We all need to simplify life a little bit… here are a few of the things I do to make my days a little more simple. These are helpful for anyone – mom or not – but I think they’re especially useful if you are juggling small children along with everything else going on in life. (don’t literally juggle your kids…)
Use magnets to label toy bins
I LOVE having bins and baskets to store toys in. They make it easy for my kids to put toys away, they look nice on my shelves, and it’s easy to categorize things. Cars and trucks go in one bin, play-dough in another, balls in another, etc. I have a few different sized baskets, and my kids know what size different toys go in but they don’t always end up in the exact same box/bin/basket. The solution, since I want them to clean up on their own, was to glue small magnetic strips to the baskets. Then I glued the same magnets to the back of some heavy-duty card stock and made them into labels. It means that the labels can just pop on and off each basket and are interchangeable. If Bob the Builder goes in the basket that used to belong to art supplies, I can just change labels instead of moving all those toys around. I keep most of the baskets up high so my kids have to ask permission to play with certain things (cough, paint supplies, cough), so when I take a basket down I take the label off and put it on my fridge so it can’t be destroyed.
I bought these small, sturdy baskets (maybe they count more as boxes?) from Wal-Mart for 97 cents each! They can hold a surprising amount of stuff, but I did put some small pieces of cardboard in the bottom to keep really tiny things from falling through the holes. Their big counterparts were on Rollback for about $4 a piece – not too expensive, considering how tidy they’ve helped me keep things.
Bake your bacon
Maybe I should start calling it bakon. This is my favorite way to cook one of our favorite breakfast foods… it’s easy and almost no mess at all. Just line a baking sheet well with aluminum foil, then put a cooling rack on that. Spray the cooling rack with non-stick cooking spray and place your bacon (erm… bakon) on it. I often do this step the night before a busy morning (like Sundays) so all I have to do is pull it out of the fridge and pop it in the oven.
Put the pan in a cold oven and preheat it to 400°. Bake for 30-40 minutes. How long you bake it depends on how crispy you like it. My husband is a 30 minute guy and I’m more like a 50 minute girl. When it’s done, all you have to do is let the pan cool then roll the grease up in the foil and throw it away. If you’ve lined it well, you don’t even have to wash the pan. Magic.
Keep track of food with a chalk marker
I know chalk markers have been around for a while, but as usual I was a late adopter. I absolutely love them, though. Besides using them on a regular chalkboard, I like using them on glass to write notes on our mirror to my husband (of the sweet, spicy, or honey-do varieties) and to write memory verses on the window above my kitchen sink. But the food organization is like a whole new world (cue the Aladdin soundtrack!).
My husband is constantly asking me “what kind of sweets do we have in the freezer?” I started keeping a list of the treats that I have stashed away for him by writing it right there on our stainless steel fridge. There are zero excuses for things going bad because we didn’t know they were there, and I don’t have to answer the “what do we have” question all the time.
Another miraculous discovery was labeling all the leftovers in our fridge. You can write on glass or plastic containers and mark what the food is and when you made it. I’m constantly second-guessing if something may have gone bad or not, so this has been AWESOME. It does wipe off of glass fairly easily, so be careful not to mess it up with your fingers, but after it dries on plastic it’s staying there until you wash the dish.
Use time bake on your oven to beat the Witching Hour
The Witching Hour is so real. To avoid having to cook dinner during that time, I try to prep it earlier in the day. In the morning while my kids are actually playing outside or even while they’re napping, I’ll prepare my meat or casserole or whatever goes in the oven for dinner that night. Then, whenever I think about it in an appropriate window – usually shortly after naptime – I put it in the oven and just set the time bake. Since it’s been in the fridge since I prepared it, it’s cold enough to sit in the oven for a little while before cooking. All I have to do is throw together whatever sides I had planned, and I don’t have to stress over the most complicated part of dinner in that frustrating after-naps-before-Daddy-gets-home time frame. I literally don’t even have to remember to put it in the oven at the right time. It’s just DONE.