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Clutter Clearing Strategy While Unpacking from a Move

IMG_2734I recently helped a woman unpack following a move to a new home. She and her husband were downsizing from a 6,000 square foot house to a 3,000 foot house. Once they got to the new home it was immediately apparent that they had no room for many of the items they had packed. It was “get real” time. Time to make hard decisions about what would stay and what would be let go.

Wisely my client had movers put many of their non-immediately essential boxes in the garage until they were ready to unpack them. Rather than moving the boxes into the house to unpack, we opened each box in the garage and sorted items into: keep, donate, trash, recycle. With awareness of the limitations of space in the new home, my client found it much easier to get rid of things as we moved through those boxes than I think she would have if she’d been unloading the boxes from inside the house. As we filled the boxes with items to donate, it was easy to put them in her car which was right outside the garage. Items to keep were grouped together in boxes to go into the house.

At the end of our two hour session we had filled her car with items to donate, and had several other big boxes of items to donate ready for her next trip.

Watching my client clear with gusto made me wonder about what made it possible for her to let go of things so easily. Here’s what I came up with:

  • She was acutely aware of the reality of the size of space available, having already unpacked essential items. She had already experienced the feeling of “too much stuff” in her house. That feeling was so uncomfortable that she was motivated to be much more selective in her choices of things to keep.
  • It was easier to let go of things because they had never been inside that house. Keeping them in the garage kept them from growing emotional roots that would have made clearing that much more difficult.

From this experience I learned the following new strategy for unpacking and clutter clearing following a move: If you have a garage, first open boxes in the garage and do an initial assessment of their contents. Look for items to donate or trash before you take each box into the house.

Clear your clutter BEFORE it takes up residence in your house. It’s easier to do and will ensure that you don’t take the easy way out, keep things you no longer love or use, and then have to work hard to make space for items you don’t need or love.

Clear Travel Clutter for Peace and Productivity

We just came back from a wonderful week of vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. As44883952_s always, we came home with a car full of stuff to be unpacked and put away, and we were greeted by a mountain of mail on the counter. We had spent 9.5 hours on the road, because we had to dodge flooded areas in South Carolina. Needless to say we were both very tired. We could have just brought everything inside, plopped down on the sofa telling ourselves we would get to it the next day. But, I chose not to do that.

I am one of those strange people who is really uncomfortable with disorder. Packed suitcases, bags, and coolers feel like clutter to me. I just cannot relax when they are strewn around my space. In their presence I feel like I am still traveling, like I am not really home yet.

So, I resisted the urge to crash in front of the TV. I did that by reminding myself how wonderful it would feel to have the house in order again. I unpacked everything, including the groceries we’d picked up on the way home. I started a wash. I went through the mail. By the time I’d finished I had re-established order and felt good knowing what bills I had to pay and other personal business I would need to attend to at a later date. It took me 1.5 hours to get everything done. Then I put my feet up, and there was nothing niggling at me.

Clutter niggles. It talks to you and makes it hard to fully relax. Having suitcases that are unpacked keep you traveling, make it impossible to be fully home. You may be crashed on the sofa, but part of your nervous system is aware that something is incomplete, something needs to be done.

With my house restored to order I was able to relax on the sofa, get a good night’s sleep, and get up the next day and get right to work. There were no clutter obstacles. There was the peace of having my home and life in order, of being home. It was a great launching pad for leaping back into work that needed to be done.

If your habit is to postpone unpacking, try unpacking as soon as you get home. Notice how long it takes. Notice how you feel when you are done. Notice your process of getting back into your life. A few minutes of doing something you’d rather resist (unpacking) can yield a much easier and more productive transition from traveling to real life.

Travel Re-Entry — A Grounding and Clutter Clearing Opportunity

Travel creates clutter. There are suitcases to unpack, clothes and toiletries to be put away, IMG_2394papers associated with travel details, souvenirs accumulated. Getting ready for the trip can be hard enough, making sure you pack all you think you’ll need during your time away. But, unpacking and restoring order post travel is much more difficult. After all, the excitement and anticipation of a trip can motivate packing. But, what provides motivation for unpacking?

Why has my brain landed on this subject? I’m just back from the vacation of a lifetime, a trip to New Mexico for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was a magical, spiritual and fun experience beyond words. Therefore, re-entry has been VERY difficult. I didn’t want to leave the pleasure and freedom I experienced during that week with Bob, my husband, and Pattie Toad, my best friend since age 16. So, as is my habit when I’m struggling emotionally, I’ve been watching myself navigate this uncomfortable re-entry process.


Debbie & Bob

I could have just gone to ground — dropped my suitcase, backpack, purse and hit the sofa, ignoring the need to unpack. If I had followed the direction of my feelings (sadness, anger, irritability), that’s just what I would have done. But, instead I used my swirling feelings to motivate action to resist parking on the sofa indefinitely and kept thinking about how much better I would feel when I was unpacked and really home (based on my memory of past experiences).


Debbie and Pattie Toad

When you’re not unpacked, you aren’t home yet. You aren’t grounded in your current life. Your bags and associated papers hold the energy of the trip in place — a past event. Your space and your brain are cluttered with things and thoughts associated with the travel. It’s hard to be present, productive, back on track in your life and moving forward when the things around you keep you stuck in the past.

Over time I’ve developed the habit of unpacking and creating order within the first 24 hours of returning home. It helps me get grounded physically, mentally and emotionally. My work with clients has taught me that many people have a very different habit. They drop their suitcases and immediately launch back into their lives. Spewing suitcases take up residence in bedrooms and mail goes unopened. I’m sure it’s due to the ho hum, boring aspect of unpacking. But, I also wonder if part of the reason for not unpacking and fully landing back in real life is also a function of not planning enough time for re-entry.

The saving grace of my re-entry from my Albuquerque trip is that I scheduled a day off after we arrived back home. That day provided me with time to unpack and re-establish basic order in my home which made it possible to work through my unsettled feelings and prepare myself to step back into the roles and responsibilities I’d set aside while on vacation. When I did return to work the following day, not only was my home in pretty good shape, but so too was my mood and attitude.

So, having just experienced the benefit of my day off post balloon-heaven, I offer you this travel strategy to prevent physical, mental and emotional post-travel clutter.

Strategy: Schedule an extra day off following a trip, especially a major trip, to unpack, clear travel clutter, and get grounded in your life. Make unpacking and grounding yourself a priority on that day.