Fall is always a busy time of year, getting the kids back to school, waking up earlier, and getting back to a more organized life. As a busy work-at-home mom, I’m always looking for quick and clever ways to get our family up and out the door on time and in a happy manner. After a lazy summer vacation, it can be tricky getting kids back on schedule for school. Here are a few tips that can get your family back in the swing of things.

The Night Before. It never fails; if you wait to organize your children’s morning exit strategy until morning, it’s likely you’ll oversleep or just plain forget! Instead, try staging your “path” the night before to avoid morning rush, stress and possible arguments. Also, give yourself extra time in a couple months, with winter weather-boots, jackets and slow driving conditions.

To avoid wardrobe wars, we schedule and pick outfits for the next day after nighttime baths or story time/homework. We simply place the selected outfit at the foot of the bed (shoes and all), leaving nothing to chance in the morning rush. The same thing goes for books and assignments that NEED to get placed in backpacks. In the past, there have been plenty of times where I’ve had to drive back up to school to drop off forgotten schoolwork. With a zipped up backpack, assignments are sure to find their way to the teacher’s desk! Speaking of backpacks, you may want to check out these darling options from Garnet Hill.

School lunches CAN be organized and packed the night before. I’ve discovered that while cleaning up after dinner, I can simply and easily pack the “non-chilled” items (such as “crunchy” organic snacks and cookies, etc) in the lunch box and leave it strategically placed on the counter, for quick packing of the pre-made “chilled” (such as carrots, fruit and sandwiches) items from the refrigerator. By organizing lunches ahead of time, I avoid the morning “scramble” of asking, “What kind of sandwich do you want”, etc.

And, by using re-usable food containers, you go easy on the environment and landfills. My kids love the Kids Konserve lunch box systems, with the fun re-usable containers and bright colors.  Re-usable stainless steel water bottles, like those from Klean Kanteen, with a variety of sizes and colors, they keep food chilled and never give food that “plastic-y” taste. I have my sons help me with lunches to teach them self-agency. The boys also place their classroom snacks in their backpacks the night before to save precious morning time.

Exit Stategy is key when hustling 3 boys out the door. If jackets, coats, boots, hats and gloves (especially later in the school year when the chilly winds start to blow) are conveniently hung in a mud room or hook at the exit, nothing ever seems to get left behind. It’s helpful to have a master “drawer” or container (such as a plastic bin or basket) where each child’s extra garments can be organized, making life easier when cold mornings creep up on you. Having a central location for umbrellas and rain ponchos near the exit is also a great idea.

Motivational Technology is a useful negotiator. Every good parent knows their child’s tipping point and at times it’s helpful to have a secret weapon. Our negotiator of choice is electronics! To get my youngest son “out the door” without a gripe or quarrel with his brothers, I often will say, “when you get in the car, remind me to give you your Gameboy.” Sure enough, he’s bounding out the door–past the brothers–in his seat, belted and ready to go. The same thing goes for discipline! If there continues to be a morning “out the door” problem, the first line of defense is “taking away” the cell phones (for older brothers)–this seems to eliminate any future dilly-dally-ers for days to come.

My SELF comes first! Even though I make several schedules and plans for my children to be ready to go in the morning, I am keeping myself in line, too. I pick out my own clothes the night before, I pack healthy snacks (such as pre-packed almonds or carrots) in my purse for carpool line, I leave re-usable grocery bags in the car at all times–for that spontaneous trip to the grocery store in between meetings, I have my work papers and reading in my backpack ready to go for meetings that I might have after school drop off and I always carry my workout bag in the car (just in case I get motivated for a mid-day workout).