Ashley Steimer-King
May 02, 2019 12:03 pm
The CW

Life with a preschooler, a full-time job, and a big commute is an exercise in finding more efficient ways to do what needs to get done. So while I try to avoid time-sucking perfection, I get huge satisfaction from finding and perfecting systems that give me more time to enjoy my work, friends, and family. These aren’t so much my inventions, but tips gleaned from books and trends—with my own spins.

High-tech solutions have their place, like the four different online calendars I have that are synced with each other and every device I use, but most of the techniques that get me through the day are decidedly low-tech. So whether you’re a busy millennial mom, like me, or you just love a good life hack, here are my top six low-tech tips for parenting a little one.

1Don’t lose sleep over lost sleep

I don’t wear my fitness tracker to bed, and I don’t worry about how much sleep I got. The best advice I got when our son was a baby is: do not, under any circumstances, calculate how much sleep you got. Go through your day exhausted, under the false impression that you maybe cobbled together six good hours of sleep. You didn’t. But no one ever felt better by stressing out over how little sleep they got.

2Clean once a month

Once a month, my husband and I clean for three straight hours. Our son far exceeds his screen time limit on those days, or we do it after he’s in bed. The rest of the month, it’s just low-level tidying. I wipe up spills, of course, but the bathroom, floors, and dusting are handled during those marathon cleaning sessions. If it’s a particularly busy time, and we can afford it, we hire a professional cleaner. I keep this low-tech, preferring to pay a cleaning person directly rather than using an app; I have yet to find a cleaning company I can book using an app that guarantees decent employee pay.

3Don’t do all the things

It may sound cliché, but these two books actually changed the way I live my life: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte, and Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, by Tiffany Dufu. Read them in that order. Overwhelmed will show you how trying to do too much is causing you problems, and Drop the Ball will help you do something about it. The short version? You don’t have to do all the things, all the time.

4Keep a “Nothing Gets Lost” notebook

Even with all the high-tech to-do list options out there, I stay decidedly low-tech on this front. I borrowed a bit from the bullet journaling craze and have come up with the perfect system. Well, for me anyway. It’s a fits-in-my-purse size, disc-bound notebook with four sections: 1) a numbered Table of Contents; 2) 12 to-do list pages, one for each month of the year; 3) a to-do list page for each week; and 4) numbered sections for notes that corresponds to the Table of Contents. I learn in November that my sister’s baby is due in April? I can put a note to start planning the shower on the January page.

5Stock your closet with the items you want to wear right now—and only those items

Like millions of other people, I bought, read, and loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book’s author and Netflix sensation, Marie Kondo, is clearly an organizing genius, but I took a bit of a detour that’s really helped me stay organized. When I was cleaning out my closet, I went against her advice and kept some clothes that don’t spark joy, like nursing bras and the wool tights I wear under my pants when I travel somewhere chillier than L.A.  The game-changer is that I pulled them, along with anything that’s of out season or currently ill-fitting, out of my closet and put them into storage boxes.

By allowing myself to keep things that aren’t good for right now, I can be brutal in my decision-making—and I don’t have to feel like I’m throwing away something that might be useful down the road. Gaps a bit at the waist now but I might want them after holiday-time overindulgence? Into the storage box they go. Now, when I reach into my closet in the dark (which it is at 6:00 a.m. when I’m getting ready), I’m sure to grab something that I feel good in, is in season, and fits.

6 Take a transition minute

I spend one minute (literally 60 seconds) taking deep breaths in my car before heading into work in the morning, and again before picking up my son in the evening. Is two minutes of meditation a day better than none? I don’t know, but I definitely think it helps bring me into the moment and shift into the next part of my day.

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