I am a huge believer in routines to make your home run smoothly. I have morning routines, afternoon/evening routines and weekly cleaning routines. Routines really do make your home function well. Children in particular respond really well to routine, and to be honest, most adults like routines. Routines very quickly become good, disciplined habits. Effective home routines really can put your home management on autopilot, so your home stays clean and tidy every single day.
I find the afternoon slot – between getting home from work and school and the bedtime routine – quite a tricky time. The kids are both tired. I’m tired, especially if I’ve been at work all day, and it’s easy to feel like there are a million things demanding your attention. But it’s a really valuable time in terms of preparation for the following day.
With that in mind, here are 5 things I do every afternoon to make your home run smoothly.
- Pack Bags: Pack bags for the following day as soon as you get home. I pack my own bag too, even if it’s my day off. I also deal with any school-related paperwork, putting money and responses on envelopes as I pack the bags. I deal with all paperwork at this point as well, filing any letters that need to be filed and recycling anything else. This takes 5-10 minutes.
- Meals: Cook dinner, and check the meal plan for the next day. Take anything out of freezer that needs to defrost so that it can defrost over night. If the children are occupied, I make packed lunches at this point too. This takes 20 minutes or so, including making packed lunches.
- Laundry: I need to do a wash a day. I usually put it on in the morning, transfer it to the drier or drying rack when I get home and then fold it after dinner. I fold it into baskets – one basket per person – so it’s really easy to put away the following morning. Simply transferring from the washer to the drier or drying rack takes 2-3 minutes.
- Weekly cleaning task: I divide my cleaning into a weekly routine. Each job in the routine takes 15 minutes or so. If it’s my working day, I have a shorter task, so I quickly get this done.
- Tidy up: Tidy away all the toys and clear surfaces. I get the children to do this before dinner time. I have a few strategies that I use to motivate them, but they are usually pretty good – especially if there is food on the way! This takes about 5 minutes.
This takes a maximum of 45 minutes – to be honest, dinner and the housework don’t usually take that long. I’m quite careful with my meal planning to do low-effort and fast meals on my work days. I do all of this while my kids normally have a bit of screen time or play fairly independently.
If I can pop the dinner into the oven or leave it for a while, I’ll make sure I’ve sat down with each child for a few minutes and had a bit of a chat to them about their day – or just a cuddle, which is normally all that’s needed! When Samuel was younger, he was very clingy in the afternoons after he’d been at nursery all day. It was hard, and I became a bit of an expert at cooking one-handed! I found that sitting with him for a little while helped, even just watching TV with him, and planning really easy dinners. At that point, I couldn’t do the 15 minutes cleaning – I did that after he went to bed.
My evenings are precious to me – I use them for working, or blogging, or spending time with my husband. I do not want to be doing housework or laundry, especially once I’ve marked 30 essays. Equally, I don’t want to live in a mess. It does take a bit of self-control and discipline to do it every day, but the benefits are worth it.
I actually think the afternoon routine is almost more essential than the morning routine. With the afternoon routine done, all we need to do after dinner is to wash up. The house is clean and tidy, and we’re ready for the following day.