Gone are the days when all I needed was a wallet and my car keys to get out and get things done. But according to my sister, I’ve got impressive prowess that helps me stay organized on outings/trips with my kids. I’m not sure why she thinks this… She’s the one who works full time, juggles kids’ appointments, and well, quite frankly, still looks human. At my house, however, we don’t “do” fashion, and school is done in our pajamas. Wake up call rarely comes before 8am, and flexibility is the only constant. When we go out, though, my ducks get in their rows! Here are my [evidently] pro tips for how to stay organized when the shit you simply *must* do requires leaving the house.
Lists, charts, itineraries, schedules… On paper.
My first secret is about 500 lists. I write lists for everything; groceries, meal planning, homeschool studies, work projects. I actually enjoy writing stuff down, although my memory functions fairly well. Plus, I like to think it empties out my brain temporarily so I can focus on important things. Like not burning the pancakes. Or calling the correct name of the kid I’m attempting to summon.
I’ve tried using my Kindle or my phone to keep lists, but it’s super satisfying to check tasks off as they’re accomplished. While it might not be the greenest method of note taking, it’s the most effective for me. I earn back eco points by reusing my kids’ rejected artwork and scribbling on junk mail.
I’ve been known to create elaborate itineraries for our trips, including what to see and when. At home I write down our daily schedule so that the kids and I both know what to expect. Even my freelance projects are categorized neatly, appropriate time frames allotted. Occasionally I step outside these paper boundaries, but even then, having the outline in print helps me refocus.
Plan in advance.
Preferably, embarrassingly in advance. When we take trips to the coast, it’s not unheard of for me to plan six months ahead of time. Also, I’ll prep my lists for big trips like that a few days before, and go over them again before we leave. I lay out my lists while packing so I stay organized and divvy up goods accordingly. I consider my destination, the weather, the possibility of extending the trip, and factor in extras for everything and everyone. It doesn’t hurt to have spare sets of clothing for each passenger in your vehicle. At the very least, I try to carry sweatshirts or blankets/towels in case of accidents or unexpected chilly weather.
Same goes with smaller trips; if I know I’m running low on groceries, I’ll pick a specific day to shop and make a mental note ahead of time. Way better than realizing you’re out of soy milk right after you’ve mixed the rest of the ingredients for pancakes. Even if the kids have a meltdown en route, I’ve got the list to stick to so I don’t forget anything vital in the scramble. Plus, since I planned ahead, I’m not shopping during nap time or right before dinner.
Pants might be most important to you, but my number one priority is making sure my kids are fed and watered adequately. Secondary to that is clean and dry clothing. Unless you have special medical considerations, my advice is to keep food and clothing on the top of your list, too.
Much of my trip prepping is spent getting snacks together, like homemade pumpkin spice balls or no-sugar-added date bars. I’m vegan, so the kids enjoy those special types of healthy treats, but also standards like raisins, dried apricots or mangoes, bananas, carrot sticks, crackers, cheeses, and applesauce in reusable pouches.
Accept the fact that to stay organized, you’ll need more time.
Let’s be real, it’s easier to get packed and prepared when the kids are asleep and not underfoot. Because heaven forbid Teddy gets in the suitcase the night before we leave for our trip, and obviously the diaper bag must be packed with a certain someone’s favorite color cloth diapers and absolutely nothing else. Therefore, I’m forever cutting into my snooze time with planning duties.
I typically stay up later than the rest of my family, so I’ve got time to wrangle the diaper bag the day before an outing, or get the laundry finished so the suitcase can be packed. Besides, even if I went to sleep reasonably early, I’d still be obsessing over the details of whatever event is looming!
If you see me out somewhere…
And I look like a hot mess… Don’t pity me. Or stare. Just remember- my kids are clothed and fed, my lists are neatly organized, and I’ve got a spare sweater and extra snacks if you’re in need! Plus, despite the chaos, I’m probably having a pretty good time!