Have it your way: 33 ideas to spark more free time

Recently, I had the privilege of getting to know the mother of a dear friend. We talked about the trials and stresses of new home ownership and tight finances when you’re starting out in family life. For instance, when she was a new mother (with four children) and they moved into their home, she said it was 100 small things that got them through, like the move from brand name Cheerios to knock off bags of cereal. Finding ways to free more time in your schedule is like that, too. To jump start your own path of 100 small things, today I offer you 33 ideas to spark more free time. 

33 Ideas to Spark More Free Time

  1. Mix your favorite go-to spices (cinnamon and sugar counts!)
  2. Use Youtube to learn how to slice weird shaped fruit or veggies
  3. Download an app so you can capture your mental to-do list on the fly
  4. Put your keys in the right hand pocket every time
  5. Use Amazon auto-ship for toiletries that you buy every month (works for diapers, too!)
  6. Create a family habit of 10-minute cleanup before the bedtime routine starts
  7. Have multiple laundry baskets so that you can sort clothes as you take them off
  8. Make your kids and spouse responsible for packing their own lunches
  9. Set out your outfits for the entire week (no more rushing around to find the right shirt!)
  10. Put only the utensils you most often use in your kitchen utensil drawer
  11. Use see-through food storage containers so your food doesn’t go to waste
  12. Set your email account to automatically file e-receipts in a separate folder
  13. Get yourself on the federal do-not-mail (or call) lists
  14. When you’re online shopping, commit to purchasing from a company you trust and avoid wasting time on bargain hunting
  15. Unsubscribe from listservs whose emails you never open
  16. Use your lunch break to squeeze in a workout or a trip to the gas station
  17. Elbows up! Learn to gracefully say “no” to activities you would rather not do
  18. Plan for activities you *do* want to do, so that they are sure to happen
  19. Ask yourself, “does this serve me?” when you’re doing something that’s not productive. (Sometimes the answer is yes, in which case you should absolutely continue!)
  20. Set a timer for things you know could accidentally make you lose track of time, like online shopping, Facebook, or reading a book.
  21. Chop extra veggies while you’re in the kitchen and freeze what you don’t use
  22. Batch cook
  23. Don’t set a snooze alarm (you won’t hit snooze too many times, plus you’ll sleep longer)
  24. Stack your folded laundry in a way that lets you see everything, so you’re not digging for what you want.
  25. Give away jewelry you don’t use anymore
  26. Organize your grocery list by section of the store
  27. Set boundaries with what your little ones play with…you should not have to search for things that you actually need.
  28. Get your spouse and kids on board with choosing a home for things that sort of float around (in our house, it’s the salt shaker).
  29. Keep a just-in-case bag that lives in the car (water, diapers, extra clothes, snacks, toys, sunscreen, lotion and earrings for you…). It’s your backup to the bag that goes with you everywhere.
  30. Create a routine that helps you see where your time-saving gaps are. For us, setting 6:00 as dinner time set off a whole chain reaction of choices that help us get to 6:00 without stress. 
  31. Set up auto bill pay for as many things as you can.
  32. Use mini-gaps between activities to start a piece of housework
  33. Throw a pillowcase in with the laundry loads, so you have a backup “basket” to stuff clothes in if the actual basket wanders off.

Commit to Actively Looking for Time Saving Moments

Saving time is a journey that will never end, because our lives constantly change. The kids get older, we get new jobs, sports come and go, we try new hobbies… Along the way, you’ll figure out some time saving tricks that you keep around, but there are others that will only be discovered when life calls you to new rhythms and routines. 

Your challenge is to commit to actively looking for those 100 small things you can do to save time. You’ll know you are successful because suddenly you have 10 minutes to read a book, or you’re playing with your kids before dinner when there used to be no time. Maybe you’re getting a little more sleep. Maybe you finish the dishes and look around and think, “Now what do I do?” (Yes, this can be you!)

Whatever it is that you long for, its 100 small choices that save time that will get you there. Plus, you’ve got a head start with these 33 ideas to spark more free time. Get going, mama bear! I believe in you. 


***How about you? What are the small things you do that save a tiny bit of time? Please share in the comments! You never know who you might be helping out. May our loving energy inspire and cheer each other on. Go mama!

Woman in striped dress walking down beach path

Clear out your closet for new dreams, more time, & self care

The funny thing about letting go of stuff is that you give a gift to yourself. Not only does the absence of something unwanted feel like a relief, but you create space for life to draw in more of what you do want. It’s a physical and spiritual act, this letting go. In the dance of motherhood, and career, and heart, and life, the spiritual side of me needs to be heard and honored more than ever. So this month, as the snow starts to fall in Milwaukee and as light dims earlier each day, I have decided to clear out my closet. It’s a deliberate act of making space for new dreams, and one of self care. The icing on the cake is that it will put more time in the day.   

Use your Closet to Make Space for New Dreams

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Ingrid Fetell Lee where her interviewee shared a story about clearing out unwanted clothes from her closet and not only did they she feel like she had more to wear, but she suddenly felt free enough to quit their job and try something new. That story totally resonates with me. There’s something freeing about removing the physical proof of our past – who we were and what was working for us then – in order to move into a space of who we are now and who we want to be. 

Who is it you want to be? This slice of life has caused new dreams to form in you. So why not send your signal into the universe (and to yourself) that you’re ready for them. Clean out that closet…then the dresser…then the forgotten boxes in the basement. Finally, release whatever else that’s filling your space and making you feel stuck. You are so free, if only you allow yourself to see it

Use Your Closet to Boost Self Care

You are a beautiful human being, you know that? Every inch of you. And getting dressed should be a fun way of celebrating yourself on the daily. However, if you’re like me, you have clothes you keep around because they’re functional, not because they make you feel beautiful or brighten the day. We all do it –  we keep things that look nice, but they show too much cleavage or don’t fit quite right or we convinced ourselves in the store that we can make it work, but never got around to actually making it work. Sometimes we keep stuff because a relative bought it. There are clothes kept for reasons we’ve long forgotten. 

Now imagine – how would it feel to have and wear only clothes that fit right and feel good? How would it feel to spend less time worrying about or adjusting what you’re wearing? Pretty good, right?!?

You deserve the kind of self care that comes without having to think about it. You deserve to wake up to a closet of only outfit options that you are excited to wear. 

Clear out your closet to save time

If drawing in new dreams and self care aren’t enough of a reason to clear out your closet, then perhaps this info will seal the deal: when you make repetitive motion by choosing or finding clothes, you are wasting your time. Think about it – how much time do you spend when you search through a drawer for a shirt two or three times before finding it? How much time do you spend just deciding what to wear? 

In the end, clothes can create a waste of time that really adds up. We blow by the fact that the problem could be fixed in the rush of getting ready to leave the house. And because it’s not addressed, it comes up day after day after day. You’re losing minutes without even realizing it.  I’m tellin’ ya – solving this problem will make mornings run a little faster.

Action Challenge

This month, I invite you to join me in a very loving and intentional act of letting go of clothes that no longer serve us. To help, Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up recommends that you:

  • Thank your “get rid of” clothes out loud. Thanking is a way to honor how they served you and send them on their journey with gratitude. 
  • Get rid of anything you keep out of a sense of obligation, functionality, or guilt. You have permission.
  • Keep what sparks joy (I love this one!)

I also came across this Apartment Therapy blog post by Arlyn Hernandez, which has a quick-hits list of stuff to toss like those shoes that always hurt, old bridesmaid dresses, and things that you kept last time you cleaned out your closet but haven’t worn.

I hope you enjoy yourself as you clear out your closet to make space for new dreams, more time, and self care. Turn on some tunes. Sip some wine. Enjoy the memories your clothes bring up, even as you thank them and say “yes!” to whatever’s ahead. 


***I’m curious, what dream are you ready to draw into your life? Let me know in the comments! May our lovin’ energy inspire and lift each other up. Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, thanks for being you. go mama!

Silly photo of a dead potato - could've saved it with these food tips!

Your fridge is a time-sucking black hole (& what to do about it)

How many times a month do you find yourself throwing out food past its prime? It’s embarrassing, but I’ll admit that my family tosses food weekly, and there’s usually a monthly deep dive into the fridge for lost and forgotten food gone bad. It’s like a time-sucking black hole for food that we shopped for, cooked, packaged away…and then let spoil. For me, the worst part is the time spent cleaning up and feeling guilty about all the wasted food. If only there were easy ways to avoid this waste, right? As it turns out, the interwebs have a lot to say on the subject! This post is full of suggestions that will help our fridges no longer feel like a time-sucking black hole.

Six ways to keep food out of the trash

Be creative before tossing. Stale bread can be croutons or breadcrumbs. Freeze veggies for before they’ve gone completely bad – they’re perfect for soup or stew. This Huffpost article has some other suggestions on this front.

Make sure fridge temp is correct. Fridges that are too warm or too cold can cause food to go bad, and might also be a safety hazard. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the refrigerator temperature should be kept at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).

Invest in some produce saver sheets. Amazon has a bunch of options, like these FreshPapers. Throw these in the fridge drawer with your fruits and veggies to prolong their freshness. The reviews speak for themselves.

Store food in a way that’s easy to see, or at least labeled. Try to use clear containers to store food, so you have a constant visual reminder that it needs eating when you open your fridge. And if it’s not in a clear container, label the container with its contents and the date cooked.  

Shop for only what you need. This National Geographic article talks about how we shop with this psychological need to store and save, which means we buy more than we need. Queue the dark music for food gone bad (and time wasted cooking it!). Over the next couple weeks, spend some time noticing how much your family eats compared to how much you buy. Watch how much of your leftovers go to the fridge when perhaps they’d be better preserved in the freezer. And if you want that mental security of knowing there’s reserve food, stock your pantry with dry goods. 

Think of your freezer as short-term storage. Laura Moreno, a food waste expert featured in the above National Geographic article, suggests using the freezer as short-term storage. Those frozen leftovers can be a big time saver during a busy week. They are also just one stop away from the trash can if they develop freezer burn, which is extra incentive for using them within a couple weeks (which is probably the window you’ve got before forgetting they exist). 

Our turn – no more time-sucking black hole fridges

Over the next month or so, I’m going to start implementing these tips in my fridge and kitchen. I don’t want a time-sucking black hole fridge lurking in my kitchen. I want everything we cook to go into our bellies. I hope you’ll join me in this effort, for the sake of your own time and tasty cooking! 

***Find any of these ideas useful? If you’re thinking, “Oh yeah, this could definitely help in my kitchen” – please share this post on Facebook or other social media. This is a growing community and every share makes a difference! With gratitude, -Ashley

Pro Tips to Turbocharge Dinner

What do you love most about your evenings? If you’ve had a day at the office, are you getting some sweet time with your kiddos and/or getting dinner on the table? If you’re a stay at home mama, do you get a much needed break? Whatever your situation, I bet you are the heroine who gets at least half the dinner meals on the table each week. I bet you’d also love some pro tips to turbocharge dinner.

I enjoy cookin’ dinner. After working at a computer all day, it feels so good to feast my eyes on colorful vegetables and immerse my hands in interesting textures as I chop, rinse, and stir. But I’ll tell ya one thing – I do not love how long it takes to cook! Love doing it, but wish it could go faster. 

For today’s blog, I’ve done some scouring of the internet to bring you pro tips to turbocharge dinner. In other words – it’s time cooking dinner went faster! I’ll share a few of their ideas here and also give you links to the full articles. You should also check out this earlier post with 5 essential time saving tips for your kitchen.

Straight from the pros: turbocharge dinner

Sarah Crow at Eat This, Not That! recommends that we: 

  • Use “mise en place,” which is a french term that means “to put in place.” In other words, get everything ready, chopped, and prepped before you start cooking. Your meal will turn out better and feel less chaotic as it’s prepared.
  • Get some kitchen shears to make cutting faster
  • Make one-pan meals that roast meat and veggies together

In a bon appetite article with a sweetly playful voice, Christina Chaey suggests we:

  • Stock up on ingredients that feel fancy, but are super easy to cook. Ground lamb, anyone?
  • Consider the freezer our best friends. Use it for leftovers, for extra bags of tomato sauce, for extra bags of pre-prepped fresh herbs, for pre-sliced fancy bread that you can throw in the toaster. You get the idea. 
  • Cook grains in extra-large batches. The leftovers will inspire other meals during the week, and the grain part’s already done!

Taylor Isaac at CookSmarts has our backs with an article that talks about saving kitchen time on the cooking and cleaning side:

  • Keep a trash bowl or trash can near you. We waste precious time going back and forth to a trash can!
  • Prep dry ingredients first. This lets you re-use your measuring cups and spoons without washing in-between. 
  • Batch prepping = batch cleanup. (Notice a batch theme across these authors?!)  Batching makes meals big enough for leftovers, and means you’ll have less dishes to wash on those leftover nights. 

Let’s do this!!!

Well, there you have it! Straight from experts who have shortened their cooking time. I’m going to be intentional about employing some of these points in my own home, especially the “mise en place,” – aka prepping before starting to cook. We’ll see how it goes!

***I’m curious, what are your go-to tricks for making dinner quickly? What’s your turbocharge dinner secret? Make sure to write it in the comment box! Give this go mama community some inspiration – after all, we could all use a little more time in our lives! go mama!

5 Essential Time-Saving Tips for Your Kitchen

You know those annoying activities that waste your time but keep happening? A few seconds here, a few there…over and over… it adds up. Ready for a few easy tips?

Today’s five tips are for the kitchen:

  1. What state is your Tupperware drawer in? Think about how much time you spend trying to find the right lid to go with your Tupperware or glassware. Annoying, right? 

-Consider how much Tupperware or glassware you really need and then pare down.

-Gave your lids a home based on shape. I use small baskets- one for circles, one for squares. It works wonders.

-Don’t let Tupperware that needs to be returned to someone land in your drawer. It’s just one more thing to fish around each time you’re in there.

2. Do you have a hell drawer for utensils? It used to take me forever to find the right measuring spoon in my own kitchen hell drawer.

-Give those items that are used once or twice a year a separate home. (I’m lookin’ at you, turkey baster).

-Get rid of things that seemed like a good idea when you got them. Nice then, wasted space now.

-Try to place similar-sized things together. Marie Kondo would even recommend using cardboard boxes to compartmentalize things by size inside the drawer. Can’t say I’ve got as far as the boxes, but it’s a great idea. 

3. Next time a pot scorches, try boiling an inch of water, a dash of dish soap, and 2 Tbsp of baking soda before you start scrubbing. Should come right off. 

4. Keep trash liners at the bottom of your trash can, so they’re right there as soon as you take the dirty trash bag out. A little trick I learned working at a summer camp – works just as well at home!

5. Do you spend time stacking and  restacking things in your pantry, just so it all fits? Or just to remind yourself what’s there? Next time you find yourself doing this: 

-Get rid of (i.e. donate) anything older than 3ish months.

-Set a goal to only buy perishable food for a certain amount of time, during which you will make meals that will use up the non-perishables in your pantry. 

Bonus Tip:

When it comes to food, buy only what you need. I know this is easier said than done, but you can do it.

And remember – one thing at a time!

Remember to take a breath as you think about all the things you could do to make your kitchen waste less of your time. Lists are only a tool. You are capable and amazing and a great mom. You’ll chip at this one thing at a time. You’ll be saving time before you know it.

****I’m curious, what do you do in your kitchen to save time? Reply in the comments below. May our ideas inspire each other to save some precious time! Go mama!