(Tell me that title doesn't remind you of a Friends episode.)
My boys are older now~16, 15 and 12 (twins), so we have gotten into a groove. For instance, we love to go camping. We love little one night getaways, we often take church trips and once a year, we go on a big trip with my husband's parents. When we are going camping and when we go on a trip (for a night or a week), my lifeline is a good packing list. I am a huge list maker, because I love to write and I love checking things off, but mainly because traveling takes lots of organization when you have a family. No matter the trip type, I start with making a list for each boy. I start with toiletries and end with bedding. (We all like our own pillows.) If it's a camping trip we pack for, I do that same list, except that it's amped up, like the ones in the image below.
Regardless of the kind of trip we're going on, I usually have multiple lists. When we travel, we drive, so we always take extra things like food, things to do in the car, books, school work, etc. (Also, we homeschool.) I include everything I can think of on these lists. Another list I might have is a store list of what we need to buy before we go, and what we need to buy when we arrive.
This has helped my kids learn the task of packing for themselves. The key to going anywhere, at least in my humble opinion, is organization. For the person who is not naturally this way, I have some tips for you.
1. I almost always have a list going. Sometimes it's a grocery list, sometimes it's a to-do list.
2. I believe in keeping things de-cluttered. The kitchen is the hub of our home, so I keep our counters free of clutter, or at least, as much as possible. When there is clutter on the counters, those little lists will get lost. A good way to help that along is to have a place for everything. For instance, we have a pretty bread basket on my kitchen table that holds mason jars for pens, scissors, pencils and highlighters. We homeschool, but for those of you who don't, where do your kids usually do their homework? I would guess that most of you will say that this takes place in the kitchen. Having that basket full of writing utensils helps ensure that they always know where a pencil or pen is, and it's a reminder to them to put it back in the jar before they're done.
3. I am a HUGE planner. I know that not everyone is this way, but this is my second year of having a very nice daily planner. (Shout out to Erin Condren! Her planner has changed my life. Not really, but it's awesome.) It was expensive (and a gift!) and I didn't want the money to be wasted, so I started writing down every little thing that was going on in our lives. Believe it or not, that has motivated me to be even more organized.
4. If your your house is a mess and this overwhelms you, then make a goal to start in ONE AREA of your home. I would start with the kitchen~every couple of months, I take inventory of what I have that is not being used, and I donate it to Goodwill. This includes cooking utensils and gadgets that take up too much space. Then I get my cabinets all cleaned out and organized inside, and before I know it, that overflows into the rest of my home. Also, a nice and organized kitchen motivates you to cook more.
The thing about being organized is that it catches. One area often overflows to the next area. When your home is organized, it's easier to keep clean. I always clean before we leave for vacation. There's usually only a tiny bit of dirty laundry, and maybe just a few dishes in the dishwasher. I do this because I love coming home to a clean house. I like to unpack just the dirty clothes when we come home from a trip, and it's easier to start on the laundry when you have an empty washing machine waiting on you. In fact, we almost always keep our dirty laundry separate when we're on trips.
These are just a few things that work for our family of six. Happy trails to you and yours!