- Baby carrots make any meal healthier.
- Wipes. Every room. Every time.
- Throw away clutter--I do this with my kids' toys and it feels good.
- Hire a cleaning lady. Hello? This is the mother of all obvious tips. Yes. Yes. And yes. I have a cleaning lady and I am not rich. In fact, I've had one off and on since we first bought a house 10 years ago. You may not choose to spend your money this way but I do. It helps me, my house, my kids, and my marriage immeasurably. PS There's still a lot to do and kids can still learn to work.
- Never make side dishes. I never make more than one thing for dinner--it's true. I don't make side dishes. I make only one-pot meals like soups, pasta, chicken and bean-type things or stuff that goes with rice. I'm not saying it's the best way to live but it is certainly a way to live. I do have two recipes for side dishes in case you ever have to take one to a dinner. (See below.)
- A new thing I have started doing is not separating my kids' clothes when I do their laundry. It saves a lot of time and hassle. Nothing bad happens. Try it.
- Don't always sign up for PTA or room mother. You don't have to. No one knows and no one cares. There can only be one room mother per class. It doesn't have to be you. I help out in a significant way every other year or so in each of my kids' classes or schools. I have 4 kids--you do the math. I'm not known as a superstar around the school but I don't care. It's enough. And when I was doing more and felt like I had to help with every treat and party in all their classes it just made me mad and vengeful. I can't live like that.
- If you do get caught in an awkward situation where you feel like one of those jerky/judgy moms is giving you a hard time be vague and make it sound like you're doing something else in a different grade or a different school that conflicts with whatever she's giving you a hard time about. She won't call you on it.
You: I haven't had time to think about it yet! (You could stop here. Or keep going.) The book fair at [Jr. High, pre school, a nearby charter school, etc] has been going all week.
(This is probably true. There is always a book fair going on somewhere. And you aren't lying and saying that you are actually working at the book fair. It could be--as it is in my case--that the mere existence of a book fair somewhere wears you out or precludes you in someway from taking treats to a party. Then ask her what she is taking--that's what she wants to talk about anyway. Then go to the gas station to get a drink while your cleaning lady cleans your house. Yes--I do this and I don't feel lazy or guilty. Remember, I'm a not very good homemaker. Should a paraplegic feel lazy or guilty about using a wheel chair?)
- Always have eggs, olive oil, and some kind of cheese."Olive oil? Isn't that for fancy dishes?" I don't know. But everything "easy" or "quick" that you see on Food Network starts with it. Get some.
- Don't persist in traditions you hate. You need to read The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties. Decide what you do with your family that you actually enjoy and only do that. It will change your life.
- In that same vein, don't ask 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6-year-olds what they want to do, eat, have, make, or be. Of course they want to ride the Polar Express, get a new Easter dress, make and decorate sugar cookies, do a gift exchange with all their cousins, sleep in a tent, and have a party. They aren't reasonable and have no idea how much things cost or the toll it takes on you. DO NOT ASK THEM. You're going to need some bargaining chips when your kids can babysit, do dishes, and mow the lawn. Let voicing their opinion be a privilege they earn.
- Don't forget about music. A not-very-good homemaker easily gets depressed or feels overwhelmed. I actually forgot about music for about 3 years when I started having babies. I'm glad I remembered it because it helps. It really does help cheer me up when I'm down or bored or doing a chore I hate or just sitting there playing with toys with my kids and it's not exactly that fun. Listening to music I like makes anything tolerable and even pleasant.
Vegetable #1: Mark's Carrots
Steam a bunch of carrots (like 5 pounds?) You can use baby carrots or if you are more competent you can slice whole carrots diagonally with a mandolin. I actually have a mandolin. If you don't know what I'm talking about--DON'T PANIC. Forget I even mentioned the mandolin. If you don't know how to steam just boil them. It will work. Let them sit.
Melt 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter and cook some chopped up ginger (you peel it first) and garlic in the butter on lowish heat. It can't brown. DON'T LET IT BROWN.
Add a cup of brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. This makes a glaze for the carrots so put the carrots in it and stir it around. There. You've made a big batch of carrots with ginger in it so it seems more gourmet than just taking a bag of raw baby carrots (see tip above). It's a passable side dish to take to a dinner at someone's house.
Vegetable #2: Josh's Creamed Corn
Warm up a 20 oz bag of frozen corn in a pot on the stove with a cup of heavy cream for about 5 minutes. Then add 3 T butter and 2 T of flour. Stir it up. Put in a teaspoon each of sugar and salt and 1/2 tsp of Accent. If you don't have Accent it's OK because Accent is MSG--tasty, tasty MSG. If you don't know what Accent or MSG is DON'T PANIC. It doesn't matter. Forget I even mentioned MSG. Pour it into a rectangular casserole dish and top it with Parmesan cheese. Put it under the broiler until it browns. Don't burn it. Voila! Creamed corn that tastes good and can be taken to a dinner without shame.
You might be thinking, "She has a maid and owns a mandolin? Where does she get off acting like a not-very-good homemaker!" Well, I hope you do think I'm better than not-very-good. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm sitting here on my bed unshowered in my pjs at 10:30 am, weekend dishes undone, breakfast for kids unmade, with a bag of garbage on one side and a bag of candy on the other side and a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos on the nightstand. You can think what you want. But mostly, share your obvious tips.