Keep your summer organized

Summer flies by crazy fast—which can be good or bad, depending on the day, the weather, and the kids. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m actually looking forward to the summer (give me spring in Austin any day, but I’m happy to not be there from June through September).

My kids are continually thinking of things they want to do to relish the next few months, and it gets me excited, too. I’ll be working less, painting lots of walls in our new fixer-upper, and hopefully getting some cast-aside sewing done—and I’m eager for their camping, pool, and library suggestions, too.

I’m in the school of thought that the best sorts of summers are those that rest in-between planned and spontaneous—I want to go to the library every week, but why not quickly toss dinner in to a picnic basket when the weather begs it?

I think it helps to organize just a bit on the front end of the summer, so that the rest of the season can be more spontaneously enjoyed. Here’s how we’re doing it this year.

1. We’re creating a summer bucket list.

There’s more than enough summer fun lists on Pinterest, so we’re not short on ideas. I’ve collected a lot of our ideas on my summer Pinterest board, and we’re jotting down ideas on a big piece of butcher paper and keeping it on the fridge. The whole family can pipe in when an idea strikes.

A sampling of our ideas:

• Weekly library visits
• Swim at the local pool
• Go rafting down the river after church
• Have picnic dinners
• Have friends over to watch July 4th fireworks from our deck
• Go camping at Crater Lake
• Go camping in the backyard
• Make homemade popsicles
• Have a water gun fight

This way, I’ll refer to the list when the “I’m booooored!” choruses begin.

2. We’re sorting the supplies.

We have it happen all the time, and I bet you do, too—a fun, spontaneous “let’s go to the pool!” suggestion morphs into an hour-long prep session because you’ve got to gather the towels, the floaties, the sunscreen, and the hats. By the time you’re in the car, you can’t wait for the pool to cool off from all that sweating.

I’ve created a few grab-and-go bags for our most recurrent summer outings, and they’re stored right by the garage door. When it’s pool time, I just toss the right back in the car or the bike basket, and we’re off.

Here are a few things in our bags:

For the pool

• sunscreen
• hats
• beach towels
• floaties (deflated, of course)
• goggles
• a few swim diapers
• swimsuits—we usually change into them before leaving, but this way, we always know where they are
• plastic bags, for wet suits

For picnics

• bug spray (I like California Baby)
• sunscreen (I’d rather have a small bottle in each bag than to hunt down one larger bottle)
• a picnic blanket
• napkins
• plastic utensils
• plastic, reusable cups
• a frisbee, and a few other small outdoor toys
• plastic bags, for trash or other incidentals

You can also use a picnic basket or backpack—we like this backpack also.

For road trips

We’ve got another longer road trip planned this summer, but we’re also all about the day trips when we have the itch to get out of Dodge. This bag works for both shorter and longer car rides.

• two small zippered pouches of markers, crayons, and pencils (one for each of our older kids)
• clipboards with blank paper
• spiral notebooks with lined paper
• a license plate dry-erase game—a friend made us this sweet and simple game: arrange license plate images alphabetically by state, print, and laminate.
• books
• headphones
• bug spray
• sunscreen
• plastic bags
• wipes
• a few diapers
• water bottles

3. We’re sticking to a somewhat normal routine.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean I get to goof off at the pool at day. We grownups need to get work done, too, and I’ll honestly go nuts by August if I tried to be our Summer Cruise Director.

Our sitter is still coming over twice a week so I can get work done. I’ll still keep to a simple, rotating menu plan for dinner (right now I’m enjoying Natural Health at Home’s Whole Foods Meal Plan). and the bedtime routine is still there, although bedtime is a wee bit later.

I’m completely okay if the kids get bored, because that’s when real magic and creativity happen. We’ll keep art supplies within reach in the craft cabinet, a few outdoor toys in the backyard, and cold water in the fridge. That’s enough for a childhood summer.


This giveaway is now closed. Check back soon for the winner!

Target and Container Store want to help one of you get organized this summer, so they’re giving away a $250 gift certificate each. I’m sure you can find a way to use $500 at these fabulous stores, right?

How to enter

Simply answer this question in the comments below: What’s something on your family’s summer bucket list? (If you’re reading this via email, you must click over to the blog post to leave a comment.)

This giveaway will end on June 24, and I’ll announce the winner soon after. I hope you win!

This post is sponsored by the makers of Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, the quick and easy way to clean and disinfect your home!

Contest Rules

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Zoo roadtrips you name it! This year our boys are big enough to start enjoying things more and aren’t terrified of the unknown. So we for sure want to get out.

  2. Spend lots of time reading, playing at the nearby state park beach and just lots of time outside in general.

  3. Welcoming baby number 4!!

  4. On the “to do” list: first swimming lessons for our younger son. On the bucket list: next steps toward adoption.

  5. HeatherC says:

    We’re going to do some backyard camping at weekly trips to the library and park. We’re also planning to visit some museums and the zoos in our area. I’m planning on doing some household projects as well. Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  6. Paddleboating on the nearby lake, picnics and mountainbiking.

  7. Colored bubbles, finger painting, and foaming soap in the water table. 🙂

  8. We have 2 five year olds and a 4 year old. Our major goals are to teach them how to swim and how to ride their bikes (with training wheels).

  9. Kim Swiczkowski says:

    We are so excited to be planning pur summer bucket list along with list of homeschool goals and organizing our school spaces!

    One thing each of us has put on the Summer bucket list is beachtime in Destin, Fl. We have many more with each of us having a favorite….mine (marine science lab in Dolphin Island), girls (water park and seeing sea turtles).

    Thanks for opportunity to enter such a giveaway…organization is a major goal for our family since we are home so much of the year.

    God bless!

  10. On our bucket list: camping for the first time as a family! The kids are stoked.

  11. Hoping for a trip north to visit the Canadian branch of the family!

  12. Nancy T says:

    I plan to spend time with my family at the beach and at home by the pool. – ride bikes and garden. The gift cards would help me create some go bags – including one for the backyard.

  13. Lots of “tourist in our own town” things using groupons- checking out the Crayola Factory, the zoo, various museums, and of course- the pool 🙂

  14. Amber N says:

    We are going to do lots of reading and lots of bike riding!

  15. Spend time in and on the water. Lots of picnics and time with cousins.

  16. Painting my son’s room, camping, and lots of reading!

  17. 1. Tour local gardens – Longwood Gardens, Ladew Topiary Gardens
    2. Make the most of the Bicentennial Sailabration in Baltimore
    3. Paint and decorate the nursery
    4. Eat a s’more (or three)

  18. 1st Tigers ball game for our big kids, rafting,, and camping in the backyard.

  19. Kathryn says:

    Going for a long bike ride!

  20. Katie F says:

    On the bucket list this summer is lots of summer cookouts and hopefully a trip to the beach!

  21. Michelle Disney says:

    We will be hitting the pool every week!

  22. To go camping with my sister-in-law’s family!

  23. Brittany West says:

    two things for us to do this summer are to catch bugs and head to the beach.

  24. We have a road trip planned to NC. We will visit farmer’s markets, museums and some outdoor creeks to play in. Until then, I’m working on getting our house organized to be put on the market soon.
    What a great giveaway, but wouldn’t it be better to give more gift cards in lesser amounts? More folks who could get organized! Just an idea…

  25. SWIM as much as possible- we live in Maine, so no matter where we go we pass a lake, river, stream, or the ocean. We always have an extra bag packed in the trunk with towels and a change of clothes, so that whenever we are inspired by the water we break, and jump in!

  26. Mandy W. says:

    Our summer bucket list revolves around being outdoors: pool time, running through sprinklers, backyard picnic dinners, family bike rides and making homemade ice cream!

  27. Camping in our new tent trailer with family and friends, endless days at the beach and oh…having a baby in August!!!

  28. We’re going camping with friends and we will NOT be interrupted by a birth this year. Possibly the first time ever :o)

  29. my husband’s taking classes, so for him to do well. For me – not to kill the plants I have and the ones that are starting from seed!

    Also, to get to the gym and take more walks outside together.

  30. Johanna S. says:

    LOTS of playing outside, picnics, ice cream, making playdough, etc.

    My options are a bit more limited since I have really young kids (3 and almost 5 months!).

  31. -library 1/week
    -park 2/week
    -swim lessons
    -get the house organized!!!

  32. Kristin says:

    There’s a man-made island near us that you can take a free ferry too. They have a nice beach there and we’ve been planning on going for years. We ARE going to make it this year!

  33. The one that our girls have been excited about for MONTHS is strawberry picking! I think we will be going several times. 🙂

  34. We have a new baby coming in 5 weeks, so most of our bucket list items are pretty simple and close to home 🙂 We have go hiking, camp-out in the backyard, have a sleep over, eat ice cream for dinner…those are a few!

  35. Having a baby come August. 🙂 And frantically getting ready in the meantime.

  36. My family’s summer bucket list looks similar to yours although we school through the summer so that is an added component. Right now my priorities are paying the (rather large) library fine so the kids can participate in the summer reading program, catching fireflies after dark, water gun fights, and maybe a beach trip somewhere in the late summer after regular school starts back and the crowds thin. Thank you for hosting such a fun and generous giveaway.

  37. We too have a working Summer Enjoy List that includes library visits, museums, playgrounds, etc. But our BIG plan has to do with borrowing a friend’s car when he leaves the country for a month. We live in Brooklyn and don’t own a car, so with our friend’s car, we plan to have our own “out of country” experience by driving out to nature preserves and faraway beaches that the subways don’t reach! Can’t wait!

  38. Museums. And hopefully a getaway for mom and dad!!

  39. Stephanie B says:

    Top items:
    * eat more fresh, local produce and meats
    * visit the library
    * day trips

  40. Susanna Joy says:

    We plan to break in our new pop-up camper. 🙂

  41. Our end-of-summer beach camping trip! My son is already asking, “Are we going to the beach today?” Plus, we’re going with family so the kids get some bonus Grandma and Cousin playtime.

  42. We are going camping for the first time!

  43. Tiffany says:

    Now that our kids are older and involved in sports during the summer, we aren’t all at home at the same time as often. One thing on our list is to enjoy as many picnic lunches at the park whenever we can. Bike rides, corn-hole games, and bonfires in the back yard.

  44. go to the beach
    swim at the pool
    have a picnic
    race waterboats at a local park
    summer movie night
    homemade iceream

  45. A road trip is on our bucket list. We are leaving on Wednesday 🙂

  46. road trips, tubing down the river, puppet shows, backyard play (most of the time), and for me, some scrapbooking. Summer is a good time for me to get caught up since I have 4 weeks off from work (I work from home). I’m looking forward to it all!

  47. Leigh Ann says:

    We want to spend more time outdoors. We’re setting up playdates and picnic lunches and breakfasts with friends at different parks we’ve never visited. Plus, wearing everyone out by naptime gives Mom a chance to enjoy the stillness of summer and catch her breath for a minute!

  48. As many trips to the beach as I can fit into our calendar. I love watching my girls as the play in the sand and splash in the ocean!

  49. Swim lessons! My girls can’t wait.

  50. We’re planning to eat meals outside as much as possible! Gotta enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

  51. Michelle White says:

    We are planning on hitting storytime at the library every week, trying out a couple of parks we have never been to and one of the local spray parks.
    My one summer to do with out the kiddos is to attend a night market at our local farmers market.
    Michelle W.

  52. A weekend in Chicago with my best friend’s family.

  53. Jennifer says:

    We are checking out library books for researching our local historical sites (including a Civil War submarine exhibit) before we visit them. We will be moving to the Midwest in August of 2013; so we are trying to make the most of our last summers here in my hometown. Love this post – many thanks for the practical tips.

  54. I would LOVE to take my daughter to the beach this summer! It may be hard because our money is tight, but I want to make it happen. This is the first year she will be old enough to really enjoy it!!

  55. Work at the local Farmer’s Markets. Love all the fresh veggies and homemade goods that are available in the summer and love to provide them for people.

  56. Going swimming, eating lots of froyo, playing in the creek, reading all of the Little House books, welcoming our third baby into the family, and hopefully finish renovating our new house so we can actually move into it!!!

  57. We’re looking forward to lots of reading, picnics, pool days, baseball games, and maybe my son’s first camping trip!

  58. -be outside
    -grow a garden
    -play in the sprinklers
    -get to know the neighbors
    -bbq with friends

  59. Amanda C says:

    Our bucket list includes going to a baseball game, camping in the backyard with papa, and tending our first garden.

  60. Vacation as always, but twice as long as normal. We could use the break from what was a crazy, busy past year. Also lots of grilling, concerts and tennis. 😀

  61. We are planning on going blueberry and peach picking. We also are hoping to get away with friends for our annual summer get-together.

  62. See a minor league baseball game
    Make Popsicles
    Feed ducks
    Sprinkler in the yard

  63. We haven’t made our official list yet, but library trips are always near the top.

  64. jessica says:

    we have a animal rescue park nearby we have never been to, it’s on our list!

  65. Fishing! Summer evenings filled with fishing and outdoor jazz nights at a local shopping center. Aahhh, summer!

  66. Cathy V says:

    we’re taking our first family roadtrip this summer.

  67. Jennifer says:


  68. Camping and road trips for sure! And I’m definitely putting together a pool bag. Thanks for the great idea!

  69. Melanie says:

    We are going to try Geocaching at a state park during our family reunion!

  70. Homemade ice cream, camping out, going for walks, we’ve got a long list!

  71. The #1 item on our bucket list that the kids just can’t wait for is visiting their Aunt Jess. She only lives a couple of hours away, but between our school schedules, her school schedules and her work schedule we aren’t able to get together very often. So plans are in the works, and we’re all very excited!

  72. We have so many summer ideas! Definitely camping and swimming and painting/crafting and – – (Mom’s idea) reading books.

  73. On our summer bucket list is a camping trip with friends and their two young girls (their first time!).

  74. My daughters and I are making an ‘official’ list of summer want-to’s, but we know we’ll be doing our local summer reading program, visiting family, doing some major purging around the house, working on many mini-cooking lessons, & each of our girls got a summer day camp for their birthdays so those and VBS will be tucked in there as well. As usual, on the first day of summer I begin to be reminded of how quickly it will pass…getting ready to sink into it and live in these moments!

  75. Aubrey M. says:

    We are spending the summer in anticipation of our second baby, and in this southern heat that means I’ve tried to find fun, indoor activities for my son and me to enjoy. One that I’m really looking forward to is passes to our local art museum! Thanks for the chance to win. Organization sure is on my mind with a new baby coming!

  76. Cathy N. says:

    Visiting Great Grandma is tops on our bucket list. Followed by trips to the beach and lots of reading aloud.

  77. My family just includes my husband and me, and I am currently about 4 months pregnant. So our bucket list is pretty short and laid back. One thing on our bucket list is to go to the zoo. We try to do this each summer because we are both big animal lovers! It will probably be our last time to go just the two of us without taking a little one. 🙂

  78. Cottage with Family

  79. Whitney says:

    On our summer bucket list?

    Crafting, visiting a local waterpark, celebrating my son’s birthday, and generally doing a combination of lazy and fun things.

  80. Meredith W. says:

    Hopefully we’ll make a trip to the beach for a week. The main goal is to teach my 3 year old son how to swim!

  81. On our bucket list is olympics in the backyard!

  82. We’re planning a trip to Pennsylvania and my daughter wants to go to the outdoor pool.

  83. Our summer includes moving to Texas- so Sea World San Antonio is on our list!!

  84. Lots and lots of swimming, with lots of improvement in individual skills!

  85. On our bucket list…going camping…and NOT in a hotel room… 🙂

  86. Climbing Medicine Bow Peak in Wyoming! We’re also going to be doing a lot of bike riding, farmer’s markets, and photography!

  87. CatrinaC says:

    We’re doing Disney World! We’ve never been before & my oldest is 13. So we’re finally able to go while she’s still wanting too! 🙂

  88. Our family is planning on road tripping to see some aunts and uncles.
    Lots of Sweet Peaks ice cream
    And lazy days in the sun at home!

    We’ve been too busy, so we are looking forward to a chill summer.

  89. One item on our list is going to a drive-in movie!

  90. we’ve already completed one item on our summer bucket list! we just returned from a 1400 mile, 4 state road trip to the beach and to visit family! camping is on our list this summer too! gotta get that planned! we’ve also got a little school work on our list (the kids are actually excited about it!).

  91. Lindsay Nicole says:

    Great ideas, Tsh! I always feel the pressure to make the absolute most of the summer, which goes for having fun adventures, but also for maximizing our relaxation.

    On our family’s list this summer are: berry picking, bike rides, picnics, the beach, BBQ potlucks in our backyard with friends, and catching a few Portland Timber’s games.

  92. Heather says:

    Our summer list
    Swimming pool
    Cook outs with friends
    To the beach!

  93. Finish painting our house! and hopefully squeeze in a camping trip…

  94. Every summer we compile a 100 Fun Summer Things to Do List! One of the things for this summer is to have a backyard campout with barbeque, s’mores and flashlight tag!

  95. We’re excited to go see Winter from Dolphin Tale and spend the day at the beach! It’s amazing that even though we live in Florida we spend so very little time doing the things other people travel here to enjoy.

  96. Danielle says:

    Our bucket list included movie nights and family dinner dates with friends!

  97. Stephanie Williams says:

    My summer bucket list would include bowling, library, reading time at Barnes and Noble and I would like to find an outdoor movie somewhere. Thanks for the giveaway!

  98. Hillarey says:

    I am a summer junkie 🙂 Is there such thing? I would be happy if it were July ten months out of the year and October the other two. We like to live up summer!

    My summer bucket list includes:
    weekly playing in the river at the park
    camping in our beautiful mountains
    and riding the trains in Strasburg, PA for our little guy’s 2nd birthday
    (and that’s just the beginning!)

  99. On our summer bucket list: finally put those recipe books to use so we can cook at home more than we eat out!

  100. Our bucket list includes: Camping, working in our new vegetable garden and a trip to Colorado to visit friends.