A Summer of Simplicity

There are exactly eight days of school left for my girls, meaning summer vacation is at the door. And I'm as ready as they are! When school starts in the fall, it always feels like I'm sitting at the high point on a roller coaster, looking ahead with excitement and anticipation of the "rush" to follow. And then, weee... off we go twisting, turning, speeding, exhilarating, right through the winter holidays and into a new year. A deep breath - a momentary pause - and then we're off again, climbing to another peak, followed by another thrilling ride through the unknown. Until finally, we come to a stop as spring fades away. As we step off the ride, dizzy and invigorated, we look back and exclaim "what fun!" But before we "go again," we must take a little break and get re-centered. This, to me, is summer.
I have an overwhelming desire to simplify this summer. I mean everything. It seems, over the course of the school year, things got complicated. Schedules began to overflow, along with dresser drawers and toy bins. Mealtimes got sticky and household responsibilities got loose. I feel like I'm drowning in things, commitments, and a general business that I typically try to avoid. This is not new...  I've been in this place before, and thankfully I have a few tools to help. This morning, I pulled a couple of tried and true favorites off the bookshelf and began to make a plan to simplify our summer rhythm.

In case you're feeling the same way, I thought I'd share my thoughts...
 1. Make a Clean Sweep. Over the next two weeks, I'll be doing a clean sweep of the common areas in our house, decluttering, cleaning, and organizing the space we'll be sharing and spending so much time in this summer. I plan to (loosely) follow the "Ten Days to a Simpler, More Organized Home" plan offered by Tsh Oxenreider in Organized Simplicity. My focus will be on decluttering and organizing (over cleaning), with thoughts toward making every living space functional for everybody. The main goals: less stuff to clutter up our space, increased capacity for enjoyment of the things that matter.

2. Pare Down the Toys. In Simplicity Parenting, author Kim John Payne suggests imagining all your kid's toys (including those that gather in the bathtub, the car, deep in drawers, and at the bottom of bins) in a big heap in the center of their room. "The pile needs to be halved, and halved again, and perhaps again," he suggests. Before school lets out next week and while the girls are still away, I'll be doing this, sorting their toys into those to be discarded or donated, those to be stored for rotational play, and those that will remain out in a simple, organized manner. The main goals: less stuff to clutter up their rooms, and increased capacity for deep play.

3. Organize the Clothes. All of our closets need attention. Winter clothes are still out, mixed in with outgrown or worn out items, school uniforms, and now, summer play clothes. I'll be sorting through the piles over the next two weeks, making it easy for my gals (and me) to access what we need this summer. This is also a good time to take stock of what will need to be replaced in the fall, so I can start making purchases now, spreading out the "back to school" expenses over a few months vs. a few weeks in August. The main goals: streamlined laundry, and ease of daily routines.

4. Simplify Schedules. The girls aren't scheduled for anything this summer. Not a class, not a camp, not a trip. Nothing. Instead, we'll be participating in my At-Home Summer Nature Camp, enjoying backyard nature fun, crafts, kitchen projects, and close-to-home field trips at our own pace. We're all excited to play with friends, lounge in the pool, and simply go and do however we please. Ahhh... The main goals: to relax and create space for what feels good.

5. Set Screentime Boundaries & Limits. Now that my girls are a bit older, I have a suspicion that this will be our fist summer dealing with the issue of  "screen time." We're a screen-free house during the school week, with the exception of some computer-based homework, and allow limited time on the weekends. But the requests have increased, and so I'll be setting time limits and selection boundaries from the get-go to avoid battles this summer. (In the nature camp eCurriculum, Valarie of Jump Into a Book offers educational web and video suggestions for most of the themes - along with book ideas - and we'll be taking advantage of those for sure!) The main goals: to encourage outdoor, active and imaginative play, and to teach age-appropriate media use.

6. Streamline Chores & Responsibilities. This will be the summer of our first working chore chart (I hope!). I haven't figured it all out yet, but I'll be posting a weekly responsibilities list tied to monetary compensation. Everyone will have a hand in keeping our rooms tidy, caring for our pets, prepping for and cleaning up after our meals, and keeping up with the laundry. For me, this includes making supplies more accessible to the kids. The main goals: take the load off of just one person (me!), and to strengthen the kids' sense of responsibility & belonging.

7. Create Time & Space for Downtime. I have visions of a daily siesta occurring in our nest. A one hour break, at the same time every day, for reading a book, daydreaming, napping, playing quietly, or doing handiwork. It's ambitious for my energetic crew, and we've tried it before (unsuccessfully), but this summer, I'm going to try and set it up right. I'm dreaming up a corner in each girls' room, as well as our den, that will be outfitted for our daily siestas. In each area, there will be pillows, books, notebooks & pencils, and other items at-the-ready for quiet time. (Look for a post on these spaces to come soon!) The main goals: daily quiet time to help me keep my sanity, and increased understanding and appreciation of unstructured time, spent alone.

8. Set a Summer Dinner Rhythm. I'm all about routines, so even in the summer, we continue with set bedtimes and family meals. To make planning, shopping for, and preparing meals easier this summer, I'm reinstating the weekly meal plan we fell off of somewhere during the course of the school year. Monday - soup/salad/sandwich; Tuesday - chicken; Wednesday - breakfast for dinner; Thurs. - fish/seafood; and Friday - pizza. The variations on these set themes are wide, as chicken night may mean burritos, or roasted chicken & veggies, or barbecue on the grill, etc. On the weekends, we'll remain flexible. The main goals: take the stress out of "what's for dinner," and simplify food shopping.

So that's where I'm at for now, and I'll keep you posted on how it goes. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your ideas on simplifying for summer. Please add your tips in the comments below!


Rachel G said...

No tips - yet - but thank you for the inspiration! We're coming up to a week-long half-term holiday, then 6 more weeks of school until breaking up for the summer. I've ordered the 2 books in your post - can't wait to read them as they seem to be EXACTLY what we need. How well I know that feeling of only just keeping our heads above water...

Liz ~ A Natural Nester said...

Rachel, I'm so glad this was helpful to you. Simplicity Parenting is a MUST HAVE, in my opinion, for parents! It has been a major influence on me as a parent... let me know how you like it. And in Organized Simplicty, you must do the "family mission statement" - it might change your world. xoxo

Debi said...

Love the idea of making each night of the week a themed one when it comes to meal planning. I plan meals now, but making this one small switch could keep things a lot more fresh & interesting - and easier to plan.