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With three kids, ages 2, 6, and 8, stay-at-home mom Daniela Rinard rarely reached the end of her to-do list. "The housework never seems to get finished, and I feel as if I spend half my day chauffeuring kids around," said Daniela, who lives in Walnut Creek, California. "The baby's naps are constantly interrupted, and I barely have any time alone with my husband. If only I were a little better organized, my life would be a lot less hectic."
To help Daniela achieve that goal, Parents called in time-management expert Ronni Eisenberg, author of Organize Your Home!: Simple Routines for Managing Your Household. Eisenberg asked this busy mom to keep a detailed diary of exactly how she used her time. At the end of two weeks, the expert reviewed the logs, identified the top time-management challenges, and offered suggestions on how Daniela could become more efficient.
Stop racing around.
The problem: Daniela's days are a whirlwind of activity. She drives her older girls to school each morning, then picks up one at 11:30 a.m. and the other at 2:35 p.m. After school, she chauffeurs them to gymnastics, piano lessons, or sports, and usually races out to the store to buy one thing or another. As a result, baby Ava isn't napping regularly and is often cranky by late afternoon. Getting the girls to do homework is a hassle.
The solution: Eisenberg advised Daniela to reduce her car time. She urged Daniela to set up car pools for school and activities. She told Daniela to limit her carpooling to one or two days, and to arrange for someone to watch Ava on those days so she could stick to her naps.
To help Daniela feel more in control, Eisenberg also recommended keeping track of activities on a calendar -- as well as establishing an after-school routine. "The girls need to get into the habit of coming home, having a snack, and doing their homework right away," Eisenberg said.
To cut down on errand time, Eisenberg suggested maintaining a computerized checklist of groceries and other necessities, and keeping a printout handy. "That way, she can mark off things she needs, and she can take the list with her when she goes shopping," Eisenberg says.
The problem: Daniela spends four and a half hours a week cleaning, but she complains that the house is mess. "I hate housework, so I think of every excuse not to do it," she admits.
The solution: The first thing Eisenberg noticed about Daniela's diary was how often phone calls interrupted her chores. Eisenberg suggested that Daniela let the voice mail pick up calls while she cleans, to help her maintain momentum. To make daily tasks go more quickly, Eisenberg advised Daniela to use comforters instead of blankets (to make beds more quickly) and keep cleanser and sponges in each bathroom (to do quick scrubdowns). She also recommended organizing the house better so cleaning up wouldn't seem like such a monumental task. To get rid of kitchen clutter, for example, Eisenberg told Daniela to clear counters of anything she doesn't use at least once a day. Daniela should also clear out drawers and closets of outgrown clothing. "But don't do everything at once," Eisenberg said. "Break down the work into a task or a time frame. For instance, Daniela should say, "I'll clean one closet every week until I'm done.'"