Pack school lunches while you’re making dinner. Set up the breakfast things as soon as the supper dishes are finished. Get a coffee maker with a timer and set it to have a pot ready as you stumble out of the bedroom in the morning. It’s so much easier to do morning on auto-pilot if you’ve already set the stage.
Set up a bookshelf in the laundry area with a shelf for each kid. Clean laundry goes on their shelf for them to put away. This saves you from having to “deliver” and the kids know that if it’s not in their hamper, it’s on the shelf. (Or under their bed.)
Assign each child a different color (or type or height) of socks, towels and underpants. All white athletic socks look alike, and laundry markers work for a while but they won’t survive the bleaching process forever.
Set up a “drop zone” by the door. There should be a hook for each child’s backpack and a bin (we use 30-gallon plastic tubs) for each child’s shoes and athletic gear. Do whatever it takes to train the kids to “hang and drop” as soon as they come in the door because if they DO, they will be able to find it if they need it again. If they don’t . . . well, you know that last-minute “I can’t find my permission slip!” panic in the morning? Multiply that by a half-dozen.
A kitchen timer is your best friend. Buy several. Use them to measure computer time, reading time, sit-in-the-corner time, and you-play-for-five-minutes, then-it’s-his-turn time. A child will argue with you. He will not argue with a dinging plastic tomato.
Get enough of those over-the-door hooks to hang one on the bathroom door for each child. Have them hang their towels on the hooks after each shower and reuse them for 2 days or a week (whatever your grime threshold is).
Establish the following Rule: If The Parents’ bedroom door is closed, you may knock on it if you are bleeding, or if you want to be. And for goodness’ sake, buy a lock.
Super Power Bonus: We gave our Middles the exclusive rights to Tattling. The Bigs were expected to set a good example and handle arguments on their own; the Littles were protected by virtue of being the youngest (and abused this privilege sometimes, sad to say). The poor Middles were stuck in the No-Man’s Land in the center, bullied from above and tormented from below, so THEY were allowed to Tattle. For everyone else it was a grave offense.