Thursday, September 16, 2010

Organize Errands

If you are anything like me, you do not enjoy errands. Did you know that even errands can be organized? And while that won't make you enjoy them, it will maximize your time and energy, which will make you hate them less.

Tip 1: Chunk them. If you have multiple errands to do that are close to each other, run them all at the same time. Well, that would actually be physically impossible. But you know what I mean. You will save on gas by not having to go out again another day.

Tip 2: Know your limits. Have kids with you? They (and you) can probably only handle 2-3 stores. Is it the end of the day and you're exhausted from work? Only plan on doing what you can handle. Said gas from Tip 1 may be worth spending to save your sanity.

Tip3: Have a generally clean car. I know this sounds strange. But, if you are running multiple errands, you may accrue lots of bags. It can lead to stress and a shortening of your planned trips if you don't have enough space for all those bags.

Tip 4: Shop online. This is make it such that you don't need to run as many errands. Which is a lovely idea.

Tip 5: List well. Put all the items from Target under the heading "Target". Put all the office items you can't buy at Target under "Office Max". Put all the art supplies that you can't get at Office Max or Target under the heading "Hobby Lobby". And so on and so forth. Put the items you need under the store where you get them so you aren't spending precious time in the store trying to find all the Target items on your list.

Tip 6: Keep your reusable bags in the car. And then use them.

Tip 7: Bring a bottle of water and snack. This is key. Especially if you're going to the grocery store. We've all heard, "don't shop on an empty stomach". And it really is true. But not just for the grocery store.You may be tempted to stop at that Starbucks in Target. Or to just swing by Chick-fil-a before going to Home Depot.

Tip 8: Create a centralize place at home to write down errands. I have a family notebook. It organizes my life (I see a future post in the making). One of the tabs  is "To Buy". Here is where I list out all my errands so all I need to do on errand day is to tear out that page. I'm not hunting for small pieces of paper all over the house.

Caveat: Here I am about to talk about kids. For those who don't have kids - this section will benefit you as well since it deals with how to run errands well with kids. Because you know the drill: you're in a store watching a stressed out mother with her screaming child and think  to yourself, "Wow, I'm glad I don't have any kids."

Most moms I know have preschool for their kids. Which in turn means that they have a chunk of time every week to get errands run. I have 3 children: a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 17-month-old. This is the first year that I have 3 hours every Thursday morning to run errands. A beautiful little thing called Mother's Morning Out. I say that to let you know that I am qualified to talk about running errands with kids. I've done it for 5 years in a row. Here's what I've learned:

  1. Start training them young. If the first errand they go on with you is when they are 3-years-old, expect them to act up. 
  2. Let me back up: train them. It doesn't come naturally to a child to behave when they are bored. Most have to be trained. Here's how I did it. I planned on taking several trips to the store when I didn't actually need anything. I wasn't rushed. I wasn't stressed. If the kid started yelling, I left and we talked about it. Before this method, there were many situations where I was in line or picking out something I really need. The kid started screaming. I couldn't leave, because I really needed the item. Nightmare. For everyone. Then I implemented this training system and it worked like a charm. 
  3. Feed them. Yes, I said it. If they are hungry or thirsty, chances are they will misbehave.
  4. Timing is everything. Please don't run to the store right before their nap time. Such a bad idea.
  5. Watch your stress level. Kids will pick up on it and feed off it. If you stay calm (especially when they are acting up), things will go much better in the long run. In the same vein: Don't care what people think about you or your child. Don't get embarrassed. We've all been there and most people are looking at your with compassion, not judgment.
  6. Bring an activity for them. For toddlers, stick them in the front of the cart, give them a small bag of Goldfish, and your golden. For preschoolers, bring a small pad of paper and crayon. For older kids, get them involved. Ask them to get the bag of carrots. Get their opinion on what cereal to buy. Unless of course it will start a battle. They want sugary one, you don't. In that case, don't even give them the choice. If you have a young reader, give them a list of items and they can go on a hunt for them.
  7. Be realistic. Young kids (and probably older, too) can't handle running to 7 different stores. While having high standards for them, keep in mind they are kids. However, kids really can handle going to 2-3 places while behaving in all of them. Keep your standards high. Expect them to behave, while knowing they may struggle.
  8. Bring a lovey for the younger kid. A cup of coffee for you (an adult version of a lovey).

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