There was a time that I actually used to dread going on vacation, for fear of what awaited me back home when I returned. There was the chaotic mess I left behind in my home in the haste of packing for the trip, not to mention the piles of mail and overflowing email inbox to sort through. Let’s not forget the inevitable foul smell that would greet me as I walked through the door, which would take some detective work in order to figure out the source (trash can? fridge?).
Anticipating the stress that I knew awaited me upon returning from a vacation would significantly impact my ability to enjoy the time off. Can you relate?
Several years ago, I vowed to put a stop to this insanity by doing a little extra work on the front “Pre-Vaca” end. It requires carving out some additional time during the week prior to your departure, so the first step in the process is to really set limits on over-scheduling yourself that week. Once you are a week out from your departure date, begin to implement this checklist for a Return to Sanity:
1. Make a list of post-vacation priorities
When you check out for several days, it may be difficult to retrieve your mental “running list” of pressing errands, home maintenance tasks, and work-related deadlines. Do a brain dump on paper and put this list front and center on your desk as a reminder upon your return.
2. Clean Your House
There is nothing more demoralizing than walking through your door Post Vaca to a sink full of dirty dishes, toothpaste-adorned bathroom sinks and cluttered surfaces. It makes you want to turn around and walk right back out again! Allot the extra time Pre-Vaca to at least vacuum, clean the kitchen (including the fridge), empty all trash cans, clear the clutter, and load/run the dishwasher. You need to have a clean and clear space to start unpacking when you return.
3. Do The Laundry
You will have plenty of laundry to do when you get home from vacation. If you get all or most of your laundry done before you leave (including the bedding), then all you will have to wash is what is in your suitcases. I don’t know about you, but I am always excited to sleep in my own bed upon returning home, and it is infinitely more pleasant when the sheets are freshly laundered.
4. Fill the Pantry and Fridge
We have all experienced that “Old Mother Hubbard Syndrome” after vacation, since we probably did not allocate time for grocery shopping in the days prior to our departure. After traveling for hours in the car or by plane, likely the last thing you want to do after arriving home is to schlep out to the grocery store for the basic necessities. Shop for non-perishable staples before your trip, and put a list of perishable items to purchase on your Post Vacation Priority List. If you are lucky like me and have a close relative nearby who can stock your home with fresh bread/milk the day before your arrival, then enlist them to do so. Otherwise, you can always have shelf-stable milk and frozen bread on hand to use for the first post-vacation day or two.
5. Devise a Plan for Keeping Up With Email
This one is a matter of personal preference, and my preference is to manage incoming emails on a daily basis while on vacation. I used to unplug completely while away, and then be utterly overwhelmed with the task of wading through hundreds of emails upon return home. I much prefer keeping on top of it for a few minutes each day to avoid the massive Post Vaca email deluge. If you prefer to completely “check out” while away, plan to set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time within the first day back. Better yet, tackle it during the return trip if you can.