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Accomplish More: Be Home

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When people ask me what my secret is to getting things done, I say, "Be home!" The main reason that I am able to accomplish what I do is that I am home more often than I am not.

When you're home, you can take care of your to-do list.

You're not too tired to work on what needs to be done because you're exhausted from running errands. There is something about being in the car and driving around that usually leaves one feeling exhausted. I try to avoid that feeling by being home more.

Now, we all have things that we need to buy, such as food and clothing. We also have places that we need to take our children (and ourselves).

However, it is a myth that you need to leave the house every day in order to be happy. In fact, I find that I am happiest when I have crossed things off my to-do list--that aren't errands--and that when I do run errands, I don't always have time to get things done at home, which leads to my feeling unsatisfied with the day.

How can we spend less time away from home? Here are my five suggestions:

1. Shop less often

For food: When you go shopping and find a great deal, buy more of it so that you don't need to go to the store as often. Buy enough eggs to last for 4-6 weeks. Buy more apples and oranges in season and keep them cool so that you can make them last longer. I bought 152 pounds of oranges and over 60 pounds of apples in December when they were on sale. (Oranges were 19 cents a pound!) By doing this, I don't need to buy fresh fruit every week. Grow a garden to keep yourself from needing to go to the store as often. Keep a well-stocked pantry.

For clothing: Make a good list of what you need, including the number of each item. For example, you know your child needs 5 short-sleeved shirts, 5 long-sleeved shirts, 2 sweaters, a jacket, a coat, 5 pairs of shorts and 5 pairs of long pants for the year in the next size up. Rather than going to multiple stores several times, try reducing your shopping trips.

Look online for clearance deals if you're planning on buying new. Often you can find a free shipping code, and if not, shipping may be equal to or less than the cost of gas to get to the store. Plus, you can browse multiple stores online for the best prices without having to go anywhere, and it can be done in a shorter amount of time than it would have taken you to drive somewhere.

If you plan on buying used, plan a couple of trips to the thrift store a year, rather than going every week. If you find the thrift store too expensive and prefer to shop at garage sales, try going to neighborhood garage sales to get what you need, so that you can spend less days shopping and get to more sales at once. You can also check Craig's List for garage sales that list clothing in the sizes that you need.

For toiletries: Again, stock up when sales and coupons line up for what you need. This keeps you from needing to run to the store because you're out of toilet paper or feminine hygiene items. Buy enough to last you for a while so that you always have what you need on hand.

2. Combine errands

One of the things that I have noticed while gardening in my front yard is how often my neighbors leave during the day. These are not people with small children, who are taking them to school or lessons. These are people whose children have grown--and yet they leave the house 5 times a day, every day.

We live close to many stores. Instead of going to one store, coming home and unloading everything, and then going to another store, combine your errands. When you do need to go to the store, plan your route so that you only have to be exhausted once.  Go to the library or run an errand that doesn't involve perishables first. Make your route using the least gas and time from there. Keep a cooler and cold bags in the car so that you can keep perishables cold in between stores. When you come home to unload, you'll be done for the day.

3. Carpool

Are your children involved in activities with other children who live nearby? Rather than wasting time and gas taking them to and picking them up from everything, talk to other parents about carpooling to school, youth groups, and Scouts. You'll only have to drive sometimes, leaving you with more time to take care of your projects at home

4. Find another way

Find a music teacher who comes to your house for lessons. Have your child ride his bicycle to his friend's house or a Scout meeting. Ask your spouse to run your errand on the way home (for example, my husband's office is not far from the library, so he can easily return books for us without going far out of the way, saving us gas and time). Renew library books online so that you can make fewer trips to the library.


5. Be Organized

For each store at which I shop, I made a list of the items that I normally buy at that store. I then put them in the order in which I shop that store. For example, I usually shop the grocery store by first going to the produce department, then to the meat department, and then to the dairy department (I rarely purchase anything from the center aisles). By writing a list of items that I usually purchase at that store (when they on sale), I can print that list and highlight the items I'll be buying that trip. This saves me time making a list and time walking around the store--plus, by looking at the list, I might be reminded of something else I need at that store that I would otherwise have forgotten--which keeps me from needing to return to the store for just one thing.  The organized list also helps me to keep from backtracking all the way across the store for one more thing, which can shorten my shopping time by as much as 10-20 minutes.


6. Play at home

Rather than taking endless trips to the park or another place to play, find fun in your own backyard. This can be as simple as playing in the snow, watching lady bugs, catching grasshoppers, turning cartwheels, or reading a book in the shade.

If you add play equipment, your young children can easily run outside to play. Every day, someone is jumping on the in-ground trampoline, playing on the swings, or spinning on the merry-go-round at my house. Our swings are higher than the ones at the park, and no parks here have a merry-go-round. My husband and his brother built the swing set and the merry-go-round, and I'm so glad they did, as they are wonderful for keeping my children active and occupied. Once chores are done, they can easily run outside and play--while I make dinner. If the dinner is a meal that I can put in the oven and walk away from for a while, I can go outside and push them on the swings, cut something fresh from the garden, or pull a few weeds.

What tips do you have for running about less and enjoying life at home more?

Other posts in this series:

My Schedule

Tagged in: Accomplish More
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My Schedule

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One of the most frequently asked questions that I get is what my daily schedule looks like. I will answer that today, but I don't think it will answer the real question, which is, "How do you get so much stuff done?" The answer to that is a lot deeper than just telling you my schedule, so this post will be the first in a series on accomplishing more in your day.

This schedule is of course the ideal day. No day is ideal. I do my best to keep to this plan, but it never works perfectly. I have found, however, that since I decided on a schedule several years ago that I accomplish much more than I did without a schedule.

I have also found that I accomplish more if I am up before my children. That's not always possible; I have early risers and sometimes they will be up before I am, or before I would like them to be. I used to have children who would be up at 5:20 every morning, and I found it really hard to get much done until I started getting up before them (which meant 4 am!) Those children have stopped waking so early now, though I do have 2 children who still seem to wake rather early most days.

I'm sure as you read, you're going to be thinking, "Why doesn't she do it this way?" or, "Why isn't x, y, z on there?" This is an honest schedule. My house is far from perfectly clean at the end of the day. I could spend all day cleaning, but then I'd never get anything else done, and that's not the way I want to live, either. So here it is!


4:45 Wake and prayer

4:50 Start a load of laundry to wash; if there is one washed from the night before, put that one in the dryer.

5:00 Drink a glass of water and read scriptures

5:10 Work online on blog

5:30 Shower and get ready for the day

6:00 Wake children who are still sleeping

6:05 Move laundry to dryer and put another load in the washer. Move laundry that is dry to couches for children to fold.

6:10 Put away large pots and pans. Encourage children with chores. Make bed and tidy bedroom and bathroom.

6:30 Brush girls' hair. Start breakfast.

6:50 Move laundry from dryer that is dry to couches for children to fold. Move second load of laundry to dryer and put third load in the washer.

7:10 Plate breakfast

7:15 Breakfast

7:30 Encourage children with after-breakfast chores

7:45 Move laundry to dryer and put fourth load in the washer

8:00 Start school with children. Wash pots and pans

9:00 Move fourth load to dryer. Continue school with children

10:00 Take fourth load from dryer. Continue school with children.

11:00 Start making lunch

11:30 Lunch

12:00 Encourage children with after-lunch chores

12:30 Continue school with children

1:30 Garden, make bread, sew, photograph, blog (usually one or two of these). Children's nap time/quiet time in their rooms.

3:30 Snack time

4:00 Clean kitchen/wash pots and pans from lunch. Start dinner. Have Liberty start piano practice. Children's playtime.

5:00 Work on dinner. Have children do before-dinner chores

5:30 Have Winter do piano practice. Continue dinner

6:30 Dinner

7:00 Family Scriptures, songs, and family prayer

7:10 Have older children do after-dinner chores. Put pajamas on youngest child. If I have one that day, start a fifth load of laundry, or put the load in and program it to wash in the morning to be done before I get up. Tidy/clean bedroom.

7:30 Tuck children in bed

7:45 Work on blog and website

8:30 Spend time with my husband (talking, playing a game, watching a show on the computer together, etc.)

Bedtime sometime after that, but usually before 10:00

There are lots of things that aren't on here. If I'm cooking a pot of beans, I'll usually start that either while I'm making breakfast, or sometime between then and before lunch. Sometimes I'll start caramelizing onions mid-morning during school time to have them ready for a soup for lunch, since they take 40 minutes to caramelize.

My husband and I will often (almost daily) talk about finances between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. while I'm making the bed and tidying the bedroom (he often helps me make the bed). He usually gets up and starts working at his desk in the bedroom right away. Later he'll shower and go in to the office. We have family prayer with him right before he leaves. If decides to work from home, we'll have it around 9:00 a.m.

If we are having leftovers for dinner (which is usually once or twice a week) I have more time to work on a project, such as sewing or gardening. It gives me 2 extra hours in my day if I have leftovers for dinner. If I'm working in the garden and the weather is nice, the children are usually playing in the garden near me. It's harder to sew after naptime than garden, but I will occasionally be able to sew a bit then.

Summer is different, in that I'll usually take a day or two a week and work in the garden in the morning  (when it's only 100º out!) while my husband makes sure the children do chores. He makes breakfast on those days.

We have school year-round. We take off extra days at Christmas, and on really beautiful spring and fall days. I'll usually take off some pretty spring days to work in the garden and the children will have a picnic lunch on the grass in the garden on those days.

Saturdays are similar, but I don't get the children up early as there is no school. I do still expect them to do chores.

On Sundays we go to church and chores are limited. I do not do laundry or major chores on Sunday. I also do not garden, sew, or make bread on Sundays. Sunday is a day of rest for us. I try to prepare as much of the day's meals as possible on Saturday.

I know some of you are surprised that I use a dryer. Our dryer is natural gas. Our water heater, stove, oven, and central heat are also gas. My bill most months is around $33. The only loads I hang up are things that cannot be put in the dryer, which are usually 2 loads of delicates per week. Using the dryer saves me a lot of time as well.

My house is a one-story house. The laundry room is right off the kitchen, which I love. We set up the dining area right next to the kitchen. During school time, their schoolwork is done at the table. If they don't need help for a few minutes, I can work in the kitchen. If they do need help, I am just a few steps away.

I don't leave the house most days. When I do run errands it is usually at night after the children are asleep. Other times I will go in the early morning (while my husband stays home with the children and makes sure they do chores) or occasionally on Saturdays. If I have more than one place to go, I try to get them on the same trip, so I'll do two or three stores on one trip out of the house.

When I am pregnant or I have a new baby (so every other year!) the schedule is a bit different, as I am sleeping more/nursing/changing more diapers.

That afternoon quiet time to work on projects is pretty important to me. If it happens and I get things done during that time, I feel good about myself and my day. If it doesn't happen, I find that I feel a lot less satisfied. How well it goes depends on how well the children decide to nap/read/play without fighting or coming out of their rooms. If I don't get planned projects done, you can be assured that that is what happened several days that week!

In a few upcoming posts, I'll be talking about some ways that I try to maximize my time so that I can use it well. We all get 24 hours in a day, and I like to make the most of them.
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