Monday, March 09, 2009

Have an Extra Set of Gear to Save Yourself Time and Hassle

Photo by Tom@HK

I'm a long time fan of Getting Things Done -- David Allen's system for productivity (otherwise known as GTD). While the advice typically applies to work life (tasks, email, etc), I always try to apply the same concepts to mommy tasks too.

One of the big tenets of GTD is to "handle things once". This goes for email, snail mail, paperwork, etc. If you spend at lot of time shuffling stuff around, you end up spending more time handling the paperwork or email than had you just dealt with it right away.

In dealing with kids gear - sports gear and school gear in particular - I find that I end up dealing with the gear multiple times. The gear comes in the house, sits in the entry way for several days, finds its way to the laundry room, gets washed, put away, and then back into the bag the next time its needed. Often, we were hunting around for all the pieces of gear at the last minute when we were tying to run off to school or swim class.

Here's how I apply the GTD "handle things once" policy to my kids' gear.

1) Have 1 bag for each set of gear. The blanket and sheet HB needs for naptime at daycare has its own bag. Her swim gear has one bag. My husband and I each have a gym bag. Etc.

2) Have 1 extra set of gear. This is *key* to being able to implement the "handle it once" policy! I keep all the extra gear in the laundry room. I have a hanging canvas organizer where one cubby is used for one sport or activity.

3) When the bag comes in the house, it is immediately brought into the laundry room, the old dirty gear is put in the hamper, and the extra set of gear is loaded into the bag. Then the bag gets stored in the front-hall closet until it is needed the next time.

4) The gear is laundered normally with the household laundry and goes straight back into the cubbies when it is clean.

That's it. Each bag is handled once, and it is all ready to go for the next time. No hunting around for errant things at the last minute. And there is always a clean set of gear waiting in the cubby.

The absolute key to this process is to have a *complete* extra set of gear, and everything you need to re-stock the bag stored in the cubby. So, for instance, for swimming, HB has two bathing suits and two towels. I also keep the swim diapers in the same cubby. So, her bag can be fully loaded all at once. Actually, my husband does swim class with her. So, I need two bathing suits for him too (stored in the same cubby). You don't need an extra set of items that don't need to be laundered. So, for instance, you only need one set of gym shoes, and my daughter only needs one swim cap. They stay in the bag all the time.

You need to have one week's supply *plus one more set*. (Assuming you do laundry once a week). So, soccer twice a week would mean three sets of soccer clothes.

With her daycare bag, she needs a sheet and blanket for nap time. She brings a clean one in on Mondays and brings the dirty ones home on Fridays. So, we have two sets. On Friday, the bag comes home, gets re-stocked, and stored in the front-hall closet where it is ready to go for Monday morning. The sheet and blanket get washed along with the normal laundry cycle. No more running special loads Sunday night when I realized I had not washed her sheet and blanket from last week.

My husband and I also keep our gym clothes and gym towels in the cubbies. We use the same process for restocking them.

I think the extra expense in buying an extra set of gear is well worth the time you save, avoiding the hassle of forgetting to pack important pieces of gear, and the expense of running special laundry loads because you needed something cleaned at the last minute.

Another added bonus is that we now rarely have bags of dirty gear piling up in the entry way (that we always used to trip over on our way in and out).

What gear are you always hunting around for at the last minute? How can you apply the "handle things once" policy in your household?

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