1. The same socks
Laundry sucks. To make it ever so slightly easier, both of my kids own only white socks — the same exact brand in bulk, and no variety — which means no lone socks! Any two socks can make a pair. I don't even bother to match them up. They just get tossed in a pile in my kids' dressers, and when socks are needed, they grab two.
2. Extra water in the car
When we go on a hike or to the park or to the beach, I never want to carry a ton of water with me because it is heavy. Sometimes, we've run out, resulting in two kids whining, "I'm thirsty!" during the entire drive home. But now, I fill up an additional large container with ice and water and just leave it in the car. I don't have to carry extra water, but we have enough for the drive home. As a bonus, it means that even I get to stay hydrated.
3. Freeze fruit rejects
It's not a wasted banana — it's a future smoothie! Any half-eaten or rejected fruit gets placed into my smoothie bag in the freezer. It all gets used for smoothies or ice pops eventually. There's no waste, and I never get annoyed when my kids hand me a half-eaten banana now.
4. Wet paper towel over toilet sensor
My youngest hates the surprise sound of the automatic toilet flushers. Wet a paper towel in the sink before you get to the stall and then slap it over the sensor. It will stick like glue and prevent the toilet from flushing. (This tip comes from the comments from my post on public toilets and potty training.)
Wow, how I love autoship. We autoship our cat food and dog food, and I love it. We never run out, and we never have to make an extra trip to the pet store.
6. Weekly meal plan
I've been making a weekly meal plan for three years now. Although it was a difficult habit to stick to at first, I have no idea how we managed so long without doing this. This, by far — of anything on this list — has had the greatest impact. So much time and money used to be wasted on last-minute market runs and ordering out. But now, I sit down once a week and plan it out, make a shopping list and go shopping. I can't even begin to express how much calmer weeknights are now that everything is set and ready each night.
7. Combo platters
For lunch, I almost always use what I call a "combo platter" for the kids. I have a large, divided tray, and I put an assortment of food on it — mostly raw, cut-up veggies and fruits, but also some meats and nuts. Then I give the kids the tray. They don't complain because there are tons of options on the tray. It's never fancy — it's just what we happen to have on hand at the time, so it changes every day. It is quick to put together, and the divided sections force me to offer the kids a healthy variety.
8. The dog
We got a dog last year. Our floors are much cleaner, and... that's all I’m going to say about this one.
9. Phone-calendar alerts
Why didn't I start using this for everything sooner? Now I set a phone alarm to remind me to switch the laundry so it doesn't rot in the washing machine. I also set a calendar alert to take the trash out to the curb each week.
10. Shoes off
Our house has very dark hardwood floors that display each and every speck of dust. Not only are our floors visually cleaner now, but we no longer track in billions of bacteria and other unsavory things that tend to hang out on the soles of shoes. Plus, the kids' shoes are always ready and waiting at the front door when we head out.
For more parenting hacks to make your life easier, check out ParentHacks.com.