Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important – Natalie Goldberg
Some years ago I went on vacation with my then husband and the kids. First we took the kids to Disneyland Paris and then went on to Brittany where my other half took part in a sailing regatta.
I had it all organised.
- Printed route description to all destinations
- Prepaid hotel with shuttle service
- Room with separate kids bedroom
- Prepaid entrance tickets to the park for one day
- List of rides suitable for small children (in order to save time)
- Prepaid apartment in Brittany, close to the harbour (easy access to boat and city)
- Bag of kids clothing suitable for ANY weather condition
- Medicine and first aid equipment for ANY kind of emergency
- Toys for the car/restaurant/hotel/apartment/bed
- Babyfood/diapers for practically the entire stay (save time on not having to shop)
- Sheets, towels, baby bed
- Toilet paper, coffee/filters, tea, sugar, kitchenroll, etc – things you need in an apartment and don’t want to buy family packs of that you then have to bring back home
- List of hotels halfway (in case we needed to stay over on the way back)
The above list is just a general overview and of course splits into zillions of little details and to-do lists before, during and after the stay.
Will you be surprised if I tell you that I was drained after this ‘vacation’?
Why? Everyday was like a normal day at home but ten times worse. Because:
- it’s not home,
- the kids are out of their known, safe environment (i.e. they get cranky much easier),
- you don’t have everything handy despite the overpacking, overorganising
- every day starts with a to do list on where to go and what to pack – ‘just in case’
But the most important reason, I came to realise then, was ME!
So I not only created physical clutter (a car load full of it), but most of all mental clutter (my before-during-after to do lists).
I was so stressed that I would forget something, that something would happen that made the week less perfectly than I had imagined and planned it.
It caused a serious situation of brain-clutter. I felt overburdened with unfinished business. Instead of having a relaxed week with the kids, I felt I was constantly running behind myself, trying to catch up.
HOW TO AVOID CLUTTER
Accept that you cannot control and organise EVERYTHING. You cannot, ever, achieve perfection. Accept that things will go wrong. Your kid will catch a cough and you did not pack cough medecine.
Ask someone (like your partner) to help you organise instead of taking on everything yourself.
Write your to-do or to-pack lists if you must. Review them (maybe together with your partner). During the trip/holiday/activity, take a step away from it and check whether you have not started up a new collection of clutter.
Once you have established what you want to pack, to do on location on a certain day, etc, sit down and analyse what the benefit of it all really is. Will it still be fun if I drag my kids through the whole park to make sure they have been on each ride?
Then try to reduce everything by half: Less is usually more fun as you get to enjoy it thoroughly without thinking about getting to the next point in time;
Go away for the weekend and try to pack a strict minimum. See what happens. If something happens and you do not have a remedy, get creative! So it rains and you have no suitable clothing? Make a poncho out of a trash bag. Or look for activities indoors.
Letting go and having fun:
I was so busy holding everything together that I forgot to have fun that week. And I felt that I had let my kids down because I was so stressed all the time. So on next trips, I let go of my need to control and organise. It is the first point on my to do list. And I am now simply having fun.
Christine Kane’s 18 ways to live simple now.