5 Simple Ways to Be On Time (with kids)

People who know me, know I don’t like to be late! A long time ago someone told me that if you are late you value your own time more than the other person’s. That really stuck with me and I have made an effort to be on time ever since.

When you have kids it is much harder to be on time, because you have lots of other people who can mess up the process. Someone once said having kids is like herding cats and I agree. Here are 5 simple ways to increase the chances you are on time, even if you have a houseful of kids.

5 Simple Ways to Be On Time with Kids | The Happy Housewife

Lay out clothes, lunches, shoes, socks, and bags the night before.

I am amazed at how much longer it takes a child to get dressed when I don’t do this. In our house if we don’t lay out shoes and socks my kids can’t seem to find any before we leave. We end up racing around the house over turning couches and chairs looking for that lost shoe. On a side note, since we are still carrying a diaper bag for Cora the bag is usually packed and hanging on a hook ready to go all the time. When we need to leave we add a sippy cup or bottle and head out the door.

Give yourself a 15 minute buffer.

Something is always going to come up that will delay you leaving the house. It might be a messy diaper, argument, or phone call but it will be something. Giving yourself a little extra time helps plan for the unexpected.

Get a shoe basket.

We have a basket by the front door for shoes. We don’t wear shoes in our house so when the kids come in they put their shoes in the basket, when we leave they get the shoes out of the basket. I am amazed at how this simple idea has saved us so much time getting out the door.

Keep your keys, purse and phone in a central location.

I have a table in my home with a small drawer that holds keys and sunglasses. My purse sits on top of the table. When it is time to leave I grab my purse, keys and glasses and we are out the door. Having a central location for all things travel related really speeds up the process and lessens the times we have lost the keys. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a table either. We got our table off Craig’s List for a few dollars.

Skip pajamas, let the kids sleep in their clothes.

I’ve been doing this for years, much to my mother-in-law’s horror. She has a thing for unwrinkled clothes, and I have a thing for being on time. 🙂 You can’t agree on everything I guess. Whenever we need to be somewhere really early, my kids get dressed before bed. In the morning I wake them up and they get in the car with a drink and a bag of cereal. It really simplifies those mornings! And honestly, if my kids went to school, they would be doing this every day!

What about you? Are you usually on time, early or late?

You might also like 5 Simple Ways to Wake Up Earlier!

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  1. We are always at least half an hr to an hr late. I even make sure I set clothes out/diaperbag packed etc the night before and set an alarm. It’s the carseats that take the most time.

    We don’t have much backseat room so I sit in my 4yos car-seat in order to put my younger 2 in their seats, lol

  2. I have my kids sleep in their clothes also. This is done more so in the summer time then winter time with us. It saves on laundry also.

  3. We are chronically “barely on time” people. I’m all about preparing things the night before. But for some reason my inner clock just can’t do the 15-minute buffer thing. I’m going to start thinking of it as being selfish and disrespectful of the other persons’ time and see if that helps: I’ve never thought about it that way before. It’s not so much that we’re late, though; it’s that rushed and stressed feeling of always leaving at the last minute. Sometimes I wonder if I’m addicted to the running-late adrenaline rush!

  4. I hate being late, though it does happen sometimes. Being late makes me feel flustered and then I get snappy with the kids and that can cause one to meltdown before we’ve ever even left the house. And I only have 3 kids…

    We prepare whatever we can the night before – actually I use all of the same tips, except sleeping in their clothes. I pack any bags, snacks/food, activities, etc. and set out the empty water bottles before I go to bed. Shoes are on the shoe rack in the garage and I keep toothbrushes for everyone in the downstairs half bath – it’s right by the garage and we can brush our teeth on the way out.

  5. Ugh! Late! And Alex is always asking if there is anything we can do to fix the problem as he hates being late! Love the tips! We are going to try them! My question is….. what do you do about the heading out the door bath-able diaper explosion? LOL! Sorry for the mental picture 🙂
    We really need to work on the 15-minute buffer. I think that is our biggest downfall!

  6. The mandatory ‘breakroom try’ 10 minutes before leaving. Because it never fails, as soon as we are going out the door someone was to go to the bathroom (my husband is worst than the kids).

  7. I have always been on time. My husband’s WHOLE FAMILY is always late. In fact, in college, my husband’s nickname was, “Always late.” Now, no one is every late to really really important events, say like, our wedding (thank goodness!) but if it’s to a small function or dinner, they’re late. And I hate it. I think it’s rude to the other people waiting. Now, I understand if something completely unexpected happens, or if you call ahead and say, we’re going to be late, and I’m really patient about that because it happens to all of us, but if you just plain flat-out didn’t give yourself enough time, then I’m not happy LOL
    I think our biggest challenge is going to be getting places on time with a new baby (DUE NEXT MONTH!). That will be interesting since we’ll be living on the baby’s schedule, not the other way around. However, I’m such an over-planner that I think we’ll be okay… eventually. =)

    • My family is late also. I have made it clear that if we are eating at 12 that food will be on the table at 12 or before 12:10. If you are late there might not be what you like left or it might be cold. If I am hosting my family is usally early now. It has helped a lot. We eat at certain times and 6 hungry kids and one very pregnant hungry mom is not something we mess with. That might help, or at least take the stress off of you and put it on them.

  8. I have two kids. I do most of the things on this list and am usually at least 10 minutes early to everything. If I hit traffic, I usually am on time. We keep our shoes at the front door underneath the fish tank cabinet. I do lunches the night before for school. We always leave 15 minutes early. If we don’t know where we are going we might leave a little earlier than that. I am a stickler for being on time places. I think its a good habit to show to my kids.

    • I think this is one comment that will stick to me where you said, “I think its a good habit to show to my kids.” So true and will use that to keep myself on time.

  9. This was an awesome post!

    This really sticks with me too – if you are late you value your own time more than the other person’s.

    I have never heard that before, but it is so true.

    It is definitely harder to be on time when you have kids because there are so many things that can occur that are outside of your control. The herding cats picture that is created in my mind is pretty realistic when I think about all the kids trying to get ready to go out the door to get some where.

    Laying everything out the night before is so simple (especially if the kids are sleeping). Anything that you can take off your morning to do list will take time off how long it takes to get out the door.

    We need more than a 15 minute buffer. We have 2 year old twins and both are still in diapers. If they happen to poop as you are heading out the door – well, you will be late. LOL.

    We have a shoe basket in the front hall closet. Only shoes that actually fit someone and have a complete pair are allowed in there. We also have a sock bucket – but the organization of that is a work in progress.

    We have a jar in the kitchen for keys and it has taken about 10 years to get in this habit.

    I love the idea of skipping pajamas if you have some where important to be the next day. Skip pajamas, let the kids sleep in their clothes.

    Thanks for sharing your post today. I really enjoyed it.


  10. I love the shoe basket idea. However, how large is this basket? I mean seriously: 9 people x 2 pairs of shoes each… Eek! Please clarify how this works. I think it would work better for our family if each person had his/her own small basket by the door.
    Thanks for the post!

  11. I HATE being late…I was taught as a child to be on time and I was taught by example. I feel that as a parent, if I am chronically late to everything, that is setting them up for disaster as adults. I know my kids get tired of the constant – hurry up – we have to leave at a certain time mode.

    I used to set out all of my kids clothes, but now it is their responsibility. Sometimes I wonder if they’re really getting it though! My prayer is that they do get it, because I don’t want them growing up and being habitually late for everything.

    I love the shoe basket idea, and plan to implement it. My daughter is forever losing her shoes – this should definitely help alleviate that. Now to find the perfect basket…

  12. So I’m interested to see this shoe basket. There are only 5 of us, and I tried to start a shoe-area by the back-door this summer and go shoe-free in the house.
    DH never remembers 🙂
    But the shoe area is an unorganized mess…. I need some inspiration, please

  13. Katena Dyser says:

    I am always on time my husband is a procastinator and would be late to his own funeral. I am known to leave people if they are not ready and have had them running out the door here we come. I use all your rules. I always get my youngest 3 ready and have the babies diaper bag prepared. I am trying the no shoe idea but that barely workss. I have friends that I change the time to 2 hours before or they will be late.

  14. We have done both the one shoe bucket and the individual shoe buckets. This has worked well. When we had a large shoe closet we had individual buckets. The little kids were diffrent colors. They put there shoes in there. Now we have a bucket (most of the time, somehow the bucket gets lost now) by the door.  All 6 boys put there shoes in the bucket when they come in the door. My husband and I put ours in our room. We use plastic buckets from walmart or target, sometimes they come in colors, they work well as my boys can stand on them and not break them ( most of the time, they are boys) the plastic also washes easily. 

    Toni we just PCSed to Wyoming, it helps when nothing is more then 10 minutes away. I doubt florida will be like that though. Hope your move goes well. 

  15. These are awesome! I will refer to this often! Thanks.

    Come check out the Relevant Meet & Greet Here:


  16. Christina Taylor says:

    When I was a child/teenager,my mother made me late for everything. I was always so hurt by that, I always felt like my activities were not important to her. So I am definitely on time to everything now. Even with 3 children, I get there on time. I have so many friends that are habitually late to everything.

    We have a shoe bench and sock basket at the front door/garage hallway. We prepare everything the night before, including backpacks, snacks, lunches, library books etc. By preparing the night before, you give yourself a buffer for the one thing your child conveniently forgot to tell you he needed, lol.

    The best way to organize your time when trying to leave, is to stop thinking about when you need to leave in order to get there on time. Rethink it to what time do you need to drive off, then how much time to load up, then what time to walk out the door. Go backward in your time set up. I load up 10 minutes before I need to drive off. If you always walk out the door with just enough time to drive to your destination, you will be late everytime.

    I have found that sometimes my need to be on time though can cause everyone in the house to be stressed, there are some situations that cannot be avoided, but it is easier for others to forgive your being late if it happens every once in awhile.

    Last weekend, we left on time for church. On our drive there, there was a traffic pile up going our normal direction, so we turned around to go a different way. We would now be 10 minutes late, ugh. Then we are 2 minutes from church and there is a pile-up again! We found out after sitting stuck for 45 minutes and missing the sermon, that the roads had been blocked off for a bike race! I had to calm down from being upset that we all missed church, but then we all had a good laugh over the situation!

  17. I love being early. We live in Orlando and everything is far away b/c all the crazy lakes we have to drive around. I have 4 kiddos from 7years to 9months. We always leave 1/2 hour before we need to be somewhere. I try to have books and little activities in my backpack so the kids will have something to do when we get to our destination a little early.

  18. My family was always late when I was growing up, and I have been trying hard to get better at this. I love the tips here, especially a previous comment about counting time needed to load up the car (15 mins!) etc. This has been a big help for me, when I can consistently do it. The shoe basket, alas, is not helpful: I have 5 girls, ages 18, 13, 3, 2, and 2 months. All our shoes go in our little mudroom (theoretically on the shoe racks) but there are just so many! And with toddlers, the matches for each shoe seem to be always misplaced. Also, one of my bigger girls has developmental issues and ODD. She often throws major tantrums when we have to be somewhere else on time, and the more you try to rush her the worse it is – if she completely loses it, it may take up to an hour for us to get out the door. So, to my chagrin, I must bear the scourge of a “late” reputation a while longer.

  19. We are always late to everything. In the ten plus years I’ve been taking my children to see their pediatrician, I have been on time ONCE. The staff find it amusing, I find it flustering. It can ruin everyone’s mood to feel rushed and it can really spoil the day. I’ve tried preparing ahead of time, but I’m disorganized. I really need to work on that.

    We have our “to go” gear in the laundry room. There is a hanging rack for jackets, a tote for shoes and a tote for hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Without fail, though, there is always someone’s shoe missing. If only they would put them where they belong!

  20. Interesting. I come from a “late” family, where arriving early is considered rude (like you are rushing someone along), and being late is relative. For example, if my sister says “Let’s have dinner at 5” it is understood that dinner will be during the 5 o’clock hour, sometime between 5 and 6. There are exceptions of course, like doctors appointments and weddings, but we/they are not a “live by the clock family”. In fact, nobody in my family wears or uses a watch. Relationships and conversations come first, and getting things done comes second. It has its benefits, but if you are crunched for time it can be a real challenge.

    Compare that with my husband’s family who is early for everything, and get togethers can be really interesting! I always find myself being forced to arrive early, and then feeling uncomfortable and awkward while I wait around for the appointed time to arrive. I think I hate the feeling of waiting around even more than being late and just jumping into the activity.

  21. Lol, the last one definitely happens at my house… but not because we’re trying to save time. Usually it’s because my son falls asleep in his clothes.

    Great list! Allowing a buffer is something I always tell myself I need to do, but have never really figured out how to do. I just focus on THE time we need to be somewhere.

    Great post!

  22. I am a mother of 3, (5yo, 3 yo, 1yo) a saying that stuck with me… “if you are early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late; if you’re late it’s unacceptable.” I strive to be early, it doesn’t always pan out that way ,of course, but we are usually early everywhere we go because i plan to be there 30 min-1 hour before we need to be. And we usually are there about 15 minutes early. When I am driving and early, I feel like I can take my time and not have to rush, and it makes me more patient when things dont go as planned.

  23. susiee26 says:

    my husband is the early one. I have learned to include him in the more of the preparation though or he acts like I am the lagger! These are great tips even without kids. Especially the shoes by the door when the grandkids come to visit. Thanks ladies

  24. Just found your site on FB, love this post!
    I am the one who is always late. I will be making MUCH more of an effort now. I feel awful now, looking at it from the other side.

    I am in Australia, we have a shoe rack, no baskets, we are likely to have spiders live in a basket.

    I am going to try some of your tips!

  25. similar topic: we do pick out our clothes, prepackaged lunch, shower at night…but I have the hardest time with my 14 yo son. He is SO slow in the morning. And I enable him by helping him after weeks..months of rushed late mornings for him (it doesn’t affect the rest of the family) I may have cracked the code: I wrote out his morning schedule with him–Started by asking how long a reasonable shower should take….tried it this morning and gave him a timer. He was ready so early!!! He just needed a reminder of how long an activity should take. We shall see if it’s an anomaly come Monday!

  26. Jaminthia says:

    Thank you for this post.
    I love this.
    I need to be reminded of the lunch and snacks the night before.
    In our first year when we had had 3 kids under 2, we used to dress them every morning before I went to work and had to drop them at daycare. At some point we gained wisdom and the knowledge of dressing them at night before #4 came along.
    We routinely put them in their clothes at night now. With four kids 5 and under, it is amazing how long it takes to leave the house.

  27. Nikki Rodgers says:

    I agree with most of this post, but how is it a good idea to teach your children to be on time but then teach them its okay to have bad hygiene by sleeping in their clothes, not brushing your teeth, or washing themselves before you leave the house?! I don’t think that teaching them one thing should take the place of teaching them other things that are just as important.

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