Seven Ways to Avoid Post-Vacation Stress and Clutter

posted by Aby Garvey 8 Comments

Has this ever happened to you? You go on vacation and have a wonderful time. You feel completely relaxed and refreshed – exactly how you’d expect to feel after a vacation. But then…you unlock the front door of your home and within minutes you feel the relaxation drain right out of you! Your stress level is higher than the stack of mail that piled up on the counter while you were away. You start to wonder, was it really worth it? If this sounds familiar, next time you head out for a getaway, give these ideas a try.

1) Leave your home clean and clutter free.

natural cleaning suppliesI remember many summer vacations that started with four Petersons (my dad, sister, brother and I) sitting (impatiently) in the car waiting for my mom. My mom made it a point to clean the house, and get everything picked up and put away before we left for our summer camping vacations. While this practice used to dive me bit batty as a kid, I think Mom was onto something. One of the best ways to extend the tranquility of vacation is to come back to a home that is clean and clutter-free. Take some time in the days leading up to your departure to clean and tidy up your home. Anything you do before you leave will make coming home more enjoyable.

2) Schedule a recovery day.

It can be tempting to try and eek out every last minute of your vacation time into your actual vacation, but you’ll find it easier to get back into your regular routine if you build in a cushion. Schedule a day at home after getting back from your trip to unpack and regroup casually and without rushing. This extra day will also help you adjust to vacation time zone changes or schedule changes.

3) Bring home clean laundry.

Okay…this one isn’t for everyone and may only work for certain types of vacations, such as if you’re staying in a rental home or visiting relatives. But doing laundry while you’re away means one less huge task to do when you get back home. I love returning home from a trip with a suitcase full of clean clothes. In fact, I love it so much that I really don’t mind doing laundry while I’m away. (Your results may vary…but if the post-vacation laundry pile-up causes you tremendous stress, this one could be worth a try.)

clutter free souvenir4) Shop consciously while you’re away.

Souvenirs are a terrific way to savor your vacation memories for years to come, but just be sure you don’t bring home future clutter. Look for meaningful souvenirs that can become a permanent part of your home décor such as framed photograph or print. Jewelry (like a charm for your charm bracelet) or a Christmas ornament can offer other meaningful and clutter-free souvenir options.

5) Unpack your suitcase.

A lingering, packed suitcase is just a lasting reminder that your vacation is over. Although unpacking isn’t a terribly enjoyable task, it probably takes less time than you think. Plus, nothing will make you feel settled back into life at home quite like having those suitcases unpacked and put away. Make it a goal to unpack within 24 hours of returning home, and see how this eases the stress of being back from vacation.

6) Triage the mail.

red mail basketA big stack of mail can be intimidating, which means you’ll feel tremendous relief if you deal with it soon after returning home. To make a thick pile less intimidating, start by pulling out all of the magazines and catalogs. Recycle any magazines or catalogs you don’t need, and keep the rest in a stack. (I bet your big mail pile just got a whole lot shorter – gotta’ love that.) Sort the remaining mail into three stacks: items to deal with right away (bills, invites that need response and anything else that requires quick attention), items to recycle right away, and items to read and handle later. Put this last pile with the magazines and catalogs, and then, get busy dealing with your mail that requires quick attention. By prioritizing the important and urgent actions, your vacation backlog will feel a lot less intimidating.

7) Plan something fun at home after your vacation.

Let’s face it, coming home from a vacation that you’ve anticipated for months can be a huge letdown, which makes taking care of the necessary chores at home even harder to swallow. A terrific antidote is to plan something fun for when you return home. This could be as simple as ordering carryout from your favorite restaurant or taking a trip to the local ice cream shop. Or plan a get together with friends for a week or so after you get home (and best yet, make it an out-of-the-house event!)

The most important thing to remember when you get back from a vacation is that it’s okay if things got behind while you were away. Life continued on while you were out of town, so it’s to be expected that things got piled up. Go easy on yourself as you adjust back into life at home.

Leave a comment if you give any of these ideas a try. I’d love to hear how they work for you and hear your strategies for minimizing vacation stress.

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  • July 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    At the insistence of my neat freak husband, we always clean before going on vacation. We make sure the bathrooms and kitchen are clean, floors mopped, and bed sheets are changed. I think that doing that is the most important step to follow. There really is nothing like coming home and having it be clean and fresh. We also try to do laundry regularly on vacation so we can cut down on the amount to pack and also to bring home clean clothes. And we definitely unpack almost immediately. The one thing I never thought to do was schedule something fun. Since we always leave an extra day before we go back to work/school, etc., we definitely need to plan something to stretch out our vacation as long as possible.

    So all great ideas here that really do make a difference when you get home.

    July 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Thanks Kathy! Glad to hear these ideas work for you!

    February 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I always clean the house before we go on vacation. I learned it from my mother, she always used to do it. At first I did it because she did it, and never gave it a thought. But gradually, I started to see its effect… I love to come home to a clean house after days away from home. I love the fact that I don’t have to start cleaning the house as soon as we get back. I can just relax and take my time to get back to chores and routines. Another thing I do- I put all the dirty laundry in a bag, and pack it so that I don’t have to go through the whole luggage to get it. As soon as we come home, I put the dirty laundry in the washer. While the washer is running, I can sit back and relax- One less thing to worry about.

    • July 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      I applaud the idea about scheduling a day off after your trip. I am also starting (after 20+ years of work and full family life) to schedule the day before we leave as a vacation day too. This has made a huge difference in my frame of mind once the vacation starts.

      July 11, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Great idea, Cathy!! Thanks for commenting. :)

      • July 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        Aby, I love this article. Without thinking about it, I do all of these and I can say they really do work.

        • July 26, 2013 at 8:40 am

          One thing I would modify, is instead of scheduling something fun immediately following, I would schedule it as a few days after.

          For example if you come home late Saturday evening, and have Sunday to relax, and back to work Monday, a nice restaurant dinner on Wednesday would give you something to look forward to and be more helpful to get you through that first week back.

          • July 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

            We always schedule our vacations so when we return we have a full day off before work. We bring our suitcases in and just relax that first night. Then we have the whole next day to unpack, and we always order carry out that next day so we don’t have to cook – that is sort of our “fun” thing to do! And we always make sure the house is clean and picked up, especially the kitchen, because nobody likes coming home to a mess. Thanks for your great tips!