With back-to-school upon us, many of us are, or soon will be, back to school mornings. In the heady first days, we may have our routines all together. But eventually, the newness wears off, real life kicks back in and mornings transform, like my family’s morning did on Day Four, into rushed cereal, thrown-together lunches, forgotten water bottles and a dash to school without notice of a backward-facing, yogurt-smeared shirt.
As a public service, and because I desperately need it, I asked an organizational expert how to best approach mornings with long to-do lists.
Rachel Strisik calls herself a “life stylist,” and works with families to create the ever elusive sense of order. She’s also a Bethesda mother of twins. She said the key to a harmonious morning is preparation. Waiting until morning leaves too many tasks and too much to remember in too short a time frame for parents who have often had had too little sleep.
Strisik advises a strict, unwavering night-before approach. Here are her top tips:
• Plan out and organize all clothing: The night before, involve your child and pick out all clothing for the next day. Once choices are made, they should be set unless there is an unknown tear or stain or surprise change in the weather. This will eliminate a potential battle and keep getting dressed to a simple step.
• Make a “Get-ready Basket” that is packed the night before: Give each child a basket to place all items that are needed for the next day. The child should pack this before bed and an adult should check it. Include items such as special clothing and shoes for activities, signed paperwork, lunch, homework, sports equipment and backpacks.
• Designate an area for a child’s “Get- ready Basket” as well as all other adult essentials: Items such as shoes, coats, car keys, cell phones, purses, etc. should be placed in this area every day, always, so they are always in place and ready for action. Not having to hunt down keys or other last-minute essentials is a time-saver. Also carve out space for those items that you need for your outside to-dos for the day (such as dry cleaning and packages to mail.)
• Determine breakfast choices in advance of the meal: Either plan out breakfast meals for the week, offer only two choices or decide on the meal the night before. Breakfast is important and being organized about the choices shouldn’t make the meal a struggle each morning.
• Create a morning routine and make it a way of life: Daily morning routines should be non-negotiable. Discuss and establish a routine with your child and also determine consequences. This will allow all family members to be organized about their mornings and eliminates the “wiggle room” that usually causes meltdowns.
Have you perfected the morning routine? What are your top tips?