How to Get Organized After a Vacation

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How to Get Organized After a VacationYou’ve just spent the last two weeks relaxing on a tropical beach filled with white sand, bright sunshine, clear water, and blue skies.

You’re feeling oh-so relaxed and happy. Life is good!

You pick up your glass to take a sip of your favorite cool beverage, when all of a sudden, it hits you like a ton of bricks…

You’re going to have to board a plane tomorrow and come back home to reality. Sigh.

While coming back home after a vacation is unavoidable, the experience doesn’t have to be painful.

In this post, I offer a few helpful tips to help you get your mind and belongings organized after a relaxing vacation.   

Prepare a post-vacation mini memo.

Does it always seem like getting back into your daily routine after vacation is a struggle?

You can make things easier by leaving a couple of key notes for your future self.

Now, this memo doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal.

It’s just a helpful at-a-glance tool to help you get back into the swing of things. Before leaving for vacation, open your calendar and carefully review your post-vacation meetings and appointments.

Then, on a small piece of paper, write down the top five things you’ll need to keep in mind upon your return. Tape your memo to your planner, on a calendar, or the fridge.

All you have to do is glance at the memo upon your return, and you’ll be one step ahead.

Add a few extra days to your vacation.

It may be tempting to book an international vacation, fly home, and start work the next day. Sure, you may be “saving” a couple of vacation or personal days for yourself, but at what cost? A vacation is meant to help you unwind and relax, not stress you out!

You’ll still have to deal with your everyday responsibilities when you get back, so why not enjoy your vacation as long as possible, and get back into things slowly? To prolong that calm, cool, and collected vacation feeling, consider taking an extra day or two at home before going back to work.

Can’t afford to take extra days off? Schedule your vacation time to start and end mid-week. Arriving back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday is much less jarring than arriving back on a Monday.

Unpack your bags as soon as possible.

While it’s probably the last thing on your mind, unpacking your luggage and bags should be one of your top priorities when you arrive home from vacation.

Yes, you will have to make a determined effort to get up and put things away. But look at it this way: would you rather take care of your luggage now, when your schedule is relatively light and flexible, or would you rather do it when your schedule is super busy and is in full swing?

Unpack your luggage within a day or two of your arrival home. It will be out of your way and you won’t have to think twice about it.

Here’s a short list of things you can do when you unpack to keep your home neat and tidy:

  • Unpack your bags and throw dirty laundry in the hamper or washing machine
  • Prep and return your travel bags to dead storage
  • Unpack toiletries and return to the bathroom, vanity, or bedroom
  • Unpack your passport or visa and store in a safe place
  • Collect all travel receipts and set aside for processing over the next few days   
  • Upload digital photos right away so you can accurately identify people, places, and things from your trip while  your memory is still fresh

Block out time to take care of errands and chores.

Returning home to the daily grind means attending to all those household basics: buying food, doing laundry, processing postal mail, email and voicemail, and getting back in touch with family, friends, and even pets. Just like your post-vacation luggage, those household affairs aren’t going anywhere, so it’s wise to address them as soon as possible.

To make sure you take care of items in a timely fashion, block out small chunks of time in your calendar over the first few days upon your return. These blocks can be 15, 20, 30, or 45 minutes in length, or longer, if need be. Simply drop in one chore or errand in each block of time, and work your way through each block of time.   

Here’s a few errands and chores to add to your list:

  • Go to the supermarket, drugstore, or other vendor for food, household or personal needs
  • Wash, dry, and fold laundry
  • Collect, redirect, and process postal mail, including bills, notices, announcements, etc.
  • Check and reset voicemail and email, return urgent calls and emails, make notes to follow up with less urgent requests
  • Pick-up pets from a friend’s house or kennel
  • Catch up and spend time with family and friends

How about you? What steps do you take to get back into the daily grind after a long and relaxing vacation? Which of these tips do you think you are going to try out, and why? Do you have any other post-vacation tips you’d like to share with others? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!

A version of this post appeared on the blog in June 2012.

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.