Morning Routine Tips for Back-to-School

I don’t know about you, but I depend on routines and schedules. From when I grocery shop to when I get my work done, it is all scheduled out an out as best as it can so that when life’s inevitable hiccups throw a wrench in my plan I know how to get back on track. This also gives us time for more enjoyable things. I’m not one to “wing it” when it comes to getting tasks and priorities handled (some people disagree with this but our family thrives this way), and getting my kids up and out the door before school is no exception.

In our household I have implemented morning routines to create order, independence, and also to keep us on time and get us out the door without forgetting the essentials. Over the summer months our schedules look a lot different than they doing during the school year, but since we are a few weeks out from the first day of school this is the time we start getting back into the habit of the routine. Now that my twins are entering fourth grade in a couple of weeks they are still using the same morning routine that we set in place years ago, only now they are able to handle a lot of the routine on their own without my assistance (which I love!).

If you’re interested in adopting some tried-and-true tips that have worked in a busy household with young children, I’ve included the morning routine tips that have worked for our family over the years below. For younger and older kids, the same morning routine tips apply but your involvement will be determined on their age and how much responsibility/independence you’d like for them to have.

  • Keep clothing sorted in color order. When choosing what to wear each day it’s helpful to keep an organized closet, especially on the days when kids are requesting a specific shirt or perfectly-coordinated outfit.  My girls like to choose their own outfits, so keeping their drawers and closets sorted in color order (and by type) makes it easy to find the exact article of clothing that they want to wear that day.
  • Make outfit choices the night before. There is so little time in the morning to be spent choosing what will be worn that day, so we find it to be helpful to select outfit (and accessory) choices the night. My girls know that if they make their selections in advance that means that they can have a few more minutes of sleep each morning. All options are sorted within arms' reach and in open bins, low hangers, and drawers to make it easy to see and grab.
  • Work backwards to create your morning timeline. We give a time limit for each task (hair=5 mins, breakfast=15 mins, etc.) to figure out how much time is needed to get everything done and determine the wake-up time based on how long everything will take so that we have enough time to get it done and out the door on time. We always build in an extra 5 minutes to account for something to take longer than normal (let’s be honest, we depend on this extra time most days!).
  • Set our fridge and pantry up in advance. I've learned that my girls enjoy their lunches more when they are the ones actually making the decisions on what goes inside. Our fridge and pantry is set up so that the girls can reach in and grab an option from each category (fruit, vegetables, protein, etc.), so all they have to do is grab and fill. Each night I wash and set out their lunchboxes, containers, and water bottles so that in the mornings the girls can get started without waiting for me to pull out their essentials.

(PS- want to see how my girls make their lunch each morning? Here is a video that they made on their lunch routine.)

  • Keep extra essentials in the downstairs bathroom. In our house we keep toothbrushes and hair supplies in a bin underneath the downstairs bathroom sink. That way as we're heading to the door to grab backpacks and put their shoes on they can stop in the bathroom for final preparations instead of taking longer than necessary to run upstairs.

I’m curious: What does your morning routine look like? Are there any back-to-school tips you’d like to share? Please leave your comments below!


Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

College Space-Saving and Time Management Tips

While I will be soaking up the last month of summer before my twins go back to school next month, I know that many school years around the country are going back in the next couple of weeks (or already have!) and many college-bound kids are packing up and preparing for the upcoming school year.

Over the years many of our clients have hired us to create systems in preparation for back to school (i.e. backpack/paper drop zones, supply lists, homework stations), and that has often included setting up their older children to be college ready. Whether it’s creating packing lists for the supplies that are “must-haves” or choosing systems that they can implement into their dorm life, our experience working in many small spaces over the years and learning how to maximize square footage has come in handy and made us a natural fit for those parents to reach out for advice.

For many college-bound kids, college is the first exposure to a lot of “adult” responsibilities as they are living away from home, which include keeping a schedule, balancing priorities and due dates, cleaning, groceries, and and the increased responsibilities of living on their own away from home.  While a lot of the college experiences/adult expectations will be learned as the year goes on and through trial and error, there are some things that college students (and parents) can anticipate and prepare for.  

Last year we shared our school organization and time management tips for college students with Teen Vogue, which we have included and expanded on below. You’ll notice that a lot of these tips and takeaways can be adopted into your own daily routine (college student or not) which is the goal for everyone that we work with: to create systems that are flexible and can grow/modify as your needs and lifestyle change. College is a great time for young adults to get in the habit of introducing and leaning on organizing systems that make their life and schedule run more smoothly, along with discovering their preferred organizing style and how to best maximize their efficiency on a daily basis.

  • Use a calendar system to stay on track. College is the perfect period of your life to work on time management and figure out what type of schedule works best for you. Between social events, internships, and the inevitable workload, it can be a lot to balance. Block off times in your schedule for everything from working out, grocery shopping, and even laundry. Try to be strict with your schedule and get tasks done when you say you will to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
  • Color-code your calendar. Whether you prefer to write everything down in a planner or swear by your iPhone calendar, get into the habit of writing down your to-dos. Assign colors for each category (ex. blue=social events, red=homework due dates, purple=meetings so that you not only stay on track of what's coming up, but can use it as your daily checklist for how you need to prepare for the day. Nothing is more frustrating than being all the way across campus and realizing that you left something in your dorm room and have to trek back to get it.
  • Bring what you use and actually need, leave the rest. It can be overwhelming to choose what clothing, personal items, and desk supplies to bring to school. While it’s important to make your place feel homey and like everything is important, remember that the dorm/shared living space is likely going to be smaller than you are used to and not everything will fit as well (or be as necessary) in your home away from home. During your packing, stick to the essentials and reevaluate during your first break home. Are there clothes or items that you haven’t reached for in the first couple of months? Are there items that you find yourself wishing that you had? Take note of these items and swap out as necessary so that everything in your dorm room adds value to your lifestyle and needs.
  • Get creative with your storage.  When you’re living in close quarters (and especially when you’re sharing a space), make sure to maximize the the storage in your room. The back of rooms, under the bed, and wall space are valuable real estate. Storage bins and boxes come in every design under the sun and price point, so find options that meet your aesthetic and add to the design of your room. If you have extra floor/under-the-bed space, consider adding storage ottomans, vertical shelving, or plastic drawers to keep anything from extra clothing to snacks controlled and contained.
  • Create a grab-and-go command center. Use a small pouch or clear zippered file holder to store your most frequently used (and needed) items. Include a couple of "just in case" items, like a $20 bill, floss, and your cell phone charger so that when the inevitable happens you don't have to trek across campus when you are in need.  Not only will it help you organize your go-to items and ensure that you remember the necessities, but it will save you time when those inconveniences pop up!

*Dorm room photo credit






Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

Moving tips to make your life easier

We’ve heard that the summer months are the most popular time to move and this year more than ever we reminded of its truth. With four more client moves to go in the next month, this year we’ve hit a company record when it comes to moving projects. For some of the projects we are helping with the decluttering and staging, while on others we do everything from packing, coordinating movers, and organizing the entire home. The moving process can be a lot to manage and includes so much prep and coordination that when moving day comes you are ready to just be done.

Whether you move every year (like I did in my 30s...more about that here) or have been settled in your space for decades, the process can be overwhelming and it might be difficult to know where to begin. So, we’re sharing the tips that we give to our clients and implement on each and every project that we work on. Regardless of the size and scope of your move, these tips can help to streamline the process and create a better (or at least less stressful) experience.

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My daily essentials (and how you can get them on sale TODAY!)

Due to the nature of my profession (and being a mom to twin 9-year olds), my “typical” day is far from normal and usually involves me running around from location to location doing everything from client walkthroughs, on-site organizing projects, product selections and desk work, or shuttling my girls to their next camp/class/etc.

When I head out the door in the morning I’m armed with the essentials that will get me through the day, knowing that I will likely be away from my home for many hours. Over the last 9 years of learning to balance motherhood and my full-time career, there are products that have become my go-tos because they work with my busy and demanding schedule. Some of the most frequent questions from clients and on social media revolve around the products that I use (especially when they can help streamline routines and make getting out the door easier).  There is no single product out there that can magically create a more organized lifestyle (totally wish there was!), but by choosing products that I can depend on daily makes it easier for me to focus on everything else going on in my life. Because let’s face it, I don’t have the time to focus on these types of things every morning, do you?

I’m not a big proponent of “stocking up” on products just because something is on sale (especially when there is the potential to expire and it doesn’t really fit your needs), but when I come across a deal that coincides with my needs or daily essentials it makes perfect sense to me to make the purchase. I look forward to annual sales, like the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, because I know that every year around this time I am able to replenish and replace my tried-and-true favorites that I use daily. The sale is officially open to non-card holders (like myself) today and I’m excited to cross off a few items from my wishlist.

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A step-by-step plan to organize your garage (the space you love to hate)

Decluttering—and getting organized in general—can quickly become overwhelming and daunting when you don’t know where to begin or where to find the time to do the work.

As a professional organizer who has worked in every area of the home under the sun, there are definitely certain areas of the home that are more enjoyable to work in than others, however, each space comes with its pros and cons.

To be completely honest, garages are one of the most difficult areas for us to get excited about. It’s the the part of the home that is arguably the easiest to neglect. The part of the home that can be ignored since it doesn’t require a pass-through to enter or exit the home. The part of the home where no furniture, art, or decoration is needed to make it feel like “home” (and therefore no necessary care/upkeep to make it look presentable on a daily basis). The part of the home where you can literally just shut the door and forget about.

For a space that is used as a storage area (for household items, cars, or both), our main priority is first and foremost the functionality. We are less concerned with making the space “pretty” with products that tie into the home’s aesthetic and more focused on figuring out how to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way that makes it both visible and possible to access, which can sometimes be tricky in such a tight space.

The warmer months are definitely the recommended time to tackle a garage project (trust us, we typically don’t take on garage projects in the winter because of how cold it can get!). So since we have a few more months of warmth upon us (at least on the East Coast) why not bring this to-do to the top of your list?

Here are our 6 tips for how to get started, what to consider, and how to make the most of your space to create a functional garage.

1. Identify the goal. The size of your garage is going to determine how realistic you can be with what is stored and how you store it. For example, if you have a one-car garage and need to fit a car, 4 bikes, utility tools, and camping gear you will need to get creative with your vertical space and utilize as much of the 3 garage walls as possible. 

We recently worked on a project where the client was looking to totally revamp the organization in their garage. The client has a large two-car garage but the extra space had served as a storage dumping ground, which we see happen often in homes (sometimes having extra space just encourages more “stuff” to get filled into the space). So, the goal was to make it possible for the family’s two large cars to comfortably fit in the garage while also storing the family’s many bikes, outdoor entertaining supplies, sports equipment, and outdoor gardening/maintenance tools.

2. Measure the space. Once you have a goal in mind, measure the available space so that you can move forward with creating a layout. When you are measuring the space make sure to account for any obstacles, like the height (know how high you can go without blocking the garage door from opening), the length (how much wall space and floor space you have to work with), and the depth (how much space from the wall you can work with...this is especially important to know if you are working around getting a car to fit in the same space!)


3. Plan the layout. Now that you have your goal and measurements, figure out how you’d like to layout your space. We always recommend using the vertical space, so adding freestanding or wall-mounted shelving is a worthy investment if space allows. Then, figure out what you’d like where in the garage and how accessible it needs to be. For example, if you want to hang your bikes but need to make it possible for your kids to grab you’ll need to make sure that the hooks are low enough for a child to grab. For taller, thin items (like rakes, shovels, or even sports sticks and rackets), store upright along the perimeter of the wall to save on shelf space, storage depth, and make it easy to grab when needed.


4. Inventory everything. Pull everything out of the garage and create categories so that you can see how much of each category your have. Trust us, it will definitely look worse before it gets better but this exercise will help you see exactly what you own, how much of it, and what to account for when you are deciding where it should go in the garage.

5. Purge the unnecessary. Get rid of the items that you no longer need. Since it could have been a while since the last time you took a good look at what you are storing, your needs may have changed and some items could be let go of. We often find that kids gear (bikes, beach toys, outdoor games) are the biggest area that build up over time.


6. Organize the rest. Now it’s time to load everything back into the garage. Start with the items that you access the least (seasonal items) and store them on higher shelves or in the back of the garage. Then, take the items that you use most frequently (daily or weekly) and give those priority space. For example, if you are an avid gardener then keep your supplies on a shelf that is easy for you to access without having to grab a ladder or shift items out of its way. As always, we find that corralling categories using sturdy bins keep the contents organized and labeling each bin (or shelf) makes it multi-user friendly.


So, what organizing projects are on your summer to-do list? Leave a comment below for us to focus on in our future “how to” posts!


Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.