks that should be simplified. And reducing the number of items you handle daily is going to do that for you.
Back in 2017, a company called Pixie conducted their “Lost & Found Survey” and found that the average American loses 2.5 days a year simply trying to find something in their house that they’d lost track of. And 2.5 billion dollars a year in associated costs of lost items! Want to save time and money? Find an organization style that works for you … and maintain it.
There’s a saying in business, “a confused mind says no”. Well, that’s not just true in the marketing world. It’s true in our homes and lives, as well. Having too many options can, ironically, end up in us not knowing what to do, so we do nothing at all.
Repetitive tasks you can automate
The more steps you can reduce for yourself, the more time you’ll have. Be your own “industrial revolution” and figure out what steps you can batch, skip, reduce, or even outsource. More on this in a bit!
If you enjoy the process of caring for anything high-maintenance (A favorite mug? A dry-clean only blouse? A long-haired dog’s cut? Long nails?) that’s one thing. Carry on! But if it’s driving you absolutely nuts? Consider other options.
Ditch the hand-wash and dry-clean only items. Buy heathered t-shirts or items with patterns to hide stains better. (There’s a travel packing hack for ya, by the way.) Have your doodle cut super short if it means less grooming that you’ll forget to do. When you’re short on time, making sure you don’t have to spend precious minutes on special care is key.
Don’t have the trashcan too many steps away from where you do food prep in your kitchen. Don’t pick up one dish at a time from the upstairs bonus room. Don’t run errands every single day. Stop taking the long way to go places or get things done, even in your home.
Unless you live next to a market, daily grocery shopping is probably not a good idea. Neither is running out “just to get this one thing.” Try to run errands in batches.
DIY (without proper tools and knowledge)
Listen, my husband and I have YouTubed a home repair or two in our time as homeowners. No shame in that game! When money is tight (hello, recession!) ya gotta do what ya gotta do. But if money is available to hire someone who is an actual expert at that task … hire the expert. They’ll take less time fixing that toilet, sink, dryer, etc. They’ll paint your home faster. They’ll fix your porch faster. And when time is of essence? That’s probably the best.
Over-scheduling your family
I know some families who are on the go every single day with their kids involved in multiple sports, clubs, projects, hobbies, and extracurricular school activities. And they absolutely LOVE it. But if you’re starting to feel stretched too thin, if you’re on edge, in a rush, and starting to feel bitter about your lack of time? It’s probably best to pare down. Know your limits and stick to it.
How to Save Time as a Mom
Limit social media
Put an app on your phone or computer that blocks doom-scrolling habits by shutting down apps after a predetermined amount of time. Become more aware of your habits and which apps, in particular, are wastes of time for you. When do you doom-scroll? Is there an emotional reason? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying social media, but if you need more time, this is an easier fix than others.
If you have a family of 4 and rarely host large parties, you probably don’t need a set of 12 dinner plates, for instance. Remove anything you don’t use on at least a monthly basis from areas you clean regularly. Get rid of worn-out, outdated, and duplicate clothes. Pare down to just your cleaning product essentials.
Yes, it takes time to figure out where to store things, what to put them in, and how to label them so you remember where to look for them, but the time spent is well worth it. Taking the time to create thoughtful, efficient organizing systems that work with your personality and habits and family lifestyle will ultimately be worth it. Take back some of those 2.5 days a year you lose to looking for lost items in your home!
If you’re a researcher, like me, stop while you’re ahead. Do the research you need to do to be aware of how to fix a problem or plan an activity, but don’t over-research (seriously need to take my own advice on this).
You know how toddlers need choices to feel autonomous, but it’s a good idea to limit their choices to two or three pre-approved options? Do that for yourself. Stop when you find your top three and choose from among those.
I’ve heard of some CEOs who wear the same thing every day so they don’t waste brainpower on tiny decisions like what to wear. If that’s something that would work for you, limit your family’s wardrobes to mix-and-match timeless capsule pieces in a set color theme so you spend less time searching for something that goes together.
Automate and delegate
If you find yourself doing a repetitive task that doesn’t have to be manually done by you … automate it. And if you find yourself doing a repetitive task that does have to be done manually, but you don’t have enough time for it, delegate it.
This could look like cutting down on the amount of junk mail you sort daily by putting your name on do-not-mail lists, assigning an age-appropriate chore to one of your kids, or even, if it is financially feasible for you, hiring out your errands or household chores.
For instance, you could have your groceries purchased and delivered by a Shipt shopper on a day you need the extra time, or even sign up for a laundry service that picks up your dirty laundry in a bag at your door and returns it washed, dryed, and folded for you.
Think LOW maintenance
Avoid hand-wash-only anything. Get the hardiest indoor plants. Stock up on frozen or canned vegetables if you’re constantly throwing out produce that has gone bad because you didn’t use it up right away. Buy a reliable car with parts that are easy to replace. Leave the high-maintenance lifestyle to those who have the time, patience, and/or staff for that kind of thing.
Simplify your processes
Take note of all the steps to do a chore or any other task, and see if any of those steps can be reduced or eliminated. Sometimes it is literal steps that can be eliminated. Consider the kitchen triangle … if you’re walking too far to get to the refrigerator, stove, or sink while cooking, because your tools are being stored in cupboards or drawers further away, then move your tools closer to where you use them.
It’s said that Walt Disney made a point to have trash cans no more than 30 feet apart, and that cut down on littering in the parks because someone could always find a trash can when they wanted to throw something away. Do the same in your home! Anticipate why and where the mess is gathering, and put the solution right there … even if it means having a trash can in every room or by every piece of furniture you sit on.
Have an errand day, or try to get most things done while you’ve already left the house, to avoid driving around more than necessary. Plan out those errands by proximity to each other, even. Extra miles are wastes of time.
If it’s possible with your budget, hire out chores or maintenance that you avoid or delay for some reason, or that save you time in the long run. For our family, that means ordering from a food delivery or grocery delivery service on days my husband and I are working long hours, a seasonal lawn service to stay on top of the HOA’s standards (plus avoiding allergy triggers), and sometimes a cleaning service (as needed) to tackle those deeper cleaning tasks I don’t always take the time to do.
This also applies to hiring professionals that are specialists in their field, like plumbers or electricians, and even home organizers! (Local to the Nashville, TN area? Hire me!) instead of trying to DIY something that will probably end up taking us much longer and possibly even more money trying to figure out.
Simplify your schedule
If your kids are very active and love multiple sports or activities, have them stick to their favorite 1-2 per season. Don’t overcommit yourself to volunteer activities. Find ways to get exercise that you don’t have to drive to (unless you love going to a class or gym). Schedule “down days” when you don’t leave the house. Take time to refresh and renew. Leave time open on your daily schedule for breathing room. Carve out margin, so you don’t burn out.
Avoid Wastes of Time by Keeping Systems Stupid Easy
What do all of those small annoying tasks workarounds have in common from the beginning of this article? They avoid wastes of time. Yup. Every teeny tiny annoying extra step that I avoided ended up with streamlining a system so it worked WITH the habits I already had. It’s way easier to add a tiny step to an existing habit than follow an entirely new one.
That’s called habit stacking.
And it’s the impatient person’s secret weapon.
I am SO impatient. It’s one of my biggest flaws. It’s why my kitchen counters get crowded with Diet Coke cans I should have recycled immediately, and why I don’t match socks.
As a professional organizer, it’s my job to make sure any system I introduce in a home matches a client’s personality and preferences. Well, some clients? They like things super duper organized, by color and theme and size. Me in my own home? Broad categories is more my jam. I don’t have the patience on a daily basis to line up individual serving size chip bags by rainbow order every time I refill the kid snack drawer. Heck, sometimes I don’t even line them up at all … I just dump the box in the drawer and call it a day.
Oh, I’ll rainbow organize a client’s items no problem. But in my day-to-day life, I’ve learned that I just don’t keep up with it.
So I hate wasting time. If I’m going to be leisurely with my time, it’s not going to be on something I barely enjoy doing, like cleaning my kitchen. I try my best to SAVE time there. It’s going to be with something I truly enjoy doing, like reading a book or cuddling on the couch with my son or lounging on a beach. Or even just taking a nice, hot shower.
And sometimes those wastes of time, for me, include chores. GASP!
Keep it short, keep it simple, and for the love of all things orderly, keep it essential.
Don’t dust on top of the refrigerator daily.
Don’t file fold your clothing and sort by color if you hate the process.
Don’t buy handwash only dishes.
Keep. It. Stupid. Easy.
What to Do When You Don’t Have Time to Spare
One of the biggest reasons people don’t declutter and organize their homes is it takes TIME. Time they probably don’t really have to spare.
Look, it took time for you to build up a lifetime supply of sippy cups and dish rags and overflowing closets and dressers full of clothes and random plastic parts to gadgets you’re not sure you even have anymore. It’s not going to be mere seconds to declutter.
If you’re really dedicated to going more minimalist, and if you’re ready to declutter … how DO you find the time? You use the Time to Declutter Toolkit to find pockets of time in your schedule you can use to declutter, and then prioritize tasks and track your decluttering progress so you are efficient in the process.
But what about if after following the method of Time to Declutter you discover you’ve overcommitted, you don’t have a minute to spare, and you need to make time, somehow?
Well, one of the best ways you can make the time is to follow Rosemarie Groner’s epic advice in her Hot Mess to Home Express course. This course transformed how I approached homemaking, and more importantly, errand-running. And honestly? I can’t teach that part of the process better than she does. So go directly to the source and learn from the best on that.
Get Rid of Wastes of Time by Doing Things the “Lazy” Way
Finally, have you ever heard of Cheaper by the Dozen? (No, not the movie starring Steve Martin, which is only similar to its namesake in that there are 12 kids). It’s a fictionalized comedy biography of real life industrial engineers Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, who lived at the turn of the 20th century and were an integral part of modernizing and simplifying repetitive tasks in labor industries.
As the book progresses, it becomes very obvious that Frank is quite opposed to time wasters of any kind. He even has his kids listen to language recordings while in the bathroom, to be more efficient!
The modern-day “kitchen triangle” method of efficiency is based on Lillian Gilbreth’s “kitchen practical” that pulled together her research on time and motion studies with her husband. She studied the motions of women in a kitchen and made huge improvements in the layout of a kitchen to significantly reduce the amount of time it took to bake a cake. (She wasn’t a cook, herself, but she could make a cake. So that’s what they tested.)
The Gilbreths were famous for testing out their theories about time and motion saving techniques on their large family (hence, Cheaper by the Dozen). And while I’m sure much of that book I read so long ago is embellished with a fictional slant, something that still holds true is that observing your own way of living, and reducing steps along the way, will save you time. (And, in the Gilbreth’s case for the workers they literally filmed doing repetitive tasks, body aches.)
Why? Because being “lazier” is sometimes just smarter. By all traditional counts, I’m lazy for avoiding sorting socks, for keeping my peanut butter in with the cups, for putting a second trash can in my kitchen by the Keurig.
But … sometimes being lazy is what creates the best solutions to problems that waste your time.
Or, in the words of Frank Gilbreth (and emphasized by me), “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
And I’m all about the stupid easy ways of doing things.
So go ahead. Be “lazy.” You radical, amazing, time-saving problem-solver, you.
Ready to stop wasting time and start getting your house in order? Get the Time to Declutter Toolkit to find the best times for you to tackle decluttering projects in your home and to organize your decluttering projects.
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