Life hacks and organizational tips are everywhere you look. Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest are chock full of ideas. Some ideas are great and others are just not doable. I cannot imagine any world where Legos stay sorted by color or Barbies need their own individual pockets in hanging shoe bags. My favorite new hack floating around is to roll peanut butter between two pieces of parchment paper, freeze it and cut it into squares rather than use the antiquated way of just spreading it on bread.
The great thing about these hacks is that I know how to stretch out my shoes, organize my makeup and make a cookie look like a turkey. The problem with all these hacks is that there are just so many of them. It’s really quite overwhelming. There are food hacks, laundry hacks, organizational hacks, parenting hacks, and the list goes on and on and on. I often find that they seem to be a list of things that I am not doing (or not doing well anyway). Back when my kids were little, before social media, we relied on family members, friends and neighbors for ideas on how to streamline life. We didn’t have as many options, but somehow, we managed with tight shoes, messy makeup drawers, and chocolate chip cookies.
These life hacks strive to make your life easier. But I have found that routines are the best hacks. One of the best ways to make transition time easier, whether it’s getting the kids to bed or getting out of the door in the morning, is to have good routines. Whether you rely on the internet and books, friends and family, or just your own instincts, developing a workable and repeatable plan will help you navigate some of the hardest times of the day with fewer tears (yours and theirs).
Everyone has routines, otherwise we would never remember to brush our teeth in the morning or shower regularly. Sometimes though, we need more routines, or we need to tweak the ones we have. My day runs much more smoothly when I follow some simple rules that work for me.
For instance, life is so much easier for me if, before I go to bed, the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher is empty, my school bag is packed and ready to go, decisions have been made about breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day, and clothes have been picked out. When I do those things, the morning runs much more smoothly. Similarly, when I am dressed and working on breakfast and lunches before the rest of the family comes downstairs, I can focus on helping everyone get out of the door on time.
To help make this process even easier there are three things that I try to do
“What’s for breakfast/lunch?” Breakfast and lunch are not the times that I am a creative cook. We have limited choices that are easy and sometimes portable. It is not unheard of for my family to eat bagels and drink smoothies on the way to school. A great smoothie recipe is to blend premeasured frozen fruit (½ of a banana, 4 strawberries, 1 tablespoon of orange juice concentrate), a giant dollop of yogurt (about 1/3 cup) and enough milk or water to make a smoothie consistency. I often add a couple of cooked baby carrots, and I haven’t been caught yet. Lunches are also pretty streamlined and not creative by Pinterest standards. I have a list of a few proteins my family likes; I add a fruit, a carb and a treat and that’s it. As soon as your kids are able, they can easily be responsible for making their own breakfasts and lunches.
“Where’s my …?” When my kids were little, they each had three bins by the back door. One contained socks and things they needed every week like their AWANA book and vest or Cub Scout stuff, one contained all of their shoes and the third had all of their flotsam and jetsam (you know all of that stuff that just collects around the house.) Once the third box was full, they had to take everything out and return it to its home or throw it out. We also kept two sets of toothbrushes and toothpaste, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. This was key to making sure my kids didn’t get “lost” upstairs when I was trying to get them out the door. My theory was once they were on the main floor, I wanted to keep them there.
“Time to tidy!” Every night as part of our evening routine, we tried to do a “10-minute tidy” in the main living areas. Everyone worked for 10 minutes, putting away blankets, returning cups to the kitchen, returning toys to their homes, putting away books and papers, etc. I have a friend who calls it getting the house ready for bed.
Pinterest is full of millions of ideas of how to organize your home, your kids, and your life. You can search on bedtime routines for kids or morning routines for kids and you will have lots of ideas at your fingertips. Then take those ideas and tailor them to your home and your circumstances. My best advice is to write down what your ideal routine looks like. I do this at school for the transition times. Just the act of writing down the procedures or routines helps me evaluate my expectations, clarify exactly what I want, and develop a plan. It doesn’t work perfectly every time, but it helps my students have more self-regulation because I can consistently articulate my expectations. So try to develop some routines that work for your family and don’t worry about all that internet pressure!