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Ready for the pool?

As I packed our bags to head to the pool with my family last weekend, I found myself both looking forward to our first swim of the season and dreading the next 12 weeks of packing and unpacking wet swimsuits, towels, goggles, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and hats – basically everything but the kitchen sink.

I’ve resolved to make getting to a pool less chaotic so the time is actually enjoyable for me, too. Whether you go swimming with your kids a lot or a little this summer, here are some tips to help simplify getting there and back.

•Make kids responsible for their things. In an attempt to give my children, 5 and 8, a sense of responsibility for their belongings, I’ve written checklists for each of them and put the lists inside their pool bags.

I want to put them in charge of packing and unpacking their swimsuits, extra clothes, goggles, towels and water bottles. I have labeled each of their items so they can easily find and identify them.

•Create centralized storage. I’ve put a large, waterproof bin in our mudroom that will hold all swimming-related gear, including swim bags, so my kids can easily pack their own bags before each visit to the pool. Upon our return, the goal is for them to empty their bags into the bins so I can quickly find everything that needs to be washed and no wet suits end up lying in the bottom of a laundry bin for a week. After everything is clean, I’ll put the items back in the bin immediately so they’re ready for next time.

•Cut down on packing and unpacking. My pool bag will contain all the miscellaneous things we’ll need for each outing, as well as a few “just-in-case” items. I’ll put a comb, Band-Aids, shampoo, tissues and sunscreen in one or two plastic bags and keep them in my tote throughout the summer. By putting everything in one place, I’ll know what needs to be replenished and I won’t need to continually pack and unpack.

•Cull sunscreen. I seem to have accumulated a dozen half-used bottles of sunscreen, which is fine because sunscreen is one thing I definitely don’t want to be without. But we don’t need to bring all 12 bottles to the pool each time. I have resolved to sort through the stash and toss the expired and nearly empty bottles, and carry only one or two bottles. (The Mayo Clinic advises: “Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. Some sunscreens include an expiration date to indicate when they’re no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date.”) I’ve written our last name on them so we can better keep track of them.

•Plan snacks in advance. Unfortunately, my kids are still at ages where I feel like we need to bring snacks on most of our outings. I am counting the days until this no longer seems necessary, but until then, it’s better for me to have a few healthful snacks with me. So, I’ve created a bin labeled “Swim Snacks” in our pantry and filled it with easy on-the-go snacks that I can grab and throw into my bag on the way out the door.

As an organizer, I strive to be prepared for any eventuality, but part of summer is realizing that it’s OK if you’re not. I’m hoping that my plan for getting out of the house more efficiently not only makes life less stressful for me but also gives my kids a sense of ownership and responsibility for their belongings. Check back with me in August to see if it worked!

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