How to Get Out of the House with Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method

Last week, my kids had eye doctor appointments and I was in super-efficient mom mode. We needed 5 minutes to get shoes on, 15 minutes to drive, 10 minutes of margin time. My purse was waiting by the door. I really had it together! That was until someone knocked a dish off the counter, it smashed into a thousand pieces and I cut myself trying to clean it up.

How to Get Out of the House With Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method

In a flash, my vision of walking calmly into the doctor’s office with my brood was dashed. I briefly contemplated leaving the broken glass for later and hoped there wouldn’t be any traffic.  

In the end, we had enough margin time built in. I was able to bandage myself up and the big kids helped clean up most of the glass. We got to the appointment with about 30 seconds to spare. This experience reminded me that getting places on time with kids is no small feat! 

One of the trickiest things to learn after having a new baby is how to leave the house to get somewhere on time. As baby grows up and you add more kids to the equation, I don’t think it gets any easier – you just get better at managing things.

If you have one older child, you probably don’t have much problem getting places on time with your child. However, if you’re juggling little ones or if you fill most of the seats in your mini-van, you probably need a complete game plan every time you pack up the kids to go somewhere. This guide is for you!

Why work so hard to be on time?

What is your motivation? Do you feel like it’s taking too long to get ready to go out? Do you find yourself scrambling last minute looking for an elusive missing shoe or taking kids to the bathroom? Do you find yourself apologizing over and over again for being late to an appointment?

These are all great reasons to try and tune up your system to leave the house in an efficient manner. Plus, it’s much nicer to arrive somewhere a few minutes early or right on time instead of rushing around and coming in late.

When is it important to be on time (and when can you let things slide?)

I always try to be on time (and leave the house efficiently) when there’s a hard and fast time attached to an activity. I aim to be on time for things like:

  • doctors appointments
  • work or business meetings
  • church or school
  • music lessons or sports practice

Being on time for the activities shows respect for the other people involved and may even cost us if we’re late. If we’re late for violin lessons, we miss out on the time we paid for. Doctors may charge for missed or late visits.

With other activities (shopping, library visits), it may not matter so much when you arrive. But it’s still nice to be able to leave the house easily and take care of your errands quickly.

How to Get Out of the House With Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method

For years, I scheduled playdates right after naptime, planning to leave as soon as my little ones were awake. More often than not, a child would foil my plans by taking an epic nap lasting an hour or more longer than I expected. (Of course this only happened on days when I wanted to leave the house!) But my friends and I had an agreement that sleeping babies took precedence over being “on time” for playdates. So we’d just come when the baby awoke and not worry about deadlines.

Is it really that hard to get out of the house?

Most men (my husband included) probably think I’m nuts for creating a system for getting out of the house efficiently. But I know you busy moms are nodding your heads with me – it’s just not easy to do without some forethought. That’s why I use the Reverse Method of Leaving the House on Time With Kids in Tow.

How to Get Out of the House With Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method

The Reverse Method of Getting Out of the House with Kids in Tow

With this method, you start by thinking about the end. You work in reverse.

Here’s the formula:

Departure time = target arrival time – margin time – driving – pack-up time – more margin time

  1. Name your intended arrival time. Then include a few minutes of margin time at your destination to unbuckle kids, get in the door, etc.
  2. How long is the drive? Is it rush hour? Is bad weather going to slow you down? Be honest with this number – don’t use the fastest time it ever took you to drive to this place; include some time for getting lost if this is a new destination for you and you can’t trust your GPS (that’s me!).
  3. How long do you need to get out the door (putting on shoes, diaper bag, coats, trips to the potty, etc.)? I call this “pack-up” time.
    • My kids are trained to leave their shoes and coats in one place when they come home. Hopefully when it’s time to leave we won’t waste time searching for a lost shoe or something like that.
    • Likewise, we have a set of key hooks right inside the garage door. I aim never put my keys anywhere else – if I do, I am bound to misplace them!
  4. If you need to bring something extra (a return to a store, shopping list, gift for a friend), set it by the door too. If you need to take something out of the fridge or it’s otherwise not possible to leave it at the door, stick a post-it with a reminder on the door itself so you won’t forget.
  5. You’re going to need a little more margin time. The more kids you have and the younger they are, the more margin time you’ll need. I usually add in about 10 minutes to get my four out the door. When they were smaller, I added more time. You’ll probably be glad you have it. The worse case scenario is that you don’t need the extra time and you arrive a bit early.
  6. After planning time for these activities, you should have a realistic departure time. If necessary, you can set a timer to help you stick to it.

The more kids you have and the younger they are, the more margin time you’ll need.

How to Get Out of the House With Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method
Using a convenient key hook helps prevent frantic searches for missing keys when I’m trying to get ready to leave.

Other benefits of being on time.

The thing I like most about using this system is not having to rush around. I hate rushing around! I usually end up yelling at my kids or forgetting something and it’s not a fun place to be for me. When I use this method, life is much calmer for everyone. It’s so worth the extra few minutes to think things out and prepare in advance.

Another plus of being able to leave the house efficiently and on time.

When you’re not rushed, you often do arrive early and have time to chat with someone. Or you may have time to take “the long way” and take a more pleasant route to your destination. These little things can have a lot of meaning for both me and my kids.

What about when your best efforts fail?

Well, that’s why we build in margin time, isn’t it? And if that still isn’t enough or for some reason you’re hopelessly late, there is grace. Nobody’s perfect, not even super-moms. So yes, do try your best, but if you’re having one of those days, just make the best of it.

And if that still isn’t enough or for some reason you’re hopelessly late, there is grace.

So, busy mom, be encouraged! You can get out of the house with your kids in tow, at least most of the time! And remember, as your kids get older, it will get easier. I promise 🙂

My friend, Stephanie, has 3 more tips on getting out of the house with older kids – you won’t want to miss these!

What is your biggest struggle in getting out of the house?

This post was linked up at Thrifty Thursday and Family Fun Friday.


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5 thoughts on “How to Get Out of the House with Kids in Tow: The Reverse Method”

  1. My hubs is the same way, he thinks I’m crazy and doesn’t understand how much effort it takes to get kids and myself ready and out the door! I love this post and I’ll definitely be implementing some of these ideas! Thank you for sharing!

    Visiting from Thrifty Thursday!

  2. Oh my goodness, YES!! That is exactly what I do with my 5 kids!

    LOL! I started to leave you are really long comment with 3 of my tips but decided to spare your readers and just write a blog post of my own. You inspired me to write! Yay! Thanks! 😀

    Ps. Thanks for linking to Family Fun Friday. 😉


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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