High summer is no time to be doing things unnecessary or unpleasant. So here are some tips from the Time Saver notebook for minimizing drudgery and maximizing play.
* Wear knits and permanent-press clothes. Cut down on ironing time or taking clothes to and from the dry cleaners. (The new permanent press 100 percent cotton fabric is everything its manufacturers bragged it would be.)
* Wear rumpled linen. It's fashionable. Forget what your mother said about always being crisply pressed (except for corporate office atmospheres, where starch and polish are still very much expected). Wash it, hang it up wet, wear it au naturel. Walk with a straight back.
* Mow the lawn every 10 days. Don't let the neighbors' pointed stares melt your resolve to make more play time. It takes guts to be a good time manager.
* Get somebody else to mow the lawn, even for just a couple of months. Keep in mind for next Father's and Mother's Day that the gift of a couple months of lawn service might be more welcome than a bottle of perfume or a tie.
* Ignore the dust bunnies. It's summer. The house is going to get dirtier than it does in winter because there's more traffic in and out. Just live with it until the bunnies bite. Then give everybody who lives there housecleaning chores to do one morning. Print them on colorful pieces of paper and give everyone a novelty pen for crossing off items on the list. (Everybody gets to keep the pen.) Set a time limit on the project. Do not inspect others' work. (You may feel compelled to "tidy up" after them.) Buy lunch for all on the way to the pool or beach.
* Hire a kid. It's good for the neighborhood economy. It's surprising what young people will do for money for someone else that they would never, ever consider doing at home for their own parents -- even for a fee. Make sure your own little potential entrepreneur is aware of the financial possibilities going unmined in the neighborhood.
* Go ahead -- get your hair cut short. Not only will you save time doing your 'do every day (even if you still have to blow-dry it, it takes less time), getting a new, up-to-the minute hairstyle will give you a devil-may-care attitude -- the kind that will support wearing that wrinkled linen with aplomb.
* Leave early, stay late when going on vacation. So many of us think it is imperative to come home early in order to unpack, wash, fold, open mail, get our lives in naval-officer order before going back to work. The Time Saver usually feels the same way, especially for winter vacations. But summer is the time to give in to those more casual souls in your life who feel no need for such orderliness. They just want to get as much mileage from vacation time as possible. And they're right. The suitcases do get unpacked and the wash does somehow get done during the next week -- and you get an extra half-day at the beach.
* Don't fuss over food. Grill dinner. Buy prepared salads and serve chunks of good Italian bread unheated. Make enough rice or potatoes at a time to use different ways for at least three days.
* Forget Martha Stewart-style summer parties. When you ask people over, wait until they ask if they can bring anything and say "Yes." Give them a food assignment, but one they can buy if they're pressed for time or not inclined to cook. Or eliminate the ambiguity altogether by telling everybody to bring something that can be bought ready-made. You do the same thing. Compile a list of resources on the computer as each guest reveals where he/she bought whatever. Give everybody a copy.
* Clean after guests leave. Before they arrive, just to make sure the health department doesn't raid your party, pick up the big hunks, quickly dust the table tops, hose off the patio furniture, wipe down the bathrooms. You're done -- and you're still fresh enough to enjoy your friends' company.
Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. Next month, we'll begin a series of periodic Time Saver columns that will share reader tips. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.