The Indoor Person's Guide to Summer

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Welcome to “Best Summer Ever,” your guide to making the most of the sunny season. Whether your idea of a perfect summer is embarking on epic adventures or blissfully doing as little as possible (preferably somewhere with good air conditioning), we’ve got you covered, because the best summer doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.

There are two kinds of people: indoor people and outdoor people. With its interminable beach vacations, barbecues, and outdoor games, summer is definitely the season for outdoor people. But fear not, homebodies and agoraphobics: You can have the best summer ever too, if you invite summer into your life by turning your home into a cool oasis, marking the season with some new decor, and keeping yourself and your friends entertained until the blessed day when the fall comes back around. 

Prepare your home for summer

If you missed the window for “spring cleaning” this year, don’t despair—early summer cleaning works too. So transform your home from a dreary winter den to summer oasis by decluttering, deep-cleaning, and brightening the corners with some seasonal decor.

Clean and service your air conditioner: I’m putting this one up front because this summer will be global-warming hot, and keeping your air conditioner performing at peak efficiency is vital to a tolerable indoor summer.

You should clean your AC at least once a year. To clean a window unit, disconnect it from the power source, remove the cover, and get rid of dust that’s accumulated on the coils, then use dish soap and water to get rid of the grime. Clean or replace the air filter in accordance with the owner’s manual instructions, let everything dry, and put it back together. If you have central air, call a professional.

If you don’t have an air conditioner, it’s not too late to get one. Our sister site, PC Mag, recently did a guide to the best smart air conditioner of 2024, so if you’re shopping, start there.

Create air flow: Air conditioning is king, but that doesn’t mean you should hermetically seal your place until September. Open the windows and shades strategically during cooler summer mornings and evenings. Stick a fan in an upper window to suck the hot air out, while letting another fan circulate air inside. Nothing makes it feel like summer more than warm breezes blowing through.

Declutter: The beginning of summer is the perfect time to get rid of things you don’t need anymore. So toss, donate, and store your junk and give yourself a clean summer-slate. If you find it hard to organize and declutter, Lifehacker’s expert Lindsey Ellefson has laid out a ton of strategies to make it easier, so I won’t belabor the point, but whether you use the Marie Kondo’s famous KonMari method or the more indie rock ski-slope technique, it’s the perfect time to get rid yourself of Winter-You’s possessions so Summer-You can shine.

Deep cleaning: Now that’s there’s less stuff, it’s easier to get in there and give everything a deep clean. Don’t just straighten up—get in there and really do it. Clean the baseboards. Clean the oven. Be a civilized person. A clean house is a necessary foundation for enjoying everything else about your indoor summer. Plus, it’s good for your mental health to have a clean place, and getting rid of dust, mold, and allergens is good for your physical health too.

Decorating tips for bringing a summertime vibe indoors 

Now that your house is decluttered, cooled-off, and clean, let’s talk about how to make it look and feel summery, because even if you’re suspicious of the whole “going outside” part of summer, the power of the season’s breezy vibe can’t be denied.

Summer decor: You can create a summertime feeling in your home without completely changing everything, going broke, dumping a truckload of sand in your living room like Brian Wilson, or surrendering to cheesy “life’s a beach”-style decor that mars the season. Just getting a few new throw pillows, hanging some different drapes, and replacing your duvet cover with something season-appropriate will do a lot for making your place feel like an exotic bungalow in Tahiti. (Maybe that’s overstating it a bit.)

The classic summer decorating style is bold patterns and sun-yellow, ocean-blue, or jungle green colors, but you can create a different, classy kind of summer vibe with serene linen fabrics and neutral colors. Or you can just go overboard and make it as ridiculous as possible; it’s your summer.

Below are some pieces that might get your mind going:

Houseplants: Houseplants produce oxygen, improve your mood, and give your place an outdoorsy vibe. You can’t go wrong with summer classics like a birds of paradise or spider plants—both are relatively easy to care for. If you want a really hardy plant, you could stick with hard-to-kill succulents or flowering cacti, and still project a summer vibe.

Make it smell like summer: Infusing your house with the scent of lemons or eucalyptus with essential oils makes it smell like summer too. Those are more idealized summer fragrances—if you want realism, you can make your house smell like summer in a tourist town by mixing a coconut-scented essential with the musk of stale beer. Thankfully, there is no essential oil for “New York Subway in August.”

Indoor summer entertainment guide

To make the season feel like summer instead of warm-winter, you need to change up what you do as well as change how your house looks. Outside people take advantage of summer by traveling, going water-skiing, or participating in other interminable “activities” that can’t be done in cold weather, but you can take a different approach and read books about people traveling, surfing, falling in love, and getting murdered instead.

Summer “beach” reading for shut-ins

You don’t have to go to the beach to enjoy a “beachy” novel. I put together a list of summer novels below, but I must admit, the only one of these books I’ve read is Barbarian Days so I can’t vouch for the rest personally. But they all have at least four stars on Amazon, and if you can’t trust Amazon’s readers, who can you trust?

  • People we Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: Reading a book about a vacation while you’re actually on vacation is way too on-the-nose, but if you’re staying home, it’s escapism.

  • This Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune: Romance at the beach is fun to read about, but way too sandy in real life.

  • Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan: Surfing is difficult. Reading this book is easy.

  • The Trackers by Charles Frazier: This book is about an artist traveling during the Great Depression. I actually ordered it while researching this story.

  • Fourth Wing (The Empyrean, 1) by Rebecca Yarros: People like books about dragons, right?

  • One of Us Knows by Alyssa Cole: Is there anything more beach read-y than a mystery novel?

Ultimate summer movie list

Along with reading trashy novels, you can spend your summer watching movies about summer too. I like classics, so here are the best summertime movies made before 1980.

  • Gidget (1959): The movie that introduced America to surfing, Gidget is a teen melodrama that is way better than it has any right to be.

  • Beach Party (1963): The first in a series of schlocky teen-sploitation starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, the breezy “ain’t this fun?” vibe of Beach Party becomes deeper when you know that almost all the fun-loving teens onscreen are dead.

  • Lord of the Flies (1963): If you want a contrast to Beach Party that came out in the same year, check out this adaptation of Lord of the Flies. It’s far superior to the more modern version.

  • American Graffiti (1973): George Lucas’ first movie takes place over a single summer night in 1962 Modesto, Calif.

  • Jaws (1975): Spielberg’s monster-shark movie invented the summer blockbuster. It is the GOAT.

Indoor socializing

Anyone serving time in prison will tell you that socializing is important even if you don’t ever leave your house. You have to get your friends to come to you, of course, but now that you have a clean, breezy house with a summer look and a selection of classic summer movies to watch, it should be easy. You might find that your outdoorsy friends are only too happy to spend a low-key summer Saturday in an air conditioned house watching Annette Funicello movies and drinking margaritas. OK, maybe not, but you can sweeten the deal by serving up ones of these summer cocktails.

  • The mai tai: The mai tai is the best cocktail that has ever been invented, without a doubt, and no argument is possible—and it’s even better in summer. Just don’t order one in a bar unless you can trust the bartender to stick to the original recipe.

  • The classic margarita: The margarita is the drink most people associate with summer, but even though it’s overly popular, the margarita is an undeniably great cocktail. It even stands up to variations (but the simple original is best).

  • Corona with lime: It’s time we all admit that IPAs taste terrible. A light, refreshing Mexican pilsner like Corona with a wedge of lime in the bottle tastes great, and it’s quintessentially summer.

  • The blue Hawaiian: The blue Hawaiian looks ridiculous, but if it’s made correctly, it’s not a syrupy sweet gross-out, despite it blue hue. Instead, it’s a kitschy classic.

  • The ding-a-ling: In the 1983 movie Cocktail, Tom Cruise reels off a long list of gimmicky, vodka-and-schnapps-based cocktails that were popular at the time (sex on the beach, the Alabama slammer, etc.) But he also mentions a drink called a “ding-a-ling.” No one knows how to make a ding-a-ling, or whether it ever even existed. I mention this because who doesn’t like a summertime mystery?

  • The cucumber Collins: A mixture of gin, seltzer, cucumber, lime, and mint, the cucumber collins is a light, refreshing, sophisticated summer tipple.

  • Any cocktail made by the pitcher: What is summer if not the perfect time to mix up ۱۰ drinks at once and share the pitcher until everyone is too sloppy to fill it up again?

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