As a busy parent, evenings are chaotic. From the moment you walk in the door, the kids are overtired and hungry, everyone needs something from you at the same time, and you have approximately 18 dirty lunch containers and 12 sheets of paper from school to deal with. By the time you make it through the dinner-homework-bath-bedtime routine, there’s nothing you want more than to collapse on the couch in exhaustion.
Believe me, I get it.
As tempting as it is to zone out on the couch once the kids are finally in bed, adding a few simple steps to your evening routine is the key to a stress-free morning. This night time routine doesn’t take long, but will set you up for success in the morning – your future self will thank you!
Evening Routine Tip #1: Check the Calendar
First things first, always check the calendar. I do this before doing anything else – usually while the kids are emptying their backpacks and lunch bags.
Do any of the kids have a big project due, or is it their turn for show and tell? Are there any theme days or special activities tomorrow that you need to be aware of? Does anybody have hot lunch tomorrow? If there’s anything the kids need to get done today, get them started as soon as you can. You’ll be thankful you discovered this now, instead of tomorrow morning when you’re running out the door.
Related: How to Manage the Invisible Mental Load of Motherhood
Evening Routine Tip #2: Make Lunches
Making lunches the night before is key. If at all possible, I’ll prep lunches while dinner is cooking. My kids usually have raw veggies with their dinner, so preparing extra for tomorrow while I’m slicing veggies for dinner adds very little time.
This isn’t always possible – often I’m being pulled in multiple different directions with the kids. If it isn’t, we’ll make sure everyone’s lunches are made before the kitchen is cleaned up in the evening. It’s one less thing to worry about in the morning.
Evening Routine Tip #3: Make Coffee
If you’re a coffee drinker, you understand the draw of that first cup of coffee. For me, getting out of bed is much easier when I know I will be greeted by a fresh cup of coffee. It takes very little time to make the coffee at night and program it for the morning, but makes a huge difference in how our morning goes.
Evening Routine Tip #4: Clean the Kitchen
Cleaning the kitchen at the end of the night sets the tone for the following day. Coming downstairs to a mess from the day before means you’re playing catch up before the day has even begun.
Take an extra 5-10 minutes to wash the dinner dishes, start the dishwasher, wipe the counters, and sweep the floor. Some nights this is harder than others (believe me, I know!), but tomorrow morning you’ll be happy you did it.
Related: 8 Simple Habits for an Organized Home
Evening Routine Tip #5: Throw in a Load of Laundry
If your family is anything like mine, doing laundry once a week is no longer an option. Try to throw in at least one load of laundry every night. In our house, that load isn’t always folded and put away by the end of the night, but staying on top of it prevents the job from becoming overwhelming. Folding laundry is an easy task to do when you’re watching TV at the end of the night.
Evening Routine Tip #6: Choose Outfits
Choose outfits for yourself and the kids, and lay them out. This makes it easier for kids to get dressed independently in the morning, ensures everyone in the family has clean clothes, and helps make sure theme days (why are there so many theme days??) aren’t forgotten.
Evening Routine Tip #7: Pack Bags
Pack everything you can at night, to eliminate frantic running around in the morning. For us, this includes my purse, my laptop bag, my younger children’s daycare bags, and my oldest’s backpack. In the morning, we just need to grab our lunches and we’re ready to go.
I’ve mentioned before that my oldest is responsible for emptying his backpack, and making sure he has everything he needs for school each day (lunch, library books, etc.). I’ll do a quick check to make sure that everything came out that was supposed to, and he’s remembered everything he’ll need for tomorrow.
Evening Routine Tip #8: Place Everything by the Door
We have a flight of stairs between our main living area and our garage, and navigating those stairs with a purse, laptop bag, lunch bag, coffee, two daycare bags, and one child in my arms is not my idea of fun. To save me multiple trips in the morning, I’ll put everything I can either in the car or by the door the night before.
This includes not only bags but all of the little things that we would otherwise end up searching for in the morning – shoes, mittens, hats, snowpants, etc.
Evening Routine Tip #9: Unwind
Finally, make sure your evening routine includes time for YOU. Whether you unwind with yoga, journalling, reading, a hot bath, a cup of tea, or simply relax on the couch with your favourite show, give yourself at least 30-60 minutes that are just for you.
Related: 7 Life-Changing Time Management Tips for Working Moms