12 Ways to Stop Throwing Away Time

Laundry, cooking, carpooling -- your days are filled to the brim with stuff you've got to get done. Doesn't it make sense to find shortcuts so you have time to do the things you want to do, like playing with your kids?

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Peter Ardito

Forget Fashion Whims

Avoid the whole trying-to-pick-out-the-perfect-outfit morning madness. At the beginning of the week, Mommysavers.com founder Kimberly Danger sorts out seven outfits with her kids and puts each one together in a sweater rack or shoe cubby. This saves time in the morning and also short-circuits potential arguments about what to wear.

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Buy Gifts When You See Them

Don't run to the store every time your child gets a birthday-party invite. Instead, stock up on one-size-fits-all kid presents whenever you spot a sale. Keep your treasures on a designated closet shelf so there's always something you can pull out, wrap, and give.

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Watch Only the Good Stuff on TV

There's no reason to sit through commercials -- record your favorite shows, then fast-forward through the ads. If you must watch television in real time, hit the mute button and, during the breaks, sort the mail or catch up on magazines.

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Scott Little

Stop Competing with Martha

Who says the cookies you send in for the preschool bake sale need to be from scratch? There's a reason grocery stores sell refrigerated dough. And when you are baking, don't underestimate the power of aluminum foil. You can line any baking dish or cookie sheet with it, and then you don't have the hassle of scrubbing pans.

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Greg Scheidemann

Stay Organized

Touch mail no more than twice. Don't let paper pile up on the kitchen counter -- put all the flyers and catalogs you know you're never going to look at in the recycling bin; as you receive monthly bills, throw away the outer envelopes and place the bills in a to-be-paid folder. Same goes for e-mail: Answer it immediately, then delete.

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Don't Be a Short-Order Cook

Forget asking your kids what they want to eat. As they're debating ham and cheese versus PB&J, you could have already packed the lunchbox and sent them out the door. As for dinner, don't even think about making different foods for each member of the family. Kids can eat what the grown-ups are served. Or fix a bowl of cereal.

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Ask the Babysitter to Pitch In

As long as you're paying the teenager down the street, ask her if she'll fold some laundry or straighten the toy shelves while she watches TV after the kids are asleep.

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Join the Car Pool

Sure, it's tough to entrust your child to someone else's minivan. But if you don't share the driving with friends, you'll end up living in your vehicle as you ferry your child to school and sports and other activities. (And think of the money you'll save on gas.)

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Blaine Moats

Be Smart About Comparison Shopping

Sure, every penny counts, but when you're running from store to store to get the best price on a sack of potatoes, the gas alone isn't worth it. Save money the old-fashioned way -- clip coupons and make just one trip.

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Heather Weston

Get the Kids to Help with Laundry

Even a 3-year-old can master a simple sorting system. Set up a couple of baskets -- one for whites, another for colors -- in his room. Also, teach kids that clothes can usually be worn more than once before they need to be washed. This doesn't dawn on most of them until they go away to college and start doing their own laundry.

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Blaine Moats

Plan for Leftovers

If you're spending the time to whip up dinner, double or triple the recipe and freeze it. You get two or three meals for the same time it took you to make one.

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Don't Be a Slave to the Changing Table

It seemed so necessary when you bought it, but that changing table isn't the only place you can do diaper duty. Keep a few clean diapers and changing pads stashed throughout your house to save you from running back and forth to the nursery.

Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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