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7 habits of highly effective cottagers

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There’s a long-held belief that spending time at a cottage means sun, sleep, and sangrias. And it does—but only if all the cottage chores are checked off first. A laundry list of maintenance work often greets cottagers as soon as they arrive, leaving little time for pleasure. Follow these seven habits to slash chore time and maximize me-time.

1. Focus on the most essential chores

Look hard enough and the list of cottage chores could be endless. Instead of adding on a bunch of to-dos, optimize your list into what needs to be done, what doesn’t, and what can be delegated. Prioritize tasks that keep the cottage safe and functional, but also ones you won’t be groaning about. Is there a tree that’s leaning too close to the cottage? That should get attention first. Need to take the boat out so you’re not locked to the land? Get lifting. Less urgent chores (like sweeping pine needles off the deck) can take a back seat.

2. Plan out your days

If you pencil in maintenance work into your schedule that means you’re reserving days for resting and recharging. Knowing what days are dedicated to labour does two things: It makes you work more efficiently if you know you’ve got one afternoon slotted to seal the deck. It also ensures you don’t let tasks take over your trip. An added tip: if the work is not weather-dependent, get it done when the weather is less than ideal. That way you maximize your time in the sun.

3. Cook ahead of time

Ready-made meals are a godsend for the time-strapped. Make as many meals in advance so you spend less time in the kitchen. Dips, pasta salads, and sandwiches are travel-friendly foods that keep well in the fridge. Lasagna, chili, chicken casseroles, and pizzas are great freezer items. More time-savers: marinate your meats, skewer your kebabs, and pre-wash and cut up vegetables and fruits. It’s also a good idea to pick up grocery items well in advance so you’re not overbuying and struggling to fit it all into the pantry (or your stomach).

4. Opt for washless dinnerware

Doing dishes at the cottage is a good way to suck out the day’s fun. Grab some eco-friendly plates, cups, and cutlery to cut cleanup time while remaining green. Many retailers like Party City carry lines of 100 percent compostable dinnerware. If you plan ahead of time, you can order sustainable sets online from Canadian companies like Greenmunch and Earthen Trading Co. These are significantly stronger than plastics or Styrofoam so they can be reused multiple times. Not only do you have less dishes in the sink, you also have less garbage to throw out.

5. Assemble your band of family and friends

Take advantage of strength in numbers. Whether the weeds need to be pulled out or the bottom of the boat needs a good scrubbing, gather the clan and do it together. Part of going to the cottage is spending uninterrupted time with your loved ones. And spending that time efficiently means everyone needs to contribute. This builds bonds, reduces time spent on chores, and ensures the grunt work is spread out evenly among the cottage-goers.

6. Hire help

Some jobs can take days, stealing you away from many of the reasons you got a cottage in the first place. Delegate these tasks instead and hire cottage maintenance workers. Some of the more laborious tasks might include painting the exterior or replacing the rotting deck. Even better, schedule the work so it’ll be finished by the time you arrive.

7. Pursue your pleasures

Here’s a way to create more time: stop trying to do everything. You can lose a lot of time perfecting the cottage, and that defeats the purpose of owning a cottage in the first place. Figure out what you want to get the most of during your stay. It could be finishing up a book, improving your boating skills, or spending more time with the kids. Once you’ve picked a few main priorities, pursue them. Doing the things that spark good feelings makes your time at the cottage that much more pleasant.