Being organized is not a strong quality of mine. I may seem organized in my regular life but that’s just because I compensate for my lack of organization with a busy schedule and a very strong sense of commitment.
Having four kids, my days are structured with drop off and pick up times. I plan playdates, I attend school meetings, and like many of you, my days are filled with activities and my kids have a routine. When all that was thrown out the window, I was left with a blank quarantine canvas.
My journey to discover the ultimate five steps to keep me sane and to keep my household afloat began the very first week of COVID-19 quarantine in mid-March. Between the excitement of extended vacation, my brain telling me to stay calm, and the news triggering my panic mode, we had a pretty interesting week.
Hoping to help, my husband showed me a colorful and disciplined schedule he found online. To be honest, just looking at it made me feel anxious.
Knowing that I needed to bring order into our lives, I proceeded to do a checklist of the things I thought we had to accomplish every day. The idea was that once we had completed all the tasks on the checklist, a challenge in itself, then we could treat ourselves to the last item on the list: watching TV. I essentially was crafting a document I could fall back on when my kids would come begging for some screen time. Binding family contracts handwritten with blue crayon on a scratch piece of paper cannot be broken.
Or so I thought.
It looked like a doable list. I sat my family down at the kitchen and in the most enthusiastic tone I said: “Over the next few days (or weeks or months, never mind) we are going to fill our day with very fun things. We are going to…”
- Tidy up the house.
- Do a craft/activity.
- Listen to music and dance.
(And if we do all this then we can…)
- Watch TV.
“Oh, how wonderful!”- I thought. The reading of the contract was followed by a loud cheer. In my head, I envisioned a Mary Poppins moment with all my kids painting and listening to Mozart while I pulled cookies out of the oven.
But here’s what really happened. Playing was their number one goal and the only number they checked off the list right away each day. Then I downheartedly realized that number two would never be accomplished. I know I did number seven. I was praying constantly for more patience. My precious list, instead of helping, entitled three little humans to follow me around all day demanding to get to the next activity and asking questions like “Mom, is it time for a craft? What are we going to bake? You said we were going to have a dance party!” All while I struggled to keep the house clean.
And by the end of the week, guess who was the one who broke the no TV rule. Yes. It was me.
As much as I wanted to follow the “go with the flow” approach, I knew I had to find some balance in our routine. These five tips have given me just that.
1. Make your bed and get dressed.
It is so simple yet so powerful. Making your bed gives you instant gratification. The first task is done. Boom! I feel like once you put the last decorative pillow in place, your bed cheers you on to start your day. Getting dressed, even if it’s comfy yoga pants, will get you in an active mood.
2. Eat your meals together and sit down.
Even if you have a flexible schedule you know that your kids are going to be hungry at least three times a day. Meals mark the routine. By having those time frames and pauses in your day you will give structure to your days. And the sitting down part, I include it because very often I eat standing up at the stove. You’ve got nowhere to go. Sit down and have a break.
3. Set one activity for each day.
It can be a fun one or it can be a house project, whatever it is that you want to accomplish that day. It’s great to have something to look forward to in your day. Going to a drive-through, making a craft, baking a cake, having a picnic, going to a birthday parade, making a fort, or having a special movie night. Not only does it brighten your day, but it will help you differentiate the days.
4. Keep a Zen Room.
My little humans can turn every corner of my house into a playroom if I let them. That’s why I decided to designate at least one “Zen” room in the house. In my case it was my son’s room. He is three, he doesn’t sleep there, so it was perfect. Let no one disturb that space and keep it pristine. No toys, no clutter. Whenever you need a moment alone, go there.
5. Finish the day with a treat to yourself.
You cleaned, you cooked, you cleaned again. It is time to rest. In my case, it is time for my N&N (Nutella and Netflix). This prize is going to be your motivation to set a bedtime routine and to stick to it. You will look at the clock and know that the final hours of the day are coming, and they are for yourself.
By the end of the day when you follow these five simple suggestions you will be, if nothing else, going back to sleep in a made bed, you will be proud to have had three meals together as a family, you will know you did something different today than yesterday, you will rest knowing that at least one room in your house is clean, and you will give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the last moments of your day. Not too bad, this quarantine life!