Babies vs efficiency
At the time of writing this, my son Otis is nine months old. He is the cutest darn efficiency sucker I know. Before he was born, I remember uttering the indelicate words "how busy can it be having a new baby? They sleep heaps, right?!". Oh how I LOL now. I have compiled below my top tips for staying on top of things, whether you have a babe in arms, or (more likely) underfoot.
Before I launch into the tips, I have some necessary disclaimers. You know them - but I need to say them anyway. If ever there is a time in your life for efficiency to go out the window, it is when you have a baby. Everything can fade into the background except for two things: caring for your child, and caring for yourself. Parenthood is hard and there is no need to make it harder by trying to maintain efficiency while you learn the ropes. Dole out kindness and patience to yourself and your baby by the bucketload, and you'll be just fine. If you're ready to add some order back into your life, read on!
This one isn’t really a tip so much as a public service announcement for those who may be as blissfully unaware as I was about what it was actually going to be like when I had my baby. Something I quickly learned when my son was born is just how quickly they can pull the rug from under you. You think you are getting the hang of it, you have some semblance of a routine, then BOOM! It all changes. I have lost count of how many times Otis' routine has changed, and while it is irritating (yeah I said it), it is a fact of life. Don't fight it; expect the changes, be flexible with your routine and you’ll be as agile as anything before you know it.
Keep a (SHORT!) daily list
If you are like me and obsessed with getting stuff done, I suspect you are already a believer in the power of the list. I think when my son was about a month old, I started writing a to-do list in the evenings, itemising the things I wanted to achieve the next day. The list included small reminders (for example "reply to Anna's text") and bigger tasks (e.g. "change sheets"). You'd think I could remember to change the sheets! You'd be right - I could remember. But somehow having it on the list (and the lure of crossing it off!) made me feel more compelled to actually complete the task.
I recommend writing a list in the evening, when you have put your feet up and feel relaxed. Then bung that list somewhere prominent (the fridge or the dining table are my favourites) and feel like a winner every time you tackle a task, big or small.
Keep a grocery list
Pre-baby, I prided myself on being a weekly shopper. My list is populated over the course of a week, and then I can whistle around the supermarket in record time. High fives all around! That went out the window when Otis arrived as it seemed I found myself at the shops every day, and sometimes even more than once a day! I have now reclaimed the weekly grocery shop, but I still find myself in the supermarket waaaaay more than I would like... It's not my happy place. But needs must; we seem to go through an obscene amount of bananas in this household.
The great thing about keeping a grocery list is that you're releasing yourself from the obligation of needing to remember yet another thing (if you haven't read much about the mental load of motherhood I highly recommend this article by Kate Desmond). Whack your must-haves on the shopping list and then fuggedaboudit until shopping day. When you do have to make an emergency run, you know all you need is bananas (please tell me I'm not the only one?) and can be in and out of the shops in a jiffy.
Establish a washing cycle
If you haven’t read my blog post on how to fold washing like a ninja, you may not be aware that I’m kind of a fiend for laundry. I don’t mind the washing part (I’m not going down to the river to plunge and scrub after all!) and I actually quite like the folding part. But I have friends who feel they are constantly waging war on their never-ending pile of laundry, and without fail they do not have a washing cycle.
Your washing cycle will be particular to your circumstances – whether you are working in or out of the home, how many in your household, and so on. If you are working out of the home, I urge you to make the most of nights and wash throughout the week, rather than saving up all your washing for the weekend. Put a load on when you get home in the evening, and then deal with the drying in the morning – whether that is hanging on the line/clothes horse or chucking in the dryer.
Assign a day for the big loads, and fit the rest in between. For example, I wash sheets and towels on Mondays because I am at home, cloth nappies are done every second evening, and dark and light washes in between. By having a set idea of what needs to be washed when, I also know when the machine will be free to take care of anything unexpected that comes up.
Keep a go-bag
Did anyone ever get into that show Doomsday Preppers? It was about people who were preparing for the end of days thanks to nuclear fallout/chemical warfare/World War III and so on. (As an aside, you may be interested to note that I sat through an entire series of this show waiting for someone to be prepping for the Zombie Apocalypse, to no avail.) I’m not suggesting you start stockpiling canned tomatoes and powdered soup! But one great concept that seemed to be consistent to all the preppers was the Bug Out Bag – a bag loaded with the bare essentials so they could exit (“bug out”!) the bunker quickly if necessary. A packed nappy bag is to parents what a bug out bag is to preppers. A backpack or large tote bag does the job nicely. Keep it packed with anything non-perishing you might need to survive a trip outside the house (nappies, pacifier, wipes, bib, etc) and keep it somewhere easily accessible for speedy exits.
The key to a successful go bag is maintenance – replace what you use at the end of each day and you’ll never be scrambling for a nappy mid-change again.
Use the evenings for prep
I do a lot of my prep work in the evening, which for me makes for less stressful days. I am absolutely not a morning person and there is an honest chance I would leave the house without my baby, such is the fog I walk around in. So evenings it is! After Otis has gone to bed I put a load of washing on, check my go bag for anything that has been used and needs replacing, then do a quick whip-around to tidy the play areas in the house. If I know the following day is going to be busy, I prepare as much as I can in the evening; packing snacks/lunches for myself and Otis, making sure he has a spare change of clothes if necessary, and in some cases even planning out what I’m going to wear.
When morning rolls around, I can run on automatic pilot to get out the door, knowing that I covered the essentials the night before.
If all else fails, consider calling in the experts. Outsourcing tasks you do not have the skills, time or inclination to take care of is a smart move for businesses and households alike. There are plenty of tasks that can be outsourced if your finances allow. Cleaning, laundry, cooking and grocery shopping can all be handled by someone else, for a fee. If you’re new to the outsourcing game, here are my top tips:
- Shop around – seek recommendations from friends, or ask a few companies to provide you with a quote. If it is a company you aren’t familiar with, it is totally ok to ask for testimonials or references.
- Minimise costs – tell your supplier you are on a budget and ask what can be done to keep costs down. This might mean cleaning fortnightly instead of weekly, keeping some tasks out of the scope of their clean, and so on.
- Be prepared – make sure you are ready for the service you have outsourced. There is nothing more annoying that dropping off drycleaning, only to find a used towel lurking in the washing basket. Or forgetting it was cleaning day then having a mad panic trying to get the house tidied before they arrive.
If you need help introducing some efficiency to your life, please get in touch. Every household is different and I'd love to help you establish some routines that will help your home run like clockwork.