The countdown is on, and if your kids are like mine, they’re anxiously anticipating the less-scheduled liberty of summertime. But are you prepped and ready for all of those trips to the pool and park? Not to mention camps, vacations, childcare if you’re working outside the home…sometimes it seems like it would be less exhausting if the kids just stayed in school! However, if you take some simple steps to organize your time, supplies, and mindset, summer with the kids should be a breeze. Following are five key ways to stay on top of the dog days without cramping your summer freedom.

1. Clear those backpacks

summer family organization sara skillen professional organizerThe minute they come home. The last week of school always seems to bring a frenzied onslaught of teachers clearing the clutter from their rooms (and who can blame them?). Extra markers, notebooks, artwork, pencils, and workbooks all seem to make their way into the smallest pockets and crevices of the backpack. One year my son came home with 7 – yes, 7 – pairs of barely-used scissors (he was very proud to have “saved” them). On that very last day, resist the temptation to throw everything into the closet until August. Open it all up, spread out the contents, and separate old paperwork (pitch most of it) from art and projects (keep only the best). Decide what supplies can be reused or re-purposed, and plan a trip to donate the rest. This process is also a golden opportunity to teach the kids about sorting through clutter and excess. Wash the backpacks, and lunchboxes too, while you’re at it. This link will show you how.

2. Get the calendar and clock under control

I get it – they’re going to want to sleep in the first few days. That’s fine, but avoid the trap of letting the whole season run by with no schedule. Just because it’s summer does not mean time management disappears. Whether you like to keep the kids busy with camps and classes, or prefer a more laid back, barefoot-in-the-backyard approach, creating a consistent routine will keep everyone on a more even keel. With elementary and middle school kids, have them start setting a regular alarm (sure, it can be a little later) and having breakfast at a set time. If they’re not involved in an activity, set times with them for chores, summer reading or other work, play dates, screen time, and outdoor activities. If they are going to camps, make sure all dates, times, and locations are on a family calendar, and teach them to check it regularly.

3. Create some “grab and go” bags

How many seconds does it take for your kids to find their goggles, swimsuits, towels, and sunscreen before you head to the pool? Forget that…how long does it take YOU to find your goggles, swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen?? Having some lightweight drawstring bags or smaller backpacks pre-packed and ready to go for summer activities can save tons of time and stress. Some ideas for bags: pool bag (with the aforementioned supplies), playground bag (with sunscreen, band-aids and wipes, tissues, snacks, and hats), camp or childcare bag (with whatever their requirements are), and my favorite: the “long car ride bag” (with books, puzzles, car games, pillow, and whatever else they might need to support their patience on the trip). Don’t forget to check the bags when you come home, and restock as necessary.

4. Plan some family organizing time

You know they’re going to say it. You know that at some point one of your darlings is going to sidle up to you and sigh, “There’s nothing to do.” In my playbook, that’s the perfect opportunity to suggest clearing out outgrown clothing, toys that no longer serve, books below reading level, and games no one ever plays. Don’t forget to check out under the bed, and in the back of their closet – you may find some forgotten things tucked away that now seem new. Remember that their patience for the project will not be as long as yours, so don’t bite off more than they can chew (maybe tackle just the toy bin or bookshelf as opposed to the whole room). Once you’ve gone through and selected items for giving away, plan a trip to your local charity with them to take the items so they develop an understanding of where and how donations are used. With the newly-created space, set up a system for maintenance that allows them to effortlessly reach and put away the things they need and love.

5. Look ahead to the next school year

I may be unusual in that I check the next year’s school calendar as soon as it comes out, and I immediately put the dates for the fall semester in my calendar. It just gives me peace of mind. While you don’t have to plan quite that far ahead, knowing key dates for the fall will allow you to better plan for any extracurricular activities, as well as holidays, potential vacations and family visits. I also recommend setting a date on the calendar for school supply and clothing shopping. Some people like to coordinate that with the tax-free weekend (for 2017, it’s 12:01 am July 28 through 11:59 pm July 30), some prefer to choose a day with fewer crowds, and some do it online via the comfort of their couch! Regardless, be sure to assess what you might already have (remember that backpack cleanout?) and set your budget.

So what are you waiting for? There are just a few weeks left, but it’s still plenty of time to plan and prep for a relaxed, organized season of sun. I hope you all enjoy the best summer yet with your kids!

Visit my website for more home organizing tips so you can enjoy a stress-free summer!

summer family organizationSara Skillen is the owner of SkillSet Organizing based in Franklin, TN. Her mission is to help busy people from all walks of life manage their stuff, their time, and their technology. An active blogger and speaker, her tips and ideas have been featured in Fast Company, Angie’s List Experts, and NOU Magazine, as well as her own blog “Sorting Through the Haystack”. Sara is an Evernote Certified Consultant and became a Certified Professional Organizer® in 2015.