Getting in the right mindset to simplify… setting up routines

It seems like our lives can get so hectic so quickly without us realizing it is even happening. I know that I seem to get one thing running smoothly but then ten other things seem to just fall off the track and then everything turns to CHAOS.

For me, the very first thing I need to do before starting this process is to find a little time for me & God… I often find that life feels overwhelming when I haven’t been able to have any quiet time for myself. I have tried getting up earlier but that just isn’t working out right now, I often would take a few minutes after lunch when the baby was down for a nap but our school routines have been out of whack since adding a new kiddo, when the time bedtime rolls around I am worn out. I do find little bits of time here and there to have little chats with God but I just haven’t been able to have my devotional time and I think that may be part of the reason that I am feeling so overwhelmed.

When something is frustrating me I often go to Him in prayer and ask Him to help me and show me ways that I can change or that we can change as a family. I ask Him to give me wisdom and guidance about the changes and things we need to work on so that they will benefit everyone.

Where do we start when it seems like everything is the problem?

We use this process in our home for a lot of different problems, part of it we even use for teaching the kids to make good choices. I’ll give a couple of examples of how we have used this system in the past.

1. STOP and identify the problem.

This might be the most difficult part of the whole process because sometimes it can be difficult to actually narrow down what the problem actually is when you are feeling overwhelmed. Many times there are multiple problems and sometimes the problems are not actually what we think they are. If you do find yourself with a multitude of problems then just try to focus on the biggest one first and work on ONE AT A TIME or you may find yourself even more overwhelmed and frustrated.

Maybe your mornings are very hectic and it just feels like you can’t get anywhere on time. What’s the problem?

Well, I know from past experience that these things contributed to our home having this issue:

  • kids getting up late and not getting ready for buses on time
  • no time for breakfast
  • can’t find shoes, keys, purses, backpacks, etc.
  • last-minute notes to write, permission slips to sign, etc

2. Brainstorm

Now comes the time to brainstorm ideas that might help with each issue that is contributing to the main problem. Try to envision what your ideal morning would look like and think about the ideas that could help you to achieve your goal. Write down anything that comes to mind, even if it seems silly or impossible, and ask for your family’s input if that is an option.

  • get everyone up at the crack of dawn to get ready and eat
  • get alarm clocks for each bedroom
  • let them sleep with their clothes on
  • have everyone lay their clothes out for the next day or mom can pick out what they will wear
  • buy uniforms for everyone so there is less frustration with picking out what to wear.
  • set up a family calendar to help remember important events
  • have cereal or pop tarts for breakfast every day
  • find easy breakfast ideas or make a breakfast routine so that everyone knows what needs to be prepared ahead of time.
  • mom can run around and check backpacks to make sure everything is in them
  • make a checklist of the things they need to do in the morning
  • set up a ‘drop zone’ for everyone to leave their backpacks, keys, purses, shoes, jackets, etc.
  • have a nightly check before bed to make sure everyone has everything ready for the next day
  • set up a folder for the kids to put permission slips and such in so that it is easy for you to grab and look through in the evening or with your morning coffee.

3. Choose a Solution/Create a Routine

This is where you will look through those brainstorming ideas and cross out any that just won’t work and maybe highlight the ones that seem like better options. You probably want to try out the simplest and most cost-effective ideas to start with because you may find that you need to tweak the routine/plan later on.

  • get everyone up at the crack of dawn to get ready and eat
  • get alarm clocks for each bedroom
  • let them sleep with their clothes on
  • have everyone lay their clothes out for the next day or mom can pick out what they will wear if they don’t
  • buy uniforms for everyone so there is less frustration with picking out what to wear.
  • set up a family calendar to help remember important events
  • have cereal or pop tarts for breakfast every day
  • find easy breakfast ideas or make a breakfast routine so that everyone knows what needs to be prepared ahead of time.
  • mom can run around and check backpacks to make sure everything is in them
  • make a checklist of the things they need to do in the morning
  • set up a ‘drop zone’ for everyone to leave their backpacks, keys, purses, shoes, jackets, etc.
  • have a nightly check before bed to make sure everyone has everything ready for the next day
  • set up a folder for the kids to put permission slips and such in so that it is easy for you to grab and look through in the evening or with your morning coffee.

4. Act/Put your plan or Routine together

Now you can use these ideas to create a simple routine or plan of action for solving your problem. One of these brainstorming ideas many years ago led to me setting up a breakfast schedule for my kiddos which helped us so much! You can check out our Morning Routine posts for more ideas.

We did have some issues with kids not getting up on time so we bought cheap alarm clocks for each bedroom and the kids are responsible for setting them and getting up. If they don’t get up then they may have some natural consequences that happen like missing the bus and paying mom/dad for gas, earlier bedtimes, or missing breakfast at home.

We have also simplified their wardrobes, sometimes I think that uniforms wouldn’t be a bad idea but I do like giving them some freedom over things so we just limit the amount of clothing they have and the types of things they have. If they don’t have it then they can’t wear it… at least that’s the plan and it works for us.

I have a checklist hung on the wall in each bedroom which tells the kids the basic things they need to complete:

When they went to public school we also had a checklist of the things they needed to have ready in the morning. I usually put pictures on the list for the younger/special needs kiddos to help them have a little independence and responsibility.

We had a bench that sat near the front door and everyone would put their backpacks and jackets on the bench for the next morning. There were bins underneath for shoes and also an old toolbox that had been cleaned and repurposed to hold hair accessories, brushes, combs, and no more tangle spray. This made it easy for me to help everyone with their hair before they went out the door.

They also dropped their bags, jackets, and shoes here when they came in from the bus so that I could easily look through backpacks for important information. We were able to do a quick check before bed to make sure that everything was ready. This area was close to the kitchen as well so it made things very easy and convenient. I had a little hanging basket on the wall for the older kids to put their permission slips and such in and I could just grab them and look over them while I had my coffee.

We also had a large desk calendar hung on the wall so we could write important events on it as we became aware of them. I also still love using the Cozi app on my phone and computer to share things with family.

5. Simplify

Once you’ve put your plan into action you may find that you need to simplify things a bit. Maybe you find that your kids are still having trouble deciding what to wear… it might mean that you need to pare down their outfits. You don’t necessarily need to get rid of them but you can separate seasonal items and box up what you don’t need or may be unsure about.

Maybe your breakfasts are still crazy… try simplifying the meals on your craziest days and saving the more time-consuming meals for weekends or special days.

Maybe your schedule isn’t working because you tried to include too many things on it at once… sometimes changes need to happen a little at a time. Try taking a few things off and then adding them back, if needed, once everyone is more comfortable with the new routine. By eliminating some of the options you are simplifying the decision-making processes for everyone.

6. Test it out

Give your new plan/routine a trial run… make sure to try it out for a week or two. Write down what is working and what isn’t working… don’t worry if it seems that more things don’t work than do because you are making progress by learning what works and what doesn’t.

I would try the new routine for at least a couple of weeks before buying organizers and such as you might find that you don’t need them or that something else might work better. If you already bought something expensive then you can always try to use it in another area of your home.

If it just doesn’t work then don’t give up! Just go back to your brainstorming list and find some more ideas or try some that you didn’t try. This time you will have a better idea of what your problem areas are, what works, and what doesn’t work.

Don’t be afraid to keep trying things and changing things around a little at a time because sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest differences.

If you see someone who seems to have a good schedule or routine set up then don’t be afraid to ask them what they do so that maybe you can gain a little information from them that may be useful in your home… just keep in mind that what works for one person may not always work for someone else. You may not need to use the whole concept that they give you but you can glean a few bits and pieces from it to use in your own home.

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