There’s no place like home, as Dorothy famously proclaimed while returning from her “travels” to Oz. Of course, Dorothy was lucky to come home to a place where everything was in place, even after a tornado. But for many returning travelers, the happiness of homecoming is tainted by the dread of facing a mess that was left behind in the frantic whirlwind of departure.
And even if you aren’t in the habit of leaving your home in disarray when you head off on a trip, it’s common to return with a certain amount of clutter in your baggage. Let’s face it–no matter where you go, it’s hard to get away from paper even with all the current electronic options. Tickets, checklists, brochures, receipts, maps, notes, postcards…these are the ingredients of “travel piles.”
So, whether you tend to leave your vacation mess at home or carry it with you, here are some tips to help you come home to calm instead of chaos:
- Include “housecleaner” in your travel budget. If possible, schedule an appointment for a housecleaning service to clean your home within two days before your departure date. This will force you to get your house in order–and on time, too. That old saying about “cleaning up before the maid comes” actually describes a useful process: clearing clutter off of most horizontal surfaces makes it easier to clean them quickly and thoroughly. This is true whether you get a housecleaner or do all the cleaning yourself.
- Transform disorder to “dis-odor.” Don’t worry about making sure everything’s in apple pie order before you leave. What’s more important is to get rid of those leftover apples. Plan to banish any potentially odor-producing items ahead of time. Typical sources of smelliness include forgotten fruit left to molder on a kitchen counter, wet laundry mildewing in the washing machine, dirty dishes in the sink, an un-run garbage disposal, un-emptied kitchen trash pail and, of course, the “fridge from outer space” filled with mysterious furry substances. (Note: Pet owners and parents of babies obviously have additional areas to address.)
- Prepare for the paper trail. A few simple, inexpensive supplies will make it easier to keep papers organized during your travels. Transparent envelopes in different sizes and colors, sheer document folders (also in various colors) and clear plastic page protectors can help you separate or categorize the seemingly inevitable accumulation. Unlike opaque envelopes and folders, these products allow you to see contents at a glance. A pad of small Post-it notes or some self-adhesive tags are also useful for creating temporary labels.
- Make packing and unpacking easier. Travel accessories such as packable shelves (designed to fit inside a 21-inch carry-on suitcase and then hung on a closet rod) can save time as well as sanity by keeping your packed items organized and easily accessible while you’re away, and easier to unpack when you get back home.
But if the mere thought of packing–or the expense of travel–are more than you can handle, a “staycation” could be what you really need. Check back next Friday for tips on making your backyard into an oasis of order for your home vacation.