50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

The cusp of August is a good time to hit the pause button. To help us find more time to sink into simple summer pleasures — like reading good books, eating popsicles on the porch, and collecting seashells — I've collected 50 favorite ideas for making life a little easier, and a whole lot sweeter. The tips are divided into four sections: Simple Travel, Simple Food, Simple Home, and Simple Lifestyle, so you can scroll right to what you need most in this moment. Enjoy! xo Laura

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Travel

1. No matter how long the trip, challenge yourself to pack only one bag. If you want more specific guidance, I love Tsh's post on what she packed for a week in Tuscany.

2. Travel with just two pairs of shoes if possible: one pair of sandals, and one pair of comfy sneakers.

3. Keep makeup and jewelry super low-key. For example: for a summer trip I pack this tinted moisturizer with SPF, mascara, lip balm, and one necklace. That's it.

4. Load some audiobooks onto your phone or tablet for kids to listen to on the plane or on long car rides. (Obviously, this is great for grownups, too.)

5. When possible, opt for a rental house or apartment (or even a house swap) instead of a hotel. You can use the laundry, make breakfast at "home", and generally feel more like a local.

6. Plan one "main event" per day, maximum. And leave plenty of wide open space, too. This is even more true when traveling with kids.

7. If you will be traveling internationally, download a few helpful apps before you go, like Google Translate (language translation) and Converter+ (currency converter).

8. Get inspired by reading fiction set in the location you are visiting.

9. If you have kids, consider bringing along a foldable scooter — especially if you're going somewhere with lots of walking!

10. If you need help unplugging, think about bringing a separate camera. If you're using your phone's built-in camera, you're a lot more likely to start scrolling social media after you snap that picture.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Food

11. Make no-cook dinners a regular thing. Think juicy heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Or this summery salad that's been on our summer table at least once a week.

12. Bring a pizza and drinks to the park on a Friday after work and eat while the kids play in the golden summer evening light.

13. Make a big batch of cold brew and keep it in the fridge. If you're feeling fancy, make a homemade vanilla simple syrup to stir in.

14. Pretend your oven doesn't exist. Cook on the grill instead.

15. Stash a few picnic essentials (reusable plates, cheese knife, bottle opener, blanket) inside your cooler, and stash the cooler somewhere easy to grab on the go.

16. Get to know the farmers at your local farmer's market or farm stand. Play favorites. Be a regular. They'll give you the best stuff.

17. Make big project cooking (e.g., making jam or homemade tomato sauce) easier and more fun by inviting friends over for a big-batch cooking party. Everyone has fun, and everyone comes away with good food to stash away in the pantry. It's a win-win!

18. Pick a signature summer drink to serve to guests, and stick with it. It can be as simple as Arnold Palmers or a nice selection of La Croix sparkling water.

19. Use cotton bandanas as napkins: they're cheap, colorful, and washable.

20. Use mason jars for iced water, cut flowers, and candles. I'm partial to these blue jars.

21. When anyone asks, "do we have any dessert?" watermelon & popsicles are always the right answer. 

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Home

22. Go barefoot. A shoes-off indoors policy feels summery, to be sure, but it also keeps your floors cleaner.

23. Roll up the rugs. (See above.)

24. Try line-drying your laundry outdoors. The sun on a hot day can dry them in less time (and for less $$) than your dryer, and actually helps get white clothes whiter.

25. Get all the decor you need from the farmer's market and the beach: a vase of fresh flowers, a scattering of seashells, a bowl of perfectly ripe peaches.

26. Have a swap party with friends to trade clothes, toys, or books.

27. Make cleanup easy with strategically placed baskets. Keys, phones, flip flops, library books, Lego bricks — all of those little things strewn about right now could just as easily be dumped into pretty baskets.

28. Hang hooks for sandy towels outside the house.

29. Stash board games and decks of cards in a prominent spot — they're more likely to get used if they're not hidden away.

30. Stock up on favorite movie snacks to make at-home movie night feel extra special.

31. "Heart" favorite photos on your phone and set a reminder on your calendar to print favorited photos once a month.

32. Once you've printed your summer photos, put them somewhere you can enjoy them. It doesn't have to be frames: pile them in a shallow bowl, clip them to a clothesline, or stick them on the fridge.

33. Listen to great podcasts or audiobooks while you clean the house or fold laundry.

34. Prioritize which cleaning tasks make you feel like your house is clean. This is highly personal! For me, it's the bathroom sink, kitchen table, and floors: as long as those three zones are sparkling, I feel like I have a clean house.

35. Wash all the laundry in cold water.

36. Need new patio furniture, camping gear, or play equipment? Check Craigslist or a local buy nothing group first.

37. Set up a super-simple screen-free activity zone for kids stocked with supplies they can use without supervision. Think colored pencils, washable markers, paper, glue sticks, and collage materials for arts & crafts. Other favorites in our house are kinetic sand and homemade play dough.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Lifestyle

38. Use a French market basket as your everyday bag — it holds all the things, and looks chic doing it.

39. Stock your bag with a few key tools of summer: sunscreen, snacks, water bottle, and a wide-brim hat.

40. Leave the car at home. Walk or bike to neighborhood errands instead.

41. Speaking of bikes, put a basket on your bike and a crate on the back, so you can tote home groceries or library books.

42. Plan each week, not each day. Kendra, aka, The Lazy Genius makes a good case for this in her summer routine podcast episode.

43. Make comfort your top priority when it comes to clothes. 

44. Take a trip to your local public library, for more than books. Free museum passes, audiobooks, a tool library, seed saver's exchange, board game rentals, knitting groups, community events ... you may be surprised to learn how much is offered!

45. Take advantage of the early sunrise to jump out of bed and do something just for you: a sunrise yoga class, a walk with a friend, or time to work on a soul-project, like that novel you've been dreaming up.

46. Plan intentional breaks during your workday to do something that feels deliciously summery to you, whether that means treating yourself to an iced coffee or kicking back to read a good book.

47. Take an evening neighborhood walk after dinner. It's a wonderful way to feel like your evening has a little breathing space.

48. Stay up late to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

49. Keep a simple gratitude journal. It doesn't even have to be on paper — I've been recording mine on Twitter!

50. Hang a hammock inside your house, just because you can.


Photos: rawpixel, Daiga Ellaby, Debby Hudson & Alex Radelich via Unsplash

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Setting Up A Simple Nursery

I came across these photos today (which I shot ages ago for a story in Gatherings Magazine) and the memories came flooding back: the days when my baby was just arriving and all of the mad preparations we made. Oh my! We had just bought our little 1920's house when I became pregnant, and it was painted in rainbow colors (literally! each room was a different color of the rainbow, starting with blood red and working its way through the spectrum...) so we had a lot of painting to do. Both sides of our family pitched in to get everything done, and painting everything soft cream, white, and pale blue completely changed the mood. I am a big believer in the power of your home + space to affect your mood and emotions, and I feel much better surrounded by soothing hues. Soothing colors like blue, soft green, cream, and lavender are also quite soothing for babies and creates a restful environment for sleep and quiet play.

Light blue nursery with feather canvas

Also in preparation for baby we cleared out a great deal of clutter, clearing out extra space not only where you see it, but also the deep clutter hidden inside of cupboards and closets. Clutter that is crammed behind closed doors may not be readily visible, but it still creates stress. And goodness knows when you have a new little one to care for, extra stress is the last thing you need! I read the book The Peaceful Nursery, and this inspired me to be very intentional about simplifying: rather than springing for all of the "must haves" listed on baby sites, we considered what we would really use. Looking back, it's funny that we asked for a crib (a beautiful crib, seen above!) because we ended up co-sleeping almost entirely. If we have another baby, I may use it in our bedroom (our vintage cottage had very small rooms, so the crib wouldn't fit in our bedroom). As a new mom (also: breastfeeding) I couldn't imagine having to trek down the hall each time baby woke, but if it were near us, like our bassinet was when he was a newborn, I may have used it.

Organized simple nursery with upcycled changing table

For a changing table, we used a vintage chest I picked up locally and painted white. With a cushion on top and baskets nearby to hold diapering supplies, this was a very comfy little setup — and now we use it in our entry to hold shoes and mail, so there is no waste :-)

Light blue play room + nursery

A large shelf held blankets and wraps, rattles, board books, and stuffed animal friends when Bixby was a baby. As we entered the toddler years, more toys made their way into the room, along with a small play table and art supplies. It's not easy to stem the tide of toys, but keeping things simple offers great returns: when a child's room is simplified, play is calmer and more creative, cleanup is easier, and the space just feels better to be in.

Today, Bixby is in Kindergarten, we live in a different home, thousands of miles away from this one, and his toys are certainly not all wood and handmade — but with the right intentions (and regular purging) we've found it is possible to find a sweet compromise. We can follow his interests (right now: predatory dinosaurs + Transformers) while still setting limits on how much space toys take up, and keeping other favorites in regular rotation. It's easy to feel you're "treating" your child to more, more, more, when really having just a few of something makes it so much more special.

Outer Banks North Carolina beach

Simplifying, to me, means protecting your space + your time. We may not have power over much in the world, but intentionally choosing what to put in your home (and what to take out) and how to spend your time is something we can all do. You can choose to make some extra space and decide how to fill it: with creativity, with snuggles, with stories and silliness. If you are preparing to welcome a new little one, you can choose to create a simple, peaceful environment to spend those first precious weeks together.

xo Laura