Life is busy. To make it a little less hectic I adhere to the following rules. I hope you find them useful too.
- Write down all those little thoughts floating around in your brain. I use an application on my iPhone, but a pen and paper would do the very same trick. I maintain a number of lists, but I reference my to-do list more than all the others. I write things like: return order to Amazon, check credit card statement, buy trash bags, find a notary and review tax statements. When applicable I add a date to the task and receive a reminder twenty-four hours in advance. Any item that requires action on my part gets written into this list and every time I finish a task I check it off. Doing so ensures that I don’t forget anything important. It also ensures I don’t miss the mundane tasks like stocking laundry detergent downstairs or buying trash bags to hold our garbage.
- Reduce clutter and organize rooms. The easiest way to reduce work around your house is to purge your possessions. Minimalists have this all figured out, but I am not a minimalist. I keep various pots and pans in the kitchen to serve different purposes. I own a blender, juicer, crock pot and waffle maker. The trick for me is finding a place for everything. The appliances all reside on a basement shelf, which leaves room on our kitchen counter for chopping and mixing. Those tools that I use only one time a year, (for some reason the turkey baster comes to mind), reside in a small plastic box that I also keep in the basement. One drawer in my kitchen contains our silverware, the other contains a pizza cutter, ice cream scooper and the utensils I need for flipping, stirring and whisking. That is all. Everything in my house has a place. We have bins for toys and cubbies for hats, scarfs and gloves sorted by owner. In our case: Dad, Mom and Son. When we get home from an outing we put things away immediately. Coats go into the closet, hats into the box, shoes in a special spot on the floor. With that stuff out of sight and out of mind we have much more space to play and when we go back outside we don’t waste time looking for misplaced items.
- Clean out your wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack everyday. Before my son was born I almost never carried a purse. Instead I tucked a very small wallet into my back pocket that contained one credit card, my license, a AAA card and insurance information. These days I carry a much bigger bag full of snacks, toys, stickers and training pants, but every afternoon when we come home from our daily excursions I dump the contents of that bag out onto the table and then put everything away. Garbage is tossed and food is placed back into the fridge. This allows you to start over tomorrow with a clean slate.
- File your receipts. Buy an inexpensive accordion binder. I bought mine from the $1 bin at Target. As you clean out your bags and wallets check for receipts and file them into your binder. Mine is compartmentalized by the stores I most frequently visit: Target, Macy’s, Home Depot, Marshalls, etc. If the description on the receipt looks too vague take a minute and write the details of what you purchased on the back of it. Every few months I weed out the receipts and shred the ones that are over six months old. Receipts for more expensive items like a television are kept longer, since these items often come with one year warranties. If you need to return something to the store you’ll know exactly where to find that receipt.
- Read the magazines that arrive every month. If you subscribe to magazines make certain that you stack them in one location in the house and actually take the time each month to read them. Every time you finish a magazine donate or recycle it. Do not leave it in the house to collect dust. The stack should remain the same size each month as each time a new magazine arrives the old one should be read and discarded. If you find the stack growing larger and larger consider ending your subscription. This probably means that you are paying good money for something you aren’t using.
- Ask to be removed from all catalogs. Email or call the company who sent the catalog and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Make certain to include the details found on the back of the catalog; sometimes a company will not stop solicitations without those special codes. Getting rid of catalogs helps you on multiple fronts. First, you won’t feel tempted to buy things you don’t really need. Second, you will save the environment as less trees are cut down and less fuel is utilized to get those magazines from point A to point B. Third, you won’t have to deal with them in your mail anymore.
- Unsubscribe from all unwanted email. Go through your inbox and click the unsubscribe link for each and every email that you are not interested in. It only takes a second or two to open these, but removing them from your inbox means you don’t have to waste any time at all.
- Open and read your mail every day. This is an easy one. Pick a room in the house and set up a shredder, scanner, trash can and recycle bin. Dump the spam into the recycle bin, this may include circulars, unsolicited mail, (without your name on it), and anything else that you don’t want. Dump envelopes into the recycle bin. Shred all unsolicited credit card offers and anything else that could make it easy for someone to steal your identity or wreak havoc on your credit score. Whatever is left is real mail. Much of this may include bills and bank statements. These documents should be scanned and digitally filed by date. We save all documents as yyyy-mm-dd – description. This ensures that items are sortable and easy to find when needed. Once things are scanned shred the physical documents. Don’t forget to set aside time to pay your bills.
- Create backups of your data. I must admit that my husband has taken over this particular task for our household. The key is to backup everything you can. Family photos, bank statements, medical records, you name it. Make sure everything is backed up so a broken hard drive doesn’t force you to lose everything.
This may seem like a lot of tasks, but after awhile it will become second nature to complete them. With less mail to process, less email to read and less time wasted looking for lost objects you’ll free up a good chunk of time in your day.