I know I’m always looking for a new trick that will help me get through life with less hassle. Yes, whether I succeed or fail at reaching my goals does not depend on buying a travel sized bottle of sunscreen and a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer, and putting them in my jacket pockets at Disney World. BUT it does feel satisfying to have these items without carrying a bag!
In any case, this episode of Best of Both Worlds is all about our favorite systems for home and family life. In it you’ll learn about:
Sarah’s bag-switching ritual. The work tote contents get transferred to the diaper bag on Saturday morning, and back again on Sunday night. The ritual helps with mindset transition, but it also means too much crud never builds up (I just have one bag, but then again I neither commute nor have a kid in diapers. Also, I’m pretty sure I’d forget my keys in the wrong bag every single time.) Sarah now keeps a pair of bounce-y house socks in her diaper bag after needing to buy too many pairs when they wind up at such places!
Sarah’s current morning routine. She sets the coffee maker to brew her a cup when she wakes up. (I love this idea and when I replace my current coffee maker I might try to figure this out.) She manages to get some writing/planning time, and a workout in, by 7 a.m. each morning! I’m usually just getting out of the shower around that time, but I did recently come up with a new activity for the 8:10-8:25 a.m. window I was struggling to use: strength training. I heave a kettlebell around my office, or use my resistance bands. I don’t use the whole window, but having a “cue” for a certain time increases the chances that this happens. Sarah talked about putting toothbrushes in a downstairs bathroom so the kids don’t have to go back upstairs to do this. I think this can be a great idea for families with a tight morning time line and a 2-story house.
Sarah also came up with a hack for avoiding the long car pool line at her daughter’s school. She parks about 5 minutes away at a playground and walks her daughter over. They get fresh air and some steps, and avoid the half hour wait.
Shower nights. We instituted a routine of M-W-F just to avoid arguing with the kids over this (I’ve never been one who believes kids need to bathe nightly, though my oldest kid does now of his own volition).
Date nights. Sarah has a Saturday night sitter that she books about 2 months ahead for whatever weekends she and Josh aren’t on call. They can figure out the actual date later, but knowing that the sitting is in place means this happens. My husband and I tend to do Friday night (when it happens; it doesn’t too often). Our childcare theoretically lasts until 8 p.m. on Friday, so we can grab an early dinner or go to an art museum with evening hours.
The hand-me-down closet. I have three boys, and while some stuff must be retired, a lot of it can be passed down. We have a walk-in closet in one of the boys’ rooms (there are 2 jack-and-jill rooms for the 3 of them; pairings will be fluid) with boxes labeled things like “4T.” It’s been fun to see clothes come out again for the little guy that I saw on the big boys many years ago. Another thing on clothes: I don’t monitor outfit choices (other than “no you can’t wear shorts” if it’s 20 degrees out). My general philosophy is that I control what comes IN to the house, but once it is in the house, outfits are a matter of personal expression. My daughter is rocking the print-on-print trend (also the tutu-over-jeans trend).
The key bowl and the membership card slot. We belong to a lot of area museums/playplaces/zoos/aquariums/gardens. All these cards go in one spot on the desk in the kitchen/living area. Likewise, we have a bowl for spare car keys; all 3 vehicles have a spare key in that bowl so any car may be moved if necessary. In general, I am a big fan of objects having a home. My oldest son’s cell phone may be in one of four places: on his person, in his backpack, charging in my room (this is where it sleeps overnight), or on his bedside table. I’m not saying this prevents things getting lost…but it helps.
In the Q&A section we address a question from a reader with an 8-month-old who’d like to find time to work on her novel. Since she’d also just started a full time job, we noted that she could “slow her roll” in Sarah’s words and decide that the novel was not a huge priority right now. However, if she did feel a burning passion to write, it’s definitely possible. She might not be able to find 20 hours a week, but she could find 4. We suggested having her husband take the morning shift 2 days a week, with her going to a coffee shop to write for an hour or two before work. (The alternative is going after work to the library one night a week — though she mentioned that evenings weren’t a great time for her in terms of energy.) The family observed the Sabbath, so Saturday was out, but we thought that she could come to an agreement on Sunday that each parent got their own time for 2 hours or so. That would still leave plenty of time for chores and family activities.
What systems are keeping chaos at bay in your house these days?