For those of us still basking in the glow of last week’s Mother’s Day celebrations, our attention turns this week to the ticking clock. No, not our biological clocks (not mine, anyway), but that countdown marking the end of school. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, the start of summer break throws me a curve ball which requires some transition time before I find my equilibrium. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children and enjoy the reprieve from our school week fire drill maneuvers that have us racing from bed to shower to car with lightening speed, but as this mom contemplates those first couple of weeks post-school, I’m filled with the same kind of excited, anxious dread I felt riding Space Mountain at Disney World for the first time. I’m strapped into my seat, eyes closed, heart pounding, clack-clack-clacking my way toward the crest of the big hill anticipating a spectacular, rushing drop that’s about to momentarily turn my world upside down. (Anybody with me here?)
I know I’m not the only one bracing for the impact of my August-to-May routine coming to a screeching halt. (Pass the Rolaids and the whiskey, please, and not necessarily in that order.) Everyone I see at the grocery or the gym asks the same questions, “How long before they’re out? Are you ready?” And sure, we’re all smiling, exchanging pleasantries about this camp or that beach trip, but behind those smiles, there’s a wide-eyed glint of terror as we fast-forward to Day Four of too much television, mildewing bathing suits draped over banisters and Gold Fish cracker crumbs perma-glued to the floor with yesterday’s drippy Popsicle. Don’t even get me started on the detritus left behind from yet another art project gone awry and left in shambles on the counter, or the carnage in the den from a late-night X-box gaming and snack marathon. (Are you feeling lightheaded yet?)
Have no fear. Thanks to my friends in the organizing biz, I have some great tips to share to help combat the creeping crazies we all feel at the outset of what’s supposed to be a vacation. (I know. We’re all laughing at the absurdity of that misnomer.) Here’s what Martha Hayworth and Devereux Pollock of Clutter Cleaners suggest to stay organized and de-cluttered this summer:
For the Pool:
Purchase a large tote, preferably with your name or initials on it so your kids will know which bag is yours. Inside the tote, place gallon-sized, labeled zip baggies for each of the following: sunscreen, goggles and earplugs, and your cell phone. After a day at the pool, put everything back in the appropriately labeled baggies, along with clean towels. Voila! You’re ready for the pool tomorrow.
For the Car:
Keep a small travel trash can in your car that can be emptied either at home or at the gas station – perfect to prevent the little candy wrappers from getting lodged between the seats.
Put pool toys and sports equipment in a plastic bin or crate to keep them from rolling around in your car. Crates are especially easy to carry to and from the pool area.
For the House:
If you have a mud room, only keep what is seasonal in the room. Ice hockey skates and football pads, unless going to camp, need to be in a box in the attic, basement or closet.
If you do not have a mud room, a bin by the door is great for storing all shoes. No more searching the house for the one lost croc!
To prevent laundry build-up, procure a laundry basket for each child and label it with their name. Give them the responsibility of putting away clean clothes. It is never too early to teach them this important task.
If you are traveling by car, one way to pack the kids is in plastic bins. No more cumbersome duffel bags! In a clear plastic bin, clothes lie flat, they stack easily in the car, they are see-through, and you can live out of them when you arrive at your destination instead of having to unpack. Also, keep travel toys and games in separate tote bags for each child.
End-of-the-year artwork and papers:
If possible, try to pick out the “best” pieces and toss the rest. With great-looking, inexpensive frames from Michael’s, displaying these treasures in playrooms, home offices or bedrooms is easy. Art that needs to be saved can be placed in labeled plastic bins.
Label everything. We have found Sharpies really do work the best. Also, leave one pad of paper out for all in the family to jot down items that they need (i.e. toothpaste, soap) along with a grocery list. This will prevent you from shopping everyday for that one item that your child needs.
Local stores we love for great storage items:
Target, Pier One, World Market, and Costco.
Thanks, girls. I feel much better! And for those of you out there who want expert help conquering the chaos at home, contact Martha and Devereux at email@example.com.