5 Itty Bitty Housework Hacks to Save Time and Money

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

I don’t care for housework. I understand it’s a fact of life and I do get a feeling of accomplishment when everything is clean.

Thirty seconds later, my sons come home from the park and undo it all. Oh well, at least I tried, right?

Over the years of keeping my own home, I’ve come to rely on numerous “life hacks” that buy me a few minutes of time savings (and sanity) from housework.

Instead of doing housework right now, I’m going to share with you some of the smaller, more subtle housework hacks that I have come to rely on. I’m sure these tips exist already, and many of you will say, “Well, DUH! Who doesn’t do that?”, but for me, I found some of them genius! And if you try some of the ones that seem new to you, you might ask yourself in a few weeks, “Why did I not do that all along?”

1. Store your kitchen trash bags at the bottom of your kitchen trash can.

I learned this one from my days in the military. When we had “GI Parties,” in which we would stop everything and pitch in to clean our workspaces thoroughly and quickly, we were told to stuff 5-6 extra trash bags at the bottom of a trash can and then open up a bag and stretch it over the edge on top of the spares. I do this now at home, and if I buy small enough boxes of kitchen trash bags, I can toss the entire box into the bottom and just stretch a bag on top of it all.

2. Do you have more than one bathroom in your house? Stock up on cleaning supplies and store a set in each of the bathrooms.

Obviously this doesn’t work if you have young children. Be sure to keep such chemicals out of their reach. But if the kids are old enough to help out, this will make things much easier. I store toilet bowl cleaner, sponges, Clorox wipes, and a small bucket under each bathroom’s sink. Because cleaning supplies don’t expire quickly, I feel that you aren’t really spending more money over the long run.

If you are a member of a warehouse club, such as Sam’s Club or Costco, you can do this easily by purchasing multi-packs of supplies.

3. Cut your dryer fabric softener sheets in half.

If you don’t use dryer sheets, you can skip this tip. If you do, consider this a way to make dryer sheet last twice as long. I do this as soon as I buy a box of sheets. Cut them all in half. With scissors. I personally don’t see a reduction in softness or static electricity by using only half a sheet. Do you have a particularly large load of laundry? Or you want to go for “extra softness” with that load of towels? Simply use two halves.

Note: If you can find Seventh Generation-brand fabric softener sheets, they come perforated already. You can easily rip them in half. Then compost the remnants when you’re finished.

4. Cut that recommended amount of laundry detergent in half.

Yep, I’m all about half in this post. I had learned back when I was cloth diapering my youngest son that laundry detergent build-up can really mess up cloth diapers’ effectiveness. Then I would have had to strip them to make them more effective again. Numerous cloth diapering forums recommended using just enough detergent to break the surface tension of your wash water, thus helping unwanted dirt lift away.

I first started practicing this ten years ago and I haven’t looked back. To this day I still use a minimum of laundry detergent, only increasing the dose if (a) there’s a yucky odor I’m trying to conquer and/or (b) I have a visibly dirty load of laundry, which in recent years has only been after my sons play an especially grimy baseball game.

While I personally use closer to a quarter of the recommended amount of laundry detergent, I will formally say that even by cutting down to half the amount, you can stretch your laundry detergent budget 200%.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. The author of this article goes so far as to suggest that detergent manufacturers are purposefully having us use more than we need so we go through this product a little faster. I also used to think this when shampoo bottle instructions would read, “Lather, rinse, repeat.” I didn’t understand the “repeat” part.

5. Dirty microwave? Start your cleaning process by boiling a mug of water for 5 minutes.

Did your pre-teen geekling decide to heat up leftover red beans and rice in a bowl without a cover? Did red beans spray all over the inside if your microwave? Did your geekling do nothing about it, thus allowing the beans to dry into a stucco-like crust?

Fret no more! My mother taught me to partially fill a Pyrex or microwave-safe mug with 6-8 ounces of water and let the microwave boil it for several minutes. The steam throughout the microwave cavity will loosen the dried food, enabling it to clean up much faster and more easily.

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.