Katie Buchanan of Little Rock Paper Scissors has done it again, this time bringing us a fun, clever way to stay organized this summer and ready to hit the pool at a moment’s notice. From the woman who brought us this delightful tale of mother/daughter organization, here’s how to build your own ready-for-anything beach bag for summer. We can’t wait to put together our own fun beach bags and spend time soaking up the sun. And thanks to Katie, we’ll be prepared for anything that comes our way.
Beach bags are the quintessential symbol of summer. Once they come out from winter’s weary closet we know that school is out, vacations are imminent and cares will soon wash away with the falling tides. And when stocked properly, these bags can truly represent practical preparedness worthy of any proper sun god or goddess.
There are a million ways to fill the perfect beach tote, but I like to keep the organization of your getaway bag loose and easyâjust like summer. To accomplish this, be fairly relaxed and adaptable in your approach, beginning with only two big pieces of pre-pool-bag-organization homework:
1. Choose the right oversized beach bag for you and be honest with yourself, the thing will get super ratty by September, so it does not need to come from a couture house in Paris and/or cost more dollars than you would be comfortable watching dissolve into a chlorine-laced pool puddle.
For me, the go-to carryall is the L.L. Bean canvas Boat and Tote bag. I’m absolutely obsessed with these versatile, monogram-ready and highly durable classicsâthey are as timeless as a Chanel bag or a white, cotton oxford shirt, and oh so useful. As a matter of fact, if you come to my house, chances are you will see various sizes of the Boat and Tote in every room… playing the role of purse, grocery bag, portable filing cabinet, cat bed, you name it. I can’t get enough of them, and the best partâaside from their washabilityâis that they are made right here in the good ol’ USA.
2. Make a list of what it needs to hold in order for your days of sun soaking to be as easy as they deserve to be. Try to list items that can live in your bag all summer, making your bag as ready-to-go at a moment’s notice as possible. After you decide what things “live” in your bag all season, from sunscreen to trashy romance novels, you are ready to inventory what smaller bags will live inside the large beach bag.
Yes, you read that right. I said “what smaller bags will live inside the large beach bag.” It’s true. I’m a bag lady. Not even a bit ashamed. I just love things that hold other things. One day, my friend Mel said, “Oh Katie, you are a total bag junkie just like me.” Now I love bags, but please! I’ve never done anything even close to illicit or illegal in order to own one. Well, yet…
Your list will vary according to your needs, your kids, your locations and your sun-worshiping goals, but as the typical female pool/lake goer, this is what I like to keep on hand:
- Sunscreen and lots of it! Various SPF levels, sprays, face lotions, all of it. And remember, sunscreens expire after about six months, so it will be necessary to re-stock at the beginning on the summer. At season’s end, toss what you didn’t use.
- Books, real live books made of paperâleave the iPad inside. I love all kids of book from grocery story brain cell killers to large format New York Times crosswords and sudoku. One favorite idea is selecting summer books is to check out a teen’s English Literature summer reading list. As an adult, you’ll now have the time and desire it takes to finally enjoy those fabulous classics. I also love to keep summer reading coolâenjoy stories set in mountains and snow while you sweat it out in the Arkansas heat.
- Pencils, sharpener and a case, even though pens are my preferred tool for crossword puzzles. They just don’t do well as season-long residents of a pool bag. A nice, trusty pencil will never melt under pressure.
- Hair-care goods, such as color-protecting leave-in conditioner and a wide-tooth comb, and large clips (not breakage-inducing rubber bands). In the impossible, albeit rare event that my hair actually be submerged in lake or pool waters, I like to curb the damage ASAP!
- Deodorant, for the inevitable failures and post-shower application.
- Lip balm, because it’s easy to forget those lips, but they need as much SPF protection as the rest of your skin.
- Nail products, such as cuticle oil, travel polish remover pouches and emery boardsâsee the part above about curbing the damage.
- Toys and games, because even grown-ups should have fun at the pool, and there are tons of travel options out there from Scrabble to trivia games. And don’t forget the good times had with a Frisbeeâa flat, packable bit of entertainment.
- Laptop, with a very protective case, for those vacations when writing deadlines loom. I have a rule that I will only use my laptop in the morning, if I am fully dressed, do not have on a bathing suit and plan to be in a maximum of 85-degree dry, sandless weather. Late in the day, when I am by the pool or beach, the laptop stays inside!
- Non-SPF lotion is a handy thing to use after sand and chlorine have been rinsed away and you want to sit, dressed and waterside, under the protection of an umbrella.
- Insect repellant, because mosquitoes love lakes and nibbling on sweet people like you! Although they stink, sprays can be your friends in the fight to ward off those pesky creatures. If you are completely opposed to putting the nasty stuff on your delicate skin, some brands now make repellant devices that clip onto your bag or chair.
- Water-tight wallets so your iPods, earbuds, cell phones and keys can bounce safely between your purse and bag all summer longâthis year I found on of the best ever at By Invitation Only in the Heights in Little Rock, and they have quite a few styles that make a fun addition to any organized summer wardrobe.
- Flip-flops, but find a pair that won’t break your heart when they inevitably fade after 1,000 harsh rinses in the lake or pool. Like sunscreen, some well-used flip-flops have a shelf life of about six months.
- Hats, and although I love a big, wide-brimmed stunner of a hat, ball caps and visors can roll up with ease or attach to bag handles, taking up little space when it’s time to protect the hair and skin during the sun’s most dangerous hours.
- Cover ups. Locally, Cynthia East Fabrics and Bella Boutique in the Heights carry adorable, bold-printed tunics that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and they are thin enough to fold up teeny tiny. Other smart choices can be found at Old Navy, Gap and that little fashion-mecca known as Target. Instant, disposable fashion is key for outdoor fun!
- Mesh laundry bags are handy to hold all the grubbies that need to be washed in the house at the end of your pool/lake day.
- Insulated cups or water bottles are popping up in lots of stores, and they can even be monogrammed to keep the beverage confusion low!
- Snack bags, from insulated lunch bags to foldable coolers, carryalls for nourishment (and maybe a cocktail or two) are a much for all that important energy we need to relax.
Once the bag is chosen and the happy content list has been made, you are ready to get to packing. The process reminds me of pre-camp trunk-stuffing days… which I LOVED.
(Now camp itself I despised, by the way. Hot, crowded yuck-fest, almost like a bad food-and-wine festival… Ick. Now I wish I hadn’t even brought the whole thing up now. But my good childhood friend Anne, who is a few years younger than I am, reminded me that when I was about 13 or 14, her mother paid me to pack Anne for Camp Timberlake. She said her camp trunk was the picture of perfection, and every day’s outfit was bagged and labeled by day so that she could just grab and go. It’s amazing I had any friends at all, really…)
Just as we did for camp trunks back in the day, I like to begin beach- and pool-bag-packing by setting everything out so that I can see the big picture. As in most of my organization lectures, I will tell you again to label your items. Labeling can always be done with a label marker, but with out typical hot summers, labels sometimes do not hold up so well during outdoor playtime. Therefore, now is the time to go to a monogram shop and let the thread and paint fly all over your well-chosen beach items.
Mesh laundry bag and washable, collapsible food/game tote as well as a fabulous insulated to-go cup from By Invitation Only in the Heights.
Summer reading assignments, puzzle books and a zip top water-repellant plastic pencil bag courtesy of my extra-hip niece, Kate. I place all books and such in a smaller version of the Boat and Tote bag that willâyou guessed itâfit inside the larger one.
Plastic Ziploc bags are perfect for all things hair, nails and lips as well as a great way to add an extra layer of water safety to your Phone/iPod holder/wallet, the interior of which is shown.
Extra-large, monogrammed beach towel and (mostly unnecessary) wallet/phone/iPod pouch, laptop case, sunscreen, insect repellant, deodorant and a wonderful collapsible blue and white, waterproof pocketed tote from By Invitation Only that can hold it all from bug spray to sunscreen to beverages.
And voila! All packed and ready to goâ¦ Towels, supplies and bags-in-bags holding all of your essentials for a ready-to-go-at-a-momentâs-notice day of fun in the sun. As you can see, I like the BIG L.L. Bean tote bag. And if all else fails, I can sleep inside of it.
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Okay, now that organization how-to business complete, I HAVE to brag on my very favorite new product âfindâ in quite some time. Billed as a dorm shower caddy, this collapsible blue tote pocketed tote from By Invitation Only has about a million uses, and I could devote an entire blog to this bag alone! I LOVE this silly thing, and my head spins thinking of all the fun year-round solutions afforded by itâfrom bathroom to kitchen to the garden. So, in closing, a little bonus pictorial for making a college shower bag work in the grown-up poolside world!
Yes, I know. The concept is pure genius. You can thank me later.
It is a good idea to keep the bag on the ground after you take it outside, because once your ice melts, this little dandy can just drain out of the bottom poolside.
And finally, this last photo is for my friend Michaela who works at By Invitation Only. When I told her my stroke of brilliance for the shower-caddy-turned-ice-chest, she said, âOoh, yes! You could even put in all the supplies for margaritas in there! Limes, salt, tequila.â Great minds really do think alike!
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Cheers to you all for an always-organized and VERY extra-safe summer!