Simple steps to save you time

These tips aren’t revolutionary, but they’re simple ways to save time when working around the house.

  • Open kitchen cabinet doors before putting dishes away, and then close all of them when you’re finished. You won’t waste time opening and closing doors.
  • If you have a dishwasher, wipe crumbs off the counter into the open dishwasher. Keeps your hands and floor clean, and speeds up cleanup.
  • Dust from high to low, and sweep after dusting.
  • Always store your keys in the same place.
  • Replace batteries in clocks, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, and flashlights all on the same day, twice a year.

What simple steps help save you time around your house? Add your tips in the comments.

35 Comments for “Simple steps to save you time”

  1. posted by sabrina on

    If I open all the cabinet doors before putting dishes away, I’ll waste time getting medical attention because I smacked my head on a cabinet door. I’m an incredible klutz.

    I grab all the things that go into the same cabinet out of the dishwasher at the same time, so I only have to open and shut each cabinet door once instead.

  2. posted by gypsy packer on

    Spray surfaces with disinfectant, then go do another task. These cleaners usually take fifteen minutes to disinfect completely.

    Put bedding in the washer before you dust the bedroom. That way, you don’t get a face full of sneeze powder when you pick up the textiles.

    Dust first, then vacuum instead of sweeping. Sweep on the days you don’t dust. Vacuum on the days you dust, to get most or all of the dust instead of sending it flying back into the air.

  3. posted by Kim on

    Get coffee ready to go the night before. In the AM just tap the “on” switch. (This also saves money over the the more expensive timed-coffee models that do the same thing).

  4. posted by Susan on

    My mom taught me to never leave a room without taking something with me that belonged somewhere else. For example, if I’m watching tv in the den, and decide to go freshen up in the bathroom….I look around in the den to see if there’s a stray item that belongs in the bathroom and take it with me. If there’s nothing, I check for more items on my way to the bathroom.

  5. posted by Julie Bestry on

    I’m afraid I’m another who would injure myself if all my upper (and or maybe even lower) cabinet doors were open. Instead, I open one set (left/right) of cabinet doors, open the dishwasher, and put away everything that goes in those cabinets. Then I move methodically from cabinet to cabinet, and put away the silverware last.

    Either way, though, Erin’s point is apt — have a system so that you’re not wasting steps, whether they are real footsteps or actions (like re-opening cabinets).

    I’m no cook, but the cook’s rule of “clean as you go” makes sure you’re never dealing with more than one mess at a time. Similarly (and newbie parents are appalled), but I grew up with the rule of one-toy-at-a-time, and if you took out a new toy or game, you had to put away the one you were playing with. I still follow that rule with books, magazines, CDs, whatever. If you tire of what you’re playing with, put it away before getting out something else.

  6. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    I live by the rule if it takes less than 60 seconds and it needs to be done/put away, then DO IT NOW! I try to live by the 2 minute rule, if it takes less than 2 minutes just go ahead and do it. It is much better than having all these little butty undone things staring back at you as you try to work on or enjoy other things!

  7. posted by grace on

    Today was laundry day. Ugh! To make this faster in the future, the putting away clothes part, I decided to make sure to take off my clothes without turning them inside out before putting them in the hamper. This way when the clothes are washed and come out of the dryer I don’t have to fumble to get the outside out and can go directly to folding. Lol. Hope this makes sense.

  8. posted by Sue on

    I was a firm believer in saving steps,too, when I was younger, but as I get older, I have decided we need the little exercises for these small day to day chores to keep ourselves fit. Personally,we have changed over to riding mowers, and now we wish we could walk a bit when mowing for the exercise. I have always thought simply walking, like a lot of folks do for exercise, was ridiculous with all the moving we must do in a day.We have doubled up on chores to save steps where ever we could, only to find we are not helping ourselves in this stage of life.Now if you have a medical reason for not walking or lifting, then you must change the way you do things,but if you are younger,with a full time job,then yes. You probably need to find ways to save yourself a few steps.
    I’m not contradicting what the author has said, but simply saying that different stages of life require different considerations and adjustments for different activities.

  9. posted by Leslie on

    I take quite a few vitamin supplements and some prescription meds each day. I find that I save a few minutes every morning if I take the time on Sunday to sort all the pills into one of those containers that has a compartment for each day. That way, I’m not opening the same individual pill bottles every day.

  10. posted by Ryan Bright on

    I spend about 10 minutes each evening preparing coffee, breakfast, and lunch for the following day. The coffee is set to begin brewing when I wake up so that it’s ready to pour when I am ready to walk out the door in the morning.

    I have a “routine” to-do list with the bulk of weekly items falling on Sunday. This includes routine cleaning, laundry, and groceries; so I’m able to knock these tasks out quickly without getting distracted. There’s a 45-minute timer on my phone for each step in the laundry cycle, so I throw the clothing in and move to the next part of my day. I maintain a grocery list throughout the week as I run out of or think of new items to be added, so the trip is fairly seamless. As for cleaning, I try to clean as I go to prevent any large undertakings. It’s that same philosophy that keeps me at inbox zero.

    The overall of summary of how I approach house chores and other tasks:
    1. Minimize steps
    2. Minimize distractions
    3. Utilize time as wisely as possible

  11. posted by Malcolm on

    My housework philosophy is that we spend too much time doing things which do not need to be done at all. For example: spending time (sometimes a lot of time) looking for lost items – keys, wallet, spectacles, magazine articles, etc. So the best way to completely avoid these unnecessary tasks is to be a bit more careful about what happens to these things in between usages.

    Since we started using a “drop zone” at the front door (instead of sometimes near the front door; sometimes on the kitchen bench; sometimes on the laundry bench; sometimes left in the car – you get the drift) we are spending much less time searching for things. Now if I can just persuade my wife to do what I do and tear interesting magazine articles out for filing, then throw the magazine away ….

  12. posted by Richard Curnow on

    Re dishwasher, I agree about the skull-cracking problem (been there, done that). I find it’s easiest to unload the whole machine onto a *CLEAN* worktop or table next to it first – during which your feet don’t move once. Then you open the cupboards and move whole piles of plates, 10-somes of mugs (2 per digit!) etc at a time to the cupboards.

  13. posted by Nina on

    Re the battery change: Unless it’s something vital like a smoke alarm I wouldnt change them untill I see that they are used up.

    Some things that save time for me:
    - clean the kitchen or empty the dishwasher while you are cooking.
    - designate a day or time to do laundry: that way it wont pile up.
    - store things you need (wallet, keys, ect.) in the same place.
    - prepare what you need to bring with you the night before: I’m always in a hurry in the morning and don’t have time to go looking for things.
    - Hang your T-shirts on hangers to dry: they will crinkle less and you can save on time to iron clothes. Only iron the things you really need to (like shirts or dress pants).
    - Open mail when it arrives and put it into the right place.
    - in general dealing with things right away saves time as you don’t spend time trying to remember all the things that need to be done!

  14. posted by momoboys on

    1. Keep two active lists in the house. One on the fridge for food items that need to be purchased. Mount a second list inside the linen closet of main bathroom for toiletries that need to be purchased. Train family to do use these lists. When heading out to do shopping, grab both & go!

    2. Do as much the night before as possible (clothing & breakfast dishes laid out, bags/backpacks packed, coffee ready to hit “start,” lunches made & in fridge).

    3. Regarding kids and their inevitable dawdling, don’t be afraid to bribe/incentivize a little. I have a 2 and 4 year old; no tv or play til the potty has been used. No breakfast til they’re dressed. Period. (I help the little one snap, but he can do the rest). And, since I instituted the “whoever gets in their carseat on time and is sitting IN it nicely gets a candy corn” rule we have never been late to daycare again.

  15. posted by Panig on

    I have decluttered my refrigerator ( not double door type), so that I have one wide shelf completely dedicated to left overs. This is also high enough to hold soup pots, large casserole dishes etc. When I cook in these pots, any leftovers go directly into the refrigerator (in the same pot). Later, I just take it out of the refrigerator and reheat the food. This way it saves me some work in transferring the food into other containers and cleaning these containers later.

    Other things, in general, I have decluttered to a point that most of my day to day things have a specific place for them. Example, my purse, my car keys, shoes and my coats are all in one specific place only. I have coupons in my purse in one envelop in one side of the purse only. I have my shopping bags in the trunk of my car. It is amazing how fast I can get out the door now. What took me 30 minutes before, it takes about 5 minutes now.

  16. posted by thesuburbanminimalist on

    I only use one laundry basket for our household (two adults, two young children). You read that right: all the lights, darks, towels, delicates (these in mesh laundry bags) get thrown in together. I wash on a cold cycle, hang the delicates and lay out the sweaters, and then dry everything on Perm Press. This gets done in the early evening. So far, so good.

  17. posted by tordis on

    - every evening i set a timer for 5 minutes and tidy in a rush

    - i have a nice basket on a small drawer, where everything that doesn’t have a place right now gets (so it doesn’t clutter the rooms). once in a while i walk around with this basket and put (or throw…) the things away.

    - i NEVER do the ironing. i line dry my clothes very neatly (using hangers for t-shirts) and don’t own clothes that have to be ironed (like silk or satin) – it helps a lot being a student.

    - before i start cooking i fill the sink with soap and water and put the used stuff into it while cooking – and wash the dishes while cooking (no mess in the kitchen after cooking!)

    - i have fixed special cleaning days. like monday: shower+basin, tuesday: sink+oven, wednesday: dusting+vacuuming, thursday: laundry and so forth. tasks always are more manageable when divided in mini-tasks! (families can divide these tasks between their members. when i was 6 years old i was nominated as basin minister :D )

    - every first of the month i clean out the cupboards where i store food and the fridge. i throw away stuff that went bad and write the food that is still edible on a list and think about dishes to cook with it without having to shop (much) – and cook them the next days!

    - when i cook something that is easy to be frozen (like chili con carne or soup) i double the amount and – freeze it. saves lives on lazy sundays ;)

    (sorry about my english, not my mothertongue)

  18. posted by Sistaminuten on

    Menu planning is on top my list.
    I’d say do the final cleaning at night.
    Don’t stress too much.

  19. posted by Allegra on

    I think opening all the cupboard doors when putting things away is one of the least good ideas I’ve seen on this site. Having opened one cupboard door at a time all my life, I know that I would hit my head or bark my shins – or worse – on the open doors as I turned back and forth from dishwasher to cupboards. Better, if you really think the minuscule amount of time saved is worth worrying about, just remove all the cupboard doors and have open shelves instead.

  20. posted by Amandine on

    I second the clean-as-you-go method in the kitchen while cooking. I always look for what I can clean up or wash when I get a break in the prep/cooking action.

    I rinse the vegetable strainer with hot water immediately after use and drop in the drainer to dry. I hate having to clean that thing and this simple step ensures I never have to.

    I fill the cooking pots with hot water & dish soap to soak in the sink while we are eating. Makes cleanup very easy.

  21. posted by Kari on

    Glad to k ow I am not the only one who would lose an eye or something from running into the open doors. The way I save time unloading the dishwasher is that I unload the bottom rack onto the kitchen island, sorting where stuff goes as I unload, then I get it all put away, and then repeat for the top rack. I do the same thing with laundry; as I empty the baskets on the couch (I fold while watching tv), I sort into general piles–tops, socks and underwear, pants and shorts, towels, ironing. Then I fold by category, starting with shirts, then pants then socks and undies; I also put them back in the laundry baskets in that order, so putting clothes away takes much less time, since everything is pre-sorted.

  22. posted by Seamus on

    I am amazed at how many things only take a minute or two (making the bed, putting away my clothes at the end of the day, cleaning the kitchen, etc.)so I try to do it immediately and have the satisfaction of a tidy house.

    My house has tiny closets but a large basement, so I have several laundry baskets (whites, colours/black, towels/sheets). As soon as a basket is full, it’s time to do laundry. So much easier than sorting on laundry day!

    I have a small Christmas tree (pre-lit), wired the ornaments on it and store it in the original box. Takes 5 minutes to put up.

    When I unload the dishwasher, I set the table for the next meal, less to put away.

    Now… if I could only get my hall closet in order… thanks to everyone for their suggestions!

  23. posted by Cheryl on

    I always find that my salt grinder is the worst for leaving behind bits of salt in the cupboard, so I kept a small plastic dish from some hummous and put it under the salt grinder. Then it collects the bits of salt, and I don’t have to wipe the cupboard as often.

  24. posted by J on

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far. Mine is to wash the light globe or shade whenever you’re replacing the light bulb. It doesn’t take long to do just one, and they all get their turn without having to take them all down at once.

  25. posted by Hudson on

    Be aware of what you’re doing with your time, and you might mysteriously discover you have a lot of time.

  26. posted by Christine on

    I would second (or third or fourth) taking things home as you move from room to room. It’s a case of being aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and it makes it much easier to stay picked up.

    I would add installing some sort of internet limiting software or add-on to limit your brainless internet time. I use LeechBlock for Firefox, set to monitor the time spent on all internet (.com, .net, .org, etc.) with the exception of specified work-related sites. More than 1 hour in a 6 hour period and it blocks all sites except for those white-listed sites. It was absolutely amazing how often I ran into that limit the first month of doing it. Now that I’m used to it, I don’t run into it too often, though I still trigger it a couple times a week. (It has a timer in the lower right corner of the browser to let me know how much time I have left, and it saves the address of the blocked site, so I don’t lose sites or get interrupted unless I’m really distracted.)

    Being present and aware really helps me make my life extraordinary. I do need a few props to help me, but the end result is much the same.

  27. posted by Marie on

    This has been a most helpful list of comments. I thank you all for your suggestions. I’m a terrible clutterbug, but I’m trying to do better.

  28. posted by trillie on

    Saves water and time: When turning on the hot water tap in my apartment, it takes a while until the water is really hot – so I usually put my watering can there. Once a week, when I water all my plants, I can just grab the already full watering can and go.

    I also do the little things others have mentioned: Carrying stuff back where it belongs when I’m on the way anyway, putting dried dishes away while waiting for the microwave, or letting the drain cleaner sit while cleaning the rest of the bathroom. Great suggestions, everyone – I’m going to try doing the dishes while cooking next! :)

  29. posted by WilliamB on

    - I have two laundry baskets: a blue one for cold wash and a white one for hot wash. They’re low and open to make it easy to get clothes into.

    - Fridge management while cooking: I (try to!) get everything out of the fridge at once. I (try to!) put everything back into the fridge at once, putting on the counter next to the fridge till then.

    - I, too, would knock myself out if I left cabinet doors open. I pile dishes on the counter near wherever they go, then put them away all at once.

    - Have only one brand and a few sizes of “tupperware” in the kitchen. I like TellFresh for the variety of options and the fact it’s rectangular (more efficient than circular). For me the right number of sizes is five.

    - Get ready for the work day on the night before. Not only am I more efficient, time at night is less “expensive” than time in the morning.

    - Do tasks while watching TV. Yesterday I folded laundry, cut rags, wrapped Xmas gifts, and broke down boxes for kindling while watching football. I also fast foward through the ads but then use up all the saved time by watching key plays repeatedly and sometimes in slow motion.

    - Keep shampoo and conditioner bottles lid-down in the shower. This saves me all of 15 seconds, but it means I get more out of the bottle and avoid the minor aggravation of shaking the bottle and waiting. (If there’s an award for most insignificant efficiency, I think I just won it.)

  30. posted by LB on

    We have four laundry baskets in our closet. When we undress we sort: white (to be bleached to kill dustmites and mildew on towels), colors, darks (get washed with dark wash liquid), and delicates.

    When a basket is full, it goes to the laundry.

    The theory is that we would be washing single loads frequently instead of multiple loads taking over our house/day, but it seems like all the baskets get full at the same time!

    I know some people just wash everything together, but those are the people with dingy whites, smelly towels, and faded black shirts.

  31. posted by jw on

    “I know some people just wash everything together, but those are the people with dingy whites, smelly towels, and faded black shirts.”

    Geez, LB, settle down!

    I do not have laundry facilities at home. It is much simpler & cheaper to do 3 jumbo loads than 6 or 9 regular loads. My towels don’t smell. We don’t wear many white clothes, they are too easily soiled. Anything that needs special consideration to stay “nice” gets it.

  32. posted by Panig on

    In my home, towels, bedsheets, washcloths,handtowels and undergarments are in color white . My kitchen towels and table cloths are also in white. This way we accumulate a full load faster than it would be, if I had these items in many different colors. Next, most the outer wear of my husband’s and mine are of darker color (black, grey and navy blue), which together make another load. So, mostly we have two large loads per week for the two of us. If there are stains on the white items, I soak them in non-cholrine bleach (in 5 gallon buckets), until the stains are gone. I hand wash most of my delicates. I wash and rinse them in a dish pan and then put them in a little spin dryer
    ( to squeez out the water. I dry the delicates on a folding stand in the basement.

    Additionaly, by washing white and colored items separately, I don’t get white lints on dark clothes and dark lints on white clothes.

  33. posted by Declutter Secrets on

    If I have a big meal to cook, I write down all the dishes I want to prepare and break it down to tasks. Then, I plan the logical order of the tasks.
    All this preparation takes about 10-15 minutes but saves a lot of time later!

    Very helpful when you have so much to do and not enough time.

  34. posted by Corky on

    Great idea Trillie!

    “When turning on the hot water tap in my apartment, it takes a while until the water is really hot – so I usually put my watering can there. Once a week, when I water all my plants, I can just grab the already full watering can and go.”

  35. posted by Corky on

    Clean as I go in the kitchen for sure. Also, after doing the few dishes that are left, I clean counters with a mixture of alcohol and water. Use the same on bathroom mirror, faucet and counter. Works really well.

    Don’t plan meals. Go to farmers market on Saturday mornings and purchase everything I need to make a variety of meals. Then I am always ready for whatever I may be in the mood for.

    I make sure to put away my laptop, books, writing tablet, pen, maps, and whatever else I have out before I go to bed.

    Also don’t set closses out for morning anymore. After shower, I go to the closet and get dressed there. Keep everything withing reach on shelves anyway, no dresser.

    Drink coffee at work later in the morning. Like to allow myself to wake up naturally. Then at around nine I have a coffee. Really perks me up and keeps me going till lunch. A good protein lunch will hold me till supper.

    Would like to thank everyone for all of the wonderful ideas.

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