The countdown is on for my girls to return to school! Although we don’t have a ton of supplies to purchase, we are in a whirl-wind to get our house organized and cleaned up from summer’s fantastic chaos. I really just want to spend their first day of school focused on them (while I enjoy a clean house filled with golden silence for 3 hours).

How many of you have a puzzle mat like this? Such a pain to clean right?

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I vacuum ours each week, but it is just due for a bigger cleaning. I polled a few other moms for advice. The results are most everyone tosses it outside to hose off, tosses in the tub or in the dishwasher. I don’t have a dishwasher. (You can pick your jaw up off the floor now). With two rambunctious threenagers dominating my household I don’t have a lot of time to spend hunched over the side of the tub. There has to be an easier way, right? I asked Google. They had nothing. I even perused Pintrest and no spark. It felt like I was in pioneer country here. Why not try the washing machine? I did and it worked so much easier!

Pull off the border pieces and pull apart the squares. Be sure to leave the letters and numbers inserts intact.

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Put the border pieces and  half of the squares into a large laundry bag (we use this one to carry our toys to the park). If you have a large washer and can fit all of them in at once more power to you! Mine did not.

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I have a rinse option on my machine. I ran an 11 minute cold rinse with no spin at the end.

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I let the pieces dry face down on towels in the sun. I pulled the inserts out to be sure everything dried completely.  It took less than 10 minutes each ‘load’ to dry in the sun.

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In less than 45 minutes I not only disassembled, washed, dried and reassembled the mat- but with the machine doing all the work I was free to do other things. Like, vacuum up the crud and mop the floor underneath the mat, fold the laundry and do some dishes.

I felt like a genius! I felt so brave! No one else has ever tried the washing machine (at least no photo evidence on the Internet). I started thinking, what other fun little hacks can I share with all of you? How about these:

French Fry crayon holders. Sharing is hard for my girls. Especially when I place the one big box of crayons on the table in front of them. So, I use the kid sized french fry boxes from their happy meals to divide up their crayons. Now they can each have their own box without any argument. (Ah…I almost hear my inner peace calling).

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Disposable cookie sheets found at the dollar store (usually two in a pack) are great for containing messy projects. If we ever use glitter I put one of these trays underneath. They are also great for projects that require paint or glue.

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Last, this is my fave, and maybe too early to use so tuck this idea away for the next couple of months. Don’t throw away those little kid hangers that come with a two-piece outfit. These are great for hanging your kids coat, hat, scarf and gloves all in one easy-to-find location. I use the clip to hold their hat with a scarf and gloves tucked inside. It has been such a huge time saver not having to rummage through the hat box when we get ready in the winter!

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So there ya have it. Some quick little hacks to help you keep your Whatever cool!

What is your favorite parenting hack?