Juliet, Brian, and 8-year-old Tate
Brooklyn, New York
Common Hurdles Extended early-morning chat and chew; last-minute scrambles for permission slips, umbrellas, homework, and cash for school sales or events. (Oh, and the dog needs to be walked.)
The Expert Erica Ecker, The Spacialist, a professional organizer and time-management advisor in New York City
Morning Story Juliette hates being the nag who has to break up the breakfast-table conversations between her live-in boyfriend, Brian, and her son, Tate: "They have the gift of gab, and there are always shenanigans," Juliette says affectionately. "They have lots of discussions about what outer space might be like, or inventions that need to be invented." When Tate finally does extract himself from the table, he has only a few minutes to get dressed, find socks, pick up money for the vending machine at school, and locate permission slips and get them signed. Their proper, sit-down breakfast -- complete with Tate's "tea" (milk, hot water, and honey) -- is one thing that Juliette refuses to give up, despite its propensity for making the family run late every morning.
Of that last-minute rush, Ecker asks, "Who needs that mood-souring after half an hour of family bliss?" Juliette figured out that they need to be up from the table at precisely 8:17 a.m. in order to leave the house by 8:25 a.m., so Ecker suggests setting a cell-phone alarm to go off at 8:14 a.m.: "Make it a fun sound, like a duck quacking. When Tate hears that, he knows he has three minutes to finish his toast and finish his story."
To avoid the mayhem between breakfast and the door, Ecker recommends tapping into Tate's love of storytelling the night before: Part of his and Juliette's bedtime routine will be his telling the story of tomorrow. Will there be a bake sale at school? Juliette will know to put some change in his back-pack. Is a permission slip due? She will sign it and put that in there too.
In order to expedite the last (and often most frantic) minutes before departure, Ecker tells Juliette to bulk-shop online. "If you know that you can never find the umbrella, order a bunch of cheap ones, and keep three by the door and the rest in your bedroom closet," she says. Buy a whole bunch of the same socks in bulk, so that even mismatched pairs still go together. If possible, keep a supply of single dollar bills on hand too and declare them off-limits for anything other than those school-related money requirements.