Tiny little lifehacks which make a big difference?
September 22, 2016 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I just hosted a party, and for reasons, invested $1.50 in a stack of paper plates for it. I cannot get over how much this tiny thing improved my experience. What other 'small thing made such a huge difference' lifehacks can I try?

The longer story is that the party was a birthday party for two six-year-olds, and we had about 20 guests. We do have real plates, and a dishwasher, but I am very pregnant so my husband figured paper plates would be easier. And they were! They were so much easier, it kind of boggled my mind that such a small thing could make such a huge difference.

With the baby due within weeks, I am interested in streamlining my 'chores' life as much as possible. Some things we have tried already:

- A dollar store table cloth with a plasticky surface instead of real cloth. We can just wipe up a spill and not have to launder the whole tablecloth. Win!

- Laundry baskets on wheels. We are in a high-rise with a basement laundry room. We just wheel them right into the elevator. So worth the money we spent.

- Bought two-year lightbulbs for every fixture in the house. We will not have to worry about lightbulbs now for quite some time.

What else?
posted by ficbot to Home & Garden (72 answers total) 160 users marked this as a favorite
- Buy a garbage can with an attached lid, and the lid will never blow away in a storm.
- If you have pets or children, replace your Venetian blinds with vertical blinds. They can part the slats to look out the window without destroying anything.
- Use litterbox liners. When it comes time to change the cat litter, just pick up the whole liner and throw it all away.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:05 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wash vegetables and fruit right when you get home from the market so you can just pick them up and eat them later when you want them.
Also I have a berry bowl which is basically a mini colander so I can dump berries in, rinse, and then leave them in that bowl on the counter.

Since you are about to be a mom, I will repeat my best new mom advice: bowls of nuts and bottles of water on every flat surface (side tables, night tables, coffee tables etc) so wherever you are, you won't need to get up to have a drink/snack when you get those insanely urgent pangs.
posted by rmless at 8:13 AM on September 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

Set up auto lay on your bills and prepare a designated mail sorting area, this prevents missing bill payments and important letters, not that anything like that happened to me right after I had a baby, nosiree.
posted by bq at 8:21 AM on September 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you do not already have an apple-cutter, this is the biggest parenting time-saver I know.
posted by Mchelly at 8:25 AM on September 22, 2016 [13 favorites]

If you do not already have an apple-cutter, this is the biggest parenting time-saver I know.

I can't see the image of the one Mchelly linked, but I'd advocate for one of this type -- you push the blades down over the apple, then swing the "cover" up to push the apple the rest of the way through the blades.

And I agree that it is a huuuge timesaver, to the point that we recently bought a watermelon-sized one (couldn't find one with the cover thingy).
posted by Etrigan at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

1. I have a set of rechargeable batteries, and a charger. Whenever a new gadget enters the house, so do the appropriate number of rechargeable batteries. I also have a set of 6 poor so floaters.

I haven't needed but not had any batteries in years. When something dies, I just swap it's batteries out from some floaters, charge the dead ones, and I'm good to go.

2. When I make a big batch of food, I prepackage it into meal sized containers, so I just have to grab and eat. I do a similar thing with snacks.
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. at 8:34 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, any gathering of more than five people that isn't super formal (or thanksgiving) gets paper plates and disposable cutlery. It is soooo much better. Related, put out plastic cups next to a bunch of sharpies and have everyone put their name on their cup (or whatever they like). This really cuts down on the beverage confusion. For little kid gatherings, they could do stickers!

Get a few of those microfiber chenille hand dusters with the washable heads. Keep one right next to the tv & electronics, and another one wherever you notice there's a crazy buildup of dust that you never deal with, and a third that you keep in the closet with the cleaning stuff that you will actually just use as a replacement for the ones out in the apartment. That way, as soon as you notice the dust and grossness, you have the tool right there to deal with it in like, thirty seconds. Pull the head off and toss it in the wash, replace with your replacement one, cycle as needed.
posted by Mizu at 8:35 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is the one thing I'm certain I'm doing right as a parent: mattress, then mattress pad, then fitted sheet, then mattress pad, then fitted sheet, then mattress pad, then fitted sheet. You'll sort of have to wrestle that last set on there, but it's worth it. When there's a situation in the middle of the night, you can just peel off the top layer.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2016 [72 favorites]

If you like paper plates, you'll love PAPER BOWLS!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2016 [37 favorites]

For stuff like wallet/phone/keys, have exactly one spot in the home where you will put those down, so you never need to go looking for them.

Put a shared grocery-list app on your phone and your partner's (assuming you both have a smartphones) so you can both update the list as needed, and you both always have it when either of you goes to the store.
posted by adamrice at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

When I buy socks, I buy a dozen pairs of the same sock and get rid of all the old socks. I haven't had to look for a sock's match in years, and it has saved me so much time and hassle.
posted by ejs at 8:45 AM on September 22, 2016 [36 favorites]

This under cabinet jar opener is the best thing ever

Small trash or recycling bin inside the front door so you can drop junk mail in it right as you walk in

Pair of scissors in every room so I never have to go looking for one

Whenever you leave a room, take something with you that doesn't belong in that room
posted by AFABulous at 8:48 AM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

- Keep cleaning supplies next to the place where they're needed. I keep toilet cleaner, mildew remover, cleaning vinegar, disposable gloves, an old sponge, and cleaning wipes in every bathroom, so I don't have to do any prep work to clean (and therefore less of am excuse to procrastinate).

- Similarly, buy multiples of items that you use in multiple rooms. For example, I have things like scissors, measuring tape, notepads, etc. tucked away in the rooms where I spend the most time.
posted by neushoorn at 8:50 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I buy socks, I buy a dozen pairs of the same sock and get rid of all the old socks.

Every year I wait until the $1 Old Navy flip flop sale and then buy several pair in the same color.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:00 AM on September 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Laundry basket in the living room. This will become even more important once baby arrives. (But also it helps keep loose socks off the couch.) We don't use a full-sized one, just a small plastic decorative-ish bin with handles that we tuck in a corner.
posted by telepanda at 9:03 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bargain/flash websites (like RueLaLa) often have a "spend $50 and get free shipping for a year" sales in mid-December. It is well worth it to look out for those.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

My son wears the same color socks every day, so that I don't have to hassle looking for mates when folding them, and I don't have to hassle with finding a pair that matches his outfit.

Repack the diaper bag as soon as you get home, not when you're struggling to leave the house. Include some shelf stable snacks and a small bottle of water. God forbid if something happens and you have to dash off to urgent care or the ER, you can just pick up the bag and go.
posted by vignettist at 9:09 AM on September 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

Those plastic or glass container sets where there's all different sized containers, but only one or two sizes of lids that fit on everything? I don't know why it took so long to come up with that; obviously they were designed by somebody who just couldn't find the matching tupperware and lid early one morning before coffee.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Use a shared calendar like Google to keep your family in sync. Add deadlines, including whatever bills can't be auto paid. For bills and deadlines, add an email reminder a week or two before. (Before I did this, I spent too much time worrying about when a car would need inspection, etc.)

If you use any products with a predictable refill date (like contact lenses, water filters), calculate when you'll run out and put a reminder to buy more on your calendar.

Recycle your mismatched food containers and only buy one type of stacking container with interchangeable lids.

Learn how to talk to your phone (Siri or OK Google). You can use this to set reminders ("remind me to put my checkbook in my bag at 9pm"), text hands-free, or look up information when you're doing something messy (like cooking conversions).

Use a receipt app like Wave to photograph and categorize receipts, if that's something you have to do.

Get rid of clothes that don't make you feel great. Get rid of tops in colors that don't suit you.
posted by beyond_pink at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

I just moved in to a MUCH larger house and initally found it a lot more cumbersome to clean it because I was constantly traipsing all over the place trying to find the windex etc. My solution? Buy multiples of everything, especially cleaning supplies. Yes, it was a larger cost upfront but in the long run I'm not spending any more, and the time and frustrations saved is worth about a zillion dollars to me.

Own multiple brooms and keep them in the rooms most often needing to be swept. I am MUCH more likely to sweep if I don't have to go hunting around to find a broom. DEFINITELY have one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

Similarly, I keep cleaners in ALL of my bathrooms (my house has 3.5 bathrooms). Every bathroom has its own plunger and toilet brush, but also a small stash of glass cleaner, all purpose cleaner (no name mr clean or pinesol), and papertowel.

THIS mop thingy is a freekin' godsend for me. I keep it in our pantry in the kitchen, so always close at hand. So bloody easy to just haul it out and clean up a spot on the floor. No bucket or anything required, and I can use whatever soap I want in the canister. The one I have has two moppy pads so when one gets groady I immediately toss in the washer and put the clean one on. By the time that one gets groady the other one has been cleaned.

I'm scared of the dark and always have night lights EVERYWHERE but they were constantly blocking needed outlets. I replaced some of my light switches with these things. Two second job and holy hell! They are awesome!

Stop folding clothes where wrinkles don't matter. I have a bin in my closet for pyjama tops and another bin for pyjama bottoms. I also have a bin for camisoles/tshirts/layering tops. The only things I fold are pants. I hang up dresses, skirts, and tops. Makes putting away laundry way faster.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

We recently replaced our front and back deadbolts with keypad locks. It is SO NICE to never need a key to get in or to lock up. I can't wait until my car dies and I can get a new one with one of those sensors that unlocks the door when the fob comes in range and has push button start.

I really hate keys I guess.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:26 AM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm in the process of moving and shelled out the extra money to buy a bunch of filing boxes instead of scavenging egg crates and liquor boxe. Fortunately I don't have too much stuff so it's not a huge expense, and the uniform sizes and handles make packing, moving, and unpacking a lot easier. I also always recommend getting stretch wrap, it's better than tape for pretty much everything except taping up actual boxes (which I'm really not doing anyhow, because filing boxes have lids!).

Nthing recycling your mismatched takeout tubs and getting a uniform set of food storage containers.
posted by yeahlikethat at 9:27 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Speaking of food storage

The plastic containers you get to-go soup in are pretty much the best ever. Amazon sells them, they are inexpensive, the lids fit all the size containers, and because the sizes are pretty uniform there's no Jenga in the fridge stacking 4 sizes of boxes. Also, because each size is a volume, you know how much chili you have in the fridge or freezer.

Did I mention that the lids fit all the sizes? Never think again about why you have only three lids that don't match a single one of the fourteen boxes you have.
posted by bilabial at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

TOOOOOOOOOOOOTALLY agreeing with yeahlikethat on the purchasing packing boxes. Having all our boxes be the same uniform size/dimensions made stacking things incredibly easier, the move was easier, unpacking was easier, etc. Freg. And they were very sturdy. And we were able to sell them after the move so in the long run the cost was very small for such a huge help.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2016

Every bathroom has its own plunger and toilet brush

QFT. Not having a plunger next to every toilet is a hostile act to your future self.
posted by Etrigan at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2016 [16 favorites]

I get the lithium 9V batteries for our smoke alarms so that i don't need to change the batteries in those as often ... because you know those things only run out of batteries at 3 am after you've just gotten the baby back to sleep.
posted by freezer cake at 9:41 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Probably not needed immediately but kitchen shears to cut up kids' food is SO much easier than a knife and fork (and much faster too!).
posted by whitetigereyes at 9:49 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

If there's an item that's absolutely essential to your functioning, always have a backup of it. (I keep my backup items packed in my suitcase ready to go, so I spend less time packing as well.) When the item in use breaks, start using the backup and buy a new one. I'm very glad I did this because the laptop stand I use broke yesterday, and I simply got the backup out of my suitcase and continued to use my laptop without missing a beat.
posted by Soliloquy at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

The cheap Windex wipes I keep in the bathroom are more expensive than just using a spray bottle and paper towels. But restoring the bathroom mirror to spotless as soon as I notice flecks from tooth brushing, instead of days later when I get to it, is nice. Ditto for Clorox wipes keeping my toilet clean much more than a weekly cleanup. Ditto for the dusting mitt keeping my living room tidy and dust free being more effective than letting it gradually become awful then clearing out a block of time to bring it back to livable.

So yeah, like many of the people above, keeping the cleaning stuff where it's needed rather than in a singler location. The part I'd add is just wipes. And mitts.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Amazon Prime has been well worth the price for us. You can buy and ship any "oh crap" last minute gifts within 2 days, and we just started buying dog food on Amazon rather than making a special trip to the pet store. The gift of having almost anything on your doorstep in 2 days is wonderful.

This is a luxury, I know, but I also found my lazy life immeasurably easier when I got a tablet and a laptop, such that I could keep one in the bedroom plus living room instead of lugging my laptop around and having to plug it in within 2mins before the battery died.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:57 AM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Put motion sensing lights in your closets and basement.
posted by juliapangolin at 10:01 AM on September 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

The apple cutter can be used for potato wedges. Wash potatoes. Run cutter through when short end is on the top, toss potatoes in oil and seasoning, roast as per usual. Game changer. We fight over the round ones.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

Maybe everyone but me has always done this, but... I recently organized my closet so now I have, in order from left to right:
3)short-sleeved tops
4)long-sleeved tops
It makes it SOOOOO much faster to find an outfit in the morning before work!
posted by LauraJ at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

put several bags in the bottom of your trash cans, that way each time you empty them, you have a fresh bag right where you need it.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 10:23 AM on September 22, 2016 [20 favorites]

Cordless, lightweight vacuum cleaner. I can just whip it out for literally 5 minutes every day and it's all done; the big heavy corded version was a weekly chore.

Also the stuff you spray into the shower after use but don't wash off. I hardly ever have to clean the shower now.

And line the bottom of your oven with foil.
posted by Coda Tronca at 10:25 AM on September 22, 2016 [14 favorites]

If you bake at all: parchment paper. I haven't greased or washed a cookie sheet in ten years and cannot believe how much of my life I wasted thinking parchment was some kind of frou-frou Martha Stewart thing.
posted by helpthebear at 10:38 AM on September 22, 2016 [26 favorites]

I try to plan my outfits for the week if I can. I do laundry, and hang up whole outfits instead of separating tops, bottoms, etc. Then in the morning (or BONUS if it's the night-before) I pull out a ready-made outfit, grab underoos and shoes, and you're ...

... Dressed to Kill. muahahah
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2016 [34 favorites]

If you cook a lot, or plan to once the baby is a little older getting multiples of tools that you use frequently is well worth it.

For example, I use measuring spoons and mixing bowls a LOT (I am forever making Chinese stir-fries that involve measuring out tablespoons and teaspoons of this and that, and I like doing all my prep into bowls before starting to cook). I used to have exactly 1 set of measuring spoons and mixing bowls and I was forever washing the spoons multiple times in preparing the same meal.

I finally went to Ikea and just got like 5 sets of measuring spoons and multiples of the same bowls that I like. You would think it would be equivalent, AKA washing 3 tablespoons = washing 1 tablespoon 3 times, but I at least find the former way less frustrating, and plus you can do it all at once at the end. (Or of course you have a dishwasher and it's even better!)
posted by andrewesque at 11:01 AM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime! Amazon Prime!

You'll find you need a lot of random stuff, but most of it isn't an emergency and you can wait two days to get it. Ordering more diapers or formula and getting it to land on your doorstep two days later is a godsend.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:26 AM on September 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

Put your laundry setup on the same floor of your house as the bedrooms.
Use command hooks to hang all jewellery somewhere visible.
Use a china dozen-egg-holder-thing to store earrings on the dressing table.
Get a magnetic knife rack and put it on the wall above the surface you would normally chop on.
Put a recycling station by the front door. Open all the mail immediately, right at the door, and chuck all the envelops and junk mail and other litter straight in the bin.
Make and freeze breakfast burritos.
Buy more phone chargers and just plug them in everywhere. If there are lots of people in your household then buy a gizmo with several tails to charge several phones at once and put it in the kitchen.
Make up an overnight bag with its own full set of toiletries, one set of underwear and a phone charger.
Make up a "person is unwell" box and a "person is hurt" box containing copious first aid supplies and every conceivable OTC medication that you might appreciate at 2am some day. Also put a bar of chocolate in there.
Get an electric kettle.
You don't have to put all your keys on your one keyring and carry it round everywhere. Carry the front door, the car and the bottle opener (ok maybe garage opener or whatever too). Store any other house / shed / etc keys somewhere close to where you will actually use them.
Train your kid (when appropriate) that it is a law of physics that if you want to get out a toy you have to put the last one away first. Buy an IKEA Trofast for them to do this with.
posted by emilyw at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

When you enter an event in your calendar, add an entry for travel time as well. Use GMaps to check expected travel time if it's not a trip you make often. As a new parent, you may want to add bonus "leave the house" time.
posted by momus_window at 12:12 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

We recently replaced our front and back deadbolts with keypad locks.

Omg we did this too and I freaking love it!

No need to fish for keys with two bags hanging off one shoulder and a toddler on the other hip. No worries about locking myself out while the baby is locked in.
posted by vignettist at 12:13 PM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I did this thing where I walked through my morning and evening routines and tried to pay attention to the little things that annoyed me. For example, one was not having somewhere obvious to put down my toothbrush while I flossed; fixing that took about two seconds and removed a low-grade annoyance that I was dealing with every day. It seems silly, but, boy did all the little changes add up.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2016 [34 favorites]

This is for the future but you can start laying the foundation now; teach your kid to clean up after and fend for himself. Yeah, I know I know, but really.

At the baby / toddler age you start with the clean up song, learning to put things in the trash, and learning to put clean clothes in the drawers. I got a dresser with easy-glide closers so kiddo could open and close it easily himself. My 15mo is learning to load and unload the dishwasher with me. My older kid, as soon as he was able to reach the counters (maybe around 2.5?) has always been told to go put his dishes up next to the sink, I rarely do it for him.

Since older kiddo was about two, or big/strong enough to open the fridge, I've always left full bottles of water and milk in there. "I'm thirsty". "Go get yourself a drink from the fridge".

When he was around 3 - 3.5 I created a snack shelf that he could reach with portioned sizes, so that when he's hungry he can grab his own snack from the shelf (there's also a fruit bowl within reach on the counter, and generally washed berries, and maybe some cheese sticks, in the fridge). It was also around that age (maybe 3.5 - 4) that I taught him how to use the toaster.

When he was around 4 we got one of those cordless handheld vacs and put it in a place where kiddo can reach it. Mess on the floor? "Go get the vacuum and clean that up".

Older kiddo is 5 now and I've just started teaching him to do his laundry. Seriously. I put little strips of tape on the marks where the washer knobs need to be turned to. He knows how to turn the knobs and put all the clothes in, and he knows how to work the dryer.

Make your life easier by not being a martyr for cleaning up after the kids!
posted by vignettist at 12:37 PM on September 22, 2016 [72 favorites]

If you have cats who eat wet food, put their food in a paper bowl inside their normal dish (to act as an anchor). No clean-up of all those tiny flakes of food that get dried-on.
posted by essexjan at 1:03 PM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

For my own wet cat food dish hack, I bought a set of 12 flattish small ceramic bowls (in my case, Fiesta fruit bowls with slight imperfections that I found for cheap). I use a clean one at every meal, and because these are small and flattish, they fit nicely in the top shelf of the dishwasher. Because I have a lot of them, there are always clean ones and I never have to deal with washing the bowls manually.
posted by clone boulevard at 2:37 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another benefit of having a keypad deadbolt: If a visitor comes while you are at work (or wherever), he can let himself in.
posted by yclipse at 2:38 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

As ridiculous as they seem, using dish detergent and laundry detergent "pods" instead of liquid or powder that you have to pour in, cumulatively does make a difference and the dishwasher "pods" really do clean dishes better. But be careful not to accidentally get a pod you need to individually open - that kills the whole point.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:27 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I recently bought a tiny handheld clothes steamer and it is a game-changer. It's so much less fussy than an iron. Its like a magic wand, I even steamed the wrinkles out of my curtains and there is no way in hell I would ever take those things down to iron.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

- duplicate personal care items in the toiletry kit has made any kind of travel easier
- keep an extra diaper in the car
posted by vunder at 4:30 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having a rice cooker means you never have to clean up after the pot boiled over.

And frozen garlic (comes in little cubes at Trader Joe's) is so much easier than cutting, pressing and cleaning up after fresh. If there's a difference in taste, I can't tell.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:53 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is more of a strategy than a specific hack, but for any non-perishable item that we go through regularly (e.g., dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, peanut butter, multivitamins; diapers and wipes would also fit here) I have two in the house at all times: The One We're Using, and The One In Reserve.

That way, as soon as The One We're Using runs out, we have another one already in the house to use immediately. Then I add that item to the weekly shopping list and there's another one in the house within a week, but long before we run out completely.

I feel kind of stupid for how long (and how many "omg we're out of THAT again and it's five days until I can get to the store" experiences) it took for me to figure that out, but it's saved our butt I can't even tell you how many times.
posted by spamloaf at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

Don't feel too stupid, it took factories a long long time to come up with the 2 bin system. Some of them still consider it witchcraft.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:06 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Seconding a rice cooker. And you can use it for so much more than rice. (Separate link on each word there. Went a little crazy. I'm an info junkie.)

Laundry hacks: The socks in bulk trick has already been mentioned. Don't fold them, or roll them, or whatever it is you do to them. Just toss them in the drawer. Same goes for underwear (including panties, bras, hose, and slips), pajamas, clothes you only wear in the house, baby's burp cloths, cloth diapers, wash cloths, and onesies, wash rags, fitted sheets, and any clothes for older kids and spouse that can handle not being folded.

Stock up on baking soda and white vinegar. What one won't clean, the other will.

Stock up on multi-tools (Leatherman type or Swiss Army Knife type) and keep them all over the house and in your car.

Keep extra blankets, pillows, burp rags, diapers, wipes, and tissues all over the house. You never know where someone will fall asleep, have an urp, pee, poop, or sneeze.

Before baby comes, cook (or have someone else cook) double, triple, quadruple batches of your favorite meals. Freeze in personal or family size portions, in such containers that you can throw in the crock pot, oven, microwave, etc. to heat up then serve. Preferably disposable containers for ease of cleanup.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 7:11 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Buy the peeled garlic and freeze it. (Unlike what's in the jar, it tastes like real garlic.)

+1 sock trick
+1 Amazon Prime

Don't sort the silverware. Just jumble it into the drawer. It sounds uncivilized, but try it. It saves tons of time on the front end and loses you almost no time on the back end. I scoffed when my housemate did it but soon became a convert.
posted by salvia at 7:40 PM on September 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I used to never run the dishwasher until it was completely, very full to save money and water.

If it's simpler, and lower stress, I'll now run the dishwasher half full. The amount of water it's spending is tiny compared to other normal things (like a quick shower, even). The amount of headache saved to just run the damn thing when it's convenient is kind of awesome.
posted by talldean at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Lots of good ideas above, and many of them boil down to standardizing on a choice and embracing it whole-heartedly.

Also, plan for shortages/failures before they happen. In other words, make decisions when you have time so you don't have to think when it gets crazy (usually between 2:30-5:00 am).

Good luck!! :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:17 PM on September 22, 2016

+100000 to keeping an extra diaper in the car.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:13 PM on September 22, 2016

Before baby comes and while you are still comfortable going out to shop, buy yourself a stock of toiletries and anything you can't live without for a few months. Especially things you wouldn't want your partner to have to get for you. Getting out of the house except for quick trips was difficult for me and I was glad not to have to explain what conditioner I wanted to my husband.

As well, I ate take out and pre-made grocery store convenience food a lot during baby's first year. Try to think about it as outsourcing your cooking during a very busy time and don't feel guilty about it as long as it's in your budget somewhat. It's ok, you might be too tired to cook some days.
Yes to freezer meals too, but on my most exhausted days even those seemed like too much work.
posted by photoexplorer at 9:19 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Amazon Prime does subscriptions. You can set it up to have any number of items you use all the time delivered at regular intervals. It may take some time to figure out how often you run out of things (I have 900 floss picks!) but it's so handy. I never ever carry toilet paper anywhere!
posted by bendy at 10:14 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Breastfeeding. You grab the kid, throw a disposable diaper in your purse, and off you go.
posted by Joleta at 10:21 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Having a rice cooker means you never have to clean up after the pot boiled over.

Same, but get an Instant Pot. You can get them for cheap on amazon right now. I know apparently everyone who buys one soon acquires a messianic zeal for the things, but there is a good reason for this - they both speed up cooking, and reduce the need to monitor the pots carefully, freeing you up for more in-parallel prepping/cleaning up.

as a bonus, they make even the most intransigently unpeelable eggs a breeze to shell.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:25 AM on September 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

Here's a really tiny one: when you're lining a grill tray or baking tray with foil, put a few drops of water on the tray first and it makes the foil stick to it.
posted by Coda Tronca at 12:31 AM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I also have messianic zeal for my instantpot.
Definitely get on over a rice cooker.
They're good rice cookers, but also great pressure and slow cookers and in a pinch you can do a fry up in one.

I just ordered 54 pairs of plain toddler socks from amazon.
Because after rooting through the laundry and finding 9 different socks before getting a pair I've had enough of the sock issue.
(They might be terrible, I'll find out on monday, but it was £9 with delivery, so it's worth a try.)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:31 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the real garlic lovers.... ;) Get a silicon garlic peeler, two rolls and your garlic is peeled! And, then get a garlic press that has a swing out bottom section for easy cleaning. One press for each minced clove of garlic. We got ours from IKEA.

Also, a stainless steel Thermos French press if you drink any decent amount of coffee. It will keep warm for much longer than a glass one, and is pretty indestructible. And, also a measuring spoon clip to keep your coffee bag closed is nice too.
posted by ellerhodes at 7:28 AM on September 23, 2016

- Move the clock radio from the bedroom to the bathroom. It makes it so much easier to check the time when getting ready in the morning, and prevents you from looking at the clock on sleepless nights.
- Have dry shampoo and hair velcro on hand. The hair velcro is for keeping hair out of the way when you are washing your face or putting on makeup.
- Store thai basil in a glass of water. Whenever we go out for pho, we take home one of the sprigs of basil and grow it. It's a great addition to stir-fry dishes.
- Keep bread in the freezer. We don't eat a lot of bread, so we would always have trouble finishing a loaf. Now we don't have to worry about it, and we nearly always have bread on hand if we want a piece of toast or a sandwich. By the way, if you happen to live by a Boudin bakery restaurant, you get a free loaf of sourdough bread each month if you sign up for their rewards program.
- This tuna salad recipe uses up all the random leftover veggies from making other things.
posted by cucumberfresh at 8:54 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

One more - take the things you don't love to wear out of your closet. Store them away and consider getting rid of them if you don't miss them after a while. It is so much easier and faster to get dressed when you are choosing from things you know you like and feel good in.
posted by cucumberfresh at 9:01 AM on September 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Buy odd bits of hardware/tools at the dollar store - things like a set of safety goggles and mask, metal brushes & WD40, pliers, picture hanging kits, cable ties, bungee cords, etc. - and put them in a storage box in a closet. You never know when you might need something from it, even to McGuyver something else. No need to buy them all at once, just every now and then have a walk down the hardware aisle and see if there's something you might need one day.

A few years ago they had metal crowbars at Poundland, so I bought one; after all, it was only £1. I wasn't planning on using it at any time soon, but thought it might come in useful. My neighbour saw me unloading it from the car and made a joke about it, asking if I was going to start burgling houses. A few months later he had to swallow his pride and ask to borrow it when he needed to lever a drain cover off. I was tempted to rent it to him for £2.

So, yeah, in moderation, buy cheaply things that might one day come in really useful.

I'd also recommend a solar/wind-up flashlight, because you know your phone won't be charged up for you to use as a flashlight that night when the power goes out.
posted by essexjan at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

This one I learned from the locksmith after the last time I locked myself out. Make a bunch of copies of just your one house door key and put that on every key ring you have. So if you accidentally grab the keys to your mother's house/work/cabin you at least have the key on there to let you back in the house to grab the right set.
posted by sweetmarie at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

If your living space allows it, a gas grill is a huge time-saver. You can use it year-round. There's practically no cleanup. Ours is natural gas, so while we can't move it wherever you want to, we also never ever ever run out of propane. It's very unusual for us not to grill once a week. Even during Seattle downpours. I've also taken to marinating meat in Ziploc bags and just plain throwing them out.
posted by rouftop at 8:49 AM on September 25, 2016

I use nail polish to label my keys. Most of my keys are copies so it can get confusing. It's durable and doesn't wipe off easily. I find most of those rubber things you slip over the head of the key too bulky. Different colors and letters for different keys. O=office, H=home, etc.

My friend does this -- she puts spare house keys on her dog's collar. The dog can go in and out of the house (dog door) and is a great guard dog, so she wouldn't let anybody she didn't know try to take them off. If they ever get locked out, they can call for the dog.

I buy baby wipes in bulk, remove a stack, and put it in a ziploc bag. Too bulk to carry around the whole thing and it feels stupid to buy little 12-packs each time.

I keep a small bag of this in my car, purse and office desk: chapstick, tampons, small comb, small toothbrush, ziploc bag of wet wipes, travel-sized deodorant, bobby pins, hair ties, a pocket knife and a spork. I always need one of those things.

I also work a crazy schedule and miss meals or eat them at erratic schedules, so I keep and restock a sack of almonds and keep it in my car and office desk. If I'm stuck in traffic, starving and grumpy, I grab some almonds to tie me over.

I keep about a week's worth of clean gym clothes, socks and towels in a box in the trunk of my car to motivate me to work out before/after work. Plus flip-flops and the gym shoes. All I have to remember is to take the towel and stinky clothes out of my car at the end of the day. I always forget to bring something if I try to pack stuff in the morning. I clean out the car on the weekend.

I buy a shitton of binder clips and use them in the kitchen/in the office/to hold coupons in my purse. I always seem to need one. I attach them to magnets for the fridge. Etc. Cheap and not fussy.

Maybe everyone already does this but I keep a basket with a lid (lined with old shopping bags) in the car for use as a trash can. More attractive than an actual waste basket and easy to empty out.
posted by mmmleaf at 10:41 PM on September 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

These Rubbermaid storage containers changed my life. They take up 1/4 of the space of every other kind I've used but the best part is that the lids stack and snap underneath each stack of matching containers. I haven't spent one second looking for a lid since I got them, and I haven't misplaced a single lid because the answer to "Where is the lid?" and "Where do I store this lid?" is "Right under the container!"

(I don't have a microwave so I haven't had any problems, but it's an issue mentioned in a feW reviews.)

Another benefit of having a keypad deadbolt: If a visitor comes while you are at work (or wherever), he can let himself in.

Oh! When I moved into my apartment I didn't want a landline, so we paired the security buzzer to my cell phone. Now I can buzz in delivery drivers from anywhere so I don't have to wait around just to let them in. (YMMV if people will steal your packages, obvs.)
posted by Room 641-A at 12:17 PM on October 1, 2016

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