From Mayhem to Magic: How to Make Your Mornings Run More Smoothly

My husband likes to say that I get more done before 7:00 A.M. than most people get done all day. Now, while the jury is still out on whether he’s being passive-aggressive when he says this, there is some truth to it. But it hasn’t always been like this. I only recently willed myself to become a morning person, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Over the years, fed up with starting our day in chaos, I decided to take charge of our mornings. Instead of everyone waking up to mayhem and frantic disarray, I realized that I have the power to dictate how our mornings go—even if that means sacrificing a little sleep on my part. Now our mornings are smooth, (mostly) drama-free, and I’m able to send the kids off to school with a kiss and well wishes (instead of regrets and inappropriate adult language).

Ultimately, you’ve got to figure out what works for your family, but today, I’m sharing my family’s secrets to keeping the morning mayhem at bay and starting our day on the right foot:

1. Get up before your kids.

Yeah, I know this sounds like torture, but I learned very early on that if I had to hit the ground running—directly out of bed—and start immediately attending to the needs demands of my kids, it set a bad tone for my day. I found myself short-tempered and off my game. These days, my alarm goes off 30 minutes before my kids’ alarms. This gives me a chance to gather myself a bit (hi, coffee!) and wake up properly before they get up.

2. Build in some time for yourself in the morning.

I’m not talking about a trip to the spa before the family wakes up, but just a few minutes to do something that YOU want to do. Maybe that’s a quick run on a treadmill, maybe it’s watching a show on Netflix. For me, it’s checking social media and email. Depending on how much earlier than your kids you’re willing to get up, you can really squeeze in as little or as much time for yourself as you want. 

3. Run your dishwasher at night.

My dishwasher is my most-used kitchen appliance. We run our dishwasher at least twice a day, because we go through a lot of plates, bowls, cups and utensils over the course of the day (my husband and I both work from home, which adds to the dishwashing load). I’ve found that if I can wake up to clean dishes, I’m better able to keep my kitchen under control during the frantic breakfast rush on a school day. 

4. Operate with military precision.

Call me rigid all you want, but my morning routine runs like clockwork. My alarm goes off at 5:15 A.M. After feeding the pets, getting my coffee, and putzing around on my phone for a few minutes, at 5:30 A.M., I empty the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen, and start a load of laundry. (I typically have a podcast playing in my earbuds during this time, which gives me a chance to take my mind off of life for a few minutes and listen to what I want.) I usually finish these tasks before the kids’ alarms go off, so that once they come downstairs, the kitchen is under control and ready to take on the task of breakfast.

5. Set your coffeemaker the night before.

I’m sure you’re like, “Well, DUH!” but having a hot cup of coffee ready for me when I stumble into the kitchen is money. I typically get my coffeemaker set during my after-dinner kitchen cleanup time the evening before. 

6. Lay out clothes the night before.

I go to a bootcamp workout three mornings a week, so the night before, I set aside every article of clothing that I’m planning to wear in the morning—down to the undies and socks. Even on mornings when I don’t have anywhere to be, I set aside what I’m going to wear to walk the kids to the bus stop. This takes the guesswork out of deciding what to wear and also keeps me from banging around the bedroom at zero dark thirty while my husband sleeps like a baby (harrumph!).

7. Make lunches the night before.

Again, this is probably another given for a lot of you, but my kids make their lunches for the following day before they take their showers at night. This way, they get a say in what they take in their lunch and it’s one less chore I have to do. 

8. Make a to-do list the night before.

I also like to plan ahead what my day will look like, so I try to jot down at least a loose to-do list the night before, so that when I get up, I have an idea of what I need to remember for the day. Making my to-do list with a clear head the night before helps me prioritize and plan ahead.

9. Start a load of laundry the night before.

I will often put a load of laundry in the washer and start it right before bed, that way, when I get up the next morning, it’s ready for the dryer and I’m already halfway through one load of laundry before the sun is even up! I’ve never had my laundry get “sour” from sitting in the washer overnight, but if this is something that concerns you, you can certainly load your laundry in the washer the night before and then start the machine when you get up in the morning.

My kids are 10 and 12 years old and busy with school and other activities. While our mornings look differently than they did when they were a newborn and a toddler, I’ve found ways to make mornings work for us through each season of life. Through a series of trials (and some errors), I’m continually fine-tuning our morning routine so that it runs like a well-oiled machine around here. Once I realized how I could truly set the tone for my whole day (and that of my family) by dedicating a little extra time in the morning to getting our house and our routines under control, it was completely worth it to me to commit to getting up earlier.

No matter what ages and stages your kids are, there are ways that you can structure your morning routines to run more smoothly. The idea is to figure out how to make your mornings work for you (as opposed to AGAINST you) and then implement those strategies—tweaking as needed—and getting up and doing it over and over again every morning until you find a rhythm that works for you and your family.  

Jenny is a 40-something, married mother of two (Anna, 2007 and Jack, 2009), who migrated to the Hill Country after doing a 14 year stint in Houston. When Jenny isn’t walking her slightly neurotic (and completely beloved) rescued Weimaraner, she enjoys writing, making to-do lists, and folding laundry (and sarcasm). Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, and completed graduate coursework in Guidance and Counseling. She is a freelance writer who writes a weekly pet column for a Houston newspaper, and is a contributor at Dog Friendly San Antonio, New Braunfels Monthly and San Antonio Woman, as well as assorted other publications. You can also find her on Instagram (introvertsguidetosobriety). Favorite Restaurant: Bohanan's Favorite Landmark: The Alamo (duh) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Wurstfest (not technically SAT, but closer to Jenny's stomping grounds).