Newly married, I was clueless about most things, so I looked to the advice of women who were in a later stage of marriage than I was. One of those women was Claudia. She freely offered her life hacks! She said I should put all the misplaced things at the bottom of the stairs so I can make one trip. She also recommended drinking boiled pineapple water when I was on my period to help with bloating and cramps. I loved listening to her advice and hearing how she made her life easier through different routines.
Before my son was born, we moved. But like when I was newly married, as a new mom I looked to experienced mothers for advice. Through them, I gleaned wisdom and parenting hacks! Here are five gems I’ve collected through the years.
Hack #1: Limit Clothes
Laundry has been a journey. A couple of years ago, I changed how I did laundry, and it revolutionized how I thought of chores and domestic challenges. I realized I was washing a lot of clean clothes from my kids. I realized when my kids looked in their dressers for a particular shirt, they would pull out every shirt in the drawer. Then, when it was time to bring their dirty clothes to the laundry room, they would pick up all the discarded *CLEAN* shirts and put them in the laundry basket. I was washing their clean clothes over and over again.
I remembered a friend’s advice, “Less is more” and got rid of all my kid’s extra clothes. I gave my kids access to only a week’s worth of clothes. (GASP! I know. It was as hard as it sounds, especially since my daughter has so many cute dresses.) But this is what my kids are learning: if they throw clean clothes on the floor, they have to pick them up; otherwise, they won’t have enough clean clothes for the week.
If their dirty clothes don’t make it into the laundry basket, they won’t have enough clean clothes the following week (which generally means they will have to wear a dirty shirt over again). Note: I only do this with clothes, not undergarments! My kids are young enough their clothes don’t get too stinky day to day but old enough this is a great tool to help them learn the natural consequences of the laundry process.
Hack #2: Employ the Power of Two
I’ve used color to distinguish whose plate is whose (specifically helpful to discover who didn’t bring their plate to the dishwasher and left it on the lunch table). But my favorite household hack is the hack of having only two of something. This works with many things, but I use it for water bottles, towels, and bed sheets.
The trick? You only have two of those items. One is in use and the other is dirty. When the dirty item is cleaned, then I switch them.
Why do I like this system? First of all, it makes my kids responsible for their water bottles. Before this, I can’t count how many expensive water bottles we lost! With fewer water bottles, they are easier to keep track of. Second, it creates a natural rhythm. I’m not smelling a towel, wondering how long it has been used because there are only two. And since I already have a laundry process, the towels (and sheets) get washed regularly.
Hack #3: Store Adventure Accessories in Your Car
I love to extend an adventure. When we lived near the ocean, a mom told me she always has swimsuits and towels in the back of her car in case she needed to make an unexpected detour to the beach. She also advised that a gallon of water helps wash off sandy feet when it’s time to go home. I’ve modified this advice for Nebraska’s no-ocean adventures. Depending on the season, I have snow gear or rain gear ready.
I have also found that an extra gallon of water comes in handy for more than just washing off sandy feet. We’ve used it to refill water bottles, wash off muddy boots, and clean scraped knees. We’ve also started to store a soccer ball and basketball in the back of our vehicle. If we stop unexpectedly at a park (or even at a large parking lot), my son has pulled out a sports ball to kick or dribble away the time.
Hack #4 Discover the Art of a Picnic
Having extra provisions in the back of my van is just one step. If I know we are going to be out and about, I pack a picnic. The menu varies depending on the weather. If it’s chilly, we have tomato soup and hard-boiled eggs. If it’s hot, we go for cucumbers and beef jerky. Or, if I don’t have much time to pack, I just grab some bread and faithful peanut butter and jelly. When I pack a picnic, we don’t have to rush home to eat, and we can enjoy our time. And I love eating al fresco with a playground nearby! Besides, I’d rather have the birds clean up the crumbs than sweep them myself. Even better than a picnic at the park? A picnic with friends! Whenever we can, we invite friends into the mix.
Hack #5: Buy an Old Canvas to Paint
When my son was two years old, I bought a large canvas from a thrift store for a couple of dollars. We also bought white paint from a craft store to cover the original painting of a jazz band. Through the years, we have painted and repainted the canvas numerous times. It has been a boredom buster but also a conversation starter. Not long ago, we added our family values to the bottom. As it hangs prominently above our staircase, it gives my kids a visual reminder of what we want to embody as a family, and it shows guests our ever-changing creativity.
What mom doesn’t love a good hack?
I recently read Greg McKeown’s book, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters. In the last chapter, he wrote, “In each moment we have a choice: Do I choose the heavier or the lighter path?” ¹ As moms, we have so many things on our minds. Sometimes the mental load can overwhelm us. But when we choose the easiest way, it makes life a little lighter.
Why not make the little things easier so we have time and energy for the most important things?
 Greg McKeown, Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most (NY: Random House Large Print, 2021), 258.