1. Finances: Ensure you're receiving bills by email (as little paper-handling as possible, people) and pay as many as you can using preauthorized debit (or a points-earning credit card whenever the option is available). While I know many are wary of online banking, I couldn't function now without e-transfers, and I am also in love with e-deposits...no more carrying cheques around until I can hit a bank machine!
2. Streamline appointments. Think of the year ahead, and book all routine dental, eye, and immunization appointments for you and your family members, as well as any others that fit your situation. Get them all in your calendar (believe it or not, I'm still in love with using a paper datebook). For years after moving to where I live now, I continued to drive to my former community for the dentist and optometrist, and a few years ago I finally switched to local professionals, which saves a ton of time, especially when appointments are multiplied once kids come into the picture. While I was sad to see my family doctor retire (he actually delivered me) the silver lining is that my new doc is 15 minutes closer and much more convenient.
3. Declutter. Yep, I'm hiding this one in the middle of the list, even though it is almost always my streamlining priority. Get rid of stuff. I know that not everyone gets an actual high from purging clutter like I do (I assume it's like doing drugs, though of course I wouldn't know), but I don't think anyone is immune to the good feeling that comes from paring down belongings. Take the altruistic angle if it helps: donating the clothing, toys, and household items that are no longer being worn or used in your home can help to bring happiness to so many others who may not be in a position to buy everything they need, and getting the kids involved also helps teach them some very valuable lessons about giving. Start as soon as you're done reading this post; just clean out a drawer. Maybe your underwear drawer, maybe the kitchen utensils - no, you don't need six whisks. I swear. Post the before-and-after on social media (maybe not of the underwear drawer, and tag me, of course!) and inspire others to do the same. I have a big donations delivery heading to Vinnie's this week; maybe I'll see you there!
4. Do a digital declutter. If you spend a lot of time looking at your computer screen, that desktop needs to be organized into folders with a nice wallpaper image...and again, delete as much as possible. If you're really ambitious, you can even delve into folders and look for documents and other items that are outdated, which I do about once a year. While some time-management experts don't feel "Inbox Zero" is worth the hype, I keep as little in my inbox as I can. Most emails I receive are deleted as soon as they're read (or even before), others get filed away immediately for future reference, and a precious few remain in my inbox as a to-do list (which, again, some advise against, but it works for me). If it's still in my inbox, whether for my work or personal account, it means I have to do something about it...so I do. You should also unsubscribe from any blogs or newsletters that you don't truly read and enjoy (keeping This Mom Loves, of course!) and brand mailings that you don't actually take advantage of. I even do a social media cleanout every so often, streamlining which accounts I'm following.
5. Simplify lunches. No one knows as well as my colleagues how lazy I am when it comes to lunches, and I have absolutely no leg to stand on when it comes to promoting healthy eating. So when I tell you that you should keep simple snack and lunch items at work, you should take that as fresh-cut fruit and veggies, Greek yogurt and whole-wheat pitas (that's all healthy, right?) when what I really keep handy are a big box of Cheerios, milk, crackers, cheese and huge pack of granola bars...and rarely have to think about what I'm taking for lunch (leftovers are also a big hit, and working at a school gives me the perk of hot lunch days once a week as well!) My husband, however, is great at cooking up chicken breasts, vegetables, rice, etc. on the weekends and freezing individually portioned lunches to pull out each morning before work. Maybe try it his way.
6. Mobilize your children. Unlike the tip above, this one's a definite do-as-I-do. What chores could you train your kids to do at their ages? My daughters are 10 and 8. They've been making their own beds as long as they've been dressing themselves (at first I had to accept less-than-perfection, by now they're actually pretty good) and they also fold and put away their own laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, dust and vacuum their rooms, and do all bunny-related care. When they get in the door after school, they unpack their bags, leaving their agendas, notes, etc. in a designated spot on the counter, before making their lunches for the next day. This they've been doing since Eva started kindergarten and Liv was in grade 1, and they know the rules about what they need to pack. Next it's guitar or piano practice, then singing, and homework as necessary. Rest assured that my girls get tons of free time, and also more valuable time with mommy since I'm not wasting time on jobs they can do themselves. (Speaking also from a teacher's perspective: you're not doing your kids any favours by coddling them.)
I could go on all day about this topic, but I'm getting the urge to purge...so I may head to my closet and see what I haven't been wearing regularly (it's easy to tell, because I have a system where I move items to the right end of the rod once worn...is this gift a blessing or a curse??) I certainly hope these tips are helpful to you, and I'd love to know if you have any other ideas to share!
Hey, what are you doing, about to click on something? You have a drawer to clean out, my friend!