8 Strategies for a More Efficient Home

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Life only gets busier and busier. Ever since the industrial revolution, we do more and more. In recent decades, advances in technology allow us to stay far more connected, at the cost of being far busier. Staying on top of your life, and your home, has never been a bigger challenge.

8 Strategies for a More Efficient Home

We’ve identified eight strategies that can help you be more efficient at home. They range from embracing technology all the way down to how you shop at the grocery store. The goal is embrace a few of these tactics so that you can get a little bit more free time without losing your productivity. 

1. Buy Groceries Pre-Cut

You don’t realize how much time you spend cutting, chopping, shredding, dicing, mincing, and slicing as you prepare a meal. And, awhile back, someone brilliant thought it would be a good idea to start selling food in the grocery store where they had already done all of this for you. 

Nowadays, you can buy your cheese shredded and your garlic minced. You can buy your vegetables chopped and your deli meat sliced. You might already be buying one or two of these items pre-cut, but have you ever sat down and evaluated all of the areas you could save time by going all-in on this?

Next time you make a store list, spend a minute going through it and asking the question “Can I buy this pre-cut?” If so, do it. You’ll be surprised by how many things you can buy pre-cut. Not sure if it comes pre-cut? Put a question mark next to it, and look for it at the store. Ask a clerk if you can’t find it easily.

Yes, typically speaking, the pre-cut version of the food is a little but more expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, it might not be the best option for right now. But, in my experience, the amount of time you’ll save far outweighs the slight cost increase. 

2. Purchase a Smart Lock for your Front Door

There are several benefits to having a smart lock on your front door. First and foremost, you’ll be the ire of all of your neighbors with your cool looking dead bolt, and state of the art entry mechanism. And, that’s worth it alone right?

On a serious note, for starters you won’t have to manage the number of keys you have floating around to your house any longer. At a certain point, you start to lose track of how many spare keys you have floating around, and it isn’t particularly safe. Also, you’ll never have to worry about leaving your keys and being locked out of your house. It only takes that happening once for you to realize how frustrating that is (and how big of a waste of time)!

You also won’t have to deal with having to make and transfer a key to family members, friends that are in town, housekeepers and maintenance workers… the list goes on. 

Keyless locks come in two basic types - one’s that utilize a number pad, and one’s that utilize technology. If you’re worried about wireless security, you might opt for the number pad version. However, there are several additional benefits that come with the technologically smart version. 

Your door will automatically unlock as you approach it with your smart phone on you. Also, you can quickly issue access to friends and family through their smartphone, and set boundaries on how long it is accessible for.

Lets take a real life example that just happened to me. I forgot to turn off our lights before leaving for a long weekend. I quickly texted my neighbor, and gave her access through her phone to our front door for 2 hours. She ran over and turned the lights off. Voila!

3. Cook in a Crockpot

If only I had known about this in college. Did you know it was possible to open your fridge, grab a couple of things, throw them into a crockpot, walk away for 4-8 hours, and come back to an amazing meal?

It’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much. A crockpot is a very simple cooking appliance, and it seems that almost everything you put in it comes out tasting good. And, with very little effort. 

Related: 31 Crockpot Freezer Meals for Busy Weeknights

Take this recipe, for example: four frozen chicken breasts and a can of salsa. Dump both into a crockpot, set on low, and when you come home from work or errands, you’ll have an amazing meal. Wrap it in a tortilla and put a little cheese on top, and several of my friends have commented that it tasted better than the local Mexican restaurant. 

Crockpots are amazing because they save you both time and money. The time savings are obvious – the slow cooking components of the process allow you to do very little prep to end up with a great meal. However, you can also save a lot of money with a crockpot. Typically, you can make an amazing meal with much cheaper meat. Again, the slow cooking process breaks down the meat into something quite good. Chuck roast, pork shoulder – these cuts of meat taste amazing in the crockpot, and could usually be purchased very inexpensively.

4. Buy in Bulk

You’ve probably heard this one from your mother at some point, but it is so true. Buying in bulk saves you money, but it also saves you so much time. 

It’s painful at first. It never seems like it's going to be very expensive until you get to the checkout line. Almost as painful is trying to figure out where to store it all. Who has room for 28 rolls of paper towels? And that 5 gallon drum of 409? Ok, I exaggerate, but you get the point. If you live in a small home, or don’t have a lot of storage, you do need to take this into consideration. 

But then the benefits kick in. You rarely have to make those emergency runs to the store to get just one item. Your life is interrupted far less by the need to go to the neighbor’s for an egg. 

And again, the savings are definitely there. You get a discount when you buy in bulk, and you’ll notice the savings over time. Just make sure you have a track record of using it before you buy in bulk. Otherwise, you might end up with a whole lot of something that looked good but didn’t turn out so.

5. Use Technology for List Creation

All this talk of what to buy, how much of it to buy, and how to cook it… you need a good list to keep track of everything. And if you’re still making your lists with pen and paper, or even on a computer, its time to leverage technology for that.

There are a plethora of apps available for your phone that you can create and update a list on in real time. The best part of this is that you always have your list on you, whether at home, at the store, or on the go. Whenever you think of something you need, you can quickly add it to your list.

Another benefit is that you can share these lists with others. So, for example, if your husband or wife lets you know that they need to stop by the store on the way home from work, you can quickly share the list with them and they can grab everything you need.

Better yet, share the app with others in your home that have a role in that list. That way, all can add to it in real time, and all can check it off in real time.

Lists don’t just have to be for the store. They can be for household projects, homework assignments, and long term journaling. I actually have a list on my phone for when I think of a good gift for someone. 

6. Unsubscribe from Junk Snail Mail

Yes, it’s possible. I won’t say that there is an easy button for it, but with a little work, you can rid yourself of the vast majority of junk mail that you receive. I know because I’ve done it. 

For starters, start to think closer about where you are using your address on forms. Try to be more mindful of not giving out your address if possible. 

Your first action item is to contact the Direct Marketing Association and let them know you want to stop receiving junk mail. They call it “offers” that you have participated in, but you get the picture. It’s very easy to do, and will start to stem the flow of endless junk snail mail.

Next, sign up for TrustedID Mail Preference Service. It’s free, and you can search for individual companies that you get junk mail from, and opt out. Spend an evening doing that.

Last, try taking advantage of PaperKarma, an app that lets you opt out of snail mail. As they say “Snap a photo. Stop junk mail and unwanted catalogs”.

Junk mail takes minutes every day to deal with, but those minutes add up to hours and hours every year. 

7. Rethink your Chores

House chores are never ending. Just when you finish a chore, it seems like its time to start on it all over again. And, if you fall behind, it can seem like a tremendous hurdle to get caught back up.

For many, the reason you fall behind on chores is a never-ending spiral that has to do with how you fundamentally approach those chores. As you get behind, the chores stack up. So, when you finally get around to doing the chore, it’s typically more extensive and time consuming to get it completed. This means that it takes longer, setting you even further behind on your other chores. And so the cycle goes.

Try re-thinking your chores. For starters, break each chore up into smaller components that can be done piece by piece. As an example, instead of vacuuming the entire house once per week, try vacuuming one room each day. This is much easier to accomplish, and a lot easier to catch up on if you miss one day.

Next, think about ways to make the chore simpler. Sticking with our vacuuming example, invest in a stick vacuum to put in a downstairs closet near your high traffic areas. These lightweight, easy-to-use vacuums come with cordless models, so you can whip it out and just vacuum the kitchen and dining room in a matter of minutes. 

Finally, follow the 80/20 rule, which says that “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” In other words, 80% of the effects from vacuuming comes from 20% of your efforts. How does this apply? Basically, it’s better to vacuum frequently, but not spend as much time on it, rather than doing an in-depth vacuum job infrequently.

You can still do a detailed vacuuming job, but perhaps that is best reserved for once per month.

Take the vacuuming example and apply to all the various chores you have. The goal is rethink how you approach your chores to focus on shorter sprints of execution. This will make you more efficient, while still giving you a majority of the results.

8. Go Smart

We talked earlier about adding a keyless entry to your front door, and mentioned that you could do this with a smart door lock. However, you don’t have to stop there. 

“Smart” is the term used of late to refer to home automation, or the automating of tasks at home. In practice, its less about automation, and more about making your life easier through incorporating various technologies. 

Here are a few areas we have added smart technology to our home, with great success:

 Smart Thermostat: Our air conditioning and heating system is now hooked up to a smart thermostat. You can still control it from the unit in your home, but you can now also access through an app on your phone. More importantly, the thermostat learns your patterns over time, and gradually sets the house to the temperature you prefer. This results in ease-of-use, while also saving you money on your energy bill in the long run.

 Smart Sprinkler System: Our sprinkler system now connects to the internet, getting updated on the weather. When it is going to rain, the sprinklers automatically turn off. You can also access this from an app on your phone. On a really hot day, sometimes I’ll turn on my sprinklers for an extra cycle in the evening, from my phone. 

 Amazon Echo: Amazon’s Echo is a hands-free, intelligent, personal assistant that responds to voice commands. It connects to a majority of your other devices. There are dozens of benefits, but my favorite ties in to a previously mentioned tip. You can update your lists simply through a voice command.

Conclusion 

There are numerous other ways to make your home smart, from tying in your lighting to your entertainment to your security. Each comes with an initial upfront cost, but will save you time and money over the long run. 

Our culture of busy can make keeping a home up challenging at times. Combatting this business with some of these efficiency tactics can free up some time for you, while still keep you on task. 

*by andreascy*