We are not far from the back-to school planning. But whether you've got kids or not, organizing your kitchen, your clothes and your supplies for the next day is a great way to make your mornings go a little easier. A few simple tweaks to your morning routine can get you out the door faster and reduce stress for everyone in the house. Just follow these expert tips from Lorie Marrero, bestselling author of The Clutter Diet, and soon you'll be pledging allegiance to a whole new plan of attack.
1. Build a Breakfast Menu
Most families eat the same favorite meals over and over again. Why not make it official? Reduce your daily decision making and simplify your grocery shopping by creating a seven or 14-day breakfast schedule. For instance, serve scrambled eggs and toast on Monday or muffins and yogurt on Tuesday. (Friday is "Pancake Day" at our house.) You can do the same for lunch à la the school cafeteria. Create a calendar, post it in the kitchen, and follow it each day. Cook, eat, and repeat!
2. Pack Lunch Faster
Get a jumpstart on lunch-packing duty and set up a workstation stocked with the right tools. Make sure all of your frequently used items, such as sandwich bags and storage containers (stock up on multiples so a clean one is always available), are easily accessible and located near one another. Buy lunch boxes that are easy to clean and consider packing lunch the night before or storing sandwiches in the freezer a week in advance.
3. Create a "Destination Station"
Avoid hunting for objects at the last minute by dedicating a place to backpacks, school papers, mail, keys, purses, and chargers. If you don't have a mudroom or laundry room, repurpose a piece of furniture or install a row of sturdy hooks near an entryway. It doesn't have to be perfect or fancy, as long as it's functional. Designate this place near the exit you frequent the most.
4. Think Like a Child
Work with your children's habits and limitations. Any task kids need to do should be easy and obvious. Large hooks hung at an appropriate height are more likely to receive a jacket than a hanger in a tall closet. Stashing shoes by the back door instead of the upstairs closet could mean the difference between arriving at school before or after the bell rings. Make simple adjustments that cater to your child, and you'll save yourself time and frustration.
5. Start the Night Before
Establishing an evening routine can help you get out the door faster the next morning. Remember this: The more you do tonight, the less you'll have to take care of tomorrow. Run the dishwasher, bathe the kids, and straighten up the house. Tackle small tasks like choosing outfits for yourself and the kids, signing permission slips, and loading up backpacks. Before you hit the sack, imagine your future self in the morning and do her any favors you can.
6. Go Low Maintenance
Simplifying your beauty regimen can add valuable minutes to your hectic morning. It could be time to bid farewell to a complicated haircut that requires multiple styling tools and expensive products. Maybe your closet is crying for a makeover that would reduce the time spent searching for an outfit. Or, perhaps all you need is to corral everyday cosmetics and toiletries into one go-to drawer.
7. Streamline the Paperwork
Each evening, make a habit of assessing what papers have come home from school and separate them into one of four categories. Action papers require a step like a signature or a payment. Save informational papers for future reference. Decide if you want to display, archive, or toss artwork. Create a tray for "I don't know" (ambiguous papers you're not sure about). Keep an "I don't know" pile for each child. When the tray is full of graded assignments, scribbles, and other unknown papers, sort through the stack and decide what to do. Address the "action" papers as soon as possible, preferably in the evening.
8. Get Up Earlier
Nobody likes hearing it, but if you're consistently running five or 10 minutes late, maybe you should set your alarm back 15 minutes. If the kids are the first ones up, then you and your partner could try getting up before they do. You may be in for a rude awakening at first but, over time, you will probably be glad that you did.