In my professional life, I am often asked to analyze someone's activity and make recommendations to improve efficiency. This is usually to conserve energy for someone with a degenerative disease where fatigue is an issue. I try to use some of these same principles at home. Not because I'm lazy, but because I have a lot to do.
This new house we are in has 3 floors, and the stairs are narrow and curvy. So now I am having to learn all over again how to be efficient. Sometimes I get to our room on the top floor and realize I've forgotten something on the first floor. AARGH!
So, I've been trying to work out how to best transport things and get jobs done, and here's what I've come up with so far:
1. I use traveling baskets: I collect items to go up in a laundry basket or similar container. Once I put it all away, I keep that container upstairs until it is full of things that need to come down. It's surprising the amount of things that need to travel to other places in the house...
2. I keep cleaners in each bathroom and in the laundry room: I make at least 3 versions of whatever cleaner I am creating, so I'm not toting bottles all over the house. This has made life much easier.
3. I keep a laundry basket for each child next to the dryer: When I fold their clothes, each piece goes straight into their basket. I keep the baskets there until the kids' laundry is done (no need for baskets for us, because the laundry is in the attic with our bedroom). Sometimes it takes a couple days for the baskets to make it to their room, but at least I'm not going up and down for every load.
4. I make a schedule for cleaning. Typically I do 2-3 jobs per day, plus daily dishes and sweeping of the kitchen/dining area. This keeps things manageable and not overwhelming (read: paralyzing). My schedule used to be grouped by type of job (bathrooms, floors, etc), but now I tend to group by area (first floor, bedrooms, etc.).
5. I plan meals. I am so very much more likely to cook when I know what I am cooking. I plan for about a week at a time, which seems to work best for us. Anything that can be done earlier in the day, I do when I have a free moment (i.e. setting the rice cooker, baking bread, washing veggies). It makes all the difference in the world, especially when we are trying very hard to eat whole foods.
What else should I do? I guess I could plan out my days better. But for all my organization oddities, I'm not much of a planner. So this is what I have so far to make the best use of my time at home. Not a perfect system, but it's evolving into something that works.