Imagine two families going on a beach vacation together. To keep things even, let’s say both families have two kids each, the exact same ages, and they’re staying in the same hotel, with the same size rooms across the hall from each other.
Let’s also say that each member of each family has packed the exact same amount. The only difference is that one family is deliberate, and the other is impulsive.
The Deliberates and the Impulsives
The Deliberate family started packing a few days before the trip, so the morning of the flight was calm and pleasant. Everyone had their boarding pass printed before they left the house, and they made it to the airport with time to spare.
The Impulsive family didn’t begin packing until the night before the trip, and mom spent most of that time making sure they had the perfect matching outfits for photos on the beach. Even though they packed the same amount, their suitcases were not organized well, and the morning of the flight was spent scrambling to find chargers and sunglasses.
They rushed to the airport, had to wait in line to print boarding passes, and barely made it to the gate on time. When the two families met up at the hotel, the Impulsives were already a little grumpy. They didn’t want to waste any vacation time, so they dug around in their suitcases, threw on their swimsuits, and headed right down to the beach.
The Deliberates, on the other hand, took some time to make a basic plan for the room.
Each member of the family had their own spot to keep their own stuff. They also chose one corner for shoes, another corner to dump wet beach clothes, and designated one drawer for the most valuable items: wedding rings, cell phones, wallets, etc. By the time they made it down to the beach, the Impulsives had been having fun for over half an hour, and they’d already posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram of their amazing beach getaway.
Both families had a fun at the beach, and when it was getting close to dinner time, the Deliberates packed up their stuff and headed back to the hotel room. They made sure the sandy stuff stayed in its corner, they took time to rinse off their bathing suits and hang them up, and they each had time to shower before dressing for dinner.
The Impulsives, determined to make the most of their vacation, stayed at the beach until the last possible minute, then rushed up to their hotel room. Again, they dug into their suitcases, throwing things on the bed and on the floor trying to find their outfits for that evening.
Both families enjoyed dinner, and they all went for a walk on the beach in the moonlight. When the Impulsives came back to their hotel room, they knew it was a mess, but they were so exhausted that they just dumped their stuff on the floor, got into pajamas, and fell into bed.
The next morning, it only took the Deliberates about 10 minutes to get ready for the beach. The Impulsives, however, woke up to a disaster. The bathing suits from the day before were still damp, and sand had gotten mixed up with the clean clothes.
One kid couldn’t find his flip flops, another kid’s goggles had been stepped on, mom had forgotten to charge her cell phone, and dad realized he never got anybody to spray sunscreen on his back. It took them an extra hour, filled with bickering and frustration to get ready. And even when they made it to the beach, nobody was in a very good mood.
Then Things Began to Spiral
As the patterns continued, the Deliberates ended up spending more and more time having fun, and the Impulsives spent more and more time dealing with the messes they had made. The special sunset photo shoot fell apart.
Mom didn’t have the right kind of bra to go under her dress, daughter had accidentally stepped on hers with sandy shoes, dad had an awful sunburn, and son was in a bad mood and wouldn’t smile.
In the initial effort to make the most of their vacation, the Impulsive family ended up sabotaging themselves.
The Deliberate family’s willingness to sacrifice a little time up front to make a plan for their stuff, and their discipline to stick with the routine, had made everything easier.
Although the Impulsives probably had more fun that first day, in the end, the Deliberates were the ones who really enjoyed their vacation. And it had nothing to do with the amount of stuff they packed.
Deliberate in All Areas of Life
The same is true for our homes. Decluttering and downsizing does not automatically make our homes run smoothly. Sure, having less stuff to organize makes it easier to be organized, but only if we manage our stuff with intentionality.
That means being willing to stay on our feet for 10 more minutes after the kids are in bed and clearing the counters.
It means getting the entire family to agree on where to put their backpacks, purses, and shoes when they enter the house, and training everyone to actually put it there.
It means protecting the house from future clutter by controlling our shopping impulses.
It Gets Much Easier the More You Do It
Being intentional in this way might feel like a drag. Putting things away and staying organized sounds like it takes away from the enjoyment of life, but the opposite is true.
When we only keep a manageable amount of stuff, and we manage it well, everything gets easier. We don’t waste time looking for things, the house looks and feels more pleasant, our stress level goes down, our mood goes up, and ultimately life is more enjoyable.
If you don’t believe me, try it!
Choose the most annoying area in your home and force yourself to attack it with intentionality. This week I will stay on top of the laundry. This week, we will tidy the play room every night before bed. This week I will do the dishes before watching TV.
As you build the habit of being deliberate, and you realize how much easier it is to stay on top of things, what you will feel is freedom. I promise, it is worth the effort!
Trisha Childers is a military wife, a stay at home mother of two, and contributing writer here at Practical Family. Through her Home On Purpose series, she uses her gifts of organization and planning to coach other women on decluttering, downsizing, an organizing their homes. She believes that when the house itself is easy to live in and easy to maintain, we are free to spend that extra energy on something more important: the people who live in it!