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When you think of home, you probably imagine it as a place of rest. After a long day at work, you look forward to going home and relaxing, connecting with family and friends, maybe reading a novel in the hammock or puttering around the garden. Unfortunately, stacks of bills, dirty dishes, and that never-ending pile of laundry can make home as hectic as the office. Want to spend more time enjoying your home and less time tending to it? Our experts offer eight time-saving tips.1. Do a Pre-Emptive Strike on Dirt
Want to spend less time cleaning? Laura Dellutri, author of Speed-Cleaning 101, says that the bottom of our shoes accounts for 85 percent of the dirt that comes into our homes. The solution: "Place mats at the entrance of your home. People can wipe their shoes, and you'll reduce the amount of dirt coming in -- and the amount you'll have to clean later," says Dellutri. You could also take a tip from most Asian cultures and leave your shoes at the door. After all, what's more relaxing than bare feet?2. Consolidate Cleaning Supplies
Put all of your cleaning supplies into one container -- a cleaning caddy, five-gallon pail or laundry basket -- so that you can easily carry them from room to room. "This will shave time off your cleaning routine, because you won't have to stop to retrieve missing tools or products, says Dellutri. She also suggests carrying a few damp cloths over your shoulder. "These can be used to clean 90 percent of the surfaces in your home and will save you time running back and forth to the sink," she says.3. Listen While You Work
Don't have time to read? Listen to books on tape or CD while you're cooking and cleaning. "I know some people who could get the equivalent of an associate's degree from all the books they've listened to," says Stack.4. Discard Junk Mail Immediately
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, suggests keeping a recycling bin in your entryway or near the mailbox. "Sift through the mail you wish to keep. Discard the rest in the box for easy recycling," says Hohlbaum. This way you eliminate clutter before it has a chance to accumulate.
Remember the last time you dashed to the store because you ran out of an essential, like toilet paper or coffee filters? Chances are, you made a single trip and stood in line buying one or two items because you needed them immediately. Laura Stack, author of Find More Time, says that you can eliminate these time-wasting trips with one simple rule: Instead of buying coffee after you run out, buy two bags at a time, so you always have a replacement bag on hand.
"When I open a new bag of cat litter, that's when I write on my list that I need more," says Stack. This list is magnetized to the refrigerator door so that everyone in her family can do the same. "My kids know that if they want something, they have to put it on the list. As we say in my house, 'if it's not on the list, it doesn't exist,'" says Stack.6. Record Your Favorite Television Shows
Studies of television-viewing habits show that men watch an average of 2.7 hours of television a day, and women watch an average of 2.3 hours a day, or over 16 hours a week! So Stack asks her clients to consider what would happen if they reduced their TV-viewing by five hours a week. "That's eleven days a year -- think of what you could do with eleven extra days!" she says. The best way to reduce your time in front of the tube is to choose which shows you want to watch ahead of time, and then record them. This eliminates random flipping around, and it means you won't have to watch commercials -- the ultimate time-suck.7. Make Your Kids Self-Sufficient
If you have young children, Stack suggests setting up the kitchen so that they can help themselves when they want breakfast or a snack. Put all the kids' plates, bowls, and utensils on a low shelf or draw that they can easily reach, and pour milk into small, easy-pour containers. Keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy, easy-to-serve snacks like cheese sticks and applesauce. "Then they are less dependent on you, and you don't have to drop everything each time they want a snack," says Stack. Making them more autonomous can also increase their confidence. "We just told my 5-year-old that he's old enough to take his own baths. At first he said, 'No, I want you to do it!' But now that he's bathing himself, he's really proud of himself."8. Divide Decisions
Stack says that her husband refuses to answer when friends or family inquire about getting together. "He just says my wife is the social coordinator. You'll have to ask her," she says. If you're fortunate enough to have a partner you love and trust, then divide up the family decisions. If your husband is the family chef, let him decide what you'll eat. You can pay him back by making the decisions about the car insurance and mutual funds. "Be okay with not having your hands in every pot," says Stack. After all, your hammock is waiting.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, August 2006.