By SARAH WELCH and ALICIA ROCKMORE - getbuttonedup.com
Summer is here. That means it's time for the slew of warm-weather toys, tools and sundries that have been stashed away for winter to come out of hiding and re-enter the regular rotation of "stuff" in your home. Before the season is in full swing, try setting up a few organizational stations to keep these items in check. Here are 10 easy ideas for keeping everything from flip-flops to swimwear and barbecue tools contained and at the ready.
Set up a bucket for flip-flops
Flip-flops are the designated shoes of summer in our households. The only problem is, they end up in big piles by the front door, the back door or in the kitchen. Find a large bin or tin bucket, label it with the words "Flip-Flops" with paint or a sticker and place it by the door most used by family members.
Organize ready-made activity bags
A lot of summer is spent on the run - to the pool, to the beach, to piano lessons, to your vacation destination. Knowing that, you can prepare yourself in advance. Pack a few small zippered activity bags (or plastic sandwich bags). One activity bag could have bug repellent and sunscreen, another goggles and swim caps.
Put grill wranglers in place
In our homes the center of the kitchen shifts outside, to the grill, during the summer. If you're not careful, scrub brushes, grill baskets and grill spatulas linger around outside in a jumble and other items get shoved in kitchen drawers that are often too small to properly contain them. Set up a tall tin bucket to hold grill tools or hang hooks that you can use to keep grill tools organized. In addition, if you have the space, use a metal sorter to organize larger items like pizza stones and cutting boards.
Make a bin for sunscreen/bug spray
Sunscreen and bug spray are hot commodities during the summer. But if you don't have an organizational plan for them, you will likely end up buying many more containers than you really need. Keep a bottle of each in a bag near the front door and another pair in the trunk of your car.
One big bag for swimwear, towels
There's nothing like a big canvas bag when it comes to swimsuits and pool gear. Keep a large one in your coat closet. Put all dry bathing suits in the bag so you don't have to go searching for them when you need them. In addition, keep two or three towels in there so you can just grab them and go when you're ready for a dip.
Organize your car trunk
Set up your car in advance to maximize the fun you have outdoors. Keep one or two folding chairs along with a canvas bin in the back. Inside the canvas bin keep a bottle of sunscreen and bug spray, a mesh bag with small sand toys, and a towel.
Create a bin for outside toys
Set up an outside-toy station in your garage or on your porch and encourage your children to put their toys away in that each evening when they are done playing with them. Sarah uses a giant 50-cent blue plastic tote bag from Ikea for her children's toys, and Alicia uses a mesh bag for her daughter's outdoor items.
Make a healthy-snack station
Help children make healthier choices by having a snack box organized on a refrigerator shelf that's at eye level for them. Keep cut fruits and veggies, cheese sticks, yogurt and maybe a small sandwich or two. Then let them know that whenever they are hungry, they can always grab something from the snack bin in the fridge.
Hang double-duty outdoor lighting
Before the hot weather really hits, invest in hanging candleholders designed for outdoor use, along with citronella tea-light candles.
Set up a potting table
If you have a garden or even just a bunch of potted plants, you should have at least a small potting table to organize your gardening tools and to serve as a staging area for plants. It doesn't have to be big to be effective. Just make sure it has either a small drawer or a lattice back to contain your tools and gloves and, ideally, has two shelves in addition to a main countertop for holding and organizing plant pots.