Time Savers from RealSimple.com help Dulles Technology Corridor Residents Manage Life Easier On the Homefront Clock

Saturday, September 13, 2008
All article details and photos excerpted from June/July 2004 www.realsimple.com

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20 Timesaving Tips and Tricks

The best timesaving systems come from the people who need them most. Here, a celebration of streamlining tips from (and for) busy women [and men living in Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Metropolitan areas] everywhere…

Cut Kitchen Clutter
Meredith Heuer
Cut Kitchen Clutter

We have a special spot on the kitchen counter where everyone can put half-filled coffee mugs that need to be reheated, water glasses to be used again later, or sippy cups that can be refilled. At the end of the day, everything that’s still out goes in the dishwasher. It cuts down on kitchen clutter, and it also avoids shouts across the house of “Are you done with that coffee yet?”

  • Katherine Weber, 33, New York City
  • Presort the Family Laundry
    Michele Gastl
    Presort the Family Laundry

    Clean laundry is only half the battle — it still needs to be sorted and put away. Save those steps by keeping washer-and-dryer-safe mesh bags (27-by-36-inch mesh bag, $8, www.stacksandstacks.com) in each kid’s room — one for lights, one for darks. Throw the bags directly into the washing machine and dryer, then hand them back to the kids. If they’re old enough, they can do their own folding.

    Minimizing Trips to the Garbage
    Meredith Heuer
    Minimizing Trips to the Garbage

    While I’m preparing a meal, I have a big bowl on the counter. I put all my chopping, cutting, and peeling discards into it, then make one trip to the garbage instead of 10.

  • Lori Tanner, 43, Oakland
  • Quick Breakfast Smoothie
    Meredith Heuer
    Quick Breakfast Smoothie

    Put all your fruit, milk, silken tofu, or yogurt in the blender pitcher and store the pitcher in the refrigerator overnight. (You can even prechop a banana. It will brown, but that will not affect the flavor of the shake.) In the morning, set it on the blender and press a button for breakfast.

    Put the Kids to Work
    Deborah Jaffe
    Put the Kids to Work

    After too many years of hearing “What’s for dinner?” and “That again?” I finally decided to turn over the role of meal planner and cook to my family of seven (two adults, including me, and five children, ages 4 through 20). Now, every Saturday morning, each person (excluding the four-year-old) chooses a night that suits his or her schedule, fills in a dinner menu, and adds the needed ingredients to the grocery list.

    The rules are simple: a different menu every night, and only one pasta dish per week. Everyone’s food issues (allergies, picky taste buds) must be addressed. Every menu must be healthy and include vegetables. I retain the title of shopper. The kids have become quite adept at planning menus. And since there is also dish-duty sign-up, I have become quite adept at relaxing on weeknights.

  • Jeanne Faulkner, 43, Portland, Oregon
  • Make Sandwiches for Dinner
    Pernille Pedersen
    Make Sandwiches for Dinner

    When in doubt, whip up a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich for dinner to save time. Make it with natural peanut butter, real fruit jam, and whole-grain bread. That way it’s “real” food, unlike many of the additive-laden prepackaged meals so widely available now.

  • Kristen Bulkley, 29, Lake Peekskill, New York
  • Keep an Everything Datebook
    Meredith Heuer
    Keep an Everything Datebook

    Every August, I buy a weekly calendar. I jot down all the traditional things — school events, birthdays, appointments. But I also use it to keep track of nontraditional things. I write down bills that come through the mail and mark their due dates six days ahead. I’ll plan up to four dinners a week and write them on the calendar. I also use my calendar to record my daughter’s long-term assignments. That helps prevent those evenings of racing around to do everything at the last second.

  • Cindy Olson, 36, Guilderland, New York
  • Never Miss Another Birthday
    James Baigrie
    Never Miss Another Birthday

    Send out birthday cards once a month. Receiving one a little early is better than not receiving one at all.

    Keep a Paper Shredder Handy
    Ellen Silverman
    Keep a Paper Shredder Handy

    Stow a small paper shredder near the mail to destroy credit-card offers and “checks.” (InnoDesk hand-held shredder, $16, www.amazon.com).

    Try a Double-Duty Dustbin
    Monica Buck
    Try a Double-Duty Dustbin

    I empty my rectangular plastic bathroom garbage can and use it as a bucket when I wash my bathroom and hardwood floors. I rinse it in the tub, then fill it with white vinegar and water. Both the floors and the garbage can are clean when I’m done.

  • Marci Small, 34, Metuchen, New Jersey
  • Start a Recipe Chain Letter
    Keate Barker
    Start a Recipe Chain Letter

    I love to cook, but planning menus and getting the ingredients together for a quick meal after work can be time-consuming. That’s where my recipe-exchange “chain letter” comes in. It’s made up of a group of friends who forward their favorite easy-to-make recipes to one another via e-mail. Since we all know one another’s tastes and cooking ability, the recipes are simple enough for everyone.

    I also keep a few cookbooks at the office and download recipes from the Internet to a folder on the computer. I can photocopy or print out the ingredients list while at work and then buy groceries during lunch or on the way home.

  • Katherine Fausset, 29, New York City
  • Squeeze Citrus Juice Now, Use Later
    Meredith Heuer
    Squeeze Citrus Juice Now, Use Later

    If you have leftover lemons and limes from a cocktail party, squeeze them and freeze the juice in an ice-cube tray. Once they’re frozen, store the cubes in zippered plastic bags and use them for recipes that call for fresh lemon or lime juice. (One cube equals about one tablespoon of juice.)

    Use Lists to Stay Organized
    David Prince
    Use Lists to Stay Organized
    Keep a Shopping List

    Whoever unwraps the last bar of soap from the four-pack or scrapes the last spoonful of mayo out of the jar should be responsible for writing it down on the shopping list.

    Write Realistic To-Do Lists

    Each night I write down no more than five things I want to accomplish the next day. This takes discipline, because it seems like I should be able to do so much more, but I know myself and how I work. And I know that I’ll be fielding phone calls and e-mails all day long. It’s psychological: If I get five out of 10 things done, I just get frustrated. But if I get five out of five, I’m batting a thousand.

  • Tera Leigh, 39, Wrightwood, California
  • Time-Stamp Your Photos
    Monica Buck
    Time-Stamp Your Photos

    Edit and label your images as you go (and sometimes, before you leave the photo counter)
    When you get your photographs developed, label the envelopes before leaving the store. On the top of the envelope, jot down the date, subjects, or activity. It’s easier than trying to remember the details later. Or take it one step further and throw out — right there in the store — any flattering, uninteresting, or unclear photographs.

    Getting Ready for Morning the Night Before
    Formula Z/S
    Getting Ready for Morning the Night Before

    My husband, Steve, sets up his breakfast cereal before he goes to bed. He measures out water and kasha next to the stove so when he wakes up, all he has to do is dump the ingredients into the pot and light the flame. Even though it doesn’t take long to set up, it’s still one less thing he has to think about at 5:30, when he’s getting ready to leave the house.

  • Erika Bleiberg, 44, Glen Ridge, New Jersey
  • Create a Beauty Station
    Bob Hiemstra
    Create a Beauty Station

    I have two daughters — one teen and one preteen — so it’s a great benefit to have a mirror by the door, along with a basket filled with last-minute primping tools. No one has to run all over the house looking for brushes, barrettes, sunscreen, hand lotion, or various makeup essentials: It’s all in the basket. There’s even a blow dryer, so no one leaves the house with a wet head.

  • Stefanie Sigal, 43, Oakton, Virginia
  • Keep a Checklist in Every Bag
    Ellen Silverman
    Keep a Checklist in Every Bag

    Write a contents checklist in your pocketbook, dopp kit, or diaper bag. Then you won’t wonder if you have everything you need. Bib? Check. Diapers? Check. Pacifier? Check…. (Sally Spicer Red Dragonfly Diaper Bag, $99, www.diaperbags.com.)

    Start a Day-By-Day Shelf System
    Maura McEvoy
    Start a Day-By-Day Shelf System

    As a personal fitness trainer, I have to leave the house at 5:30 A.M. to make my early-morning appointments. To get out the door more quickly, I have dedicated certain parts of my shelves to specific days of the week.

    When I remove things from my backpack at night, I place each item on the appropriate shelf. If I won’t be seeing Monday’s client again until Thursday, her chart and equipment are placed in Thursday’s section. My wallet, transit card, and cell phone have a designated spot. I even have a “take care of me” bag, which contains sample-size cosmetics — like hand lotion — that I can apply during downtime or on the morning train.

  • Michelle Adams, 46, Rahway, New Jersey
  • Organize Your Future Hand-Me-Downs
    Meredith Heuer
    Organize Your Future Hand-Me-Downs

    I keep a “future bin” in each of my three boys’ closets for hand-me-downs and clothing I purchased on clearance in larger sizes. I purge their closets about once a season, when they are at school or napping. Anything I remove goes to one of three places: the younger brother’s future bin; the charity bin, which is in my closet; or the trash.

    Many charities, such as Goodwill, call quarterly to let us know they will have a truck in the area, so I don’t have to load my car and make an extra trip. When they call, I leave the bin out front for pickup, and they hang the receipt (for tax purposes) on my doorknob. This is also a good time to get rid of any toys that the kids have outgrown.

  • Gina Scherer, 35, Tucson
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