Photo: Pixabay

We’re in the final countdown until the end of the school year in my house. I’m relishing in my final few weeks of having an empty house before summer has descended upon us and my kids have physically fused with the sofa cushions and attacked the pantry with the force of a termite colony in a lumber yard.

After doing this “stay at home mom” gig for several years now, (with <admittedly> varying degrees of success) I’ve found that there are 5 key areas of our house that sustain our summer lifest‌yle much better if I do some quick decluttering and organizing before we’re in the thick of the summer season.

The Guest Room: We live in a “tourist town” with a lovely river that people travel from all over the country to tube down, one of the biggest water parks in the world, as well as easy access to several of Texas’ most entertaining nearby cities. As you can imagine, we get lots of overnight guests–and we wouldn’t have it any other way. As a result, before summer, I like to get our guest room decluttered and guest-ready so that we’re always ready to host at the drop of a hat (or flip flop). This involves cleaning out the closet so that guests have a place to hang clothes and store luggage. It also means doing a thorough cleaning of the room and bathroom so that we can host at a moment’s notice.

The Pantry: During the school year, our pantry serves to assist me in my meal planning and preparation, but for summer I do less meal planning (hot dogs by the pool!) and let the kids serve themselves. So, I like to clean out the pantry, take an inventory of what we have and what we’ll need and rearrange a bit to make sure that the kids have easy access to quick snacks as we’re running out the door for day camp or after a long day at the pool. This also involves stocking up on easy “serve-yourself” breakfast options, in the hopes that I get to sleep in every once in awhile.

The Laundry Room: Our laundry room houses more than just the washer and dryer. Our laundry room also serves as a mudroom, so that’s where we keep our shoes, socks, backpacks and reusable shopping bags (among other things). It’s essentially the final stopping off place before we leave the house and the first place we dump our stuff when we return home. Our laundry room sees more action than any other room in our house (our master bedroom is insanely jealous). For the summer months, I keep a giant bag that I have packed with our swimming essentials in our laundry room for trips to our neighborhood pool or river. Our pool bag contains the kid’s swimming accessories (goggles, sunscreen, toys) and snacks. This time of the year is a great time to shift the layout of the laundry room from “getting out the door quickly for school” to “getting out the door quickly to meet friends at the pool.” The backpacks go away and the pool bag takes their place. I also add a basket of beach towels to the laundry room and have everyone grab their own towel before leaving the house. Having a pre-packed pool bag and clean towels at the ready sometimes means the difference between scoring a coveted lounge chair on the shady side of the pool and not.

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The Kid’s Dressers: With the end of the school year and the change in temperature, my kids’ day-to-day uniforms change as well. I’ve found that just before summer begins is a great time to take inventory of what fits and what doesn’t; what school clothes can be used again for the next school year and which ones are done. I also use this time to inventory the kids’ swimsuits and start thinking about travel clothes that they might need prior to summer vacations that we have planned. Making a quick run to the store to pick up clothing staples for summer can be much easier without my opinionated children in tow. So, I often like to get their dressers cleaned out and organized before school is out.

The Craft Cabinet: We have a craft cabinet in our family room that houses all of our markers, crayons, construction paper and glue. During the school year, the craft cabinet also houses school supplies, workbooks and spiral notebooks used for reading logs and journals. Once the school year has ended, I like to morph our craft cabinet from a school supply storage area to a creative and whimsical place to let the kids’ artistic sides shine. When I hear the dreaded “I’m boooooored” complaint, I can send the kids directly to the craft cabinet, where they’ll find coloring and origami books and even such things as Mad Libs and crossword puzzles to pass the time and keep their brains engaged.

We love the pace of summer: No alarm clocks, long afternoons at the pool with friends and sandwiches for dinner with nary a concern for tomorrow. And there’s certainly something to be said for throwing all of your cares to the wind for the summer and letting go of hard-and-fast schedules and cleaning routines. For my family, starting the summer with a few habits in place and organized spaces, eases my anxiety and facilitates last-minute adventures that we remember and talk about all year.