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Ask the Organizer: Tips to Simplify Summer Schedules

Earlier this month, I posed the question, What are your biggest challenges with organizing busy summer schedules? And today, I’m excited to read Andrea’s tips to help us simplify and organizer our crazy, busy summer months! 

Summer is almost here… and I can’t wait!  My husband is a teacher, so it’s no surprise that our summer days are a lot more relaxed than the busy school months. However, even with more time for relaxing, the “lazy days of summer” can often start to feel pretty hectic and disorganized if we don’t have some sort of plan

If you can relate, here are a few ways to get organized and still enjoy your summer.

1. Know your schedule.

Before you even start trying to simplify and organize your summer, you’ll want to take 20 minutes and look through your calendar for June, July, and August.

  • Are you planning any vacations?
  • Will you need to take time off work?
  • Do you have any weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, or baby showers to attend (and buy gifts for)?
  • Are you planning any home renovation projects that will take up lots of extra time?
  • Will your kids be going to summer camp, sports camps, music camp, Bible school, etc.?
  • Will your kids be participating in sports teams or in any sort of group projects?

Your answers to some of these questions will help determine how you spend a good chunk of your summer. And depending on how busy you want to be, you might decide to say no to some activities after looking over your schedule.

2. Decide on a summer routine.

No, I don’t think your summer days should be as structured as the rest of the year, but I can almost guarantee you and your children will be happier if there is some sort of daily/weekly routine you follow during the summer.

We all know that our homes will not magically clean themselves and meals won’t be prepared without some effort on our parts; so try making these events a family affair. Maybe you play inside during the morning, then everyone helps to clean up before lunch, and then you go out and do a fun activity in the afternoon.

Or maybe you can plan your weekly menu as a family and then let each child (age-appropriate, of course) help make the meal one night a week.

Here are a few more ways to implement a loose routine…

  • If your family loves sleeping in, allow everyone to sleep in five days a week, but then wake up “on time” the other two days. This will allow you get get a little more done on those days without spoiling all the fun.
  • If your family loves going to the beach, have a “beach day” once a week. You could even make this day a reward for cooperation throughout the rest week!
  • If you enjoy family BBQ’s or picnics at the park, plan your weekly menu accordingly and try to implement at least one picnic lunch a week.
  • Allow your children to plan an event one day a week. Of course, you’ll want to help them plan the details, but this will give them something to look forward to, and force them to be creative.

By having some sort of general plan, everyone will be a bit less restless during the long summer days.

3. Plan ahead to avoid boredom.

It’s almost inevitable that your children will get bored at some point during the summer.

To avoid the constant “what can we do now” questions, plan ahead and create a list of things they can do if they get bored. Some examples might be:

  • Play outside
  • Read a book
  • Watch a movie
  • Play a game with siblings
  • Ride their bike around the neighborhood
  • Go on a scavenger hunt and look for ________
  • Make an obstacle course in your backyard

Try to put at least 20-30 items on your list and you might want to make separate lists for different age children.

Then (this is important so listen up), at the bottom of the list, put “Ask mom if she needs help with anything”. That way, if they complain they’re bored and have already done everything on your list, you can say, “well, you haven’t asked me if I need help with anything, so why don’t you go __________”. Fill in the blank with any number of household chores.

This way, if your kids continue to complain about being bored, you’ll at least get a clean house out of the deal!

4. Keep your vehicle packed.

Even with a general routine to your day, summer is the time for spontaneous beach trips, picnics in the park, or fun outings with friends.

However, if you need to take the time to pack and worry about forgetting something at home, you’ll waste lots of valuable time. Instead, keep your vehicles packed with summer essentials:

  • Suntan lotion
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels / beach toys
  • A cooler (obviously, you’ll have to add ice and food at the last minute)
  • Extra water bottles
  • Extra diaper bag — if applicable
  • Restaurant, fast food, and ice-cream coupons (just in case!)
  • Park passes
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Stroller or even small bikes

Keeping these essentials ready and waiting will save you lots of time and allow you to literally drop everything and do something fun.

5. Don’t forget yourself.

See if you can swap babysitting services with a friend, relative, or neighbor, hire a house-cleaning service for the summer months, or implement other ideas to make sure you have some margin in your schedule and are not running yourself ragged. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you schedule in time for things that energize you, you’ll most definitely be a better parent to your children for the rest of the summer.

What are your tips and suggestions to keep things calm, organized, and simpler this summer?

Andrea Dekker is a wife, mom, blogger, organizer, speaker, and founder of Simple Organized Living. Her goal is to motivate and encourage others to “create their best life” through simplicity and organization.

photo source; photo source

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  • Maura says:

    I had my kids make a list of movies they want to see this summer and activities that they really want to do. Then I made a chart listing them all (as well as which child requested them) and a place to note the date that we did them.

    Since I have ten kids, this really helps me to make sure that everybody gets to do at least some of the things they want to do this summer.

    • Cassi says:

      I just love when I read a comment about a big family-I dream of having 6 kids and when I say that people look at me like a grew a second head LOL

  • Cassi says:

    My best summer organization is my giant wet erase calendar…it was a gift from my husband (over 8 years ago) that he ordered through work-it is 3 feet by 5 feet with lots of room to write things in-each person gets their own color so we know who has what and when at a glance. I keep these items in my phone as well but looking at the big calendar when I wake up (it is on the hall wall) gives me a quick overview of the day/week. I even have times written in when I need a babysitter so that when I have a sitter over I can check with her for some of the other dates that I will need one. It also makes it super easy to plan ME time around the kids’ activities. I call it my summer brain 🙂 and while I could use it year-round, I find it most useful in the summer months to help us plan day trips and vacations around t-ball and other things!

  • Nicole says:

    This is fabulous! Thank you. One thought: You may not want to store the sunscreen in the car if it gets hot. Maybe keep it by the keys?

    • Lisa says:

      Agreed, some items(whether a time saver or not) are not best left in the intense heat of summer(well it’s intense where we!!). I agree with packing as much as possible in a “going out” bag. We have bandaids, dry snacks, extra clothes, etc etc. And then inside in the space we store our car keys we have a bag with the things that cannot take the heat. We’re still just as ready and it’s no more time consuming for me 🙂 Great list though!

  • Jan says:

    I suggest taping a list of “routine” foods, snacks, water bottles, etc., to the top of the cooler as a double check before starting out the door, to make sure you get all the stuff you want to take.

  • Marie says:

    For the beach I always keep a bag of sand toys in the car. I found a net bag at Walmart for $2-3 and it’s been the best thing to keep the toys. Also I keep a bottle of baby powder in the car. This is my secret weapon to sand!!! It sucks up the moisture in the sand and it makes the sand just fall off the kids!!! I love, love, love it!!!!
    I also keep extra sunglasses in the car for the kids and sun hats. Lotions and bug spray need to be kept seperate because the lotion can’t stay in the heat.
    I have been checking local libraries and parks for programs for the summer. I’ve also checked with some other mamma’s about creating “fun theme days” at each other houses instead of an expensive camp.

  • Joy M says:

    My kids are “old” (12 & 16) but for the first time ever I made them a schedule. The 16yo needs to study for ACT’s and practice driving. The 12yo just needs to NOT be sitting in front of the tv or computer all day. We have weekdays “scheduled” from 9-1, and that includes lunch, so they can still get up later than usual and they have plenty of unstructured time in the afternoon. We’ll also have camp and VBS (they always help) and vacation to break up the monotony. And book club every Tuesday.

  • amy peca says:

    I read something online last year @ each day having a theme. We adopted this idea last year and the kids looked forward to it!
    Make it Monday -Craft of some sort
    Time out Tuesday–get out of the house and do something fun (park, Pool, free movies)
    Whats cooking Wednesday – usually a baking day to fill the freezer, waffles and something for dinner if we are adventurous
    Thinking Thursday— of course this is the least fav–but I pull stuff from their old workbooks at the end of the year, wordsearches, etc–This year I want them to write a letter to some family member/friend–Then they can look forward to getting a letter back in return.
    Family Fun Time Friday – bowling, movies, park pool, etc…
    Hope this helps ladies!

  • Karen says:

    Just a quick thing to note: Don’t leave sunscreen in the car. The heat causes it to lose effectiveness. Otherwise, great ideas.

  • Sondra says:

    When my kids were little I always had the car packed. Extra diaper bag, first aid kit, a laundry basket full of basketballs, footballs, frisbee and such. Also extra baby wipes for quick clean up. I sure miss the younger years!

  • Tara H says:

    Thanks so much for this! I struggle greatly with scheduling and organization. I just finally got a workable homeschool schedule written down…just in time for summer! 😉 I was really in need of something semi-structured for the summer. So I’m looking forward to using lots of these ideas!

  • Julie in IN says:

    If you home educate and take summer off from bookwork, schedule at least 2 days to put away last years books and file samples for a portfolio for each child, double check your plans for next year then place any orders still needed, and a set up day to organize your home school supplies, books, etc for next year.

    We are not required by law to keep records for inspection but do keep a sample of each child’s work from each year. This weeks special at Office Max of $.01 after rewards sturdy boxes are great for sample work.

    • Andrea says:

      In some states, homeschoolers have to keep work samples on file. Laws vary by state. I agree that setting aside a day or two for educational housekeeping is a good idea, even for “out” schoolers…the backpacks and mountain of papers have to be cleaned up at some point.

  • His year I am having the kids write down things they would like to do so we can get to as many as we can. Lots of good tips.

  • Mariola says:

    When my girls (13 yr.old triplets) were younger and definitely into the ‘I’m bored’ routine (which would start about 2 hrs. after the last day of school) we created a ‘boredom jar’. I had them sit down and, on little slips of paper, write down every type of activity they could think of, i.e. read, play a board game, play hopscotch, etc. We kept the jar in the kitchen and if they complained they were bored they had to pick from the jar. They didn’t always want to do what was on the slip, but continuing to pick until they found something kept them busy!

  • Kristen says:

    My son loves a schedule and I’ve been wondering how that would work in the summer with a newborn expected in the next 3 weeks. I like the idea of a loose schedule (mornings inside, cook, clean, go play) and the themed days!! We’re going to try our best to organize our days and be productive… Despite the impending sleep deprivation of living with a newborn baby!!

  • heather says:

    I used Crystal’s downloadable daily schedule, customized for our mornings gardening before the heat and afternoons in the pool, and framed it to check off with a dry erase pen.

  • We use a daily routine as well as “Designated Days”. Each day has a focus, such as Wednesday-Library Day, Friday-Ice Cream Day, etc.

    It helps me stay organized and helps my children be more at peace because they know what to expect.

    If you’re interested I have an e-book on my site with lots of great ideas for Frugal Summer Fun with crafts, recipes, activity lists and more.

  • Andrea says:

    Don’t forget dentist appointments, annual physicals, etc in #1. If you have a big family, that will eat up a week.

  • Our “boredom” stash (which usually comes out when the kids are fighting) is in a binder of printouts from and other scout council’s special badges. Usually we can find something that’s fun, educational, and *I* get to control the mess!

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