Recently I was chatting with a friend who was just back from vacation. She was a bit distracted and kept apologizing for her lack of focus. She was quick to fess up to why she was feeling so flustered – she had returned to chaos.
She was greeted with stacks of mail, urgent phone messages, an overflowing inbox, water deprived houseplants, a fridge full of less than fresh food, dust on every surface and a garden full of weeds. There was so much to catch up on, not to mention suitcases to unpack, plus the normal realities of everyday life. I so got it – she was stuck deep in post vacation muck – yuck!
I commiserated with her and wished I could offer a quick fix, but there really isn't an after the fact cure. However, there are things you can do before you leave that will make re-entry less painful. Here's how to eliminate post-vacation chaos.
Schedule a buffer day.
This means you schedule your return so that you have one day between your vacation and your re-entry real life. Use it to unpack, decompress and take care of household tasks like restocking the fridge and going through your mail. This extra day will allow you to gently settle back into the normal cadence of life. If you want to be able greet the real world with energy and enthusiasm this is the best gift you can give yourself. I would encourage everyone to make this a priority even if you have to cut short your vacation by a day – it's that worth it!
Get as much done as you can before you leave.
Prepare for your return before you depart. Take care of as many tasks and obligations as you can before you head out on vacation. For example, clean out your email inbox and create an auto-responder message so people understand that you won't be getting back to them until you return. Don't make the mistake of saying you will respond on the day you are back, give yourself a couple of days grace so you don't feel pressured to reply to hundreds of messages at once. Tidy up your home before you go so you return to a clean, uncluttered space. And definitely tie up any loose ends that are likely to nag at you while you are away. Nothing is more of a downer than worrying about something that you could have and should have taken care of.
Plan for contingencies.
It's also prudent to take think about what could possibly happen in your absence. For instance, if you have pets, be sure the pet sitter has all the pertinent information about your vet and so on. But go a step further and let your vet know your sitter is empowered to seek care if needed. You and your pet sitter will both rest easier knowing action can be taken quickly if needed. Every situation is different, but taking a few minutes to reflect on and plan for what could happen is time well spent.
Maintain normal home conditions.
If you are going away for more than a few days you will probably ask the post office to hold your mail, or you might ask a neighbor to pick it up for you. But that's not all that will need attending if you are gone for a significant period. If you are normally a DIY'er you might want to engage someone to take care of home maintenance issues. Depending on the season that may mean having your lawn mowed and garden weeded, or your driveway plowed and sidewalks shoveled. You'll not only come back to fewer chores to catch up on, you'll also keep your home looking lived-in, which is critical to avoiding break ins and vandalism
Unpack right away.
Yes, I know it's tempting to let that suitcase sit, but leaving it packed creates visual clutter and reminds you that you still have to deal with it. That's clearly counter to the goal of settling back in. Challenge yourself to do it as quickly as you can; set a time and work against the clock. Or make it a game with the family to see who can unpack and put away their luggage the fastest. A little competition can be a fun way to get people moving!
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