17 Jan How I Saved 10+ Hours a Week on Homemaking
I grew up in a traditional household where my dad went to work every day and my mom stayed home and took care of me and my brother. The house was always clean, the laundry always done and folded, and there was a meal on the table every night. It’s safe to say those traditional values have rubbed off on me, and I aspire to take care of our home in a similar way.
But let’s face it – my husband and I have a very different lifestyle to how it was when I was growing up. We both have full-time jobs and commute into the city and back every day, so have only a few precious hours left in the evenings. Weekends are often spent catching up on errands and visiting family, so there’s not much time left for homemaking.
The fact that I have limited time to devote to homemaking doesn’t make it any less important to me. Taking care of our home is something that I take pride in and enjoy. For a while now, I’ve been on a mission to figure out how we can incorporate traditional homemaking activities into our busy schedule. I have found that it is completely possible, and is often just about doing things in a slightly different way.
I’ve been on a mission to figure out how we can incorporate traditional homemaking activities into our busy schedule.
For this post, I have outlined what we have found to be the most time consuming household tasks in our lives, the problems associated with them, and my tips for how we’ve been able to make them more efficient.
I have always found anything to do with meals to be incredibly time consuming. Just think of all the tasks involved on getting a meal on the table:
- Find a recipe/decide what to cook
- Make a shopping list
- Go to the grocery store, and run around finding specific ingredients you need
- Take the groceries home and put them away
- Cook the meal
- Clean up kitchen and dishes
Phew! It’s no wonder many of us feel overwhelmed at the thought of getting a meal prepared every night. But not to worry – here’s some tips for how you can make mealtime a lot less hectic.
Plan meals in advance
It’s usually around 7pm by the time we get home from work, so the last thing we want to be doing is trying to figure out what to cook. While we used to try to figure out what we wanted to eat while we were at the grocery store, we now plan a week in advance what we’re going to make, and get all the ingredients we need in our twice weekly shop. It means that when it comes time to cook, we don’t need to think about it, and we have found this makes all the difference in the evenings after work.
Optimise your grocery shopping
Going to the grocery store, finding everything we needed, and bringing it back home used to take us a few hours and was something we only had time for on weekends. When we moved to the UK, I learned that many people order their groceries online and have them delivered. I realise this isn’t as common yet in North America, although there are more of these services becoming available. We order groceries online twice a week based on what we need for our planned recipes, and when we notice we’re running out of something, we just add it to the cart. The other advantage is that this allows us to keep track of what we’re spending much more easily. At the grocery store, it’s easy to spend more than we realise, but by doing it online and seeing our total before we check out, we’re able to stick to our budget.
If you don’t have delivery services in your area yet, you can still save time at the supermarket by getting familiar with the layout, and creating your grocery list in groupings related to where they are in the store.
Double your recipe
Making a larger portion of whatever you’re cooking doesn’t take much more effort, but it sure saves a lot of time when you don’t have to cook again the next day. My opinion is that if you’re going to the effort of cooking, it should be enough for at least two dinners, and maybe even a packed lunch for the final day. We take turns cooking, so by making enough to last for a couple days, each of us only needs to cook once or twice throughout the work week. The other benefit is that we also save money because we’re cooking in bulk as opposed to making many small meals, which means more ingredients and potential wastage.
If you’re going to the effort of cooking, it should be enough for at least two dinners, and maybe even a packed lunch for the final day.
Limit active cooking time
active cooking time. We rely a lot on dishes that are a bit more passive like stews and roasts because it’s easy to toss all the ingredients into a single pan, and allows us to do other things while it cooks.
Whenever we find a recipe we really like and is quick and easy to make, we save it onto a shared Pinterest board. Not only does this help us remember to re-use it – it also saves us time sourcing recipes in the future.
By using the above methods, we have found that we save hours per week on putting meals together. As an added advantage, we eat a lot more healthy because we’re more conscious of what we’re choosing when we plan and buy in advance. We’re much more likely to make impulse decisions in the grocery store when we’re hungry, and tempted by convenience meals and unhealthy snacks.
2. Cleaning & Tidying
When my husband and I lived in a small apartment, keeping it clean kept us busy, but for the most part was manageable. We’d split up the tasks and usually try to get it done Saturday mornings, so that we could enjoy a nice clean apartment after a hard week’s work. Eventually we started doing a quick mid-week tidy-up, because we found that it made the weekend clean a little easier – but we started to feel like we were always cleaning.
Since recently buying a house, we have found that it’s become much more challenging to keep it in order. While it’s not a huge house, it’s much bigger than our one-bedroom apartment, and we’ve brought all our belongings into our house that had previously been in storage.
While I actually do enjoy cleaning & tidying, it’s often a little discouraging as it can feel like it never ends. Here’s my tips on how to make it all feel a little more manageable.
Minimise your belongings
If you’ve read my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ll know how helpful I found Marie Kondo’s advice on keeping your house in order. My review goes into more detail, but Marie’s advice is quite simple: if you want to get your house in order, you must start by discarding items which do not “spark joy” for you. For the items you decide to keep, you must decide where to store them.
According to Marie, clutter occurs for two possible reasons: either it’s unclear where things belong, or it’s too much effort to put them away. After about a month of using the KonMari method, I have found it infinitely easier to keep our house in order. Now that we’ve reduced the volume of things we own, and the things we’ve decided to keep have a designated place in our home, tidying simply means returning items to the place they belong.
Clutter occurs for two possible reasons: either it’s unclear where things belong, or it’s too much effort to put them away.
If you haven’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I would highly recommend it for it’s useful tips on getting your house in order and keeping it that way.
Get support if you need it
When we bought our house, we started to feel like we could use some help and discussed getting a cleaner. I wasn’t sure at first. To me, having a cleaner always felt like a luxury for people who are really wealthy. I’ve also always taken a lot of pride in keeping my house clean, so had some feelings of guilt about the possibility of having someone else do it – but decided to give it a try.
After looking into it more, we realised that cleaners in our area are actually quite reasonably priced. We were able to make up for the cost by cutting our budget slightly in other areas. Our cleaner comes for two hours on Saturday mornings, and now instead of using that time to clean, we use it for other things like doing our budget, running errands, blogging, or sometimes just relaxing – because there’s nothing wrong with that either.
When we were first talking to our cleaner about what we were looking for, we were really clear with what tasks we wanted her to focus on. For example, we asked her to focus first on what are the most time consuming tasks for us – which are the floors and bathroom.
Aside from the time we’ve gotten back by having help, I think the biggest change for me is that I’m not constantly thinking about the fact that I need to clean anymore. I realise now that was contributing a lot to my feelings of being overwhelmed.
I think the biggest change for me is that I’m not constantly thinking about the fact that I need to clean anymore.
My suggestion isn’t necessarily that everyone gets a cleaner. It’s about looking at the tasks where a lot of time is spent, and perhaps you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, and consider having some outside support in those areas.
3. Sharing responsibilities
When you and your partner both work outside of the home full-time like we do, tasks and responsibilities around the house simply can’t all fall onto one person. While there are certain homemaking tasks which I truly enjoy and want to spend my time on, there are many others which must be shared between us, so that neither of us feels overly burdened. This can often be very difficult, particularly when you and your partner have differing standards on how a house should be kept. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to this, but here’s a few examples of how my husband and I share our household responsibilities.
While there are certain homemaking tasks which I truly enjoy and want to spend my time on, there are many others which must be shared between us, so that neither of us feels overly burdened.
Split tasks based on strengths
There are many ways to split up tasks between you and your partner. Some people may prefer to alternate tasks from week to week, whereas my husband and I generally like to split up our tasks based on what we’re best at. For example, I tend to be a lot more neat and orderly when it comes to belongings, so I’m responsible for organising our home, folding and putting away laundry, and packing the groceries away when they arrive. My husband, on the other hand, is better with admin and scheduling tasks, so he’s responsible for ordering the groceries and supplies we need, as well as budgeting our expenses.
Have routines and clear responsibilities
Back when we first started living together, my husband and I didn’t have much of a schedule. This meant tasks were often done at the very last minute, like getting groceries when the fridge was completely empty. This led to stress because we never knew when tasks were going to happen and who was responsible for them.
We’ve now gotten into much more of a routine – we have specific days for things like ordering and receiving groceries, cooking, and cleaning. Just as importantly, we know who is responsible for the task each day – which means that we don’t have to constantly annoy each other by asking when things will get done.
Getting into a routine can take some time, but we have found that there are some simple tools which can help:
Wunderlist is pretty much a to-do list, with the added advantages of being able to assign people to tasks and set recurring tasks so that it reminds you at the appropriate time each week. We also have a shared general to-do list, where we capture anything that randomly comes up, like needing to buy a gift for someone or buying train tickets for the weekend.
Having a shared calendar allows us to be able to see each other’s schedules and know what’s coming up. When we want to organise activities with friends and family, it’s easy to take a look at the calendar and see when we have a free weekend.
Make time each other
By the time we’ve worked all day, cooked and cleaned up dinner, and have taken care of any other tasks we need to, there’s often very little time left over. But I personally believe that homemaking is about more than checklists and tasks. It’s about having a happy home. That’s why I think it’s absolutely essential to set aside a small amount of time for each other every day. For my husband and I, it’s usually nothing extravagant – on weekday evenings it often just means watching a show together and having some snacks, playing a videogame for an hour, or even both just reading our books together.
I personally believe that homemaking is about more than checklists and tasks. It’s about having a happy home.
As a matter of interest, I wanted to see how much time we’ve been able to save as a result of our efforts to find efficiencies. This graph illustrates a before and after of how much time we spend on household activities during a typical week:
Hours a week spent on household tasks before: 21 hours
Hours a week spent on household tasks after: 9.75 hours
Hours saved a week: 11.25 hours
I was surprised to discover that we’ve saved ourselves nearly half a day’s worth of time! It’s no wonder we now find ourselves able to enjoy a little downtime on the weekends as opposed to continually trying to keep up a never-ending to-do list.
Balancing work and taking care of our home is of course still challenging, but after making the adjustments I’ve outlined, it’s went from feeling completely overwhelming to mostly manageable. For every household, time spent on tasks will vary, so I encourage you to start simply by observing and taking note of where your time is going over a period of a few weeks. You can then look at finding efficiencies for your most time consuming tasks, which I have found can be done a few ways:
- Forward planning
- Creating routines
- Getting outside help
Remember that while the idea is to make things easier, getting into new habits can take a little more effort at the start, so don’t feel discouraged.
I’m continually looking for ways of incorporating homemaking into a busy working life, so if you have any other tips, please feel free to leave a comment, or contact me on social media or by email. Remember to check back on my blog, as I’ll continue to share what I’m learning about this subject. I think any working families are likely to be facing similar challenges, and I hope that these tips can help lighten the burden and making everyday homemaking feel a lot more attainable.