In our household, with both parents working full-time and three growing kids under the age of seven, keeping the house in tip-top condition feels like a losing proposition. One of those parents having a constantly fluctuating work schedule makes matters even worse.
Time management is critical to getting things done. In a given day, I assign approximately two hours to cleaning, organizing, and home maintenance. Unfortunately, it generally takes a lot more time to pick up after the children—and even longer than that to chase after them to clean it themselves!
I used to say that just having a set of good tools is all the DIYer needs, but I have expanded that to include a whole different set of tools for time management: Minutes add up, and saving wasted minutes can add an hour or more to your day.
A load of laundry may take extra time if an item fails to dry properly and now has to be run through the drier again.
If pots and pans require a Brillo pad to get the gunk off them, all that scrubbing can add an extra quarter hour to your nightly dishwashing.
Running out of fabric softener may ruin your other plans on laundry day, because you now have to run to the store.
If you have a space set aside for items you use regularly and have spares ready, it will save you minutes. A shelf in the laundry room strictly for laundry items means you can just bust open a box of suds right there, and you’ll know in advance if you’re out of fabric softener.
Keeping the dish soap with your other dishwashing supplies (sponges, brushes, towels, soap pills for the dishwasher, etc.) means you don’t have to waste time rooting around under the sink.
If you’re on a budget, you don’t need fancy special containers to organize these items. Consider just recycling large food containers, like cottage cheese, butter, or whipped cream tubs. The point is to have what you need handy when you need it.
Other cleaning supplies to keep at the ready include non-poisonous multi-cleaner, antibacterial wipes, and paper towels.
Paper towels may seem like a given, but if you get in the habit of drying your hands with a cloth towel, you will save money, save trees, and have paper towels ready when you actually need them for cleanup that is unplanned but anticipated.
Pets can be just as much of a handful as kids. Urine is difficult to get out of carpet, fabric, or other absorbent surfaces. Keeping spot-clean products on-hand will save you stains and smell as well as time.
Store pet food, kitty litter, litter box liners, and grooming supplies in one or two places, so you can find them when you need them and know when you run out. There’s nothing worse than having to choose between running to the store for kitty litter and being late to work, versus waiting until evening by which time your whole house smells like cat pee.
Lastly, have a place set aside in your house for heavier items (e.g. a carpet shampooer) and for cleaning products that must be kept away from children and pets (e.g., bleach).
The Tao of Do-It-Yourself is intended to de-mystify simple home and auto maintenance projects. It is not a substitute for professional repair services. If you cannot identify the problem you are trying to fix, refer to the proper specialist right away.
A.T. Miller is an electrician’s apprentice who builds and wires control panels for power systems. He is also a cartoonist, writer, and web/graphic designer. At home, he is an amateur repairman, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and auto mechanic. His most important job is that of husband and father.