6 ‘Hacks’ for surviving the busy days of fall

What's a hack? Simply a trick to make a task, or your life, a little easier. Here are six good fall hacks for the family engineer.


WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2015 – Fall is great for pumpkin latte, spice, carving, soup — pumpkin everything, but it’s also one of the most insane times of the year. Sports practice, appointments, meetings — sometimes you feel like you are scheduled down to the second. We can all use “hacks,” or ways to organize our lives, to buy enough downtime for “American Horror Story” or “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

1. Plan your dinners. Overachievers do it a month at a time and that’s great, but even if you can only manage a few days a week, that’s something. You will save money at the grocery store by not buying random items and for even a few nights a week, you know the answer to that horrible question, “what’s for dinner?”

2. Sort your laundry as you go. Get enough baskets for each type of laundry you have (whites, work uniforms, etc.) and stash them near the washer/dryer. If you don’t have enough room or use public facilities, try laundry bags. Sort the laundry into the proper basket/bag as it accumulates and as soon as you get enough of something, throw it in the machine. This method keeps you from spending an entire weekend doing laundry.

3.  Make friends with the cloud. Upload work documents and the kids’ homework to any of the free cloud storage services, like Dropbox or MyCloud. If practice runs late, you can still get work done and frustration won’t build to critical levels.

An added bonus: If a school paper is in the cloud, there is no need for the last-minute dash to school with forgotten homework. It is better to email the paper to the teacher on the fly than to throw the entire morning schedule into chaos.

4. Use the Prime, Luke. You love Amazon Prime for the streaming movies and free two-day shipping. Use it for something besides gifts: Order those huge packages of things you always have to stop for on the way home –toilet paper, diapers, soap and so on.  The necessities will be at your house in 48 hours and you don’t have to remember to stop anywhere, especially if it’s been “one of THOSE days.” If you can do the math, you can even set up recurring orders.

5. Slow cookers are your BFFs. These things are any mom’s friend. Don’t be intimidated; they are easy to use. Pour in a can of chicken broth, season some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, throw them in the slow cooker and four hours later, they will be so tender they fall apart on contact.

Bag them, freeze them and you are that much closer to dinner and you spent five minutes on it, tops. Use your free time to look around Pinterest for the fancy slow cooker meals, but try not to spend too much time repinning cookie recipes and cool nail polish tricks.

6. Stop feeling guilty for shortcuts. You have hacks of your own. Your gravy is canned, or somebody cleans your house or whatever, and somebody else feeds you a guilt trip about it. It could be your mom, your spouse or even yourself. You are your worst critic – how many times have you thought “a good mom would do such and such”?

It’s a good day when we only do it a couple of times. I have what is probably an unhealthy reliance on fabric refresher, cleaning wipes and sticky notes. That’s ok too. I work two jobs and juggle a husband, two teenagers and multiple animals.

Most of us are just trying to keep everybody fed and the house from being condemned by FEMA. So do whatever works and don’t feel guilty about it. Whatever you need to do to keep your train on the tracks, whether it’s takeout on game night or wrinkle releaser spray, don’t let anybody change your system.

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