Got 30 minutes to spare? I know, moms never have time to spare. So get up early, stay up late, find 30 minutes when you’re on hold with the insurance company. Just grab half an hour and tackle one of the following tasks, some of which can actually be done in less than 30 minutes. It will help you sneak in a little work during a slight window in your schedule. This will free up some time for you to spend with your family helping you to balance work and play.
- Dump out one drawer in the kitchen. Sort the contents into three piles: out of place, throw away, and put back. Wipe out the drawer. Replace wanted items. Put those that are out of place back where they belong and pitch the throw-away items. If you find any items that are unwanted but still in good shape, place them in a box to be donated to charity or sold at your next yard sale.
- Balance your checkbook. Go online or use the telephone teller to see which checks have cleared and which deposits have been made; then do the math to get your current balance. Warning: If it has been a long time since you’ve done this, it will take more than 30 minutes. If you do this every week or two, it will take much less time.
- Purge your purse. Dump the contents onto the floor. Get rid of trash. Organize your money. Stash your receipts somewhere where you’ll be able to locate them when needed. And consider getting a smaller purse. If you buy a big purse, you’ll be sure to fill it. Think small! A “clutch on a string” type purse with space for a cell phone should do the trick. You can always keep this inside a larger tote bag or diaper bag if you want. It will be easier when shopping if you keep your main purse small and its contents narrowed down to the essentials.
- Clean your counters. Move everything to one side of your kitchen counters. Wipe thoroughly. Move everything to the other side. Wipe the second half. Place it all back where it belongs.
- Disinfect your doorknobs. This is likely the most germ-infested area of your home. Everyone touches the doorknobs, but no one cleans them. Experts say to give them a good rubbing with a disinfectant wipe every so often.
- Clean out your fridge. Pull everything out onto the counter. Wipe down the inside. Replace only what is not out of date. Pitch the rest. If any items are near the expiration date and not going to be used soon, freeze if possible.
- Clean out the freezer. Use the same method of attack for the freezer. Discard anything that is out of date and no longer safe or tasty to eat. Can you say “freezer burn”? I knew you could.
- Mind the medicine cabinet. Check the dates on all your meds, and decide which ones must be tossed. Rid the cabinet of any lotions, shampoos, and products you don’t need. Wipe the shelves down and replace only what you’re keeping. I do this twice a year when the time changes. That’s also when we check our smoke-alarm batteries.
- Organize the hall closet. While you may not be able to make a dent in a large bedroom closet in 30 minutes, you might be able to straighten up a simple coat closet. Empty it, sweep it out, and wipe down any shelves. Hang the coats back up and reposition other hats, gloves, boots, and such. Consider getting plastic totes to keep like items together, further organizing the contents. Get rid of what you don’t need.
- Purge the pantry. Remove all canned and boxed goods from your pantry shelves. Throw away what is outdated. Make a pile of what is still good but your family won’t likely eat. Donate this to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Replace items in an order logical to you. Sometimes, see if you can eat for a week with only the items you find in your pantry. I’ve invented some recipes this way. Go online to find recipes that pair items you have on hand. Shop for only what fresh items are needed to round out your meals. You’ll save a bundle on your groceries that week.
- Fix the fixtures. If you have light fixtures that need dusting and cleaning, take care of them now. If the fixtures have many globes or tulip-shaped glass cups, run them through a rinse cycle in the dishwasher. Dry and replace.
- Add an address. Transfer any addresses from sticky notes, letter envelopes, and Christmas cards into your address book.
- Rearrange your recipes. Take a look in your recipe files, and toss any cards or cutouts you don’t use. Rearrange what’s left. If your recipes are in great disarray, this may take more than one 30-minute block. If so, find another friend who has the same problem. Take your recipes, meet her at a coffee house, and have an “Amazon Women” session to get your recipes in order. I did this one night, placing them all in a three-ring binder with full-size page protectors for magazine cutouts and pages designed to hold individual photos for the recipe cards. I made sections for main dishes, side dishes, desserts, and miscellaneous. When I’m cooking, if something splatters onto the recipe, it can be easily wiped off.
- Give a movie review. Sort through your DVDs and pluck out any your family no longer watches. Save old-time favorites for nostalgia if you have a child who is particularly fond of one. Give the rest to another family who would enjoy them.
- Spit-shine a shelf. Take time to pick through just one shelf in the garage or basement, ridding it of unwanted items and leaving it neat and tidy. If you do one shelf a day, that area will gradually get decluttered.
- Give thanks. Anyone you’ve been meaning to write a thank-you note to? Do it now. And to make it easier in the future, place some thank-you notes, stamps, return address labels, and your address book in a basket near your sofa or in a tote bag you can take to the doctor’s office or carpool line. Grab it often to jot a note of thanks or encouragement to someone.
- Sort socks. Have a basket or bag with single, lonely socks that have lost their mates. Dump the bag and pair up any matches. Better yet, pay a child a nickel a pair for any matches he can find.
- Peruse your porch. Take a look at what others see when they knock on your front door. Does your front window need washing? The porch need sweeping? Are there cobwebs that could do with a good knocking down? Take a little time to make the entrance to your home look presentable.
- Deal with your drains. Pour some baking soda in your kitchen-sink drain. Next, douse it with a little vinegar. The resulting bubbling action will freshen it up. Or pour some clog-removing liquid down the bathroom sink and tub drains to prevent hair clogs in the first place.
- Fiddle with your files. Remove three or four files from your filing cabinet. Look through them and make sure the contents are still worth keeping. If you find manuals for appliances you no longer own or outdated paperwork, toss or shred them now. Doing this regularly keeps your files up to date.
Karen Ehman, KarenEhman.com
This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom.
Please check the series page for all of the posts!