Staying Organized Once School Lets Out

by Ramona Creel

Start Planning, Now

The only way to survive the warmer months of the year when you have kids is to be two steps ahead of the game — but you can go a long way toward guaranteeing a more enjoyable break for everyone if you are willing to a) plan ahead and b) draw some boundaries. Let's start with the planning first. Don't wait until the last bell rings before you plot out your schedule for the summer. Sit down together as a family and discuss all the activities that you want (and need) to fit in before classes start back — that includes out-of-town trips, incoming visitors, work projects, and kids' programs (at the library, the YMCA, the local community center.) Put in your vacation request at work early, and don't forget to factor in those long weekends like July Fourth or Labor Day. Then plot everything out on a calendar, and scan the horizon for time crunches and scheduling conflicts. Remember, compromise is the key to harmony in any family, so each person needs to be wiling to give a little to make the whole thing work.

However, even with advance planning, children will still run you ragged unless you set some limits. When unencumbered by classes and books and teachers' dirty looks, kids are hit with a sudden rush of freedom — they want to do anything and everything (usually all at the same time) to make the most of their days off. But it just may not be feasible for your child to take swim lessons, play in the summer baseball league, spend two weeks visiting relatives, AND participate in that really cool kid's science program at the university. It's up to you as the parent to keep this year's agenda under control — but let your child make the choice. Allow him to select maybe two weekly activities and one trip to take, making sure that nothing overlaps or conflicts. Remind your child that, if it won't fit in the schedule this time, he can always do it next year. You'll be helping him not only strengthen his decision-making muscle, but also start to decide what's really important and what he could live without (powerful skills to have at any age!)

And while you want your kids to enjoy their time off, there's no reason why children should be excused from a basic level of responsibility, just because they're out of school. I remember summer vacations, when I had the house to myself while my parents worked. When I had friends over, we might pull out the paint and clay and get creative. Or decide to splatter an elaborate picnic lunch all over the kitchen. Or rearrange the furniture to build a fort. Or even set up an obstacle course using lawn chairs and step ladders in the yard (it's a wonder I didn't break my neck before the age of 18!) There was just one rule. I could make any kind of mess I wanted during the day — as long as it was gone by the time my mom got home. Just because your kids have a huge chunk of time off, that doesn't mean that you do — nor are you required to spend your precious hours at home cleaning up after them (wouldn't you rather be enjoying their company and making memories, instead of sweeping and putting their toys away?) I'm all for kids having adventures during their summer breaks, but there's no reason they can't also be made responsible for picking up after themselves at the same time!

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.