Organizing Your Morning: A Chaos-Free Family Plan for Starting the Day

Get dressed, get fed, get organized and get out the door: That sounds like a plan. But most of the women I talk to say that mornings are their toughest times, particularly if they've got children at home. The key to cutting down the confusion is planning ahead.

Get Dressed
Laying out clothes the night before is a tremendous time- and stress-saver. I don't have to tell you how often you'll have to deal with a child who insists on wearing a particular item that is buried in the hamper, lost in the house or considered by the parent to be inappropriate for the weather or for the schoolroom. It's best to fight these battles the night before in order to avoid the temper tantrums, the time-consuming searches and the frantic efforts to find an acceptable outfit -- so you can avoid getting behind schedule and putting everyone in a rotten mood.

Though you may not be able to enlist the teenagers in this program, you should impose it on yourself. Surely I'm not the only one who's grabbed a blouse or skirt or pantyhose and discovered a missing button a stain or a run just as I was going out the door.
Get Fed
Setting up ahead of time helps in this department too. How you can streamline the process depends on what your family eats. Can you combine all breakfast items -- such as butter, jam, cream cheese, English muffins -- on a single tray that can be quickly removed from the fridge and put on the table? Anything that makes the morning activities more efficient -- even things like mixing instant coffee and dairy creamer in the right proportions so you only have to spoon from one container -- will help.

Get the Family Organized
If you're the manager who keeps track of the family's plans, you have to get them to take notice. Some suggestions:

  • The bathroom is a great place to post the plans for the day. It's a definite stop on everyone's morning agenda, and older kids and adults probably spend more than a moment or two there -- long enough so they might actually take note of any notices you've posted on a bulletin board or erasable board. You can alert them to events of the day and perhaps get a smile with a cheery message or birthday greeting.

  • You also might put up a board right at the back door with today's (or the week's) calendar, along with a marker or chalk. Family members can jot down their plans or messages and leave going-out-the-door reminders for themselves or others ("Take the cheesecake from the fridge to drop off at the school bake sale")

Get Out the Door -- with Everything You Need
Set up a collection spot for everyone at the usual entry/exit point. It can be a basket, a file box or even simply an allocated spot on a shelf (marked off, with tape, paint, a container or whatever). It should be big enough to hold each person's stuff: car keys, purse, backpack etc., along with whatever the person will need to leave with the next morning: permission slips, box lunches, a school project, a file of papers, etc.

An extra "To Go" basket should be set up to collect whatever needs attending to: prescription slips to be refilled, clothes for the dry cleaner, library books to be returned, letters to be mailed, etc. The whole basket can be carried to the car, contents intact.

Some other ways to make it a "good" morning:

  • So you don't leave without turning off the coffee pot, dryer or whatever other electrical device might still be running, set a timer to go off about 10 minutes before you leave the house.

  • If there's something in your child's backpack to give to the teacher (a permission slip, money, etc.) tie a ribbon or a bandanna to it as a reminder.

  • Put the house and car keys on a bangle bracelet you can slip on and off in a hurry. This will prevent you from dropping the keys, and it's a great help when your arms are full.

  • Reserve a special "Morning" section on your to-do list to jog your memory about morning tasks.
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