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. Since my oldest lives out of state now and my middle son is moving out of state at the end of the month, what is on my bucket list this summer is some quality family time at home with Son 1 visiting before son 2 leaves.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Pool time, backyard camping, library story time, “Family Fun nights” at our favorite restaurant, new sewing projects, and a trip overseas without the kids!

  3. We are going to read everyday and make lots of visits to the library.

  4. Beach days, hitting all the six dinosaur attractions in the state (these aren’t theme park-y, these are actual digs, museums with bones, etc), berry picking, bike rides, library afternoons and lots of laughter.

  5. Michele Laramay says:

    Lots of out for ice cream times. Swimming in the pool and reading on the hammock. Fires in the backyard. Gardening.

  6. Make it to the beach with a newborn and toddler.

  7. We’ve got lots of fires in the fire pit planned – just a whole lot of family time.

  8. the number one thing on our summer bucket list is having a new baby 🙂
    in addition to swimming, water balloon/silly string fights, making popsicles and craft days!

  9. We are hoping to swim almost every day.

  10. Heather says:

    I am hoping that my 13 year old son will see the ocean for the first time!

  11. Stacy L. says:

    This will be our last summer as a family of two, so we’re making the most of lazy pool days and getting house projects accomplished!

  12. Amy Middleton says:

    Our bucket list is similar to yours, but we want to hit the beach and BBQ as much as possible!

  13. We’re going to be finding and purchasing a new home. In the midst of all this, I also have tentative plans to book an early fall weekend vacation now to take advantage of off -season rates and lingering summer weather.

  14. Jenny Fendt says:

    We’ve got a lot of stuff we’re excited about this summer, but my daughters and I are really looking forward to a week long archaeological excavation at Lake Erie Metropark in June. Also on the list…Fort Gratiot Light, Petroglyphs near Port Huron, road trip to upstate New York, two family reunions up north, taking our girls to Cedar Point for the first time, camping, opening the pool, walking to the library.

  15. Jeanne Ambrose says:

    On our bucket list are day trips to local historical places. We live in NC , near the border of VA and there are so many pieces of our country’s history. People travel HERE to see these things so we hope to soak up our local history. Also on our list is a trip to Cooperstown, NY where our son’s baseball team will play in the Field of Dreams tournament. We will visit the first baseball field and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Being organized on these trips would make them all go smoothly with three boys!!!

  16. Jennifer H. says:

    Cleaning out the garage is on our bucket list. We are working on making in more kid friendly. With all the bikes and balls we have anymore. It just makes sense to give the kids there own corner of the garage.

  17. Explore our new state!

  18. Aimee D says:

    We are attending a family wedding!

  19. The zoo!

  20. Megan Commerford says:

    I am hoping to bring my 3 year old camping for the first time! She has been asking for months!


  21. Lots of swimming and some bike ride/picnics!

  22. Lots of pool time, bowling, $1 movies, craft projects, visiting different parks in our area…can’t wait!

  23. Kristen says:

    Camping. In fact, with the randomly cooler temps along the east coast this week, I was thinking of spontaneously calling a camping trip for tonight or tomorrow night! We’ll see!

  24. Camping! In our backyard, in tents at a park, and with the grandparents in the RV. 🙂

  25. Jessica says:

    Our summer bucket list includes exploring as much of our city as possible, and also trying to make sure I set aside enough time for relaxing and reading (as a family) outside. Can’t wait!

  26. Me and the hubs have decided to add a bit of competition to our summer. We have picked 9 different mini-putt courses in and around our city and plan to play each course throughout the summer. Whoever wins more games is the winner of the “2012 Epic Mini-Putt Battle”. 🙂 Those gift certificates would come in handy to organize our garage! Thanks Tsh!

  27. Kristin says:

    We are planning a lemondade stand and fun trips to the beach!

  28. One thing that my kids are begging to do is go to the Como Zoo to see the animals and ride the rides. Just bought half priced unlimited ride wrist bands for them so we are good to go when the day is right! They are so excited!

  29. We plan to go swimming at the pool, do some camping trips, and have a trip to the aquarium and/or zoo!

  30. We bought a house! So moving in and making it ours:) Also camping and hiking!

  31. AmandaW says:

    Lots of trips to the library and the pool!

  32. We are planning a couple of mini road trips this summer and plenty of cookouts!

  33. Kristy Boyd says:

    We are doing a 3 week road trip! Really looking forward to it. But I also need to sort through things for a garage sale as we are moving back overseas and our storage unit needs massive organization! 🙂

  34. Heather says:

    Somehow our summer bucket list is always longer than our summer 🙂 Our list includes, state parks, beach time, walks to the park and lots of bubbles.

  35. Camping on the beach this weekend let me cross it off our summer bucket list; we’ve also found a dance teacher for the girl. Additional items for the summer include visiting Lushoto, Tanzania (we live in Dar es Salaam), going to Bagamoyo, a field trip to Sea Sense, an organization that supports sea turtles, snorkeling at Mbudja island, art classes with a local TingaTinga artist, visiting a bookstore in town and a behind-the-scenes trip to Wonder Welders, a local project that employs people with polio and teaches them to create amazing art from recycled glass and metal.

  36. Alicia M says:

    We’ve been making a tradition of Saturday night family picnics in the park, which has been so much fun. We’ll keep it up hopefully at least until the humidity gets unbearable!

  37. Tracey G. says:

    Day trips to catch up with friends we don’t always have time to see during the school year!

  38. The pool!!! My girls absolutely love swimming!

  39. Enjoying veggies from our garden, and lots of pool time!

  40. On our bucket list: an anniversary trip to Chicago without kids (we have three under five) to recharge, renew, and celebrate our seventh anniversary.

  41. Ellen Burdine says:

    We are going to try our hand at camping this year. I have never been camping and my kids are dying to go. Dad wants to try me out on a one-nighter before we do anything too crazy. 😉 We also found out that our local small waterpark has 1/2 price hours from 5-7 pm. On our bucket list is to head over there with dinner on as many Fridays as our schedule will allow. I LOVE the idea that you have above about keeping a pull bag stocked by the garage door so we can grab and go without the hour long prep session that going to the pool requires. I’m going to work on getting that completed today! Thank you!

  42. having baby #2! we are welcoming a new little boy to our family this summer- that’s a big enough bucket list item for us all!

  43. We joined a community pool, so we plan on doing a lot of pool time. Our bucket list, though, includes an outdoor scavenger hunt, trips to the library, picnic in the park, minor league baseball game (and possibly a big league game), and few other random things.

  44. Ellen Burdine says:

    Or *pool bag. Ha!

  45. Shannon says:

    I have always wanted to try ziplining and found a deal online for my family to go!

  46. Katrina says:

    Finding ways to get outside with my 3-year-old when it’s supposed to be 105F! I haven’t figured out what they are yet… but we’ll get there!

  47. Our list includes beach time, trips to visit family in Indiana, lots of arts and crafts, and letting this pregnant mama rest a little! We are in school until June 22, so I have a bit longer to plan.

  48. Our bucket list is simply lots of time at Grandma’s… The kids are learning how to swim & I’m learning how to sew.

  49. This summer I’m hoping to check out a local water park I just discovered. My teenager loves waterslides and my little one is just walking steadily enough that I think he’d enjoy the kiddie play area.

  50. We are going to hit up every u-pick farm in the area. We already picked blackberries and my girls had a blast. Cheap fun!

  51. Family cook-out and fireworks for the 4th of July…a yearly tradition…

  52. Shelly Smith says:

    We plan to go to the local public pool as often as possible!!

  53. Lots of pool time and bike riding!

  54. We’re new to Florida, so I’d definitely like to visit more places here. The one I most want to see is the Florida Keys!

  55. Potty training, not super exciting but hopefully it will be successful.

  56. Steph M says:

    A quick weekend trip to Michigan in blueberry season!

  57. we’re in a year round school so we don’t get a full summer break. this will be our longest break yet at 5 weeks in a row an we’re looking forward to it!

    we’ll do lots and lots of pool time 🙂

  58. Marni G says:

    Our bucket list this summer include a trip to Lake Tahoe (in just 2 weeks!), time with family, beach trips and probably a trip to Legoland (my boys favorite).

  59. Jessica K says:

    We will spending a lot of time in our pool! We also have a garden this year, so we will be having fun with that. We also, will probably be doing some camping!

  60. Well, technically my family is just my dog, griffin, and me, but we’d like to win! On my bucket list this summer is to go float the river if it’s filled back up enough.

  61. Lisa C. says:

    Going to the pool and camping!

  62. Melissa says:

    Our bucket list includes: hiking, camping, going to the lake, picnics, parks and keeping up with our garden. Thank you so much for this giveaway and also this post. I am so excited to get ideas from everyone else!!!

  63. Michele says:

    Making time with the hubby count while son is away at camp several weeks over the summer. Also a Must do visit to the Jersey Shore! Also get house purged in preparation for possible move this fall….

  64. Katie N. says:

    I want to do something with an olympic theme – maybe reading or homemade sports camp? I definitely like the prepacked theme bags! I am going to gather the supplies today!

  65. mecarol says:

    We recently moved cross-country, so I’d like to spend this summer relaxing and barbecue-ing and reading.

  66. our list this year is one thing: rest. We have had three pregnancies in two years (one miscarriage) and with a busy toddler and a growing baby we just want to spend some time reconnecting as a family and as a couple. My husband and i are taking a small anniversary trip next week and after that we hope to just be able to enjoy this stage in life.

  67. We want to do an (indoor) organizational overhaul and then spend the rest of the summer enjoying the outdoors!

  68. Our summer bucket list includes:
    1. moving into our new home!
    2. long hours are the pool and just being outside letting little miss explore for the first time!

  69. Some of our Summer Bucket list include: Horseback riding, hiking, swimming, bike rides, visiting the Grand Canyon and Oregon.

  70. We’re planning on taking a 12-hour drive with my 4 kiddos (5, 2, 1, 1) to Mississippi to see Grandma. Whew!

  71. Our summer bucket list includes camping as a family and going to Hershey’s Chocolate World!

  72. Pool, zoo, playing outside, organizing and learning to cook new vegetables!

  73. Hiking some of the local trails! Our goal is to be outside more this summer and have our kids spend less time on video games.

  74. We plan to visit the zoo, aquarium, attend a Braves game, camp in the backyard, picnic when possible and travel to the beach. 🙂

  75. We are planning day trips to Philly’s historical sites, Creation East, family bounce night at BounceU, the beach, camping…. The Y pool…so much fun!

  76. Meaghan says:

    Our list includes:
    Play in the water park at the farmers’ market
    Go see the in-laws for Old Home Days in my husband’s hometown

  77. Stephanie says:

    Legoland for our big boy and a beautiful family first birthday party for our sweet baby girl. Can’t wait!!!

  78. we love sprinkler time on the front lawn. All the kids in the neighborhood stop by!

  79. My family and I make sure to get a little camping in. Our children associate camping with some of their favorite summer memories. Camping = summer.

  80. Heading to the water park for the first time w/ our 2 year old.

  81. Jenn R. says:

    Road Trip! We are taking our boys up north for some much needed R&R. Thanks for such a great giveaway! Happy Summer 🙂

  82. Making the best memories we can this summer before a piece of our heart is deployed for the next coming year..

  83. Go to as many parks around us as we can find. Twice a month head to St. Louis and do something that free or cheap….so far on our list is Grants Farm, Botanical Gardens, Science Center, Zoo, Purina Farms and the Magic house.

  84. Jessica Broberg says:

    One of the things on our family’s list this summer includes a trip to the U.P. of Michigan to see all the beautiful sights & show our kids where my husband grew up. We’re gonna grab some pasties and head to the lighthouse to eat them outside with the seagulls. 🙂

  85. Swimming lessons, hiking, and disc golf.

  86. kathy harmon says:

    Biggest item on our bucket list this summer is a roadtrip to Florida.

  87. Go camping, go to the beach, paint my bedroom!

  88. Camping (& s’mores) top our summer bucket list.

  89. Hillary says:

    What’s something on your family’s summer bucket list?
    I am a single Mom with 2 kids so yearly vacations are OUT. But we CAN go camping and I’ve made it my goal to go at least twice this year. I call it a vacation, the kids just call it FUN!

  90. Amy Brown says:

    The kids and I sat down and made our summer wish list a few days ago. Some of the things we are definitely planning are various classes (swim, art, etc.), scout camp and making crafts. Others are more relaxed–we are planning to do them but not on any set schedule. Lots of swimming at the pool and running at the spray pad, library visits and picnics galore. Spending the night at Nannie and Papa’s house, playing with cousins and going to the various art, science and children’s museums will round it all out nicely.
    Oh, and Hubby and I are celebrating our 18th (!!!) anniversary this month, so that will be awesome, too. 😉

  91. Nicole W. says:

    Three things on our Summer Bucket List: a Drive-In movie (there’s only one left near us), Shakespeare in the Park (when they were little the just stayed for the first part, but now they’re old enough to stay for the whole show & they’re the ones insisting on not breaking the annual tradition), and going out in our pj’s to pick raspberries & blueberries from the bushes in our yard for our breakfast cereal – so sweet.
    Keeping a Bucket List helps me feel great-FULL for life before they slip away.

  92. the lake! to hike and enjoy the beach to at least twice a month.

  93. Esther T. says:

    My summer bucket list includes a weekend girls trip to area wineries, and attending as many of my grandson’s baseball games as I can. Bring on the sunscreen!

  94. Definitely camping! We camped with our 2 young boys for the first time last Summer and I have been looking forward to doing it again ever since! We are blessed to be near the Blue Ridge Mtns so our camp site will be right off the parkway. I am thinking Price Lake this time because also on my bucket list is to get my boys into a canoe!

  95. On my summer bucket list??? Try to not lose my mind as we have our third child under age 3 in a few weeks!!!!

  96. Two camping trips with an 8 month old and 2 and a half year old…I’m scared and excited!!!

  97. Lori Myers says:

    We’re planning several day trips, library visits, picnics with friends, reading some family favorites, and homemade ice cream to name a few! Happy Summer!!

  98. Megan Mattinson says:

    We’re going to be having weekly playdates with another family and having a theme day each week. My latest idea is tie-dye day! Can’t wait!!

  99. Hanging out as a family & spending time outside when we can.

  100. At least a few camping trips, the hot air balloon festival, and a trip to the local ice cream place!