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20 Household Chores That Are a Waste of Time

An endless list of the same old household to-dos costs you time, money, and sanity. Here are some you can just skip.

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Washing your hair every dayElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Washing your hair every day

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you shampoo too often, you will actually make your hair oilier. Washing strips hair of natural oils, so your scalp produces more, and then you have to wash again. Stick to two or three times a week, says derma­tologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. Using a ­gentle, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner will keep your scalp and hair from drying out too much. Watch out for these other common myths that are ruining your hair.

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Using a top sheet on your bedThe Noun Project

Using a top sheet on your bed

Save time making your bed every morning by skipping the tangle-prone top sheet. Many Europeans sleep directly under a quilt or a duvet with a cover, as do about 30 percent of Americans. Just be sure to make time every week to wash any bedding that touches your body.

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Washing the dishesThe Noun Project

Rinsing dishes

Unless you’re waiting days to run the dishwasher, rinsing wastes time and water. Simply scrape off any leftover food and put dishes right into the dishwasher, urgethe experts at Consumer Reports.

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SocksThe Noun Project

Searching for lost socks

You may swear that gremlins take your socks from the laundry, but in fact, a single sock can slip into the gap between the washing machine door seal and the drum and get pumped away with the water. Prevent this from happening by washing sock pairs together in a wash bag. Follow this helpful guide to make sure you know how to do laundry the right way.

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Containers organizingThe Noun Project

Buying home storage items

You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on special bins, bags, boxes, and other storage containers. But some of the best ways to keep your possessions neat and organized come from repurposing simple things you already own. Organizing guru Marie Kondo is a fan of using shoeboxes as drawer dividers, for example. Here are some Container Store organizing products that pros actually use.

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hangers clothes ironThe Noun Project

Ironing hanger bumps out of clothes

Those freebie wire hangers from the dry cleaner are notorious for leaving shoulder bumps in tops and creases in pants. Who wants to do all that ironing? Instead, buy ­better-quality velvet or wooden hangers to save time later on. A good bargain choice, according to Wirecutter, a product testing company, is Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers, which cost less than $1 each. (Return wire hangers to the cleaner so they can be reused.)

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Moldy BreadThe Noun Project

Tossing moldy bread

The best bread is bought fresh at a bakery and eaten on the day you buy it. But if you don’t devour the loaf, you’ll want to store the rest in the freezer. It’ll last longer (two to three months, per the experts at ­ and make much better toast, according to the New York Times. This is the one place you’re forgetting to check your bread for mold.

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Opening the curtains wide every morningElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Opening curtains wide every morning

Letting the sunshine in is a lovely way to greet the day, but if you’ll be leaving the house and not returning until after dark, all those rays can fade your furniture and make your air conditioner work harder. South- and west-facing rooms are especially sun-prone, so try leaving those curtains or shades drawn. Also, consider running the air conditioner only when you’re home or setting it at a higher temperature when you go out. Every 2°F warmer will save 10 percent on your cooling costs.

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Peeling vegetablesElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Peeling vegetables

Unless you’re preparing winter squash, celery root, or some other food with a tough outer coating, there’s no reason to waste precious before-dinner time peeling vegetables, reports That goes for foods you may have been peeling all your life, such as carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and turnips. You’ll save time and gain flavor and healthy fiber. Check out these 40 kitchen hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Chicken Costco rotisserieThe Noun Project

Roasting chicken

It’s often cheaper—and faster, of course—to buy an already cooked chicken. Costco sells rotisserie chickens for just $4.99 each, an acknowledged money loser designed to get people in the door. At other stores, they’re about $7 each on average, while an uncooked whole roaster typically costs around $8.50 in a supermarket. Treat yourself once a week, and you stand to save as much as $182 annually, not to mention more than 150 hours of cooking. This is the easy trick to know when chicken is done cooking.

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Sweeping BroomThe Noun Project

Sweeping up after you track in dirt

In many countries, it’s customary to take off your shoes as soon as you come inside. Adopting a no-shoes policy is an easy way to keep your house cleaner and your family healthier. About 85 percent of all the dirt in our homes is tracked in on shoes, say the experts at Family Handyman. And that’s not the worst of it. According to a study at the University of Houston, more than 26 percent of shoes carry Clostridioides difficile bacteria, responsible for many cases of stomach distress, into the house. Another small study at the University of Arizona showed that 96 percent of shoes track in fecal matter. A simple solution is to keep a mat or shoe rack just inside your front door.

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Carrying a heavy key chainElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Carrying a heavy key chain

Take any extra keys and doodads off your key chain. The weight can wear on your ignition (assuming you still have a car with a key ignition) and cause it to stall. In fact, millions of General Motors cars were recalled for this problem, and that was the first advice owners received. Find out the items you shouldn’t be keeping in your purse.

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filing billsThe Noun Project

Filing all your bills …

Sure, you’d like to skip the bills altogether, but getting statements electronically instead of on paper means you’ll have less clutter and therefore will spend less time sorting, filing, and shredding. Some companies will even give you a financial bonus or discount for going paperless. Ask your bank, utilities, and credit card issuers whether they’ll pay you to sign up for ­e-statements and automatic payments, which save you even more time.

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paying bills onlineThe Noun Project

…And paying them by check

If you’re going paperless with statements, why not do the same with payments? Most banks offer online bill-paying options, or you can pay companies directly. State-of-the-art encryption technology should keep your personal information safe, as long as you use a secure Internet network (not public Wi-Fi). Find out some genius ways to save on every household bill.

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LightbulbsThe Noun Project

Stocking up on light bulbs …

Compared with incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs last far longer and use about 75 percent less energy, which translates directly into smaller electric bills. The latest generation of energy-saving bulbs give off excellent light and fire up quickly. The best bargain bulb, according to, is the TCP 9W LED 60 Watt Equivalent A19 Non-­Dimmable Light Bulb, which costs about $2.

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BatteriesThe Noun Project

…And batteries

According to Wirecutter, it takes more than 15 disposable batteries to equal the power you’ll get from one rechargeable battery. Yes, rechargeables cost more (the best, according to Wirecutter’s tests, is the Energizer Recharge Universal, which costs $2.25), but they will pay for themselves after about five charges. And be sure to recycle used batteries. It’s safer, as “dead” batteries might still carry enough charge to create a spark (and a fire hazard), and in some states, recycling is the law. Find out where and how to dispose of them at This is why you probably shouldn’t buy batteries at the dollar store.

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Thawing Frozen FoodElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Thawing overfrozen food

According to the FDA, your refrigerator temperature should be set at 40°F (4°C) and your freezer temperature should be 0°F (−18°C). Setting the temps any lower won’t make your food last longer and will push up your electric bill. If your appliance doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, buy one at a hardware store. Also, to keep things cool, spread the food around in the fridge and freezer so air can flow properly. And stop standing there with the door open—you’re letting warm air in! Here are 7 ways you’re shortening the life of your refrigerator.

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Leftovers Throwing AwayThe Noun Project

Throwing away leftovers

Speaking of the freezer, anything fresh or cooked can be frozen, according to the food pros at Taste of Home. That includes fresh vege­tables as well as cooked eggs and pasta. Given that Americans typically toss about 40 percent of the food we buy, you should see a payoff quickly. Don’t throw away those peels and scraps, either. They can go right into a compost bin or pile instead. Make one at home, or find out whether your city or town has a central drop-off location. Watch out for these leftovers that can make you sick, though.

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Surge protectorThe Noun Project

Plugging into power strips

Many are simply extension cords with multiple sockets. What you want is a surge protector, which looks like a power strip but is designed to shut off if it’s overloaded or if the current exceeds a certain level. Look for the label UL 1449 to make sure you are buying a model certified safe by Under­writers Laboratories. Or an electrician can install a whole-house surge protector device in your electrical panel. If you want your house to be clean but can’t find any motivation, check out these secrets of people who always have a clean house.

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Mowing the lawn grassElena Xausa for Reader's Digest

Mowing your lawn every week

You’ll save time—and your garden will benefit—if you cut the grass every other week instead. That’s because bees feed on the wildflowers that flourish in a less manicured lawn and then buzz off to pollinate the flowers and other plants in your garden. Another good reason to mow less often: too-short grass tends to dry out and turn brown, which can lead to extra watering. Mow grass to a height of about three inches say the experts at Consumer Reports. Also, grass grows fastest in late spring and early summer, says Family Handyman turf pro Joe Churchill, so skip fertilizing then. You may want to use some of this extra time you’ve freed up to work on the list of what professional housecleaners do every day to keep their homes clean.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Jody L. Rohlena
Jody L. Rohlena is a senior editor at Reader's Digest.