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How to get organized for school the night before (in 1001 easy steps)

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Mornings often seem like they are trying to kill me. Buses in our world come at 3 different times for 5 different kids, the first one arriving on the scene at 6:45 am. There are teen girls in the first round which involves a lot of bathroom time (thank the good Lord above for the low maintenance 11-year-old boy, 3 seconds in front of the mirror and DONE). Then round 2 begins with a wild 5-year-old boy and fashionista 3rd grade girl. I abandon my husband during round 2 for the calm of work. It is chaos.

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So, like any good parent, I looked for some solutions (hello Pinterest, ready to save me?). Most every parenting and organization site is very big on this idea: Get things ready the night before.

It has to be easier right? So I gave it a whirl and let's just say from what I can see it's pretty much just taking the morning chaos (which is excruciating because it all happens when I am totally exhausted) and moving it to the night (when I am equally exhausted and really can't have coffee because I'm over 40 and it also doesn't go well with the wine I might be drinking).

Here are some examples of what I found in my research about what the evening drill is supposed to look like:

  1. Pick Out Clothes the Night Before
  2. Make Lunches the Night Before
  3. Prepare For the Whole Week on Sunday
  4. Always Leave Seven Minutes Early
  5. Set Back the Clocks
  6. Clean Out Backpacks Daily

This all sounds super organized and reasonable...until it meets my world. Then these 6 steps turn into 1001 steps. And here is my reality:

  1. I ask people to pick out their clothes the night before. Because it seems we have time, I suddenly find myself putting in a load of laundry. I then also find myself staying up until midnight to get the wet clothes into the dryer. In the morning, the kid who requested the now freshly washed pink t-shirt has decided to wear a yellow sweatshirt anyway. There is usually also quite a bit of indecision about what we might wear which results in multiple outfits laid out, one of which is worn and the other 4 of which are left on the floor only to be thrown into the hamper unworn 3 days later. Thank the Lord for the boys...sweats, t-shirt, done. So actually no need for them to lay things out, they are already fast. The children for whom the strategy works do not even need it.
  2. Kids make their lunches the night before. The mess they make is either layered onto the mess of the dinner hour or creates an entirely new mess. And we need a second fridge to store the 5 lunches that have been made and now need to be chilled overnight. The next day kids arrive home and I empty the bags. I toss out three sandwiches that were too soggy to eat because they were "made too early". I remind kids to please throw these away before I see them and there will be less yelling.
  3. Prepare for the whole week on Sunday....um just no. It's Sunday. A whole week in a day would kill me more than mornings do. I'm pretty proud if I make a from scratch dinner on a Sunday since most often someone remembers they were supposed to finish 150 pages of a book before the morning or they have a paper due or they hand me a wad of forms from the backpack abyss and there is a scramble. And I really just want to sit.
  4. Always leave 7 minutes early...clearly written by someone without kids.
  5. Set back the clocks. I'm weirdly too good at math for this work. Despite being chronically late I have an inexplicably awesome internal body clock. And when I try to fool myself I just keep thinking, we have 7 extra minutes. So it works for about 2 days until I adjust.
  6. Clean out backpacks daily. I'm lucky if I clean out the backpacks at the end of the school year. There is usually one emergency-clean-out per child each year that involves either lost money or a lost assignment or a banana that fell out of a lunch box and made itself known only by it's smell. I am doomed to just accept finding a little mold come August when we clean everything out to determine what can be used again.

So are we beyond help? Perhaps. I have had to come to terms with this after my failed attempts at changing what is in our DNA. Instead I have come up with my own best strategy which is this "unpinnable" yet life changing parenting strategy: Adjust My Expectations.

It comes down to this...what is our most important thing? We're going with Love. I do not seem to have the gift of loving kids and organizing them at the same time most days. I am in awe of those of you that do. And bless the hearts of all of you that try and help me with my routines and organization. I learn what I can from you then wing the rest. Which means, most often, I have to sacrifice the organization to save the Love.

So might my kids leave the house in nutty outfits with no coats every now and then? Yup. (I was once even called brave for so obviously letting elementary kids pick their outfits, so there's that.) Are there days when we scream, "Just take hot lunch today!" after kids running to the bus, lunches not yet made? Absolutely. Are pancakes a staple at our dinner table? You bet. Do we accept that there will be the occasional missing assignment/instrument/backpack? No choice my friends. But if our main goal is to get them out the door and never forget to give them a hug and a kiss and an "I love you" then I call that a win. And what better send off for our most loved people? Even in our mess, there is always love. It is at the top of every list.

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