A month after school has started, we are finally settling into our routines: dance and soccer and all of the other activities children collect like burrs on a nature walk. Both of the big girls are in school full-time this year, which is lovely in some respects (no meeting the kindergarten bus midway through Josie's nap) and exhausting in others (twice the mind-numbing paperwork! how does Ruth do it, I wonder?). The house is listed, so a new and somewhat unwelcome part of my routine is making sure that the house is showing-ready each day. Which is not the same as having a showing each day, but it is invariably the day I've slacked off that a realtor wants to come by in fifteen minutes.
The whirlwind end to our summer and the constant house stuff has made the start of the year less graceful than I like. Not bumpy, really, and certainly not rough, but the routines and systems I rely on have fallen by the wayside. The difference isn't immediately obvious, except that I am going to Target on a daily basis, we aren't eating enough vegetables, and I can't put my hands on things the minute I need them. Everything I do is getting done at the last minute -- forms dropped off at school instead of tucked in folders, reports written up in the wee small hours of the morning, emails sent out starting, "Sorry for the late response..."
This week, I've been working to change that. Taking the long view. Planning ahead. And already, I feel better. In A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle wrote about how our lives were like a sonnet -- we are given the structure, but can fill it as we choose -- and that is what all of these little procedures and planning tools do for me. They're not complicated or particularly time consuming. My menu planner and grocery list, for example, take 30 minutes total, and save me both time and agony for the rest of the week. Taking 10 minutes at night to review my calendar and generate the next day's list means I'm not scrambling to rearrange everything because I forgot an appointment. Doing laundry with a system means that I'm not digging for Ellie's uniform at 10 pm the night before an 8:30 game.
This isn't to say that everything is perfect -- even with all of these systems in place, I am a markedly unenthusiastic housekeeper, for example, and my commitment to hot breakfasts begins and ends with tea and instant oatmeal -- but it is better than it was, and it leaves me with time to spend on really important things.
(Child containment system. Very handy.)