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Simple Habits, Easy Mornings

Get Ready for Back to School and Build Stronger Family Connections

Does Back-to-School bring a smile to your face or a flutter of panic to your stomach? For many families, back to school means the end entertaining kids all day, breaking up sibling arguments or managing chores. But it also means the beginning of making lunches every day, hurried mornings, and missing shoes.

Who out there doesn’t want school mornings simplified? And yet for most, simple is elusive. Stress, chaos, sometimes even tears can make a rough start to the day, for children and parents alike.

Stephanie Sikora, professional organizer and owner of Life Made Simple at Home, wants to help. “I am passionate about helping others to reduce the clutter and chaos in their lives so that they can be more focused and present in life...and enjoy each other.”

No matter what space you are trying to improve, she uses a three-step process. First you simplify by reducing the number of items in a space that do not add value. Second, you systematize; create a space that makes your life simpler. The final step is to sustain, maintain the space and system over a long period of time.

Back-to-school mornings also benefit from these steps. “The key is to establish systems that can help you and your kids get out the door with less stress.”  Setting up systems create habits that make mornings run easier.

A great place to start is your pantry.  Start with designated places for all your food. Kids can grab their own snacks, help with lunch making, and everyone knows exactly where to put it away. You can also consider creating a similar space in the refrigerator for items that need to be kept cold.

The next system to consider is a lunch prep station. Even little kids are capable packing their lunches in the morning. If possible, clear a cabinet or drawer that is easily accessible to create a specific home for all the supplies you will need to pack a lunch..  

An area in your home that might benefit from simplifying is your children’s closet. Most people, including children, only wear about 20% of their wardrobe. Prune your kids’ clothes to only what they regularly wear, plus a few options for special occasions. The focus in kids' closets is ease. Use a low hanging bar to hang clothes that kids can reach. Use bins to separate and organize clothing, whether on a shelf or in a drawer.

Another key area for back-to-school ease is the entry way. Just like closets and the pantry, create a space that allows for easy access to the things they need: backpacks, jackets, gloves, hats etc.  Keep season-appropriate items at hand; move off-season essentials to another location. 

Finally, clearly defined times when kids are dressed, back packs are packed and out the door, can help with last-minute chaos. Timers can also be an effective way to keep kids on track.

When you create systems that are easy to follow, habits develop, and drive the behavior that allows for simpler mornings and a clutter free space.

Many people do this backwards. They organize a space by how they think it should go, and then ask the people in their homes change their behaviors.  When done in reverse, by observing current behaviors and habits, then organizing around that, the transition is easier and has a greater chance of success.

Hanging a shoe organizer behind a door in an example. Not many people, especially children, take their shoes off behind a door. But a basket in the area where the shoes are removed is much easier, and a system that requires very little change in behavior to stay organized.

“It’s time to stop allowing our homes to deplete us…so we can start living lives full of connection and meaning.”

Stephanie was in HealthCare for 15 years, charged with improving clinical spaces and process improvement implementation. In 2017 her department was eliminated, along with her position.  After spending many years building a career outside her home, she suddenly became a Stay-at-Home-Mom. According to Stephanie, this wasn’t an easy transition, and like many fulltime, at-home moms, she was in the middle of the endless cycle of picking up after the others in her home. She found herself attempting to control the clutter and chaos in her home as a means to cope with the loss of her job. 

One afternoon, her daughter asked her if they could sit down and color together.  Stephanie responded by telling her they could as soon as she was done cleaning the kitchen. Her daughter, four at the time, told her mom, “but you never finish and come play with us.”

This was eye-opening to Stephanie. She didn’t want her children to remember their childhood waiting for mom to finish. She knew she needed to do something different, while also keeping a calm and comfortable home

She came upon organizing naturally.  As an adolescent, she loved to arrange and rearrange her bedroom. Faced with the loss of her corporate job, the benefits and income that provide security, she returned to her original instincts to organize. When other full-time job opportunities didn’t pan out, She decided to match her drive to organize with her need for job security.

“For me, entrepreneurship didn’t happen overnight. Starting a business overlapped with my personal journey to stop the chaos of managing our home,” Stephanie writes in her book, Simplified.

You can find Stephanie’s book Simplified on Amazon, and or follow her on Instagram @lifemadesimpleathome.

Living a life that is a little more simplified is a step to start reconnecting to what matters most.

Tip 1

Remove food items such as individually packaged snacks and cereals from boxes and transfer to bins or baskets right after grocery shopping. It makes it easy to determine what is running low when creating a grocery list.

Tip 2

In a lunch prep station, include containers, lunch bags, baggies, water bottles, silverware, and napkins. Determine how many of each item you need to prepare lunches for the week. For example, 3 water bottles and 2 sandwich containers per kid before the dishwasher is unloaded and replenished.

Tip 3

Children outgrow their clothes quickly. Have a system for clothing rotation to keep drawers from getting overstuffed. Keep a bin accessible for clothes they just grew out of and a bin for clothes they are just about to grow into.

“It’s time to stop allowing our homes to deplete us…so we can start living lives full of connection and meaning.”

  • lunch prep station
  • simplify closets
  • organized pantry