IMG 4144I love getting forwarded those emails featuring long laundry lists of helpful hints and tips to try. I’m not naturally an organized person so I love getting other’s ideas. Some of us are born organized, others have organizational skills thrust upon us out of sheer necessity.  So here are a few helpful hints that have been “thrust upon me” that have really worked for us this summer. Hopefully they will help you too.

1.) A tisket, a tasket, five stackable baskets. We’ve been on the road a lot this summer and when we get to our destination, whether it be a hotel room or grandma’s spare bedroom, our MO before now has been to stand back and watch helplessly our duffle bags explode all over the room as the kids search for this and that. Trying to contain the mess is like trying to unscramble an egg.

But this summer, I bought a small, stackable laundry basket for each child to live out of on our trips. For the car, I pack us all up in one large duffle, stack the nesting baskets together and load the top one with all of our shoes. Then when we reach our destination, I sort their things into their respective baskets, and voila, no explosions. This has made cramped living quarters feel spacious.

2.) A “Sorry We’re Closed” sign for the television. It’s so much more authoritative and yet quieter than my saying, “Hey! I said the TV’s CLOSED!” You can pick one up at the grocery store for about $2-$3. Best investment ever.

3.) This one’s my husband’s tip: The fastest way to find your iPhone is to set a password on it! Brilliant. I can’t tell you how many times a day a child brings my phone to me to ask me to unlock it. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but since setting the password, I haven’t lost my phone once. (And that’s saying something.) Just don’t chose your birthday or something obvious–those kids can be sneaky. I went through three passwords before I stumped them.

4.) We love shaved ice, and we have a little shaved ice maker, but I hate the artificial syrups that come with it. Raspberries aren’t blue. And what flavor is Tiger’s blood exactly? Aren’t they endangered? So this summer we’re using thawed all natural juice concentrate poured into squeeze bottles. Much better.

5.) In order to enhance artistic creativity and save a little money, I bought large bottles of tempera paint in only 5 colors this summer: red, blue, yellow, white and black. I told my kids that any color in the world was possible using only those five colors and it seemed to awaken their inner artist. Painting the sky is fascinating when you can mix over 30 different shades of blue.

6.) App help. There are so many iPhone/iPad apps out there, it’s hard to know which ones are worth it. A few that we have loved this summer are Bank of Mom, Camera+, Akinator, and Grocery Pal.

In fact, helpful iPhone apps is a whole other topic worthy of a separate article. Comment below what apps are making life easier for you and we can review them later this summer.

Happy Summer!

Read more by Margaret Anderson at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com