For me, the KEY to having a smooth, stress-free week is my Sunday Prep.
When I miss prepping on Sunday, my week never fully recovers. When I don't prep and let life just "happen," it ends up looking like this:
Our mornings are rushed trying to get lunches made
My kids are panicked searching for school uniforms that have yet to be laundered
I find myself nagging them at every turn to stay on track
Last minute trips to school because the kids have forgotten their library books, sports clothes, and homework
I end up being late to work because I've had to get everyone else ready, in addition to myself
There is confusion with our schedule. Who is picking up the kids today? Who is driving to sports practice? Lots of last minute texts between me and my husband
Our mail piles up to the point that it's overwhelming to deal with
Laundry gets out of control
I don't start thinking about what to cook for dinner until around 5pm each night
I make frequent grocery store runs, or we eat take-out, spending more time and money, because I don't have a plan
When I do my Weekly Reset, our week looks like this:
My kids can easily make their own lunches each morning because everything is already prepped and ready
All laundry is done and clothes are put away (all with the help of my kids)
No nagging. Well, let's just say, very little nagging :)
The kids remember all. the. things.
My husband and I have a shared google calendar and have coordinated meals, school pick ups, and activities
Our mail is reset to zero and all bills are paid
I have a meal plan for each night and most of the prep work done ahead of time for it
I visit the grocery store once mid-week to refresh fresh fruits and vegetables
We eat healthier and save money because we aren't eating out
So I've learned from experience, that it's worth taking time every Sunday to reset my house and prepare for the week ahead. When there is no margin in your life to stop and reset things, life can feel out of control very quickly and stress goes up, and productivity goes down.
It's also essential for my kids to see that we have to spend a little time each week reseting the house and preparing for the upcoming week. I am training them, little by little, for when they are on their own. I'm giving them practical tools and strategies to make their life run more smoothly.
This is the checklist I use every Sunday:
You can download it for free here or make up your own version. Put it in a page protector and check items off with a dry erase marker.
Now, when we have a busy weekend, I don't do ALL of these each week. If you can only manage to do 1-2 of them, you'll still see great results. Do what you can with the time you have!
1. Review Weekly Schedule
I've learned from David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, that a Weekly Review is essential to a productive week.
With my planner open, I do the following:
Review my entire week.
Sync my calendar with my husband’s schedule.
Look for anything on my schedule that requires action (i.e. If I see a birthday party coming up on Saturday, I will write “Buy a bday gift” on my to-do list or if I have a few minutes, I will purchase something on Amazon right then).
Confirm client appointments.
Write down when and at what time I’ll exercise that week.
Schedule a chunk of times for errands and returns. I like to group these together to be more efficient. I put all my returns in my car so I have everything I need when I’m out.
Plan my meals based on our after school activities and sports. I like to make extra portions when I cook so my husband can take the left overs to work as his lunch. Cook once, eat twice.
Make my grocery list.
2. Grocery Shop & Prep Lunches
I usually go grocery shopping sometime on Sunday and when I come home, the real prep begins. I clean and cut up all the fruit and vegetables I bought. This takes awhile but then it’s done for the week. I keep them in Tupperware Fridge Smart containers and it keeps the produce fresh for longer. They also stack easily in my refrigerator.
I pack snacks for me and my husband in individual bags or containers…things like carrots with individual hummus containers, cheese with crackers, bags of nuts, fruit, etc. Then we can just grab them as we head out in the morning.
While my kitchen is already messy, I bake a double batch of muffins, and freeze half. My kids like to take them in their school lunches or eat them for snacks. I usually do this twice a month. Trader Joe's pumpkin muffin mix is our all-time favorite!
We also prep lunches once for the whole week. You can read my blog post here on this topic, but basically each child has 5 bento boxes (these leakproof ones from Ziploc are my favorite!), and they fill them for the entire week and store them in our spare refrigerator. I use fruits like grapes or clementines that will last 5 days without spoiling. Even if I have to add a sandwich or fruit mid week, it’s much easier to have the bulk of the work done. The kids make and freeze sandwiches when possible.
I’ve trained the kids by now, so they make their lunches on their own, using the fruit and vegetables that I’ve already cleaned and prepped. An added bonus is that they actually eat everything in their lunch, because they are the ones who packed it!
They also fill baggies with their snacks for the whole week. 5 bags of pretzels, 5 bags of carrots, etc. They each have a space in our pantry and fridge for their snacks. Each morning, all they have to do is assemble—grab their snacks from the pantry and a bento lunch box from the spare fridge, and their water bottle. It’s sooooo easy.
3. Open Mail and Pay Bills
We only open mail once a week because that is what works for us. Throughout the week, we scan for anything urgent or time sensitive and everything else goes in the basket until Sunday. On Sundays, my husband opens everything and takes action. Most of our bills are paid online. He will give me a pile of things that require my attention. He scans in the paperwork using our Fijitsu ScanSnap scanner in our attempt to go Paperless, and resets the basket back to empty.
We decided a few years ago that he was better about being in charge of the bills and mail, so he took that over. I handle anything related to school and the kids. You have to work with your natural strengths! We are a team after all. :)
I realize I am the luckiest woman on earth, because my husband actually does ALL of our laundry each week on Sunday. It was another discussion where we decided that he does a far superior job than I do, and he doesn’t mind doing it all once a week. He’s terribly efficient at it, whereas I start a load and forget it’s there for days! Like I said, we are a team and know our strengths and weaknesses. Having the laundry all done at one time is amazing, and I really can't take any credit for this one!
The kids also do their part by bringing their dirty clothes to the laundry room, sorting it, and putting it away once it’s done. Every person in the family has their own laundry basket, and we have an additional one for towels and sheets. The kids put away all their clothes by the end of Sunday night.
5. Random Things
The other items on the list are random things I would otherwise forget to do. Things like clean and reboot my cell phone, put away all the piles around the house, place any online orders, get out weekly cash, get gas, gather dry cleaning, and sign any forms. It's nice to start the week with a clean kitchen island. When everything in your house has a place, this step becomes much easier.
Doing the items on this checklist doesn’t just reset our house, but also resets my mental state. I don’t have to worry about all these things throughout the week, so it clears out much needed space in my brain!
I always explain to the kids the “why” behind it all--that we need to work together as a family and everyone needs to do their part to help. I remind them that it’s my responsibility to raise them to be self-sufficient and they need these skills to live on their own later in life. I’m hoping that by starting healthy habits now, it will become a natural part of their routine as well. And as you can see, the whole family participates in our weekly prep. As I like to say, "I'm working myself out of a job, one chore at a time. " :)
So, that’s it! This whole process generally takes 2-3 hours total.
Instead of scrambling to make lunches every morning, searching for clean uniforms, last-minute panic about what to cook for dinner, missed appointments and unpaid bills, we have relatively peaceful and smooth weeks. That is, until the kids get sick, my car breaks down, our refrigerator breaks, etc. Life is faaaaaaaaaar from perfect around here, but doing this routine does help us survive the week.
Need Help Getting Started?
Give the Sunday Prep Checklist a try and leave a comment or get in touch with me if you have questions or need help. If you want me to come to your home and set up these systems FOR you, just go to the Contact page and schedule an appointment.
Cheers to a smooth and successful week!
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