Quality Over Quantity

A good friend of mine is moving back to her hometown after spending 20 years in the Phoenix area. She and her husband have lived the good life—large home, upscale neighborhood, country club membership, nice cars. As they prepare to move, however, she has realized the sheer extent of their belongings…and how many of them they truly don’t need. Keeping the house clean and the yard meticulous in an effort to get the best sale price has really brought home to her (forgive the pun!) how much time and energy they expend on maintaining their property, often at the expense of family time and self-care. So they’re downsizing. They’ve sold most of their belongings and are committed to finding a smaller property that will allow them to experience quality of life over quantity of stuff.

Listening to her talk about her epiphany causes me to look around my own house and assess both quantity and quality. I sigh as I realize that, if we tried to sell this place now, the HGTV personalities would roll their eyes and walk very quickly in the other direction! A second look at the worn tracks on the carpet, though, evokes memories of thumping feet, cries of, “I got you!” “No, you didn’t!” and slamming doors through breathless hours of in-n-out Nerf gun dart tag.

The worn-out couch reminds me of hours upon hours of brotherly bonding on those now-squished cushions that supported growing bodies as the video games evolved from Mario Cart to Wii Sports to mature games of strategy and risk.

I wince at the chipped plaster in the pool and smile as I remember teaching the boys to swim, wrestling them in the water on hot summer days, and bobbing on a noodle in the deep end, throwing a ball for Three Flags Up once they got too big for me to wrestle.

Yeah, it’s kind of a mess around here. The list of necessary renovations (known in our family as the “post-college list”) is long enough to last us well into retirement. On the other hand, I’m realizing that being less concerned about our house’s appearance and more concerned about the living that happened in our house, helped us connect with our kids instead of our stuff. The 70’s fluorescent kitchen lighting doesn’t keep younger son from baking with me. The scuffs and scratches on the card table don’t keep older son and girlfriend from joining us for more card games (and more scratches!) every weekend. Maybe things aren’t such a mess, after all.

As you experience the freshness of the New Year, I encourage you to look around at the quality of life you are creating with your family. Find ways to control your stuff so it doesn’t control you. Connect, rather than clean. Play, rather than purchase. The year, as we all know, will go very quickly, and time with your children is the most valuable thing that you can’t see—until it’s gone.
Eva Dwight is a parent, family and personal coach. For more information, go to www.creativecoachingconversations.com.