Sometimes life feels like one l o n g to-do list. We just get 3 tasks done and then there are 4 more at the top of our list. However if we are regularly taking steps to simplify we will gradually have less and less to do. Many small steps over a year can free up untold time and headspace. If we do want to simplify then one thing to try cut out is double handling. Double handling doubles the work of a task. Conversely, cutting out double handling can halve our tasks!
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I picked up a trailer load of wood – mill ends from a mill. They are brilliant for firewood as they are cheap and are handy small pieces. My husband had a plan all worked out to make a platform on the ground, and then for us to move all that wood out of the trailer and stack it on the platform so it could dry all summer in the sun. That way it would be super dry for burning in our fire next winter. Then he wanted us to move it all again at the end of summer, from the platform into our woodshed. So many steps and many hours involved.
The reality was that the mill ends just ended up sitting in the trailer for weeks. So last weekend we had a talk. I mentioned how we could save a ton of time and energy if we just skipped those middle steps and just dumped the wood directly in the woodshed. I said we could leave the shed door open all summer so they could dry out. My husband is really serious about having dry firewood but he agreed. It was not the dream plan but by skipping double handling we reduced this multi-staged project down to a one hour job! So my daughter and I threw the mill ends directly from the trailer into the woodshed. Done. ✅ Freed up headspace.
After the wood moving, I was sitting under our mulberry tree picking mulberries, and I got to thinking about this double handling thing in regards to running the home. It is very easy to inadvertently turn a simple task into a much bigger one. We may do that because we want to do something in an ideal way, but we often do it just because we never stopped to think of a better way.
I started thinking hard about our own household and how we run it. I realised there are a lot of ways I have already cut out double handling in our home. I don’t like stress and so I try to simplify anything I can. I thought then it would be a good thing to actually write an article on. I want to inspire you to find ways to make running your own home easier!
I would much rather sit and chat about life with one of my kids than slave away over tasks. How about you?
Here are some ways to simplify by cutting out double handling.
Plan our missions! Constant driving trips can suck the life out of me and rob me from being with the family at home. To combat that I try to group errands together instead of going out several times. It takes a bit of planning (with geography in mind) but it is worth it. What helps is having lists. I have one on my phone called TO BUY. I have headings for places like Kmart, the hardware store and IKEA. I don’t go until we need quite a few things at either of those places, or if I will be doing another errand close by. Less time in traffic. More time with my beautiful tribe.
Keep things exactly where they are used. Extra bath towels can be kept rolled on a shelf right in the bathroom (e.g. one spare per person). (Maybe up high if you have little kids who want to use all at once!) Extra toilet paper can be kept in the toilet room on a shelf. Extra dish detergent in the kitchen. Then you and your family are not forever going to find and get things.
Buy multiples of basics and multiples of things that are hard to find. If I am having to hunt out something in the supermarket then I always grab a few extra to save me that hunt again next month. For basics that we always run out of like dish detergent, apples, toilet paper, and milk I always get quite a lot. I also keep some UHT milk. I don’t want to have to go to the supermarket mid week JUST because we ran out of a basic item.
Take something with you when you walk from A to B. When we leave a room in our home we can scan for anything that doesn’t belong there and take it with us. Teaching this to the whole family means tidying up is going on bit by bit. You are anyway walking from A to B. Don’t leave empty handed. This one little hack means we don’t need to do a big tidy up every weekend.
Food shop online and have it home delivered. I have done this in busy seasons and it saved me half a day a week. The groceries were delivered right to my kitchen bench! I did not need to drive to the shop, deal with a trolley, hunt out all the items, wait at a checkout, load them in my car, and then load them from my car to the house. I set up a list on the supermarket website and went back to it each time. If you spend over a certain amount and choose a less popular time slot you can get free or very cheap delivery.
A basket at the base of the stairs. If you have stairs, have a small basket at the bottom, and at the top, for things that are waiting to go up or down, so you don’t go up or down constantly. When a basket is full take it with you and put it all away in one hit. Or get the kids to do it!
Carpool. Network with parents in your suburb and school as much as you can and get phone numbers. Then you can share lifts for school, camps, youth group, concerts etc. This saves everyone a ton of time, energy and petrol. It also means you can be home more with the other siblings who did not need to go somewhere. When I feel shy to approach parents I don’t know well I start by offering a lift to their child first. For school runs I am in a group of 3 mums and we have a set routine all year long. So smooth! When I moved here I called the school and asked them to connect me with some other mums who lived near me. Instead of driving every day I only have to go once or twice a week. It also helped my daughter and I make friends with those families!
Foodclub. In Sweden there is a concept called Matlag, which translates to Foodclub or Foodteam, which is when a few families become a ‘club’ and take turns making dinner and hosting one night a week. It could be every Tuesday night. If you were 3 families you would only prepare and cook every third Tuesday. This means a night off from cooking most Tuesdays and also a guaranteed fun night every week. Community life is wonderful for our kids too.
Things that need to go somewhere, can go to the car. Some women have a basket in their car specifically for things that need to be dropped somewhere else. They can check it when heading off and try incorporate that item drop off into another errand.
Not having doubles. Not having special or extra sets of things in our house saves a lot of handling, storage, cost and maintenance. For example, instead of having an extra set of special plates and glasses and knives and forks for visitors, in our house we enjoy our best set every single day, and when visitors come too. We don’t have extra sets. If we do have a large number coming over I pull out the picnic basket which has 6 of everything.
Don’t feed the pets every day! Having a heart attack? Don’t worry, our pets eat every day but we have large food containers and they can eat when they want. This saves us always having to think about it. Our chickens have a long tube feeder and I only have to fill it with grain every 10 days. On the very first day we set it up they ate like maniacs all day long. But after that the novelty wore off and they relaxed and now only eat a modest amount when they need it. They might have small brains but they know exactly how much they need to eat. Previously when food only came once a day they ate more than they needed, probably feeling less secure about their food supply. We have also done the same with the various dogs we have had over the last 20 years. With their kibble. We used a large container for kibble and refilled it every 3-5 days. Our dogs were never one gram too fat or too skinny. I don’t know if it would work for all breeds (we had terriers, and poodle crosses) but we saw that after the initial couple of days of eating too much the novelty wore off. From then on then they ate exactly how much they needed. And we never had to worry if we were late getting home. It has also meant our pets are very calm as they are content food wise. I think both they and we felt that life was simpler that way.
Hands free bill paying! There are many bills we pay every single month: electricity, the mortgage and rates, rent, water, mobile phone, landline and internet, school fees, etc etc. Instead of devoting time and headspace on this, every month, you can set them up for auto payment. In order to do this it is imperative and helpful to set up a separate account from ones everyday account. We have added up the total annual cost of each bill and then divided by 12 months. We then set up auto payments for these average monthly amounts. You could also do this fortnightly instead of monthly if it suited your pay cycle better. You can set up recurring payments on your own bank – that you control, or, direct debits that the company billing you will draw out of your account. Once all set up, add up the total debits per months and transfer that amount over when you get paid. We find this system is especially brilliant when you are travelling, or sick. I have also set up this system for my mum who is at an age now when she doesn’t want to think about complex things.
How many cups are on your bench each night? Every day you might have 6 drinks of water. If everyone grabs a clean cup each time that is 6 per day. If you are 6 in the house this means 36 cups every single evening to crowd the dishwasher! Replace 6 for 1 by having a colour coded or marked cup for each family member, permanently on the bench. You could wash 200 less cups per week. Not kidding! Do the maths.
Don’t double handle the mail. When we grab our mail we can save double handling and much paper clutter by not letting it out of our hands until we have binned anything we can and dropped the rest in our inbox or filing system. A great inbox is one that fits A4 appears standing upright and lives in a central place like the kitchen. If we have a home business we definitely need a separate inbox for that mail.
Cook once eat twice. It doesn’t take much extra time to make a double batch when we cook. Then dinner is made for the next night! Another option is to bulk cook on the weekend and freeze portions. Whether we have a big family or are single, having some nights off from cooking each week is bliss. It also means we won’t get so tired of cooking. And, a freezer meal is healthier and cheaper than takeout when we are tired. Great things to cook in bulk and freeze are bolognese sauce, curries, casseroles and soups. Vital: get the rest of the family to cook some nights too.
Two simplifiers for your washing routine. The first is to hang anything you can on hangers so they can go directly from the line to the wardrobe. That skips a step! (We hang them all on a clothes rack to dry and it is easy to bring the whole thing in if rains comes.) Secondly let the family sort out their own dirty laundry into colours by having a few hampers for sorting next to the washing machine. Saves you doing it. More on washing here: Mum-hacks. Getting on top of the washing.
All these hacks can add up and save countless hours of housework each week. Once you get into the mindset you will start to see when you are double handling and you can try think up a better method!
That might mean you can rest on the sofa for a bit!
Hugs to you this weekend,
Next I will be writing about our friends on their family escape year in New Zealand. Look out for ‘Adult Gap Year part 2’.
The To-Do notepad at top is from Kikki-K.com 😊