Let’s Unpack This

When you hear someone say “Let’s unpack this” you hope they are going to take a complicated issue, separate it into its parts, identify the common thread, and prioritize essential elements. They will see the big picture, discard the extraneous, and focus on productivity.

Unpacking from Lisa Risager via Flickr

When someone looks at a post-vacation suitcase and says “Let’s unpack this” they often mean that they are going to look for something in particular. It may be a wallet, or a phone charger, or a favorite pair of earrings. Unpacking the whole suitcase in an organized fashion is not likely to happen in a hurry.

While looking for that particular necessary item, the laundry will be tossed on the floor, the mementos will probably be put on the dresser, and the clean but unworn clothing will go onto the bed awaiting a decision about its future.

The suitcase could then, in theory, get put back into its storage location, except that it would still contain miscellany. The pockets will have documents like itineraries and receipts and last-minute packing that didn’t make it into the main suitcase cavity. Those things will include, for examples, shorts and flip-flops. They will have been worn in the hot country until the very last minute before the traveler changed into clothing appropriate for the colder country they will be in by the end of the day.

Unpacking from Hillary via Flickr

So, the suitcase will stay in the central part of the house or the bedroom for quite a while before the traveler decides to move it to storage, with or without the documents. If they are a frequent traveler, it may never make it into storage, but a less-frequent traveler could let it sit around for a couple of weeks or more before moving it out of sight.

The laundry will get done probably within a week or so, depending on the supply of clean underwear. The clean-but-not-worn clothing is more problematic. Unpacking those items means deciding whether or not they are too wrinkled to put back in the closet or drawer. If they are too wrinkled, the question then is whether to launder them anyway or break out the iron. By bedtime that day they will definitely be off the bed, but if they end up on the floor they will become laundry. If they get piled on the dresser, they will probably get put away eventually, but there’s no rush.

Holiday suitcase via Piqsels

Unpacking things, whether they are complex ideas or heavy suitcases, requires a lot of small decisions. It also requires a sense of order and priorities. Mostly, it requires urgency, which is often lacking after a vacation. After all, that’s one of the things we got away from. And, now that we have remembered how to lounge about, we aren’t in any hurry to lose that feeling.

Any resemblance to any actual person’s unpacking behavior is purely coincidental.



  1. Ha! Back in the day, when we had that retail store, after taking out what we absolutely needed it wasn’t uncommon for vacation suitcases to remain unpacked for 2-weeks! I’ve tried to get it done within 24 hours nowadays with life a whole lot easier.

  2. My husband unpacks things the literal minute he gets in the door from a trip.
    I don’t know how I ended up with such a person but here we are.
    I, on the other hand wait until at least until the worst of the jet lag has passed and then it’s only to get out the souvenirs I’ve brought home. The rest can wait for a bit!

  3. Enjoyed the blog. The “things” in the suitcase take on a life of their own. I’m aN “in the door, unpack the suitcase immediately” kind of person. That made things very difficult for me when we came back from Doha last August with boxes of stuff we shipped back with us. We also had stuff from the house in storage in the garage and the attic to unpack. Then Glenn decided that we should look at all the boxes that we had left unpacked when we moved into this house 10 years ago. My worst nightmare! The unpacking continues, almost 6 months later.

    • Oh boy! That sounds like a gargantuan task. I think there’s a rule that if you haven’t looked in a box for over a year, you don’t need whatever is in it. The problem I have found is that many of those boxes contain memorabilia that I find it almost impossible to part with.

  4. I enjoyed exploring both meanings of unpacking. I have recently changed into a person who unpacks more quickly and gets that empty suitcase put away. I have surprised myself with this change!
    After my last trip, I was also “unpacking” some realizations about my relationships with the folks I had just visited. That took a little bit longer to unpack but it was time well-spent.

    • That is a really interesting observation. Your comment made me realize that as I have been unpacking my suitcase from my trip I have also been unpacking my experiences and my reactions to them whle I was away.

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