Let’s organize the rest of our day

By Ashley Devonish | Category: Organize Me!, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Judging from the traffic and views from the last “Let’s organize our day: the evening routine,” post and the fact that it was featured on the StartUp Princess website, my guess is that this topic of routine and organization is one that is of interest to us moms.  And who can blame us? Sanity is a pretty appealing commodity!

I will start out by keeping it real: my evening routine is a still a work in progress.  I am tweaking and adjusting it even now.  Recently (after being late out the door yet again despite all my attempts to be organized) I decided to start setting a timer for Hunter when he wakes up in the morning to help him stay on track.  When the timer goes off, he needs to be ready to leave (just to be safe, I will set this to go off 5 min before we REALLY need to leave).  If he is not ready by that time then I start the count-up timer on my phone.  For every minute he is “late” he loses 2 minutes from his allotted “technology time.”  My theory was that this would motivate him enough to stay on task (and not take 30 min to eat his breakfast like it did about a week ago).  After putting my theory to work for several mornings I am happy to report that this “tweak” has been successful and we have not only been out the door on time but early to school the past few days – yeah!  All this to say, if what you are doing for your evening/morning routine is not yet working the way you want it to, don’t give up, keep playing with it and over time ideally it will be better and better suited for your family.  Now on to the meat of today’s topic: the daytime routine.

Because each day’s schedule is often different from the next I don’t have a schedule that is quite as mapped out as my evening routine.  However, I have found several things that have created a more manageable, less stressful day.

-Grocery shopping:

It is imperative that I have some sort of “list” system in place both for my sanity and for our pantry’s well being.

In the past, this simply meant having a grocery list on the side of the fridge that my husband and I would add to as we thought of things, used up the last of something or planned a future meal. This method worked well for us expect for times that we were in town (without our list) and near the store and wondering what it was we needed.  Now my husband and I have transitioned to using an online tool for keeping our list.  This enables us to access (and add to) the list from anywhere with the use of our phone or computer.  I am sure there are many great grocery list solutions out there and I have tried more than one.

However, the one that I have settled on and used for the last several months is ZipList.  There are several things I like about ZipList but the main things are the fact that it is quick and easy to update and access and (my favorite part) if I use it to store favorite recipes then I can “push” the ingredient list from the  recipes I plan to make into my shopping list.  Sound like something you would be interested in? There is a great video tutorial that quickly covers the features of ZipList here which you might find helpful.

Another great option for taking care of your grocery list is shopping online via Alice.  Alice has a very intuitive website that allows you to shop from home for your general household items.  As long as you order a minimum of 6 things, shipping is free.  They even have an option that will allow you to choose a schedule to be reminded via email when you might be low on specific items you need to repurchase preventing you from running out.  Want to get a better feel?  Watch this video tutorial.

-Keeping track of the family schedule:

If i can write something down then I can use my mind for something else besides remembering upcoming events.  In the past I used my Outlook calendar that is built into my email system.

However, I have since transitioned over to using Cozi (which conveniently syncs with Outlook).  I have mentioned Cozi in the past so feel free to click on over and read more details there or simply watch this short video tutorial to get a feel for how you can use this fantastic (and free) service to keep your entire family’s schedule (and to-do lists) in check.  Oh did I mention they also have a fun family journal feature?  Here is my journal which I update from my phone or computer and schedule to email out to our parents at the start of every month.  I can see that I need to update it myself!

-Remembering everything else:

Evernote is where I keep all my random info that I don’t want to forget but don’t have a good place to store elsewhere.  The toolbar shortcut makes it easy to clip things to my account that I want to file and the customizable folders allow me to create endless categories such as “recipes to try” or “blog post ideas”.  I don’t use this free service to its full potential but it is pretty cool. (click here for a video tutorial of Evernote).

Quite often I run across a blog post or article that I really want to read but don’t have the time to focus on.  This is where Read it Later comes in handy.  I have down loaded a shortcut for my toolbar and can simply click on it when I am on a page I want to read later.  The URL is stored in my Read it Later account and I can go back and read it . . . later!  After I read it, it is removed from my list. (click here for a quick video explanation of Read it Later).

-Keeping things clean:

A tip that I was taught as a teenager that has continued to stick with me is the saying, “Always leave a room cleaner than you found it.”  This one simple phrase is a great one to teach your kids and to practice yourself.  If each time you pass though a room you do SOMETHING to improve it (pick up a towel, close a drawer, etc) then the next time you enter it, it will look a little bit better!

If all of this just feels a little overwhelming or if it has you excited you might find some inspiration from the FlyLady.  Have you heard of her? on the homepage of this website it says,  Are YOU living in CHAOS? (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.  The FlyLady offers practical, step by step solutions to tackling your home and whipping it into shape and best of all, maintaining it with a great, manageable plan.

Want more?
I recently read this blog post from Passionate Homemaking which talked about order in our lives and how we can look to Jesus for some practical examples for how order in our own lives can be worked out in a practical way.  Then a few days later, Developing a Simple Schedule & Routine was posted on the same blog, also with great content.  Worth the read if this topic is of interest to you!

If you clicked though more than one of my links to video reviews you may have started to notice a familiar face: Carley Knobloch’s.  Carley’s passion is finding creative digital solutions to make your life easier and condensing what you need to know to see if it is right for you in a short 3 minute video sent to your inbox each week.  if you click on her Digiwirl website you just might notice my smiling face next to my testimonial because I really have enjoyed the content she has introduced me to.  If digital solutions excite you to, you would probably enjoy getting her weekly emails sent to you as well. (no I was not paid to say any of this, nor she doesn’t even know I am writing this post with an obscene amount of links to her websites, I just really have enjoyed what she does).

I feel like I have only just scratched the service on the topic of routines and organization but I hope that something I had to offer was just what you needed to hear.  Do you have any great resources to share or tips on things you do to stay sane? I would love to hear them!

Ashley Devonish

I have a passion for helping moms and encouraging them in their journey through motherhood. I invite you to journey along with me!

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Let’s organize our day: the evening routine

By Ashley Devonish | Category: Creating a Home, The Journey of Motherhood | Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2011

After replying to Lana’s comment in my last blog post asking how I manage my time, I started thinking about some of the little things that I routinely do to make my day run more smoothly and organized.

It has never occurred to me to write about them because they have become natural to me and I often assume they are in turn natural to others as well.  However, this routine has developed over time and as such perhaps some of you might enjoy a peek into what I do and in turn, have parts of your routine that you would be willing to share with me! Together we can become more organized and productive with our day.  Sound good?  (Envision us in a small football huddle with our arms out stretched toward the middle ready to cheer)  ”Goooooo Team Mom!”

Rather than starting with what I do in the morning, I will begin with the evening routine.  Why?  So that you have a chance to try it out tonight while it is still fresh in your mind.  In a few days I will post about another part of my routine which will give you some time to practice the evening part in your home and tweak it to fit your family’s needs.  For purpose of comparative info, Hunter is seven and Ashlyn just turned five.  Hopefully this will help you gauge your own kids and how you might be able to adapt this to your own family.  Ready?

Evening Routine:
I will start of by saying that putting the kids to bed is potentially the most stressful part of my day.  I am not sure why.  No one is standing over my shoulder asking if my kids will be in bed by ______?  And I don’t have an appointment I need to get to once they are asleep.   Perhaps it is the knowledge that once they are in bed “my time” begins and I feel selfish with this part of my day since it is so fleeting.  On many nights I am blessed that my husband is an active part of putting the kids to bed which really helps to make it less stressful.  I blogged about our typical bedtime about a year ago.  A few things that I have found to help us with putting the kids to bed:

-I have recently moved up dinner time from 6:00 to between 5:00 and 5:30.  We aim for a 7:00 bedtime with the kids and I found that in starting dinner at six, I was simply asking to feel “behind” before we even got started.  The earlier dinnertime has really helped me feel more relaxed and less rushed in moving toward bedtime.

-After dinner I start the dishwasher (if needed) and unload (later, before I go to bed) so that in the morning it is “open for business” which prevents the sink from filling up with dirty dishes.

-When it is time to get ready for bed, I set a timer for Hunter as I found that he responds well to the forced focus of being held accountable to the clock.  I give him 3-4 minutes to put on his PJ’s and 2 minutes to brush his teeth.

-Ashlyn does not do well with a timer, in fact it produces the opposite effect for her and she freezes up and can’t seem to do anything as she gets so upset and stressed out by it.  For her, I find that giving her one task at a time and having her verbally repeat back to me what she is going to do works well.
Ashlyn, go put your PJ’s on.  Now say, ‘Mommy I am going to put my PJ’s on now.’”
Asking her to repeat back to me what she is going to do seems to help cement in her mind her next action which is helpful as she tends to be a bit “flighty” in her thinking otherwise and is easily distracted. Therefore I think it is best to feel out what works well for your child’s personality here.

-We take a few minutes each night for the kids to go check their room and make sure it is cleaned up.  Making a point to straighten their rooms each evening for a few minutes helps prevent disasters from occurring (like the photo from Ashlyn’s room shown in my last post–not sure how that happened).

-Hunter’s uniform (including socks and underwear) are set out at night so that in the morning he can quickly and easily get dressed without hunting for a missing shirt or sock or. . .

After the kids are in bed (yeah!):

Our bedtime goal for the kids is 7:00PM and I shoot for a personal bedtime of 10:00PM.  So on an ideal night I would have three hours after the kids go to bed to accomplish the following and still have some remaining “down time.”

-I pack Hunter’s lunch and put it in the fridge.  I include a short handwritten note.  He seems to like these :) .  From time to time I will also include a picture that Ashlyn has drawn for him.  When he brings his lunch bag home after school and I unpack it, I store the notes in a little box in the cabinet.  I think he might enjoy browsing through them some day in the future.

-I clean the kitchen and wipe down the counters and sink.  After I clean the sink, I use the same wash rag to quickly wipe down the sink and counter top in the kid’s bathroom before putting it in the laundry.  Then I do a general straightening of the house.  If I wake up to a clean house, it sets the mood in a much more positive, productive tone and I don’t feel that I am already starting the day “behind”.

-I decide what I will do for breakfast in the morning.  Some popular choices include:
cereal–when I don’t feel like doing anything “fancy” or time consuming.
crepes–these take some time to prepare but are great for making ahead at night and are super yummy!
pancakes or waffles–they can be made ahead and frozen and then simply put in the toaster in the morning. I like to mix up a large batch of my own pancake “bisquick” mix (see recipe at the bottom of this post) in order to use whole wheat.  Although I like my current recipe, I am going to try this soaked version next time and compare.
oatmeal–I chose to soak the oatmeal overnight.  Not only is it better for you (read the link) but it makes it QUICK and easy in the morning.  Below is my oatmeal soaking for tomorrow’s breakfast (I cover it overnight and then simply warm it up in the morning).

-I get the kitchen ready for morning by setting out their dishes, vitamins and a list of tasks that they need to complete before we leave the house for school.

-Ashlyn cannot read much yet but she still gets a list.  It is sort and mostly the same each morning (get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast and put away dishes and brush teeth).  I feel that the repetition of seeing this list helps her learn the words and feel “old enough” to be responsible for her one routine like her older brother.  Hunter’s list is set up to require him to be fully ready for school by the time he is finished and includes things like putting his lunch (from the fridge) into his backpack.

-As a side note: The “do homework” part of Hunters list that he does in the morning includes a daily timed reading list of words (it takes him 1-2 minutes) and writing out his spelling words once (this takes about 2-3 minutes).  Although he could do these things after school, I find that doing them before makes the after school time easier.

-If I have any clean laundry in the dryer (I try to start a load to wash in the morning giving me all day to get it finished and put away) I will fold it and put the piles of clean clothes in the kid’s rooms to be put away the next day (I have them put away their own laundry).

-I set out what I am going to wear in the morning and take a shower if needed.

-RELAX knowing my morning is ready :) !

“Pancake (or waffle) Master Mix”
8 cups whole wheat pastry flour (this is soft white wheat for any of you who might grind your wheat)
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup baking powder (try to find a kind that doesn’t have aluminum in it)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups shortening that does not require refrigeration (you can use Crisco, but I have switched to using coconut oil because I believe it is much healthier. In the summer months however, I may have to keep my mix in the fridge or freezer though or else my oil will be liquid as coconut oil is a solid for me this time of year but melts at 76 degrees).

In a large bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.  Cut in shorting (or coconut oil) until the mixture resembles course crumbs (when using solid coconut oil I mix this all in my food processor and it does a great job).  Store in a large container for up to 6 weeks.  Makes 12 to 14 cups.

To use for pancakes or waffles:
-2 cups “master mix”
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk (or buttermilk)

Beat the eggs, add milk to desired consistency with this master mix, stirring until blended but still slightly lumpy.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle or pan. Cook till golden, turning to cook other side.  Makes 8 pancakes.

I love using my coconut oil for frying too by the way.  Here is where I buy my coconut oil and so far this is the best price I have found for the quality (including the shipping cost which is fairly reasonable). I get the 7 pound bottle of extra virgin coconut oil which is $3.90 per pound).  7 pounds may seem like a lot, but because it is so versatile (you can use it in place of any kind of fat in recipes and it is even great as a skin moisturizer or make up remover) that after only 6 weeks I am ready to order another bottle!  In fact, I just realized that my good friend Selina just put up a new post about coconut oil so I will simply encourage you go click on over to her blog and read more if you are not yet using this stuff but are intrigued about why I think you should consider it!

Ideally, something about my routine sparked something in you that will help your evenings (and therefore your mornings) go more smoothly.  If you have any tips of your own, please share!  I will continue on with more tips on this topic soon.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

Ashley Devonish

I have a passion for helping moms and encouraging them in their journey through motherhood. I invite you to journey along with me!

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