As a former elementary & middle school teacher of 13 years, a current Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Family Manager Coach®, Certified KonMari™ Consultant and a mom, I have some tried and true tips that can calm the chaos of your mornings. They are all tips that I personally use and that many of my clients have implemented with amazing "morning altering" results!
Being ready for tomorrow morning has everything to do with today and very little to do with tomorrow morning! Set up family (or individual) routines that allow for next day preparations as you go along with today's activities. Teach and practice them now and this school year will be a breeze.
1. When you arrive home from work and picking up your kids from school: Prior to leaving the kitchen, determine what your kids want in their lunchboxes tomorrow and what they want for breakfast in the morning. This is such an established family routine in my home that my daughter tells me as soon as we pull in the driveway with no prompting! Don't leave the kitchen until you (or your kids when old enough) have emptied and cleaned out their lunchboxes, prepared and packed tomorrow's lunches and placed them in the refrigerator. Don't leave the kitchen yet, it's time to set up for breakfast (yes, before you've even had dinner). I gather all cold ingredients for the breakfast into a single fridge bin, all dry ingredients into a single clear container with a lid and pull out of the cabinets any devices I need, such as a toaster, and place them on the counter. This process becomes so quick once it becomes an established routine.
2. After completing homework assignments: While you are picking out the PJ's and preparing for bath or shower time, pick your outfit and your kids' outfits for the next day (as your kids get older, add more independence). Try everything on that you or your kids haven't worn recently. Once selected, lay out the entire outfit (clothing, shoes, socks, jewelry, hair clips...) on a valet (or any designated/consistent spot). I have a valet for myself that stays in my bedroom and a valet for my child that resides in her room. This takes care of what is considered to be the number one time waster in the mornings; determining what to wear.
3. Before your kids go to bed: Load the car with everything you and your kids need to take with you in the morning (minus the cold school lunches).
4. Before your kids go to bed: Have a straightening-up-the-house session. If this routine is completed daily, it should take no more than 7 minutes with the whole family pitching in. This isn't a vacuum and mop session, just placing items back where they belong, unloading the dishwasher, wiping up any food crumbs, etc... Your morning will be much more of a pleasant & low-stress awakening if your home is tidy.
5. Before your kids go to bed: Set an alarm clock for when they need to be up. There are many versions out there for various age ranges. I used the OK to Wake clock when my daughter was younger. This teaches the kids to get up on their own. You don't have to interrupt your own getting ready process by shaking your kids and making up your own noises to awaken them. Let the alarm clock do this part for you.
6. Before your kids go to bed: Set up a family command center in your kitchen or another family- friendly area of your home. One of the essentials in your command center is a large family calendar and a what-to-pack-for-the-day list. Go over the next day's schedule. If Katie has soccer practice, then the pack-for-the-day list should include her soccer gear.
7. Before your kids go to bed: Have a functional entryway set up in your home. This includes a spot to hang coats, purses, keys and book bags. Be sure hooks are at your children's level to encourage task independence. It also includes bins labeled for purposes that suit your family's needs. Some examples include bins labeled "return to library", "return to friends & family", "take to school", "take to work", "take to Goodwill", "take to post office", "take to cleaners" and "return to the store." Before going to bed, place any items that fit these labeled bins into the bins. Also, hang book bags, coats and purses. The set up could be a simple 9 cube organizer with fabric and/or metal bins or could be an elaborate built-in with hooks, drawers, bins and lockers for each family member.
8. Before leaving in the morning or before going to bed: Place any bins that need to be delivered in the car. Also, place any book bags in the car and lay out a weather-appropriate coat/jacket. Don't forget your keys and purse!
9. Before you go to bed at night: Check over your planner or calendar and to-do list. Get a good picture of what you are doing the next day and make sure all you need has been prepared and placed in an appropriate location.
10. Before you get in the car in the morning: For those of us with a car in the garage (which is becoming very rare even in homes with two-car garages) mount a clear hanging shoe organizer just outside the door leading into the garage. Keep in this organizer last minute items that you may find you need that day, but couldn't necessarily pre-plan for. In mine I have umbrellas, Kleenex, hand wipes, Clorox wipes, paper towels, reusable grocery bags, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses and a few family specific items. Take a glance at this organizer on the way into the car to see if you need to toss any of the items into the car.