Looking for the 25th Hour? Our Top Time-Saving Strategies

time saving tipsDays at the office can be incredibly long — made only longer by the fact that there are still chores, errands, and other life issues to be dealt with. We thought we’d start an open thread by listing some of the things that we do to save time on life tasks, and then see what your thoughts are.  (Pictured:  Hungry Mouse Timer, available at Amazon.com for $8.)

Plan ahead. Lately, we’ve been trying to save time cooking by only doing one order from Fresh Direct for the entire month.  We figure out what recipes we want to make/try, what ingredients we need, and order everything at once.  Then, we print the recipes (we tend to copy recipes into our Palm Pilot), staple them together, and keep that printout in the kitchen for the month.  (It helps to highlight any “fresh” ingredients that should be used sooner rather than later.)  When the FD delivery comes, we put almost everything into the freezer until we’re ready to use it.   (We’ve been enjoying crockpot recipes from Kalyn’s Kitchen, lately.)
– Have a snack mentality through the day — yogurt, cheese, nuts, fruit, so forth.  Our point isn’t that you should eat low-calorie foods (to each their own), but that you can save time by finding foods that are relatively healthy for you and easy to grab and go without a lot of prep work.  Focus on calcium content, fiber, and protein — make your snacks work for you.  Other times, we’ll bring “components” to the office — for example, a blue cheese that was not a hit a party (too strong) gets added to the plain spinach and tomato salad we pick up with the deli.  We save money, get the satisfaction of using a food we bought, and don’t have to slave over “lunch” in the morning.

– We’ll be honest, we haven’t found a great solution here, and have never been comfortable with the idea of hiring someone to come clean for us.  That said…
Understand that mess is different from dirty. Dirty is bad.  Mess isn’t great, but is more a matter of how much you can tolerate before you feel like the walls are closing in.
It helps to have a high tolerance for mess. It helps hugely if your spouse or roommate  shares your general tolerance level.
Multi-task to save time cleaning — for example, a lot of mornings we make eggs over hard (it’s easy, doesn’t require many dishes, and is generally healthy (we only use one egg yolk).  While we wait for the eggs to cook, we’ll spray the counter with a no-scrub cleaner like Fantastic  and let it sit while we do whatever dishes we can without burning our eggs; after we plate them we’ll swipe the counter with a sponge.
Cheat as often as possible. We only clean the shower about once a month because our daily shower spray (such as Tilex Fresh Shower Daily Shower Cleaner) keeps it looking pretty good.  We use a towel bath mat to put on top of our bathroom rug — which gets washed as regularly as the towels — so the rug only needs to be washed once every blue moon.  When we’ve lived in apartments with toilets that always seemed to look funky, we would use those drop-in bleach disks.   (When we do clean the shower, we use a scrub brush — not a sponge — and tend to do it right after we’ve gotten out of the shower, when everything is already wet.)
Invite company. Nothing gets your apartment clean like the threat of company. We’ve actually been having friends for dinner on Friday nights — it gives us a set time window to clean once we get home (about an hour and a half), and the apartment looks great.  (If nothing else, before company comes, be sure to clean the bathroom counters, toilets, and mirrors, and Swiffer the floors.)

Maintenance. We tend to visit Mint.com at least every day or two, to categorize expenditures, make sure we have enough money in our checking account, and other tasks. It adds about a minute or two to our day and we know exactly where we stand with finances. We even tend to multitask this by opening Mint at the same time as we check our Gmail — it takes a minute or two for the program to get the latest information, so we let it work in the background. Prior to this, we used Microsoft Money, and would download all of our information and try to categorize it about twice a month — the accounts always got screwed up in some way (our bank said we had X, Money said we had Y) and it would seemingly take hours to check it, so we definitely save more time using Mint.com.
Bills. We used to pay bills twice a month, sitting with our checkbook and case of stamps — now we pay almost every bill online. Some bills we’ve set up to be automatic — the cable bill, the mortgage, because we know the amount should be (more or less) the same every month. Other bills, we schedule payment before the 15th of the month — that way we know it’s safe to move money from checking to savings after the 15th.

Have lots of clean underwear. We tend to have about three weeks worth of clean underwear, so laundry doesn’t have to be a top priority every weekend.
Extend the wearable life of clothes whenever possible — for example, we tend to hang our pants by the cuffs from pants hangers. Because the waistband is at the bottom, it pulls the pants down, straightening them. (In fact, we almost never iron pants.) Similarly, hanging up skirts, suits and dresses very soon after wearing (perhaps in a place where they have a bit of room to air out, such as on a closet door) helps keep them looking neat. We also like to wear our sweaters twice before we wash them, in Woolite (and then air dry them). (In fact, washing or drycleaning your clothes as little as possible is a great way to extend the wear. We’ve been meaning to do a longer piece on this, but we’ve heard that keeping a tiny spray bottle of vodka to spritz on jacket underarms and other stains is a great solution.)
Air-dry any white or light-colored tops. If you have white blouses or tops with yellowed sweat stains, you might want to skip the dryer — the yellowing comes from that step of the laundry process.
– When doing your laundry, time the loads to work with your schedule. For example, if you have a washer/dryer in your home, you can save a simple load of things like towels/sheets for the very last load you do before bedtime, because nothing needs to be removed from the dryer immediately. On the other hand, if you share a public washer/dryer and are trying to hit the gym between loads, you might make sure that if you stay too long at the gym, whoever needs the washer/dryer after you is only dealing with towels, and not your underwear and delicates.
View any “dryclean” instruction with suspicion. We haaate making time in our schedule to drop off or pick things up from the drycleaner — furthermore, it’s bad for the environment and for clothes.  A lot of things can be washed in Woolite, though, including most natural fibers like cashmere and wool.  We tend to pay for drycleaning for sweaters for the first year we own them; after that we give Woolite a try.

Make exercise part of your routine. We’ve all read this — park a little farther away; take the stairs; get off one subway stop sooner.  Furthermore, carve out a time in your schedule for it, and protect that time.  For us, it has to be before work — and even on days that we don’t feel like it, we get up and put on our workout clothes.  There will always be some days where the exercises are easy, and some that are hard; the trick is to just do it no matter what.
Do efficient exercises to save time. If time is really an issue, make sure that your workout is efficient.  Running, spinning — these are intensive workouts, and 30 minutes spent doing those will be better than 60 minutes of many other exercises.  Obviously, there are many reasons to choose a less-intensive workout — enjoyment, injury, and so forth — but if you don’t work out because of time constraints, try to develop a taste for the efficient workouts.  (We recommend the Couch to 5K program if you’ve never run before.)
Add weight training. You get stronger, your bones get stronger, your workouts become easier, and your metabolism speeds up, and you can eat more.  What’s not to love?  Focus on big muscle groups to be the most efficient with your time — your quads, your glutes, your back, your chest.  We tend to split upper and lower body exercises into different days so we don’t spend more than 30 minutes on weight training on any given day.
– We’re fans of exercise DVDs to intersperse with running — they’re always there and a variety keeps us from getting bored.

– This one isn’t quite a chore, but can be difficult to fit into your schedule anyway.  We’ve found that the older we get, the more we have to really make a choice as to which friends we want to keep in our lives — and then do our best to keep them in our lives.  That translates into quick calls with friends — we plan dates and catch up for 15 minutes between work and dinner — as well as to planned dinner dates weeks in advance.  If we see an article that makes us think of a friend, we send it to them.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it does require a choice.


  1. Delta Sierra :

    Cleaning: as soon as you can reasonably afford it, hire a cleaning service. Coming home to a clean house/apartment is priceless. Saves you time, and wear and tear on your nerves when your actual performance doesn’t meet your own standards. Can also save conflict if you’re living with someone whose standards are lower than yours and who refuses to do their fair half of the work.

    • I second this suggestion! A wise old judge once told me that it’s a necessity – not a luxury – to have help cleaning the house if you are a mother working outside the home. It saves a ton of time, stress, and arguments over who’s turn it is to clean the toilet.

      I also think planning the menu/grocery list is a big time saver, too. I have created a list of “rotating” menus that span months. When I am not in the mood to plan, I just pull one of those out.

      About laundry: we have a family of six, so there is a lot of laundry. But I only do the wash on weekends. If I wash mid-week, I find that I still have a lot to do on the weekend anyway, so I just save it all up. This of course means that everyone has at least 5-7 of everything (socks, undies, jammies, uniforms, etc.) but it cuts down on the stress of doing laundry mid-week.

      Finally, one of my favorite timesaving tips: specifically request your doctor/dentist/ortho appointments for the first one of the day. In and out, and on to work.

      • Yes MMS! I found a dentist who sees me at 7 am. It’s awesome. :)

      • I have a great cleaning tip! Each night set a kitchen timer for 20-minutes, do as much around the house as you can in 20-minutes, when the timer goes off – you’re done!

        It’s fun, it becomes a game – how much can you do in 20-minutes? Plus, you’re done in 20-minutes. That’s the rule – you can’t get stuck on something and keep going after the time is up – when the buzzer goes off, put down your sponge and walk away!

    • I could not agree more. I am the daughter of an amazing woman whose house is always spotless, who works full time, AND does extensive community service on the weekends. We never had a cleaning person a day in our lives growing up and I felt strange about hiring one as an adult. I’m so glad that we did. With both my husband and I putting in long hours, I would get so stressed out coming home to a messy/dirty house. We now use a maid service once a month. It’s expensive (about $150 a month) but they do an amazing job and our house is spotless. I also feel good knowing that I am helping to employ women who really need the money.

      • Anonymous :

        Can someone explain to me how the vodka trick works? I’m all for saving time and money by adding an extra wear or two before having to take clothes in to the dry cleaner but I don’t want to smell like booze either…

    • Yes, yes, yes. I have a housekeeper once a month (2 bedroom/1 bathroom house/$80) and it has changed my life. I understand the initial discomfort with having someone else clean your house but it’s honest work. There is no reason to perpetuate the perception that paid domestic work (read: the kind of work that women are expected to do for free) is shameful.

      • Agree with all these comments. If you have a busy job, hiring a housekeeper is a necessity. It makes my day to come home to a spotless house on the days she comes. Also, it avoids conflict with my husband, who also has a busy job, about who should clean what, how well, and how that plays into gender stereotypes. We have someone come 2x a month, $100 each time to clean our 2 bedroom, 2 bath place. Usually if you can find a person who works independently you get a better price than from a big service, and you know that they get all the money (I think the wages for works at Merry Maids, etc. are really low).

    • Our housekeeper literally saved our marriage! I have the “lower standards/higher standards” problem compounded by the issue that my husband’s mother never taught him how to clean. We used to have huge fights every Saturday morning because I would feel angry and resentful about wasting 1/2 a Saturday to clean the house – and I was the one doing all the cleaning! When we finally bit the bullet and hired a housekeeper it was a huuuuge relief. My mom was neurotic about keeping our house clean when I was growing up and it honestly created so much unpleasantness – she was constantly complaining about what we had or hadn’t done to keep the house clean. Now, the housekeeper comes in every two weeks and in between I have no problem doing the “light” stuff in between. We never fight about cleaning the house anymore, and have more time on weekends for other things. If you think you can’t afford it – resolve to eat out less (lunches + dinners) and you will find you can easily make room in your budget.

  2. I love the idea of hanging pants by the cuffs – thanks!

    I’ve been looking into Cooking for a Month, unfortunately my partner is not into it.

  3. Great post, thank you!

    Food: I cook up a big batch of one or two things on Sunday afternoons/evenings, that works for 2-3 days of dinner and lunch as well. Thursdays we scrap something up from the fridge/freezer/pancakes (egg sandwiches, pancakes, etc.) and Fridays we go out.

    Workout: I’ve found that interval training makes me work out harder in a shorter period of time – and studies support that. Most efficient! (e.g. – alternating 2 minutes of sprinting, 2 minutes of walking for 30 min. makes me more tired than jogging for the same time)

    Cleaning: hiring someone doesn’t work for me as I’m a germaphobe and can’t stand the thought of someone potentially wearing shoes in my house and touching my things with who-knows-what hand-washing standards. No good solutions yet – cleaning just sucks. Well, the Dyson Animal vaccuum is a timesaver because you don’t have to go over the same area multiple times.

  4. For cleaning, this may sound kind of funny, but I follow the FLYLady (easily found on google). She’s got really great philosophies that work for women in all stages of life, in homes of all stages of cleanliness! She focuses on decluttering and setting up mini-routines that once you get established, will put your home on cleaning autopilot in basically no more than 15-30 minutes a day.

    I have been doing this for about 8 weeks now and the key is to really start slow. However, I have been working more hours than ever at work, training (trained) for a 1/2 marathon and kept an “active” social life and my home has never been cleaner. I honestly recommend it and I have to say my DH is quite pleased too!

    • I like the Flylady too. It took me awhile to get the routines workable for us, but now housecleaning is practically on autopilot. I honestly spend 45 minutes max at any time on housework and the house looks reasonably good most of the time.

  5. cleaning service and wash-and-fold for $1/lb are irreplaceable, the rest is manageable

  6. Combining exercise and socializing has always been one of my favorite things. My girl friends and I take a 3 times a week cardio/weight training class at our local gym. We usually show up a bit early, catch up, and then work out together. Because it’s a fun group thing, it makes it far less likely for any one of us to skip it.

    • Delta Sierra :

      H – amen to the buddy system for exercise. The hubs and I belong to the same gym. If one of us is all moan-groan-I-don’t-wanna-go the other is on their honor to drag the other guy out. Usually works. We aim for 12 sessions a month and usually achieve 10.

  7. One of the things I have started to do is to cook with my girlfriends. They come over on Sunday morning to my house and we make a bunch of things together for the week. They come equipped with aprons and tupperware. It’s especially good for people who are novices to cooking or otherwise wouldn’t cook if they were by themselves. It’s really fun and social, and the food always turns out well. We do it about once a month.

  8. Often, when I cook, I double the recipe – always if it’s something like a stew, soup, pasta or risotto dish, or meat dish that will freeze. I freeze half of it after dinner in 1 1/2 cup Pyrex dishes. That way they will thaw in 1/2 hour for a dinner in a hurry, or I can throw them in my lunchbox and nuke them for a few minutes for an economical work lunch.

  9. I mourn the fact that I started law school and now have to do my own laundry! I used to pay $.55/pound, they would use the laundry supplies I gave them, and I could drop it off on my way to work and pick it up on my way home. Now it takes me almost 4 hours to do my laundry each time, between waiting for a machine, folding, making it back to my place. I can’t wait until I have enough disposable income not to have to do my own laundry.

  10. For those of you who do use a cleaning service, how exactly does it work? Do they have specific things they do, how often do they come, and what’s a ballpark figure? Do you give them an extra key so that they can come while you’re at work? Curious.

    • The service I use is maidpro (www.maidpro.com), they are a national organization and work in most areas. They have some sort of checklist with 60 odd tasks that they are assigned to do, including cleaning the stove, toilet, bathroom shower, etc. Some tasks like cleaning the fridge or windows will cost extra. I don’t feel comfortable not being there while they clean so I am always around, but I just stay out of their way. Mine come once a month (if you have kids or pets, you probably need them to come more often). Two women come and clean for about 2 hours, and our house is approximately 2000 sq ft. We pay $150 a visit. That may be on the high side, but we live in a busy metro area and they do a fantastic job.

      • Thanks so much for the rec! I just contacted them for a quote and found it to be fairly reasonable.

    • It all varies highly. I would be too nervous to just have a stranger come & remain unattended. My suggestion would be to get a recommendation from someone you know, for someone they trust (i.e., find someone with a cleaning person & ask if they’d be willing to help you out). You can give them a key (obviously the most efficient option), but I would not do this right away, before you get to know the person. If you have a doorman, you can leave the key with him/her. Otherwise, you can agree to leave the key somewhere (under the mat on the day of the cleaning), or let the person in & leave to do errands, etc.

      As far as how often & what they do — it also varies. I think if you’re really busy, once a week is great. Some people do less though, keeping up the basics and then having someone come once a month (or even once a season) to do all the things we don’t normally have time for (scrub the tile, clean the oven, etc.).

      Laundry is often included in the to-do list. But again it’s up to you to specify & work out. Price varies accordingly.

      Ballpark figures also vary highly depending on the area you live in & the size of your apt/house. In NYC, it’s not as expensive because there are more people available to do this (but a friend who lives in Mystic, CT pays an absurd amount to have someone clean her small house). Most of the time, you pay per session & not per hour. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $100/session is the going rate. You will find people willing to work for less, but I would not be comfortable paying too much less, especially if someone is also doing my laundry or occasionally picking up some household items at the store. I think it’s important to have a good relationship with anyone who you are letting into your home (it’s like finding a baby sitter — you don’t necessarily want to leave your kids with the cheapest available person).

    • I don’t use a “service” persay — rather a wife-and-daughter team who’s cleaned house for a family friend for the past 18 (!) years. But here’s how it’s worked for us:

      – We asked family and friends for referrals until we found someone who raved about their housecleaner.
      – I asked these gals to come over to give us an estimate — they looked at the size of our home, number of rooms, etc.
      – They quoted us $60 per visit. For reference, I live in a small-ish Midwestern town 30 miles south of Milwaukee/90 miles north of Chicago; our house is 2-story/about 2000 square feet.
      – We discussed, upfront, what they would do each visit: dust, spray/clean/wipe counters/tables/shelves, clean bathrooms and the kitchen, vacuum, sweep and clean all floors except the hardwoods (b/c you’re not supposed to clean wood floors all that often).
      – I gave them a key, but they have clients who meet them at the house daily and/or just leave a key under the mat.

      We started out having them come every other week, which was great…now they come every three weeks — we just had our first baby and are trying to economize a bit. I HATE scrubbing floors, though, so this is priceless for me — and we also have a dog who, while he’s short-haired, sheds enough that I can’t see myself giving our cleaning ladies up anytime soon! Hope this helps.

      • I have a mother-daughter team that cleans my house too, and they are great. I was hesitant at first, but I think of it as helping someone who needs the job/money. I found them by referral (in-laws) who also told me they love hand-me-down clothes. Anything they can’t use, they send back to their family in Poland. I try to give them a bag of clothes, jackets, etc. about once a month and it really helps me get rid of the things I don’t wear. I usually have a problem with this because my clothes tend to be pretty expensive, so I don’t just give them to Goodwill, I like knowing they are going to a good home, to someone that appreciates the designer labels. It’s a win/win situation.

    • for a ballpark figure reference – in North Carolina, 2100 sq ft home (3bd, 2ba)…I pay $75 / $60. the higher price is for a “full clean”, the lower is for an every-other week of kitchen/floors/dusting. I found a local service.

      tips: 1) be prepared to fire the maid if they aren’t doing a good job. I found this hard, wasn’t til I was on my 3rd that I hit a good one. 2) ask for what you want. also hard (well, for me, guilt factor). I really like having a service with an owner I can talk to and discuss what is / is not working and then they can discuss with the woman who comes to clean. again, avoidance of guilt, but made it much more do-able for me.

    • I know there is more risk in doing it this way, but please consider hiring an independent cleaner rather than going through a corporate cleaning service! (Sounds like most people here do this anyway, but want to throw my weight behind giving an independent woman a hand up rather than paying a big corporation so that they can pay someone else minimum wage and pocket the difference.

      Also, a self-employed worker IMHO tends to do a better job because the only thing they have is their reputation.

      • I agree. Because of the economy, my independent cleaning lady has also starting working for cleaning service. She doesn’t like it because they make her rush through each home.

      • Anonymous :

        agreed. and i’ve heard too many horrifying stories from friends about some gross practices used by some cleaning companies (ex: using the same sponge to clean around the toilet, then the sink, light switches, etc.).

        • Beware hiring an independent person! You are then usually responsible for withholding federal and usually state taxes, and maybe even for paying into state unemployment systems. The paperwork is a pain, and it gets more expensive than you have bargained for. Unless you either don’t care about the potential problems down the road (remember Zoe Baird anyone?) or don’t mind the added hassle, don’t do it!

          • L – that’s exactly why I use a service. Also, be mindful of the immigration status of those whom you hire. Hiring illegal immigrants is against the law. When I use a service, I ensure that the service has gone through an immigration check and it’s one less thing I have to worry about. From what I can tell, nearly 100% of the people who clean in our area are recent immigrants from Latin America. They are all wonderful and hard working and I’m glad that I don’t have to ask them questions about their immigration status, the service takes care of that for me.

          • I’m not a tax expert, but my understanding is that the withholding issue only comes into play if someone is your employee, on a part time or full time basis. i.e., Zoe Baird, et al got in trouble in the 1990’s because they had full time nannies they didn’t pay taxes for. It seems like most of the cleaning service arrangements being discussed fall into the independent contractor type of arrangement, and don’t raise the same concerns.

            Any tax or L&E lawyers out there that can answer this question or point out a resource?

          • You DON’T need to withhold federal taxes unless your employee specifically asks you to and you agree. State laws on this obviously will vary. You take out SS/Medicare if you pay more then $1700 to one person (7.65% is your share) and pay federal unemployment if you pay more than $1000 in any one quarter (0.8%).

            Also, you can do the same immigration check a business would do by filling out an I-9 (easily available on the Internet) and having the person present the acceptable documents, which you would present to the government if asked. As long as you don’t knowingly hire someone who can’t legally work and you’ve done a check like this, you’ve done your due diligence.

            An independent cleaning person you hire twice a month who also cleans 50 other houses in your area is most likely an independent contractor anyway, not an employee of every one of those 51 households. My live-in butler (ha! I wish) would be my employee.

            Some resources: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p926/ar02.html Household Employer’s Tax Guide

            http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html Independent Contractor vs. Employee

        • Not a tax or labor lawyer, but my understanding of hiring independent people is that they are your “independent contractor”, so you don’t have to withhold taxes . First, you have to establish that they are your independent contractor (e.g. they provide their own supplies, they make their own hours etc. There is a guide on the IRS website: “Independent Contractor or Employee”) That is the good news. The bad news is that you are still obligated to give them a 1099 form if you pay them more than $600 in one year. So, anyone with a cleaning person who has them come once a month at $100 per visit should be getting a W-9 from their person and filing a 1099 with the person and the IRS, or you too can end up like Zoe Baird!

    • I started hiring a housekeeper 6 months after getting married (and while I was a 1L in lawschool). It was the best decision I’ve ever made! She was a recommendation from a friend who had worked with this person for the last 10+ years and she raved about her. She owns her own cleaning company and is bonded and insured. She takes on new clients only by referrals, so she is careful to screen too. She comes every other week and does a “deep cleaning”. I maintain with light stuff (dishes, laundry, a quick Swifter-ing, etc.) in between. On her first visit, she came over and looked at my space (approx. 1900 sqft, two adults and 2 cats) and quoted me a price. She has been charging me $120/visit for the last 8 years now without a price increase. Honestly, it really contributes to my happy marriage and is well-worth the money. Instead of arguing over who’s turn it is to clean the bathrooms on the weekends, we get to spend quality time together (priceless!). She has my housekeys and she comes and cleans while my husband and I are at work. Of course there are things that I want done a certain way, and I always point that out and ask her if she is OK with that. I also specify things that I don’t want her to do. I absolutely trust her with my house and my cats! It’s all about establishing a relationship and trust. I would recommend getting a referral from someone you know rather than going with a cleaning service. Or if you use a cleaning service, specify that you want the same person/people every time. That way you get to know this person and they get to know you (and what you want or don’t want).

      • She sounds wonderful! A raise sounds like it would be in order though. I’m sure she’d be thrilled with a bump to $130.

        • anon - chi :

          For what it’s worth, I do a $5 bump per visit each year, so I now pay $105. I know I could probably pay less, but I’ve used the same person for forever and I think she is worth every penny.

        • We’ve offered, but she has refused. We work it in every year as a end of the year bonus though!

          • Wow, what a great housekeeper! My old building’s super refused tips – similar phenomenon.

  11. I think that if you can afford it, cleaning help is amazing. Just knowing that you will come home to a clean apartment every, let’s say, Wednesday, is a huge stress relief & mood booster, in my opinion. It also adds to domestic harmony if you live with a partner, which is also really important & lovely.

    Otherwise my new attempt at saving time is to iron clothes I might wear to work during the week on Sunday nights while watching a movie. It doesn’t seem like a hassle when something good is on TV, and really cuts my time in the mornings. It also has the side effect of forcing me to roughly figure out what I will wear during the week. (I have tried the whole “ironing the night before” thing before, but I inevitably get too tired during the week & it never works past Tuesday.) Not sure how long it will last, but I have been sleeping an extra 20 min. each morning — which is very lovely.

  12. This is not going to sound fun, but my husband and I do all the housework on Friday nights. Seriously. I grocery shop on the way home from work while he gets the laundry started and fixes dinner. Then we clean- we each take a floor. We instituted this as a New Year’s resolution. It is fantastic to wake up on Saturday morning and have it all done, even if we do get to bed late Friday night. Sometimes we go out for a drink after we clean. Also, I used to grocery shop every two weeks, but I find that doing it once a week takes much less time to shop and to plan, since I’m only planning for a week. I’m in and out of the store in 20 minutes. I waste a lot less food. It also inhibits the tendency to overshop because you’re afraid you’ll run out before the next monthly trip to the store, or semi-monthly trip to the store. We don’t have kids, though. I found that in private practice, Friday night is the night you are least likely to stay at work late, but you may want to do work on Saturday, so that gets the chores out of the way. We used to have a cleaning person but she never cleaned to my standards, so we stopped doing that. And I do cook on the weekends to “feed the freezer” and occasionally during the week. We go out to eat only a few times a month and always take our lunches to work.

    • My husband and I used to do this, but I found it depressing to be cleaning on Friday nights. I’m a big fan of socializing on Friday nights because it somehow makes the weekend seem even longer. We save our laundry/cooking for Sunday afternoons, which works better for us.

      • How funny! That’s how we used to do it, but we used to get so wound up by Sunday afternoons (we called it “Sunday night anxiety”) we would be in horrible moods trying to clean while what we wanted to do was prepare mentally for the next day. We could still socialize on Friday nights if we wanted to, since we’re usually done by 10 p.m., though it’s nice to just go out and have a drink with my honey. It just goes to show that you have to find what works for you.

  13. I’m kind of shocked that there are people in law school on this site contemplating cleaning services and paying others to do their laundry. First of all, I am betting that you haven’t been without a cleaning service of some sort (mom, dorm staff, etc) for that long and so aren’t really that good at cleaning yet – a skill everyone must have. Second of all, you have the luxury of time and the constraint of money at this stage in your life — the opposite will be true soon enough. Use the advantage of time now, while you have it, and use the advantage of money in a few years – when you have it. Nobody is above cleaning their own toilet. Not a personal attack on you ladies — I’m just surprised that you would spend your money that way while you’ve got the time to be more frugal.

    • Not everyone in law school is straight out of college, though. Plenty of people have careers and/or families before going back to school, and their situation is likely to be very different from your average 22-year-old (and hey, a 22-year-old 1L might have family money or something too; I’d feel totally fine about never learning to clean if I could afford not to. :-))

    • I’m in law school and while here am frugal (ie. doing my own laundry), but I follow the line of thought that if someone is important to you, you prioritize it in the budget and make up for it by cutting back in other ways, like by not going out to eat as frequently. I would never have a cleaning service-I find it soothing to clean and do it every night before bed (and do a massive scrub down once per week). But laundry takes forever, and it costs almost as much to do it myself as it does to send out. So I am counting down the months until I move home and can start sending it out again.

    • divaliscious11 :

      I had another career before I went to law school, as did several of my classmates…. While I agree no one is above cleaning their own toilet, there is nothing wrong with paying someone else to do it if you have the capacity to do so…

    • If you only have access to coin operated laundry, a laundry service might be cheaper. For me, the coin operated dryers in my building were awful. Every load would have to run through the dryer at least twice. At $2.00 per load, I was averaging $6.00 per load. And I’d still have to fold it! ;)

    • I think the days of most students following the 4+3 plan and finishing law school at 25 are long over. Most of my classmates did not come straight from undergrad, and some who did also took a non-traditional route through school.

      I think at my school, students who used the school’s laundry plan were expected to average about $12/week. Most coin laundries in my area charged $2 for a small machine and $5 for a large machine, so you could easily exceed $12 without washing that much. I think you could also expect to pay $40-50 more on rent if you wanted an apartment with a washer/dryer.

    • I’m not above cleaning my toilet but I’m finishing law school at 30 and I am also a single woman raising three kids (not my own). I commented upthread but I have a housekeeper who comes once a month as well as an in-house washer and dryer. Maybe it costs more but it saves me TIME and that is far more valuable to me right now. I spend as much time as I can with my kids while keeping up my GPA to make sure that I have a job later.

    • The idea that we should learn this skill now strikes me as possibly sexist. I don’t think many people would make the same comment to a man. In addition, while many people may be better than I at cleaning, this isn’t exactly a life or death situation. It’s not like anyone’s ever said to me, Quick the village must be saved from impending doom and only you properly cleaning a toilet will save it! If that situation ever occurs, I’m sure I can learn on the spot, anyways.

      We all pay for what we value, and some people value things differently. If someone in law school wants to get their place cleaned and has the money to do it, then fine! I’m sure each of us have (several) financial indulgences, of all different kinds, and not all of us can be frugal 100% of the time.

    • By the time I went to law school I had been married for nearly 9 years, owned a house, and had a previous “career.” My mom hadn’t cleaned for me in a long time. Oh, and I went to law school right out of college, though it took me about 10 years to finish college. I was very good at cleaning the house.

    • My mom stopped cleaning for me when I was about age 11. I was doing all the dishes or setting the table (my sister and I traded weekly) and cleaning my room even before that. I did all my own laundry and had chores like cleaning bathrooms and dusting. When I turned 16 I took over vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning bathrooms for our entire 4000 sq ft house weekly in exchange for getting my mom’s old SUV. I also lived with my parents for a year post-college pre-law school because I had a good paying job in their hometown and wanted to save money for law school. I continued to do all these things plus cook dinner one meal a week on top of working 55-80 hour weeks for a lot of the time. Not to mention the fact that I lived off campus my last two years of college and cleaned, cooked, and did laundry. Not everyone in law school has never cleaned a toilet. I don’t have a maid but I took umbrage at that.

  14. All great tips, but it’s a little sad that such homey activities as cooking, socializing, and laundering, are such a nuisance for us. I really enjoy “homekeeping,” and lament that work hours intrude so much on my home life.

    For those in NYC looking for cleaning help, I have been very pleased with Today’s Maid: http://todaysmaid.com/

    • Second this one. Both my husband and I work long hours as academics – but I miss cooking leisurely meals, and I hate that we have to plan weeks in advance to see our friends. Don’t miss cleaning at all though. We’ve hired that out, to a woman recommended by my best friend, and are thrilled to not worry about cleaning the floors and tub.

      For the record, she comes 1x/ month, with a helper. It costs $100 visit to clean our 2bd/ 1ba in the (expensive) SF Bay Area (I think they’re here for about 2 hours). They have a general routine, and we leave a note if we want them to give particular attention to something. They have a key and come while we’re at work.

  15. Cooking: Crock-pots are love. Also, grocery shopping became tons easier when we just began using the same things to make a bunch of different things; get versatile staples you’re comfortable using.

    Exercise: Wii Fit Plus. Seriously.

    I’m also surprised that so many people use cleaning services. I know most people probably haven’t worked at a maid service before, but haven’t most people read _Nickel and Dimed_? Maid services make things LOOK clean, but -looking- clean and -being- clean are different things; finally, some of the chemicals they use are really harsh and abrasive (and not at all safe around kids and pets). I’d think twice before hiring a serivce. And while I hate to bring it up, if somebody has political ambitions, you want to be very, very careful about who the cleaning company is employing….

    • I buy & leave the cleaning products for my maid. So I know what’s being used in my house – so that’s always an option for someone worried about chemicals.

    • Whether you have political ambitions or not you should be aware that if you are employing someone to clean your home you may be required to – and should – pay Social Security and unemployment taxes. On the other hand, if you use a service it is the service that is responsible for paying those taxes.

    • I have to say, I thought the attack on cleaning services in Nickel and Dimed was pretty bizarre (and I liked the book as a whole). A lot of it seemed to be based on the idea that it’s somehow inherently exploitative to hire someone to clean your personal surroundings. But not exploitative to hire someone to cook your food in a restaurant? I don’t get it. For sure make sure that the company or service you’re using pays and treats its workers humanely, but beyond that I think you’re ethically in the clear. As for looking clean and being clean, I think most women on this site are intelligent enough to figure out what they want in a cleaner and find someone who does it – there are plenty of cleaners who use only specific organic products these days or who will do so at your request.

    • divaliscious11 :

      I provide all supplies, and I check…if you aren’t getting it clean, you’ll be replaced. As with everything when someone is coming into your home…referrals and check them out!

    • We used a cleaning service for years. Believe me, if they weren’t actually CLEANING, it would have shown up eventually. No secret piles of dirt and dust were just hidden somewhere.

      On the other hand, now that I have to do all the cleaning myself (we live in an RV and there are no services that will clean the inside, alas), I find secret stashes of yuck tucked in hard-to-reach corners.

      I guess I’m not qualified for a career as a housekeeper.

  16. Good call on recommending Mint.com. It makes finances so easy! My goal for 2010 is to be more financially savvy . . . Mint.com has become my new best friend.

    Who knew that budgeting could take so little time and that a financial website could be so gosh-darn cute?

  17. divaliscious11 :

    1. Cleaning lady. Makes a world of difference knowing that you are not waking up to clean on Saturday morning!
    2. Grocery shopping on Friday night! Grab a glass of wine at Whole foods, pick up the groceries and avoid the Saturday rush. Once a month I add in a Costco trip and/or pick and pull at Sam’s club.
    3. On Sunday, cook 2-3 meals, say one on the stove and one or two in the crockpot, although I am experimenting with some of the pre-prepped meal services.
    4. I really hate laundry, but I do it Sunday afternoon, and fold while watching TV on Sunday evening. But if I find a good wash n fold place, I am likely to use them.
    5. I love Mint.com! I used to use quicken, and even with pocket Quicken, it was such a usiance to put every transaction in – now I can just look on-line. The only thing missing a cash purchases, but they are usually just coffee etc… My only complaint is Mint may be a day or 2 behind, but otherwise, its great!

  18. Anne Vohl :

    Having someone (or persons) clean the house is a must. I have experimented both ways. Especially if another person (adult) lives with you, this is important, because it relieves you form dividing the responsibilities, which itself is stressful. This leaves you with shopping, cooking, laundry, bill-paying, planning….it’s enough. Once every two weeks works for two adults. Over the years I have had about seven or more different people, and they all have been excellent. It is almost better if they don’t speak English, so you don’t have to “chat”.

    • yeah, I hate it when I have to interact with the peasants cleaning my house, too, so it’s awesome when I have their foreign-ness as an excuse not to sully myself in their presence.

  19. Chicago K :

    Great post!

  20. On the suggestion of working out efficiently, consider taking on a personal trainer. A trainer will be able to customize a plan for you that is efficient and can fit your work/school/life schedule. I recently signed up with the personal training service at my gym and explained to that my free time is limited. Based on that, I meet with my trainer every other week and he designs for me a total-body routine including cardio that takes just under an hour. And it totally kicks my butt. On my own, it would probably take at least an 1.5 hour to get the same level of intensity that I get now.

    • Oh yeah, having a trainer pretty much forces me to keep up with my work outs. My trainer will hound me if I’m not working out and actually paying for the service means I don’t want my money to go to waste.

  21. Thank you so much for this helpful post. Please keep the tips coming to make my life easier. :)

  22. I use Paytrust.com to pay all our bills online. I recommend it highly. The service accepts paper and electronic bills for you and emails you with images of the documents. It has the ability to schedule bills to be paid automatically, and that means no more missed payments or late fees. It also notifies you if a bill is late or missing.

    More about Paytrust on our blog, link below. (Note: the article was written specifically for people who live in their RV; however, I started using Paytrust long before we hit the road and found it to be a great time saver.)


  23. Dry Cleaning: I’ve used Dry Cleaner’s Secret dryer sheets for years. Originally got them for batches of sweaters, and now do almost all my dry cleaning this way. Very inexpensive and convenient. Saves time going to and from cleaners, saves stress of being without items you might want to wear.

    Most clothes come out of the dryer with few or no wrinkles. You do have to watch the time carefully and be ready with a hanger as soon as 20 minutes is up. I use my home dryer and don’t know if it would work well in a laundromat dryer.

  24. A quick comment on Woolite -an alternative that is less prone to yellowing your clothes is mild dishwashing liquid or shampoo. Yes, shampoo! I am a knitter and in our circles, lots of people have recommended shampoo for wools. After all, what is wool but hair of a sheep?

    • Interesting! I’m a crocheter and never heard that! I’ll definitely be keeping that in mind.

    • I’m a knitter too and yes, shampoo works great! I throw my sweaters into a lingerie bag and add the same amount of shampoo as I would Woolite and wash it on the lingerie/gentle cycle and then lay out flat and shape to dry. When I’m really inspired, I handwash in shampoo, roll it up in a towel to get most of the excess moisture out and lay out flat and shape to dry. Works like a charm!

    • oh yes, shampoo works like a charm and i use it for all my handwashing.

      and its a great way to finish up those bottles of shampoo that you bought to try out and then never finished because you didn’t really like what it did to your hair. ;)

  25. Great! Now I don’t feel so bad that I never seem to be able to find the time or energy to get all my clothes to cleaners. I hate the expense of the cleaners. And, now that you’ve mentioned it, I hate that dry cleaning is bad for the environment too. Think I might give Woolite a try tonight with one of my cashmere sweaters. Wish me luck!

  26. smartmonkey :

    For workout, I also HIGHLY recommend the ‘couch to 5 k’ program. It’s a 9 week program that holds your hand until you can run for 30 mins straight. Each ‘run’ takes about 30-40 minutes, and there are three runs in a week. I’m in week 8 now (although it took me more than 8 weeks), and I have lost 7 pounds, from 110 to 103 pounds now. I’m very petite, and this weight loss makes a huge difference. Now I enjoy running, and I think it actually helps me with stress management. Go to c25k webpage and download the mp3 version of the program. It tells you when to run and when to walk, so no time keeping is necessary.

    • This is really helpful, thanks! I hadn’t done it yet bc I didn’t realize there was an mp3. I am going to try it out now!

      • there are also some free music podcasts w/ the C25K program that you can download, which may be what smartmonkey is referring to. they have “new agey” music which is fine if that’s what you like. my DH actually made some podcasts for me w/ music that I liked, the timing cues, and encouragement (“you’ve been running for 5 minutes now – way to go!”). so if you happen to be handy (and have the time) w/ the computer and mp3s, you could do the same thing. good luck!

        P.S. to smartmonkey – took me way longer than 9 weeks to complete the program!

        • smartmonkey :

          The mp3’s and the podcasts are the same thing. I think they have mp3 versions with some other kinds of music too. There are also iphone applications. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s a great program to get you out there, especially if you’re goal-oriented, and only have less than an hour for workout. I like setting goals and crossing out small wins so this was perfect.

          MelM, glad to meet another fan of c25k here. :) What did you do once you were done with the program?

          • SM: I did several 5ks to get used to races (fun runs). last summer, after about a year of running, I did my first 10k. This past Thanksgiving, I did my first half marathon and will do another half at the end of March. Clearly, I’m hooked!

  27. This is such a great post! After reading it I called merry maids and set up a cleaning for my house this weekend. When my salary was cut due to the recession I cut out my cleaning service. I cannot say how much anxiety having a cluttered house has caused me. I looked at my finances and I can afford the $150 for the cleaning service once a month if I cut out going out once a month. I think the outer order will lead to inner calmness and I’ll also be buying myself about 5 hours a month of cleaning (I do a deep clean once a week and then I clean for about 30 minutes each night. I am hoping I can eliminate the deep clean on the weekend). We’ll see. Thank you for all of your advice. So helpful!

  28. my issue w/ cleaning services is that I have never once had a house cleaner who cleaned my house the way I wanted it cleaned. is it too much to ask to at least get rid of the cobwebs?! I figure I can clean the house half-a**ed for free!:) but I have to say I do miss the twice-a-month cleaning and have let things go myself, though my husband does do basics. I will try the 20 minute timer thing – until the economy improves and I can afford a cleaner again. also, I thought there was payment limit below which you do not have to pay Social Security/payroll taxes (i.e., unless you pay over $X/year, you don’t have to take out taxes)?

    BIG believer in Couch to 5k program. hated running before I did that. also, even though I am NOT a morning person, I have to do my work-out first thing, or it is less likely to get done.

    can someone give me or direct me to an explanation of the mint.com service? I have used Quicken for years, but hate hate hate having to code every transaction manually. I usually wait MONTHs to do it (or right before taxes are due). would love an easier solution as I handle all the finances for my family.

  29. Seventh Sister :

    This is probably working-mom specific, but I feel like I save time by doing some grocery shopping at lunch on weekdays rather than taking Monster Toddler to the Shop-a-Rama on a Saturday. Also, Amazon Prime has been a great deal for me – they have a lot of things like laundry soap and dry goods (i.e., cases of mac & cheese) . Diapers .com has been very convenient, too.

    I’ve had a housecleaner since I moved in with my (now) husband, and it’s great since we have very different views of what constitutes “clean.”

  30. On laundry — use something milder than Woolite for any of your washables. Ecover does a wonderful wash for dedicates. Ivory dish soap is even good. I’ve done fiber arts for years and years. I’d never wash anything wool, cashmere, or silk in anything as harsh as Woolite.

  31. The best advice my grandmother ever gave me: ” Now that you’ve graduated from law school, you need to hire a housekeeper. You have an obligation to provide a job for someone who can’t do what you do and you need to focus on your work, not cleaning house.”

  32. Mint.com and flylady.net – really great tools to help with finances and managing the home, even if you do hire someone to help you with either.

  33. Two suggestions.
    1. Autopay everything. After some initial fussing and form-filling — I now spend 10 minutes a month sorting out my bills. (Note: I use HSBC in Hong Kong. Not sure how it works in the U.S.)
    2. Jillian Michael’s Shred is only 20 minutes and you don’t need to commute to a gym. Half-hour tops with the warm-up and cool down. It’s divided between cardio, abs and light weights. It’s the most time-efficient exercise I’ve ever done.

  34. Chicago K :

    For those of you who did the couch to 5k program, did you lose weight?

    I want to start running (i usually just incline walk). I can walk for miles and miles but running is hard for me…would like to try this, but know the incline walking burns a ton of calories, and not sure about slow running for 20-30 minutes helping that much.

    • Chicago K – I posted about the C25K program above. I did lose weight, but I was also doing Weight Watchers at the same time. But what the running program did was help jumpstart me on that last 20 lbs. I needed to lose – kept me from plateauing (too much). Also, it changed my shape. I have previously weighed basically the same as I do now, but now I can wear clothes that are 1-2 sizes smaller than before because the running has toned me. Muscle takes up less room than fat, even if a pound of muscle still weighs the same as a pound of fat! But I don’t know how the incline walking calorie expenditure compares – I am a slow runner, so it may not be that much different. I think the couch potato program is so gradual that it won’t hurt to try it and see. you can always go back to walking. good luck!

  35. There is only one thing better than shopping in Hong Kong, and that’s eating. From small noodle joints to upscale French restaurant, you will locate all sorts of restaurant, eating hall and snack stall on earth in Hong Kong. Here I found small amount of Hong-Kong-styled snacks online (yummiexpress.freetzi.com). This is definitely a good choice before I have $ for another trip.

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