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Getting organized for an intentional summer

Last year at this time, I was gearing up for a low-key, relaxing summer with my family, and my summer post here on Simple Mom was all about making summer memories at home.

This year, however, our summer is busier — with activities, trips, and plenty to do. I’ve been inspired by the summer bucket lists popping up all over the blogosphere as families are sharing their must-do activities for the season, so I’m looking forward to a fun and good-busy summer for our family.

Only you know which type of summer is better for your family. If you’re in the middle of a big transition (a new baby, new job, or moving), then low-key may be best. But maybe you’re feeling energized and adventurous, and you want to explore, go, and do this summer.

Neither approach is right or wrong, better or worse — the key is to be intentional with your plans.

Here are some ideas to help you organize and prepare for an intentional summer, so that you don’t look back and regret missed opportunities to make memories.

Make a list of things you want to do

Even if you’re planning to stay close to home this summer and don’t have a big budget, make a list of the things you’d like to do this year.

Maybe you want to camp in the living room one night, go on weekly picnics, or plan the ultimate staycation.  Or maybe you’d like to learn to can, pick your own berries, or color rocks in the backyard.

It’s all too easy to forget these things in the midst of another busy week, and before you know it, August is here with a lot of things left undone. Rather than just thinking of ideas and hoping you get to them, make a list. Talk about it over dinner or plan a special family meeting, and let everybody choose a few activities for the list.

You can then write them on a piece of paper or a chalkboard, store them in a jar or a bucket, or type them up on the computer. Whatever you do with the list, get it down on paper to start!

Looking for summer inspiration? Be sure to check out this list of 101 ways to embrace summer.

…And then a list of things you don’t want to do

This is just as important as listing the things you want to do. This isn’t a list that you necessarily need the kids to help write, but take some time with your significant other to talk about the pitfalls you’d like to avoid this summer.

Do you end up saying yes to too many invitations, only to find yourself burnt out? Do you focus too much on house projects and not enough time on memory-making? Do you spend too much time in the kitchen preparing complicated meals rather than in the backyard or by the pool?

Think about the pitfalls you’d like to avoid this summer and write them down as a reminder.

Keep a “Go Bag” packed and ready

There’s nothing more stressful than being ill-prepared for a last-minute invite to the pool or park that’s too good to pass. I don’t know about you, but I usually end up rushing around the house like a madwoman, frantically gathering what we need (except for the items I ultimately forget!), and leaving a disaster in my wake.

One way we avoid this is by keeping a Go Bag packed and ready with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and snacks. If you regularly go to the pool or beach, add bathing suits, swimmies and towels to your Go Bag. If you like to hike and explore, maybe add some bug repellant.

Whenever you get home from an outing, empty and repack the bag before bedtime so that it’s ready again for the next adventure.

summerPhoto by Johan Hansson

Plan for downtime at home

If you’re planning an exciting and good-busy summer, leave plenty of time for rest and relaxation. Plan on staying home all day at least once per week, and build routines into your day for quiet time and rest.

Summer is three months long, leaving plenty of time to make memories and have fun, but you don’t want to get burnt out or rush through it all. Leave enough time to savor the little moments as well.

Prepare easy meals and snacks

To make the most of your time — and avoid the heat of the kitchen — plan easy and nutritious meals that incorporate plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Smoothies and muffin tin meals are perfect for lazy afternoons at home, and salads, sandwiches, and outdoor grilling are all easy options that leave more time playing and less time spent cooking and cleaning up.

Capture the memories

Perhaps most importantly, think about how you will capture the memories from the summer. Whether you create a fun mini books, a memory board, or a printed photo book — or even if you just save your photos in a folder on your computer for a fun slideshow — be intentional about capturing pictures and recording memories!

What’s on your summer bucket list? Are you planning for a low-key or good-busy summer?

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  1. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    Each of these is PERFECT for me and the three kids I “manny”. That’s right, I’m a male nanny.

  2. sgopalak

    Great suggestions. We are really excited about a month long vacation in India. Gives me a chance to spend quality time with my kids given that I work full time away from home.

  3. sgopalak

    Great ideas. We are looking forward to a month long vacation in India. It will give me a chance to spend lots of time with my kids given that I work full time.

  4. Erin OK @ it's OK

    Yes, we’d better make our list and get started on it!
    We’re planning for kind of a work-a-lot summer, but we love doing outdoor family stuff, so we maybe need some careful planning to fit in all the things we want to do.
    A bike camping trip is the big one on our list so far!

  5. Ali

    Thanks for the link today!

  6. Stephanie @ henry happened

    I love this post – I already feel like summer is getting away from us and there are so many fun things I want to do. Especially love the idea of a “go bag” – I find getting all of the “stuff” together the most stress part of getting out of the house. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. sophia

    i’m going on the “good-busy summer” 😉
    including: zoo, movies, picnics, and a weekend’s vacation!
    great tips Mandi!

  8. Sarah Park

    This is really helpful! I have been feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of a long, unstructured summer, even though I’m glad to not have to race out the door in the mornings for a couple months. Thanks for these pointers on how to be intentional about our summer!

  9. Chris

    I like the idea of putting a bunch of things we want to do in a jar. I’m thinking then, when we have a family day (i.e. husband is off work!) we can just reach in and grab one.
    This is the first year I’ve instituted the “go bag” concept. I have a small cooler I pack before our first outing with enough food for all day (regardless of our plans). It doesn’t get unpacked until after dinner, so we can continue to grab and go. Our pool stuff gets washed and goes right back in the pool bag. I even have bags for our daughter’s chalk that she loves to take out front. Still looking for a bag for our library books, but that’s on the list too. I love this concept, and had a custom plaque of wall hooks made for our foyer that will hold them all (plus room for more)! It makes heading out that much less daunting.

  10. Misty

    Sometimes bucket lists can become sort of like obligations so I am calling mine a Summer Opportunities List. I also included things just for Mom to do alone since so much emphasis goes to entertaining the kids. Moms should have some girly fun too!

  11. Nihara

    This post made me want to run barefoot in the grass and chase some butterflies with my children!

    I think we all have summer on our minds. While I’ve never kept a summer bucket list before, this is the first year I am trying hard to be very intentional about making important family memories and keeping a list of what we want to do. I blogged all about my summer “want to do” list here:

  12. Gwen

    This is something that we just started doing, working on lists. Love the idea of the list of things we DON’T want to do. I just know that my oldest will have things on that list that are on the “do” list for me or his sister. I’m having each kid (except the youngest, he’s too young to really have a list) come up with their “bucket list” for the summer, and we’ll try to cross off what we can.

  13. Roxanne (TheHolisticMama)

    I love the idea about the “go bag.” We are always challenged with getting out the door in time to do something. Sometimes I spend half the mornging just getting ready for a day out. Thanks!

  14. Tara@riceandbeanslife

    I love the idea of being intentional and making a list. It’s so easy to let summer slip by in the busy-ness of life and we managed not to do things we’ve long wanted to do. Again! I’m sitting down to make our list today! Thanks for the great post. I think you just saved our summer!

  15. Living the Balanced Life

    Great ideas Mandi! It is easy to let the days get away from us, and before we know it summer is almost over! I love how you speak of being intentional as that is so important. I like the idea of scheduling a wide variety of activities, indoors, outdoors, active, quiet, work and play. Keeps you on your toes!
    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Luba V Nel

    Its winter in South Africa right now, but the ideas and planning advice are great! We always have a “go bag” ready for in case of the sun coming out – last weekend was a perfect family outing, and I was so thankful for the extra set of clothes for the little one. And I keep a few unexpected toys hidden away for when emergency arises, like right now mama & daddy are on “sick leave”, and baby enjoyed his new thrifted wood kitchen: bears got lots of porridge with honey.

  17. Courtney

    Three cheers for intentionally staying home one day per week! It is the key to my sanity, and the only way I ever make a dent in the laundry. Thanks for these tips.

  18. andie

    i think we’re stuck in the middle of a low-key and an adventurous summer. on the adventurous side, my husband just started a new job, my daughter is going to start some dance classes and she’s participating in a musical at church, i’m in the middle of potty-training my son, and both kids have shiny new bikes. because of all this newness, i want to keep all the time that isn’t devoted to the newness low-key.

  19. timothy

    This is helpful to people especially to me because I want all my things to be organized. This is the perfect tips for me and to all people too. Thanks!

  20. Julia

    We’ve been unintentionally on the go most days. That needs to change. Thanks for the ideas and encouragement to be prepared and intentional. Very timely words for me.


    Great ideas Mandi, this is really helpful in getting organize this summer, and I also love the idea of “Go Bag”! My number one summer bucket list is absolutely going to the beach. I love going to the beach with my whole family. I really enjoyed tanning in the sun! 🙂

  22. Amanda

    What a brilliant idea! I am in for summer and each season that follows.

  23. Bathrooms Merseyside

    Great ideas Mandi! I always keep a ‘Go-Bag’ by the kitchen table filled with snacks for the kids. It prevents me from rushing when the kids want to go out to the park.

  24. Marilyn

    On my summer list is to keep on writing on my book. We have the same publisher. 🙂 This is my second book for them. Mine are also on organizing.When my girls were little I wish I would have thought about a Go bag–I had one when they were babies but not as they got older.

  25. Emily

    I definitely need to remember the camera–for some reason I can’t get into the habit of taking it to events that will likely have “Kodak moments.”

  26. Luke

    I think you could easily brand the “Go Bag” 🙂

    Although it great idea – here the snacks inside it wont last for an hour . It could contain a ball and non-eatable objects . (and there’s no guarantee they wont be teeth sign on them).

  27. Terri

    I’m planning on a summer that’s kind of in between the relaxed and the busy. I have a summer bucket list, but there are many low key activities on it, like stargazing and making homemade ice cream. The theme for our summer is experiencing all that summer has to offer. This is the first year that I haven’t had to work full-time all summer, so the kids and I have a lot of summer fun to experience this year!

  28. Sheridan

    Great tips. I am really trying to have an intentional summer. I started by asking my kids what THEY wanted to do. Now I am trying to combine those 3 kids desires with mine to come up with a good plan.

  29. Michael

    I never thought of making a list of things I do not want to do. That is an interesting approach.

  30. Monica

    Love this idea of a list. I, too, feel the summer is quickly getting away from us. We need an intentional summer because it tends to get lazy really quickly–staying up late, sleeping in late. We will be making that list tomorrow night!

  31. Janet

    Love the suggestion of staying home one day a week. The 40 Developmental Assets suggests kids need to stay home at least three nights a week.

    A great way to have more time to spend with your kids this summer, is to simplify dinnertime. Check out the cheap, easy and kid friendly meals at

  32. Lisa

    I’ve been intentional about our summer schedule and activities and we’re off to a good start, but the pre-packed go bag is something I hadn’t thought of that will make the rest of the summer go more smoothly. Thanks for sharing! I also like the idea of making a photo book to organize our summer memories.

  33. Amy @ AboutOne

    I love the idea of keeping a “Go bag” ready at all times! I am always running around like a crazy person when we get last minute invites and this would make it much easier to get out the door!

  34. Julia

    Aghhh too bad summer is coming to an end 🙁 Oh well, there’s always winter ! Great post though.

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