Ok, I'm going to admit it. Occasionally, I have been known to get flustered with my husband and/or kids and I can get.........well, lets call it "snippy." This usually occurs when we are all together in a big box store trying to shop for some big purchase for the home. I almost titled this blog post, "How Not To Get A Divorce During An Ikea Trip," because (as much as I love that place) it can really bring out the worst in my marital relationship. Someone wants to buy something that doesn't go with our decor, or someone wants to spend too much money all while a child is climbing on a display or complaining that they're hungry for the 5th time - tempers & meltdowns will certainly ensue. As a designer, I find myself in stores all the time trying to keep up to date on the newest designs or sourcing things for clients, my own home, or my ETSY store creations. Especially in the summer, my kids are usually with me, & the hubby is in the gaggle on the weekends, as well. You might be saying, "Stephanie, just get a sitter & do all that when you're by yourself!" That would certainly be the smarter thing to do, but there are times when that just doesn't work. We live far away from most of our family, so the kids are usually with us & babysitting is SO expensive. Quite frankly, I'd rather spend my babysitting budget on a nice dinner out or a movie - not shopping. If you're like me and find yourself in a large store with a long list to accomplish with the family or other large group in tow, you might just need a little direction in how to accomplish this task efficiently & without major emotional damage. Well, I have learned a few tricks of the trade over time, & I want to share them with you now. You can avoid those meltdowns & tantrums (grown-ups & kids alike). Here are my ten tips to ensure a pleasant shopping trip (or to simply avoid major disaster):
1. Make sure everyone is well-fed before arriving at the store. No one will like you if you're "hangry." Simply feeding my crew is the key to everyone's happiness. This realization has literally saved my marriage on both ends multiple times over.
2. Make a budget for the shopping trip. Know what you'll spend before your arrival to keep the more "saving conscious" one in the relationship happy. Also, there is nothing like the dread of driving home with the realization that you have overspent - ugh.....
3. Make a list for your shopping trip. Having a list not only keeps your budget in check, but keeps your home more organized, too. No need to clutter your home with unnecessary purchases. Really try to avoid those spontaneous purchases when you can. Look at the store as a storage facility for your things, as you don't have to buy it today. We luckily live in a society fueled by the global economy where we have a constant stream of desirable goods at our fingertips.
4. Take advantage of any child care or play area offered. I love Ikea for this - they offer 30 minutes to an hour of free child care. You shop while the kiddos play. There are age & height restrictions, so be sure to check with the individual store before you go.
5. After about an hour or so - feed everyone again. Well placed snacks & food throughout your shopping trip ensures a longer time to shop & happier people all around. Nothing like a crashing blood sugar levels to ruin your day & leave you feeling frazzled. I always keep a random lollipop or granola bar in my purse for this very reason.
6. Give everyone a job to do. Keep your crew engaged with what you're doing by giving them each a small job to complete. For example; "Help me find all the blue things," or "I really need some insight into which sofa is the most comfortable." Use your own judgement & pair the best job suited for age, preferences & wants. I love to let my kids peruse beside me with a notepad & pen because they love to jot down the items that they'd like to purchase in the future - a "want list" of sorts. It keeps them entertained for hours (ok- I'm exaggerating, maybe just a few minutes, but you get my point).
7. Lower your expectations and express those expectations to your family. A very wise person once told me that unexpressed expectations is the main ingredient to conflict. When the expectation for a shopping trip is too high, your people are going to disengage and revolt. You might have to save that super aggressive shopping schedule for another day when you're alone, or lower those expectations to include your family. When a shopping trip goes awry, I'll jot a note down of what I need & simply order it online at a later time - usually with a glass of wine after the kids go to bed!
8. Consider & respect the ideas of those in your family. Your spouse or child might have a great idea - that's different from yours. How hard it is to let go of one of my design ideas once its grabbed hold of my brain! I'll tell you, though, some of the best decor decisions in our home have come from considering the ideas of my spouse or a child. I love that about family - they can really help you grow and expand your ideas. Take a deep breathe & let go..........
9. Divide and Conquer. Once you've made all the decisions you can make together and once all the items are in the cart, there is absolutely no need for everyone to stand grumpily in the checkout line. Bored kids become mischievous kids. One of us will checkout the items while the other one takes the kids to get a snack or to get the car (or both - again keep feeding everyone!). Divide up the responsibilities & conquer the world!!!!!!
10. Plan your trips, so that everyone has something to look forward to. Look at yourself as a General planning a military mission. Identify the objective (completing your list), decide your area of attack (which stores will you go to), plan out your supply chain (have a bag of snacks & portable electronic devices to keep everyone on par & engaged), cultivate your people's talents (keep everyone in the mission mindset by letting them have roles in the outcome) and know when to retreat (take everyone for a special treat afterward). This is really your ace in the sleeve. Have something for everyone to look forward to after a long shopping trip; it can really keep their spirits up - everyone needs hope. It might be ice cream or IPad time for the kids & a cold beer or a Starbucks trip for your spouse. You need to know everyone's currency (what they hold dear & enjoy in life).
We've all seen them in the store- the frazzled parents with the screaming kid or the couple that looks like they're going to murder one another. Frantic people succumbing to stress because they didn't properly plan, so they planned to fail. Everyone has bad days - off days, but by following these simple tips you can reduce the occurrence of these crazy times by properly planning out your shopping trips. I know this because I have been that frantic mom & I have been a part of that couple that shoots daggers at each other with our narrowed eyes and well-placed huffing of breaths. I'm telling you, though, that it doesn't have to be that way! Follow my simple tips & you'll not only be happier, but your family will, too. Happy Designing!