I organize my life with bags. Cloth shopping bags, primarily.
I started doing this after having children. I would watch the other parents on the playgrounds and I noticed that they always seemed to have the stuff that they needed every time they went to the park.
I, on the other hand, had my usual “diaper bag” (really just a cloth shopping bag full of cloth diapers, blankets, and about 4 changes of clothing for my baby or toddler, along with reading material for myself), which was lacking all the usual snacks and drinks and such that all the other parents carried around with them everywhere.
This wasn’t a problem when my children were breastfeeding regularly, but eventually they weaned and then came the inevitable queries about what they could eat and where the water was.
At first I watched in awe as the other mothers at the park pulled out extra snacks and juice boxes for my children. Not only did they have enough for their own children, but for mine! This was absolutely amazing to me.
And then I began to think about how I could possibly manage this part of my life in an effective way.
So, I came up with the idea of pre-packed bags.
If it weren’t for those bags, my children would never get to go anywhere fun because I wouldn’t have the mental space to actually plan and go on the trip if I also needed to get everything together for every trip every single time we went somewhere.
My main plan of action, when going somewhere (especially for the first time), is to make sure that everything I will need is all together in a handy space where I won’t be likely to forget it.
For a very general example:
We store most of our shoes in the car. We don’t often wear them anyhow (I have a partially written post with more about that!), so it only makes sense to keep them where we’re most likely to need them. There’s no way for us to forget shoes if we end up needing to pick something up at the store, as long as the shoes are in the car when we leave the house, which is inevitable if the shoes are just always in the car.
So, it’s a similar strategy with the bags. I put everything we might need – including vital things that I’m extremely unlikely to forget – for an activity such as going to the beach, in a bag. Then, every time we go to the beach, we have goggles, sunscreen, the life jacket floaty thing for the youngest who can’t swim yet, and so on, without me having to try and remember everything every single time.
In order to not forget the bag, I make sure to put the swimsuits and towels back in the bag after they’re washed and dried. They don’t ever go into my children’s rooms or my room, if I can at all help it. Straight into the wash when we get home, hang dry, and back into the beach bag.
We are never going to forget to change into the swimsuits before going to the beach if we’re leaving straight from home. We don’t change at the beach. I literally cannot forget the bag if we’re leaving directly from home and going straight to the beach because I have to pull it out to get the swimsuits and the children will remind me if we don’t have the towels in the car.
If we’re going on a longer trip that will involve a trip to a pool or beach then I can just grab the whole swim bag as part of my packing up for the entire trip.
I have different bags all packed for going to the park, the gym, swimming, snacks, crafts, and my personal bag with books and notebooks that I can just throw my computer into as I run out the door (the mental picture that brings up is quite amusing to me).
I figure that it only makes sense to store those things in very accessible and usable ways so that we can get to the places we’re going with all the things we need without much fuss at all. Otherwise, what’s the point in even having the things?
Since I’ve started doing this, we’ve still forgotten a few things here and there, of course. It’s not a perfect solution by any stretch, but it helps me keep track of what we bring and where and it’s prevented me from forgetting anything truly vital that would result in everyone being hungry, thirsty, and miserable for long periods of time.
Basically, it works very well most of the time and that’s a good thing 🙂