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Whether or not you’ve chosen it on purpose, you probably have a nighttime routine. At times, mine has unintentionally involved:
- binge watching episodes of some show on Netflix while eating nachos
- staying up way too late reading a book I couldn’t put down
- falling asleep on the floor of my son’s room after singing “All the Pretty Little Horses’ 679 times in a row
But a well-planned nighttime routine is a little present you leave for yourself the next morning. Your nighttime routine will look different depending on the stage of life that you are in. If you’ve got a newborn in the house, for instance, do whatever you need to do to keep everyone alive.
As life slows down a bit, though, your nighttime routine will ideally have four parts:
- getting the house in order
- knocking out some of tomorrow morning’s tasks
- helping your kids get ready for bed
- spending a few minutes taking care of yourself.
I’ll show you what this looks like in my house and then guide you through creating your own routine.
Nighttime Routine Step 1: Get the House In Order
This step involves tidying up a bit, but we’re not going for perfection here.
In my house, we like to set a timer or throw on some music while we buzz through these tasks. The goal is to prevent the house from getting gross and to ensure that nobody steps on a Lego if they get up for a glass of water in the middle of the night.
Clear the sink of dishes/Load and run dishwasher
When my husband is home, we divide and conquer on this one. I typically put the boys to bed while he cleans up any dinner dishes.
I run the dishwasher every night, even when it isn’t 100% full. This way, I never wonder if the dishes in the machine are dirty or clean, I rarely struggle to find a spot for a dirty dish, and my favorite coffee cup is always available in the morning when I wake up.
Sweep up crumbs in the kitchen/dining room
Sweeping only takes a minute or two and assures that we won’t have to worry about ants (or get crumbs on our feet when walking barefoot through the kitchen). It’s a great job for the kids to do with a Dustbuster or hand broom and dustpan. Or, if you want to be super-fancy, you can turn this task over to a robot vacuum.
Take Out the Trash
Nobody wants to wake up to a stinky trash can the next day. These days, we only have to worry about taking out the kitchen trash. In the old days, we emptied the diaper pail most nights, too.
Pick up toys/tidy
My boys know that they don’t go to bed until they put away the toys they’ve used that day. I do a “10-minute pickup” of things around the house, too, so that I can wake up to a relatively clutter-free home the next morning.
Throw clothes in the washer and set it to run just before I wake up
I have a washing machine with a timer. Every evening before bed, I prep a load and set the timer to run the load around 6 a.m. That way, when I get up, I have a load of clothes ready to transfer into the dryer.
Doing a small load every day keeps laundry from becoming overwhelming and assures that even with minimalist wardrobes, we always have something clean to wear.
Nighttime Routine Step 2: Knock Out Some of Tomorrow Morning’s Tasks
Prep breakfast and lunch
I do the majority of my cooking for the week on the weekend, but I do like to do a quick check of our food situation at bedtime. I’ll also make sure anything the boys need for breakfast is off of the high shelves and onto their level so that they can make breakfast for themselves in the morning.
Make sure we have clothes for tomorrow
As a work at home mom and a homeschooler, I don’t often have to leave the house early enough that I need to lay our clothes out the night before. I do a quick check at bedtime, though, to make sure we have what we need in the closet. Otherwise, the boys might be running in my room at 7 a.m. asking where their favorite sweatpants are.
Prep the coffee maker
Our coffeemaker has an automatic timer. If I know what time we’re getting up the next day, I’ll set the coffee to be ready when I come downstairs. Otherwise, I’ll have everything ready to go with the press of the ‘brew’ button.
Make my to do list for tomorrow
I like to sit down with my weekly plan and my calendar for a few minutes each evening to make a rough plan for the next day. This ensures that I always know what the next day’s main priority is, and I have a list of ‘might dos’ that I’m hoping to accomplish.
With my list written out the night before, I rarely have an unexpected appointment sneak up on me. I’m also able to hit the ground running the next day.
Nighttime Routine Step 3: Help the Kids to Get Ready for Bed
Pep talk time for those of you with REALLY little ones: getting the kids ready for bed gets easier and easier as your kids get older. I promise.
When I had infants, this part of the nighttime routine sometimes took hours—nursing the baby to sleep while reading articles on my phone about whether or not I should do that and sneaking my baby into his crib only to have him wake up to start bedtime all over again. It was soul-crushing.
My toddlers were little better. One night shortly after my younger son switched to from a crib toddler bed, he popped out of that bed to say ‘hi’ to me 97 TIMES before he fell asleep that night. I summoned my inner Supernanny and did my best to calmly return him to bed each time. And then I cried into a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
At 4 and 7, though, my boys don’t need me so much. I help a little with bathing and flossing. Then, I read a chapter from a book and play a meditation to calm the kids down. Usually, I stay in their shared bedroom for a few minutes so that they won’t talk too much and and stay awake. Sometimes I still might get asked to sing “All the Pretty Little Horses”. My kids LOVE “All the Pretty Little Horses”.
But seriously, newborn mamas. It gets better.
Nighttime Routine Step 4: Spend a Few Minutes Taking Care of Yourself
Take time for vitamins and personal care
I often feel like skipping this part when I’m exhausted, so I make it as simple as possible. I have all my vitamins in a daily pill box, for instance, so I can just grab a handful of them rather than opening all the little bottles. My skin care routine involves only soap and moisturizer. That takes all the energy I can muster.
I try to do my personal care routine when the boys are getting their pajamas on. This way, it’s already done later in the evening when I might be tempted to skip it. I’m also more likely to skip those Netflix Nachos if I’ve already brushed my teeth.
Do something nice for yourself
For me, this might be:
- a bath
- working on something I’m passionate about
- snuggling with my husband
- reading a book
- writing in a journal
Usually, I don’t have time or energy for much, but this simple, daily commitment to doing something just for me keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and resentful.
Ready to Make Your Own Nighttime Routine? Do This Now:
- Decide what part of your home grosses you out the most when it isn’t clean. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and clean just that one thing tonight. You’ll wake up tomorrow feeling like a winner.
- Make a list of a few tasks you could do tonight to make getting out of bed tomorrow morning a little less daunting. Maybe you’ll want to pack a bag, lay out some clothing, or prepare a lunch.
- Consider whether there’s any aspect of your morning that results in regular frustration for you, arguments with your spouse, or whining from your kids. Improve the situation by tackling some aspect of it the night before.
- As you choose these tasks, make sure you delegate some so you can get on to the fun part of the nighttime routine more quickly.
- Fill out the My Plan for Tomorrow worksheet, so you know exactly what your appointments and priorities are tomorrow.
- Choose a simple self-care routine that you could definitely stick to every night. Plan to do it as early in the evening as possible.
- Choose something to do before bed that leaves you feeling awesome.
After considering all the steps above, you should be all set, Mama. Try your nighttime routine out, see how you like it, and tweak it as necessary. And if your plan does involves binge-watching Netflix while eating nachos, own it and enjoy it.
Sometimes it’s good to be the mom.