How to simplify summer frustrations
Parenting & Family,  Simplify & Slow Down

How to Simplify Summer Frustrations

Summer brings a natural change in season and routines. The weather change means swapping our jackets for swimsuits, and boots for flip-flops. School is over but we take on pool days, summer camp, and endless days in the sun. Sweaty sunscreen days turn into firefly bonfire evenings of pure magic. 

Among all the changes come frustrations and re-learning. Where do wet bathing suits go again? Do we really have to stop and come inside to eat? Why am I kicking flip-flops all over the floor? We’re out of snacks again???

So let’s talk about simplification with respect to these frustrations. I naturally use some Lazy Genius principles to tackle these issues. If you’re not familiar with The Lazy Genius Way, you need to be. (I talk about it in my Top 5 Parenting books here, even though it’s not a parenting book haha)

Summer Frustrations: Meals 

I hate cooking in the summer. I hate all the times we have to stop our play or come home from the park just for me to scramble together food and get it on the table. I don’t want to fight to get my kids to eat when we could be enjoying our summer days. But mostly, I don’t want to think. I don’t want meals and snacks to take up valuable real estate in my brain right now.  

So I simplified.

I have 5 summer meal guidelines that help me with summer frustrations:

  1. We all eat the same breakfast. During the school year, I got into the habit of catering to all the different preferences. Oliver wants peanut butter toast, Luna wants only jelly, and Esmi wants peanut butter AND jelly. Ok, coming up!

    Even though this seems simple, it’s still 3 different breakfast orders that I have to think about and execute. Then I always end up hearing, “Wait, I want jelly, too!” And I lose it.

    So, this summer we are implementing a rule that everyone eats the same thing. I will always make a breakfast that everyone likes, but it’s all going to be the same.

    For me, too! How often do I make a meal for the kids and a separate meal for myself? Not anymore. One thing. Done. 
  2. Our packed lunches are always the same. Along the same lines as breakfast, simplifying what is in our packed lunches means less decision fatigue for me.

    I always have to buy the same items at the grocery store, the kids know what to expect, and there are fewer food fights. This summer, every time we pack a lunch for summer camp, the kids are getting a sandwich, chips or crackers, and fruit. Done. 
  3. The first snack of the day is fruit time. I don’t know what it is about summer, but the kids need snacks constantly. And I am NOT a snack machine.

    Well, actually, I do know what it is about summer. Lack of a fixed schedule (like school) and naturally lower awareness of time means constant snacking. I’m not doing that.

    Our morning snack time happens around 9:30/10:00 am and will be fruit. I read a book once that in Scandinavian countries schools always have “fruit time” as their morning snack. We did this last summer and it worked well. I’m bringing it back! Done. 
  4. The second snack time is a snack platter. Our afternoon snack is something my kids always look forward to – a snack platter! This is where I just take a bunch of snack-like foods out of the pantry and fridge and pile them all on a big platter.

    Everyone can choose what they want and there is rarely a time when they don’t devour the entire thing. It’s also a great way to use up random tiny servings of things. It’s always a surprise when there’s the last ½ cup of lucky charms thrown in with pretzels and carrot sticks. This is the magic of the snack platter. Done.
  5. There are always popsicles. This is a fun one. My husband loves to make popsicles. Our house is always obnoxiously stocked with produce over the summer because everything is in season! So homemade popsicles have become a yearly thing.

    We bought several types of popsicle molds over the years and have a good rotation of homemade popsicles made from fresh fruit. The kids love them and we feel good about not overloading them with sugar and artificial ingredients. Done.

I have a bonus rule this summer that has to do with meals. We all rinse our dishes and put them in the dishwasher. This is a skill I’ve been wanting to teach my children for a while, and summer seems like a good time to implement it. They’ve been taught to take their plates or bowls to the sink and wash their hands and faces after meals from a very young age. Now it’s time they learn how to load the dishwasher, too. After every indoor meal, I stand with them while they rinse their dishes and load them up. It’s been two weeks of this and they all seem to still be into it. They like learning new things!

Summer Frustrations: In & Out the Door

Another group of summer frustrations has to do with leaving and returning, or “in and out the door.” This includes things like having sunscreen or bug spray ready, knowing where the kids’ summer camp stuff is at all times, and dealing with the never-ending problem of tiny-human socks.  

I’ve broken these down into two categories: Stations and Checklists. 

Stations

Summer camp station

Our summer camp station is something that I’ve been meaning to do since winter/spring to have a place where backpacks live and where the kids can get ready and go or unpack and transition home. I didn’t get to it in time for the school year, but it is now our “summer camp station” and is getting some use.  

We have a spot in our foyer where I’ve been rotating through furniture, unsure of what to put there. We had an extra four-squared IKEA shelving unit that fits perfectly there. Each kid has their own cubby and the fourth is housing my work bag and park bag.  

In their cubby, they keep their backpack, lunch box, and water shoes. I also hung some clear command hooks next to the shelving unit so they each have a place for their wet camp towels to dry. We have more room for them to get ready in that foyer area than in the basement garage entrance which is usually the home base.  

I’ve also put a large basket on top of the shelves for anything that is “outgoing” like Amazon packages that need to be returned, Tupperware to give back to my in-laws, or any item I need to grab on my way out of the house. 

Back door station 

We have another transitory issue in our house when going and coming through the back door. There’s no room for any sort of storage or console table inside and I find it difficult to contain almost anything once it’s outside.  

I put a large plastic three-drawer storage organizer as a catch-all station. This houses backyard shoes, chalk, bubbles, zip ties, extra paper, markers, etc. It’s a giant junk drawer for everything we need at a moment’s notice on the porch or in the backyard.  

I also put a basket on top for the most-grabbed items: sunscreen, sunglasses, and goggles. The kids rarely clean up this station, but use it every day. It takes 10 seconds to throw everything in drawers or a basket and make our porch look just a little bit tidier.  

Park bag

I mentioned my park back when talking about our summer camp station/cubbies. The park bag is my small, lightweight hiking day back that I keep packed for the park. It’s very simple. It has a first aid kit, a mini sunscreen bottle, and wipes. When we’re walking out the door I’ll throw in snacks, a water bottle, and my Kindle. All set for a morning at the park and I don’t have to think about it!

Sock basket by the garage door

Yes… a sock basket. One of my biggest frustrations of summer is a very small thing: children’s socks.  

This was a day in the life before the sock basket:

Get ready for the park. Kids come downstairs to leave and I say, “Gym shoes only – we’re going to a wood chip park.” So all the kids grumble back upstairs to get socks. We go and have fun.

Upon arriving back home, the kids put their shoes back into the shoe basket (which I’ve been training them to do for Y.E.A.R.S., btw) and then run upstairs.

Some of them rip off their socks and throw them in the playroom. Some make it upstairs before tearing them off and throwing them God knows where.

I find myself yelling, “Whose socks are these?” 8 different times a day. I find socks outside in the grass from either children or my dog picking them up. My dog also greets us at the door with 1-3 socks in her mouth at any given time.

I feel like Miss Hannigan from Annie singing “Little Girls” surrounded by small human socks everywhere!!

This is my life after the sock basket:

Get ready for the park. Kids come downstairs to leave and I say, “Gym shoes only – we’re going to a wood chip park.” So all the kids walk over to the sock basket located directly above the shoe basket. They pick out their socks and put on their shoes. We’re out the door in under a minute.

When we come home, I remind them, “Shoes in the yellow basket, socks in the sock basket.” They all put their shoes away and then take off their socks right at that moment and put them inside a basket specifically for their socks!

The best part? The sock basket is 2 steps away from the laundry room. So I can just scoop the basket up and throw the contents in the laundry. On my way out with clean clothes, I can plop some clean ones in the sock basket. No more picking up tiny-human socks all over the house or finding them in my dog’s mouth!  

IT’S A MIRACLE!!!

Yes, I’m this dramatic. 

If it’s not clear from this brief account, my kids are not sock wearers. They prefer to be without socks or shoes at all times. Thus, the difficulty in keeping socks on feet and off of floors.

Checklists

Now, I’ve already shared with you my mealtime checklist which is still very much in effect in our household. If you missed that post, you can find it here: 

How to Make Mealtimes Easier with Kids

I also have some checklists for the summer months.  

Out the back door 

On the way out the door, the kids must ALWAYS grab their water bottle – and make sure it’s full – and use the bathroom. No excuses.  

Side note

(We also keep an “outside potty” which is a true testament to how my kids spend their time in the summer. I thought we had graduated from the outside potty this year and my kids, being older, could stop their play to come inside. Then we found out Esmi was squatting under their slide to pee so we resurrected the outside potty.)

Wash and clean on the way in

As soon as the kids come inside, they head straight for the bathroom to wash up. Whether they were digging in the dirt, doing chalk, or eating popsicles, they are always very dirty upon coming inside.  

When I saw the mess they were leaving in the stark white bathroom sink, I was horrified. Drips of brown dirt everywhere and all sorts of colors of chalk run-off. So I made a new house rule. If you dirty the sink, you clean it. They needed tools for this so I grabbed some old washcloths and piled them in their bathroom organizer. Now they have access to their own rags to wipe down the sink when they’re done. They even have hooks to hang the dirty washcloths on to dry. All better!

How to simplify summer frustrations

Identifying and simplifying your summer frustrations

Okay so all of this is well and good but how did I come to all these conclusions and processes? Where did they come from? How did I identify my frustrations and come to simple solutions? Using a few Lazy Genius principles, of course!

First of all, I started writing down my daily frustrations and annoyances in my notes app on my phone whenever one would pop up. After a few days of this, I read through my list to see if there were any patterns or anything I could group together. Of course, there were. 

What next? 

Use some Lazy Genius principles to help you simplify and ease summer frustrations. Make sure you check out the Lazy Genius Collective because Kendra is seriously the best.  

View The Lazy Genius Way on Amazon

Name what matters. What was most important to me in each situation? For meals, without a doubt, it was not having to think about anything. Not having decision fatigue is a huge priority for me. For the sock situation, it was not having to see socks on the floor or couch in every room of my house.  

Although “name what matters” is not its own principle in The Lazy Genius Way, it comes from the principle “go in the right order.” The first step to solving any problem is to always identify what matters most to you and your family. 

Decide Once. For some of these situations, the relief of deciding once was all I needed to take the pressure off. An example of “decide once” would be that a morning snack is always fruit time and an afternoon snack is always a snack platter. 

Set house rules. This is such an amazing principle and really takes the pressure off of me as the enforcer. Think of this as a sweeping declaration that encompasses everyone in the household.

My house rules include everyone loading the dishwasher themselves after meals, cleaning the sink when it’s dirty, keeping summer camp items in the summer camp station, and, of course, the miraculous sock basket. 

There are several other Lazy Genius Principles that go hand-in-hand with these solutions. Build the right routines and Put everything in its place are two big overlaps in my solutions.  

And, of course, you can’t forget the biggest theme of this post: Live in the Season! Do I need a summer camp station in the winter? No, it will morph into a school station. Will I need the sock basket once school starts? I don’t know yet. But right now, these are the things that matter to me in this season. 

What are your summer frustrations? Simplify them and spend more time enjoying your summer! Let me know in the comments.    

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Do you need help with support, scheduling, or keeping your kids busy this summer? Are you afraid of the dreaded summer learning loss? Check out my ebook, Summer Survival Guide for Parents!

Summer Survival Guide for Parents

More from my Summer Series: 


How to Slow Down with a 5-Finger Affirmation Practice
How to Simplify in 10 Minutes or Less  
How to Simplify Kids’ Wardrobes with 5 Questions
Declutter These 10 Toys Now
How to Take a Siesta: Implementing Rest Time this Summer

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