Simplify your life this fall @ monkeybusinessimages

September doesn’t just mean back to class – it means the start of clubs and sports, lessons, after-school activities, parents’ association meetings and all the things that stack up to create one hectic schedule.

We asked Ottawa parents about how they simplify and streamline their lives, cut corners, save time, and make their busy schedules work, all for the sake of having some more time together at the end of a long day.

Buy (and prep meals) in bulk

Tasha MacIntyre pre-cooks rice and pasta on the weekend to use in meals during the week. (Rice can be frozen on a cookie sheet and heated as needed, she says.)

When Sara Samimi does groceries, she washes and cuts up all her produce so everything’s ready to go. “It helps me see what I have and nothing is hidden in a bag in the bottom of the fridge,” she says.”  It not only saves time, but eliminates food waste from spoilage.

Casey Sharp hires a teenage neighbour every Sunday to make batches of oatmeal, quinoa, roasted vegetables and chickpea salad for her family.

Stagger your chores

Josmi Bansal’s family designates one day a week for each major chore. “We don’t have to use up a whole weekend trying to (fruitlessly!) clean a whole house at once and miss out on family time,” she said.

Consider investing in a housekeeper

“The housekeeper has been an amazing investment for our family,” says Alana Waumsley. “It has cut down arguments and made me feel less like the house work is all on me.” Waumsley feels that her housekeeper saves her about four hours bi-weekly.

Lija Bickis hires a housekeeper for two hours every two weeks for the big jobs like toilets, tub and sinks. It’s not just time saved in doing the chores, she says.

“It’s also the mental energy of planning chores and the dread of doing them when we are already so tired and busy. When we evaluated our budget, we both flagged this as the last on our list of luxury bills that we’d cut if needed.”

Pre-sort your laundry

Jill Paulin keeps a laundry basket in each bedroom to reduce laundry sorting time. Erin Shaheen and her husband like to divide and conquer.

“One person puts a load of laundry in at the end of the day and first person up in the a.m. always puts the load in dryer.”

Take shopping online

Unless you really love it, consider moving this task to the web. Patricia Hunt does all her shopping – “everything except groceries” – online. “Most stores have great return policies so it makes it easy,” she says. “I only go to grocery stores now.” @ Kritchanut

Ditch grocery shopping

Want to take online shopping one step further? Before Jessica Gage LaVecchia discovered online grocery shopping, groceries with two toddlers took an entire day on the weekend. “Now I order them online … It’s a total game changer for me.”

It also prevents impulse buys at the grocery store, says Sarah Mcilwham-Shipley.

Nix yard work

Gage LaVecchia’s family purposely bought an end-unit townhouse with a smallish yard because they knew they wouldn’t have the time to maintain a larger yard. “Our compromise was buying a house a block away from the park,” she says. @Poznyakov

Minimize your possessions

Fewer things in the house means less to clean and maintain. Alison Goulais did a huge clean out, and continues an ongoing purge. “We are moving towards capsule wardrobes for all of us,” she says. (For more on capsule wardrobes, read our story here.)

Kathryn McGrail joined a local Buy Nothing Group to give away things to people who can use them. She’s purged almost every room in the house over the last two years. “It’s amazing how much stuff you hoard for no reason,” McGrail says.

Prepare for the week ahead

Laying out the kids’ clothes for the entire week has been a timesaver for Megan Edmunds. “We have one of those hanging closet organizers in each child’s bedroom. I put together outfits from the laundry. Then every morning I walk into each child’s room and their clothes for the day are ready to be put on. No arguing, no trying to find items.”

Kristin Baldwin also plans outfits for the week. “I find it makes my weekday mornings run much more smoothly.”

Turn meal prep into social time

Nicky Szullo-Stewart turns what might otherwise be a tedious chore into much-needed girl time.  “My girlfriends and I get together once a month for meal prep. We prepare eight to ten meals that are very low-maintenance. I get to see my friends and reconnect and get meals for the crazy days.” The women take turns planning and emailing the grocery list to the others.

Write it all down

Anne Hocquard swears by logging each family member’s activities on a communal calendar. “The whole family can see what’s going on that day.”

Squeeze in a workout routine

The world always looks a little less stressful when you’ve had some exercise. “I try and get a workout in with my baby at the park every evening,” says Lexy Scott. “I do squats and lunges while I push her on the swings.”