What are some parenting tips that make life with kids easier? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Adrienne Gomer, 7+ years as a parent:
I've been a parent for a bit now and here are some things I've learned:
1) Pre pack lunches/meals/food in general. If your kid goes to school or daycare, pack their lunch the night before! We only started doing it this year and it's made our mornings a thousand times easier. Most foods are good in the fridge overnight.
2) Buy giant bins for everything. Seriously, we have a giant bin for legos, a giant bin for train pieces, a giant bin just for balls, even a giant bin for random small toys (this is especially fun to rifle through on boring days). If everything is separated into giant bins, it makes it much easier to store, especially if they're stackable or fit into some sort of shelf. (see IKEA for storage solutions). It also makes cleanup way easier. Here's an example of what we have in our kids' room (the whole system was less than a few hundred dollars and can fit more toys than they have and they have a lot):
3) Set out clothes the night before. My kids have never been super picky about their clothes but they are always excited to pick out or see what they'll be wearing the next day. I typically grab something, get their approval and lay it on the floor by their beds. It's also great when they get older because they can then get themselves dressed in the morning without needing help.
4) Buy online. Nowadays there are so many online retailers that will deliver the next day, it's ridiculous to lug your kids to stores just to buy things like toothpaste. Vendors like Amazon, etc. have great reordering options which makes it much easier to buy things like diapers, toiletries, cleaning supplies, even groceries that you restock on a regular basis. You can also find much better deals online (especially for retail stores like GAP and sale sites like Zulily) just buy searching for coupon codes, you'll end up saving money by having things delivered to your door without the hassle of bringing the kids out shopping. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say we should all be hermits, but if you can eliminate some errands, you'll have more time to take your kids to do fun things that they'll enjoy too. Unless being a hermit is your thing, then have at it.
5) Unwrap things. It's frustrating when you're in the middle of a diaper change and you are out of diapers and have to stop everything to open up a new box/pack. I make time when I'm unloading groceries (or deliveries) to unpackage everything before I put it away. It's so much easier to open a cabinet and grab something without dealing with boxes, plastic, packaging, etc. It takes a little more time up front but ends up saving frustration. I'd much rather spend the time when I'm already putting things away than when I'm in the middle of something like a diaper change. Same's true for food. I put all of our snacks in plastic containers, then I'm never worrying about bags and wrappers and things going stale. It's also a great tip for gift giving! I hate when my kids open a toy that's all boxed up and strapped down and they want to play with it right away, it takes forever to get those things free from the ridiculous packaging they come in and kids either get impatient or move on. We always open up, assemble and insert batteries in everything before we wrap it up, that way when it gets unwrapped it's ready to go!
6) Be flexible. With yourself and with other parents. I am not by nature a flexible person, however, I have three kids and none of them care how clean the house is or whether we make it anywhere on time. Understand that kids are kids and they aren't on your schedule or have your priorities. There are also so many things I thought I'd never do as a parent that I totally do (see: junk food, TV time, late bedtimes, etc.) Sometimes you have to let it go. Also - be less judgey of other parents who do things you wouldn't. I cringe when I see toddlers eating fast food and drinking soda, but you know what? Those parents are just trying to survive too and are doing the best that they can and in the end everyone will (most likely) turn out okay.