The "Unpacking" List

Do you love packing a suitcase?


There is something soothing about checking off a packing list, making tidy piles of exactly what is needed and then rolling each item carefully and placing it into the packing cube, like a empty puzzle board ready to be filled. 

But I find getting to that point and actually making that packing list is painstakingly painful.

It always starts out well. I download a packing list from the internet which is always is a good starting point. But somewhere along the way I start to doubt myself. What will the weather be like? Will we have access to a washing machine? Should I bring some extras for our preschooler who will undoubtedly be wearing bits from every meal on every t-shirt I pack?

Packing decisions are always enough to throw me into anxiety.  How on earth can I predict what we will need?  I could take it all, but then we wouldn’t have enough room.

You would think it would get easier with experience right? After all, I’ve been packing suitcases regularly since I moved to Switzerland 17 years ago. Why hasn’t it become easier? 

But then it dawned on me. 

If only I had a record of what we actually wore and used from our past trips? Could that be the magic antidote to my decision fatigue? It is, and I call it “The Unpacking List”.

The Unpacking List. 

It’s a magical list that notes down not only what we wore and used, but also how long we were away, what the weather was like and whether we used a washing machine during that time. Having a list of what we actually used is a like having a magic view into the future. Because if we survived with that once, we can survive with that again.

This made me realise that packing lists are very personal. Sure, you can have a list of number of pairs of underwear you’ll need, standard toiletries needed, and the like.  But what works for others won’t necessarily work for you. While a good packing list can get you on your way, there are still many more decisions needed to be made to get that suitcase ready. The Unpacking List takes the packing list one step further - and personalises it.

So when you get back from you next trip, don’t leave the suitcase in the corner hoping it will unpack itself. Grab your favourite notebook and pen and start documenting exactly what everyone wore, which shoes were needed, and which games were played with. And the day before your next trip, you will thank yourself for taking the time to do it because not only will your preparation be quicker, it will be less stressful. 

Curious as to what ours looks like? 

Here is our Unpacked List from our 6 days away to the UK last winter:

the unpacking list


Tips for getting started: 

1- Although you can use any paper and pen, choose a notebook, a pad of paper, an excel spreadsheet, or even the notes on your phone to keep your unpacking lists in one place.  Organize them by theme:  Camping Trips, Trips to see Family and Friends, Hotel Visits, seasons etc. If your kids are old enough, have them contribute to the list, or even be in charge of their own list.

2 - Over time note themes:  most needed item, least needed item, item that took up space but was worth it to have, ‘couldn’t live without’ item, etc.  Once basic lists are created, you’ll only need to adjust slightly each time you unpack.

3 - Think it’s a great idea but don’t have your list started yet? Why not scroll back through your photos from your last trip in a similar season and note down what you actually wore in those photos.

Yes, it requires time and a bit of discipline, and I don’t always remember to do it.  However, the time you’ll save agonising over what to bring will be well worth it the next time you find yourself getting ready for a holiday away.  The 15 minutes you spend while unpacking can potentially save you hours in the long run!

Have you tried an unpacking list?


Introducing the "unpacking" list - a new way to pack