Between heading to the gym every morning, swim lessons every afternoon, and squeezing in errands, playdates and nap time in between, our summer days have been flying by so far. But…it took about two days into our summer routine for me to grow weary of packing and re-packing bags for each outing. I was constantly shuffling things between the diaper bag, gym bag, and pool bag…and more often than not, finding myself without certain necessities over and over again. The sunscreen would be in the pool bag, which we didn’t bring to the playground. I remembered to put diapers in the pool bag, but didn’t throw in a change of cloths (making that blow out really fun to deal with!). And shlepping both the diaper bag and my workout/shower essentials to the gym every morning got old really fast. Can we just say #baglady! I could have stocked each of the three bags with triplicates of the necessities, but that felt a bit excessive. What I really needed was a “kit” that could be moved from bag to bag to bag, grabbed quickly as we are heading out the door, and contained the few random things we needed at every stop. Enter my Summer Essentials Tote…and it’s totally saving my sanity this summer! Read on if you’re suffering from the too-many-bags-never-the-right-stuff problem too!
So here is my Summer Essentials Tote!
When I fist conceived this idea, I was going to DIY cute little pouches and use heat-transfer-vinyl to label them and it was going to be this adorable little project. Then I remembered 1) I have no time because both boys are home all day, and 2) I bought this super cute toiletry kit back when I was buying my diaper bag because it matched and was on super sale. After some trying it out, I quickly determined that although not DIYd or super custom, it was actually the perfect size and shape to hold exactly what I needed!
*affiliate linkes used
(The exact one I bought is no longer available on the Vera Bradley site, but you can find it here. However, this one is a better price point direct from VB…the pattern is just different. Also, these look like they could also work great for a similar purpose!)
There are a few things I love about this particular tote. First, it’s see-through; so I can quickly see what’s in it (or more importantly, what’s not). Second, it is sturdy enough to be carried alone but small enough that it can easily fit into the diaper bag, pool bag, or gym bag without issue. Finally, it’s the perfect size for Henry. He calls it his “briefcase” and is in charge of carrying it in and out of the playroom at the gym.
Although this post is more about the idea of creating an “essentials kit” that can go with you wherever you go, let me give you a brief tour of what’s in mine and how I organized it!
I first thought about the things I needed pretty much everywhere we went (aka: those things I was shuffling from bag to bag to bag). These items fell into three main categories: necessities for the baby, snacks and water, and “toiletry” items. Sure, other things are randomly thrown into bags as we head out the door, but as long as we have these things, we’d survive the outing!
The diaper bag has more essentials like a changing pad, a few more diapers, a bigger thing of wipes, a nursing cover etc. But I rarely access all that stuff when we head out to Henry’s 30 minute swim lesson or swing by the park on the way home from an errand. For short outings, I really just need a few diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, and a hat.
When we’re walking out the door, Henry and I will often grab ourselves a snack for the car or the gym. But there are times when we forget or an errand takes a little longer. As such, I like having a few “emergency” snacks on hand for both him and me. In this little pouch (designed for makeup brushes, I think), I can fit quite a few shelf-stable, non-meltable snacks. I don’t have to re-pack this little set often because we almost always remember snacks. But it’s peace of mind to know I have a few things on hand just in case he’s crabby or my blood sugar crashes.
The final little pouch holds our true summer essentials. Whether it’s a scraped knee leaving the gym, a quick stop at the playground before lunch, or a shower after swim lessons, this tiny pouch holds everything I need to tackle (pretty much) everything!
“Essentials” will look different for everybody, but here is what is in my pouch:
We’ve been showering Henry at the pool before coming home (his lessons are right before dinner), but I didn’t like the larger, stickier shampoo and soap bottles floating around the bottom of the bag (plus, then we’d have to go fish them out of the bag when it’s a regular shower day at home). These little travel bottles (from Target) were the perfect, compact solution. I used some of my write-on, waterproof labels to help us keep things straight!
Speaking of labels, I figured adding one of our waterproof name labels to the outside of the tote wouldn’t hurt. Especially since this tote goes into the gym playroom on its own.
I also wanted to show you this little “trick” that is working great for pool showers: a mini-sized loofa on a carabiner. Having the loofa on hand helps Henry actually get clean at the pool, but I don’t want to stuff it into a closed pouch after it’s gotten wet. The carabiner keeps it attached to our pool bag (so we always have it!), but lets it dry out between uses! I have the same setup on my gym bag!
Okay…back to the tote! As you can see, everything fits nice and compact, yet we can still get out whatever we need!
Although it might look snug, there is just enough room to toss in extra things when needed…like a pacifier for Sam and a water bottle for Henry.
Having this “essentials tote” has made getting ready for each of our outings so much quicker and easier. Our pool bag, gym bag and diaper bag are pre-stocked with things specific for those outings (like goggles or my post-workout shower kit). As long as we throw in our “essentials tote,” we’re good to go!
Our tote (along with my wallet, another essential!) sits right on the tray by our door. The pool, diaper and gym bags are in the baskets below. We grab the right bag and the essentials tote with my wallet, and we’re out the door!
(Psssst…here’s a little sneak peek of our entryway makeover?!)
Everyone’s “essentials tote” will look and function a bit differently based on your family’s needs. But the concept can be applied, no matter how many people or different activities you are tending to! If you’re going crazy trying to keep all the essentials on hand for your summertime (or anytime!) activities, give this trick a try! It’s been a game changer for our family!
I hope you all have a great weekend ahead! Next week, I’ll be sharing a quick (and fun!) update we’ve made to the playroom, as well as “celebrate” our first year in this house. See you then!