Summer is a time for taking a break from the daily rush of school, work, and activities. However, as a result, it also tends to become a break from routines, systems and what keeps us on sane and on track. Though it may be tempting to completely let loose and not be as focused on bedtimes and chore charts and picking up clutter, the time will come in early August when you wish you had!
How smoothly our daily lives run depends heavily on two things, routines and order. We need routines in place to make daily processes run smoothly, and we need to have our things in order so we can find what we need when we need it. For now, I am going to focus on routines.
Even though the calendar year runs from January to December, most parents will agree that it is the school year that runs our lives. So, as summer is coming to a close, take a few moments to sit down and reflect on the last school year to set yourself up for success this year. Which routines worked well last year? Which ones worked half the year but then fell apart, and which ones did not work at all?
If it is not broke, don't fix it.
If you had routines in place last year that worked well and that you think would work well again this year, then keep them. Jot them down to keep them in mind for when summer wraps up.
Be consistent and realistic
If you have routines that worked well at the beginning but flopped later on then try to identify what might have caused them to topple. Where they too involved? Did your schedule change? Then adjust accordingly to improve on them.
It is never too late to develop a new system
If you did not have any systems in place that worked for you, then work on developing new ones that suit your family and your life.
I know this might sound easier said than done, but, trust me, you can do it! One of the most common phrases I hear from my clients, no matter what we are working on, is that they are overwhelmed and simply do not know where to start.
So, before you freak out because you think it is all TOO MUCH...
Here are 6 helpful routines to get you started:
Put clothes out the night before
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can make a world of difference. For some reason, we tend to pick clothes more quickly and efficiently when we do it ahead of time, rather than in the rush of the morning. Always keep in mind the weather, your schedule and special activities when planning your outfits.
Teaching your kids to get into this habit will help them to have smoother mornings too. And a bonus: If your special outfit or uniform is in the laundry you still have time to get it done if you check it the night before!
Create a designated snack/lunch spot
Have one spot in the fridge and pantry where you keep all lunch and snack foods. This includes things like sandwich ingredients, string cheese, single-serve yogurt, etc. Also have one spot in the kitchen for all lunch packing supplies, as it will make lunch prep a breeze.
If you take a few minutes during the weekend to take stock of your supplies, and to prep things like fruits and veggies into smaller containers then, come weekdays, you are ready to grab and go!
Write a weekly meal plan
By taking the guesswork out of what's for dinner you save time and brainpower for other tasks that come your way. At our house, my husband's favorite part of having a meal plan is the fact that the “what’s for dinner” is set, so there is no planning and shopping on his days.
Don’t forget that you can reuse a meal plan! Maybe you do two weeks at a time then rotate. Pick your favorite, easy meals to for during the week and leave culinary adventures for when you have more time and energy.
Establish an empty-the-backpack rule
To avoid moldy sandwiches, lost permission slips and crumpled up homework I suggest introducing an empty-the-backpack rule. As soon as the kids come home, they have to put their shoes and outerwear away and go through their backpacks.
All homework gets pulled out to be done, all important papers get taken out of folders to be seen/signed and all lunch leftovers and lunchboxes get dealt with. This means a clean, fresh start the next day. Even though Friday is not a homework day, don’t slack on this day either to make sure the following Monday goes off without a major hitch.
Make a family command center
As the kids get older, they get busier and busier with activities and homework, and families get pulled in a million different directions. Creating a command center with a calendar and an in/outbox for important papers will benefit the whole family. No more lost progress reports or field trip slips, and fewer "oh I forgot" soccer games and science nights. No two families are the same, therefore no two command centers are either. Find one that suits your family’s life.
Does it make sense to you to have a large wall calendar where you use a different color for each family member, or is a simple smaller calendar sufficient? Do you want one clipboard per child, or do you prefer using a hanging folder or bin instead?
Set a laundry schedule and stick to it
We all know how laundry can pile up, and once it is the size of Kilimanjaro, it is a feat to get it done. Look at your daily schedule and see when laundry could logically fit it. Do you do a couple of loads each evening or do you do a load while you get ready in the morning and toss it in the dryer before you head out?
Some people prefer to tackle the whole mound on a Saturday morning, while others prefer to spread it out during the whole week. Which method do you prefer?
So now that your clothes, your meals, and your laundry have been accounted for, take a moment to look at your own family’s unique situation. What other routines would make your day-to-day easier and more pleasant? Keep in mind that routines are not there to take away your go-with-the-flow and spontaneity. Quite the contrary! They are there so you can go on that last-minute hike with some friends because you don’t have to spend your Sunday scrambling to get laundry and other projects done. Once your routines are established and practiced, you will see that you free up both time and energy for other things you truly enjoy!
"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.
The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."
John C. Maxwell