Does anyone else struggle with leaving the house in a timely fashion? This is a phenomenon that hits new parents as soon as they try to take their newborn to the mall for the first time. When once upon a time you could throw on your shoes, grab your keys and breeze out the door, it now takes you at least 20 minutes to make it from shoes to car, and that’s on a good day when nobody poops as soon as you strap them into a car seat.
I have three kids, ages 9, 6, and 3. In many ways, it’s gotten easier to leave the house. But one of the biggest obstacles I still face is being “packed” for the occasion. My days of diaper bags and bottles and bibs are behind me, but gathering all the necessary gear for an outing is still as hard as ever. My kids require different gear now, but they still require a lot of it.
And now that it’s summer, we have an outing of some kind almost every day. It is so cumbersome to constantly be packing and repacking the tote bag! I was at my wit’s end trying to get out the door for the park and running around the house wondering where the sunscreen was.
So I recently came up with a system — a totally real, totally practical, totally unglamorous system - to keep my sanity for summer outings. Instead of reusing the same tote bag for every outing, I now have four large separate bags. (It was hard but necessary for this wannabe minimalist who only wants to own one tote bag.)
I now have three individual totes packed and ready for our most frequent outings: Pool, park, and baseball. Then I have a 4th bag that has snacks and extra clothes. When we leave, we just grab one of the pre-packed bags, depending on where we’re going. The 4th bag comes with us every time. I have these bags labeled and sitting in the middle of our kitchen, where they are accessible and easy to help pack and grab for anyone in the family. I keep them perpetually ready to go.
For instance, when we get home from the pool, the towels and wet swimsuits from the pool bag go immediately to the washer/ dryer. The bag is returned to its spot in the kitchen. The other pool gear stays in the bag. When the towels are dry, they are immediately folded and put back in the bag. The bag is then ready to go for our next pool trip.
To give you an idea, here are the contents of each:
Big League Chew
1 t-shirt, 1 pair shorts, 1 extra undies for each child
1 water bottle per family member
Non-meltable non-refrigerated snacks
Every time we come home, the bag is immediately cleaned out, re-packed for the next outing, and returned to its spot. This has been wonderful! I absolutely love the ease of grabbing a bag when it’s time to go. Even though it still takes too long-no one ever knows where their shoes are-it’s progress. Of course someday I’d love to have a spot in the mudroom for this system, complete with coordinating tote bags, but for now, a few mismatched bags on the kitchen floor is well worth the savings in sanity.