Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unpacking Challenges

Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Clutter (Lyons Press, 2002) gives some advice that is needed at the end of your vacation when you come home and are faced with the task of unpacking. I have a friend who says she can always tell whether her husband enjoyed the trip or not by the speed at which his luggage is unpacked – the longer the time it takes to dismantle the travel experience and unpack, the more he enjoyed the trip. After tedious business trips, he is unpacked in a flash!

Bill Adler calls the lack of inertia to unpack, “Post-Traumatic Travel Stress Syndrome…otherwise known as laziness.” He is blunt about our reasons for non-action! He also notices, however, that the task seems to be more daunting by the fact that the contents of your suitcase is comprised of a mix of items that get disbursed to many locations in your house, making it seem like you had to walk home from your destination by the time you get everything back in its proper place. He recommends doing this task with as little effort as possible by breaking down the contents into manageable units to be handled in a predetermined order over a period of days. He suggests “setting yourself and easy-to-follow, even leisurely schedule of what unpacking you will do on which day of the week…” However, he cautions to not let your unpacking take longer than the vacation itself! He suggests putting away clean clothes first. Next do the dirty laundry. Notice that he doesn’t say, “put the dirty laundry in the hamper.” Do it right away and then it will be done! Next he suggests taking care of your film followed by souvenirs. Since a lot of people are taking digital photos these days, getting film in to be developed is not so important, but if you do still take vacation photos with a film camera, get the photos off to be developed right away, (or download your digital images) so that you can label them and add them to your photo storage system while you still remember the names of the places and the dates of the visit. You will want to share your photos with friends while the vacation is still fresh in your mind. As for dealing with the souvenirs, get the ones that you bought for friends given out while your friend still remembers or cares that you went away and get your personal souvenirs to their final destination, whether it is set out on a display shelf or hung on the wall. Don’t buy souvenirs if they are not usable objects that can be put immediately into service or if you don’t have the place in your house to put them out for display. There is no point buying something that will just go into a drawer and become part of your next de-cluttering garage sale!

But Bill Adler gives the best piece of advice about making the unpacking process easier: Don’t pack a lot of stuff in the first place! “Unpacking is a lot faster and easier when all you have to put away is the barest of essentials.” Disposable items like plastic rain ponchos can be discarded when you are done with them. If something is ruined during the trip, throw it out and don’t carry it home. When I was in Alaska last year, I found that a particular pair of shoes that I brought for hiking hurt my feet so badly that I knew I would never wear them again. I took them to a clothing drop and left them for someone in Alaska to make use of. Sometimes you can even leave them at the hotel and someone on the staff can find a home for them. This is similar to what was suggested in one of our clutter club meetings by the member who said she packed clothing (t-shirts and even underwear) that she was ready to get rid of and then she threw the items away at the end of every day, lightening her load along the way.

What ever you do, don’t spoil your wonderful vacation memories by sweating the unpacking and don’t jeopardize the de-cluttering that you have accomplished by loading yourself down with new stuff.

Don’t forget that we have Suzanne Nielson, a local professional organizer, coming to talk to us about time and paper management. Her presentation is next Thursday evening, August 27, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the library meeting room. I hope to see you all there.

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