Inside the mind of a professional organizer: Practice efficient packing methods

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Jessi Bushman PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

We are nearly through 2022, and so many of us are ready for a vacation.

The idea of vacation means something different to everyone.

Vacations can range from a home staycation or a quick, overnight visit to someone’s home or a local attraction.

You might have a camper, a plan to relax at your reserved destination or to explore various parks.

If you are a jet-setter, you might be traveling across the globe.

Whatever your ideal vacation is, there is one thing leaving your house means: Packing.

The majority of my adult life, vacation time has been spent building houses. It’s easy to say, I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of staycations in my lifetime.

As others talk about past and future adventures, I love hearing about how others prepare for their time away from home.

Over-packing and under-estimating needed necessities is easy to do. Trust me, I’ve done both. But there are ways to avoid it.

When camping

This vacation concept has exploded in the past couple of years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If you are a long-devoted camper, I’m sure you can agree that campsites have become harder to come by. There is a lot of planning when it comes to stocking your camper, since you essentially are managing two households.

I believe there are two approaches to managing your “second home.”


Purchase a duplicate set of items for the camper.


Pack existing items from your primary home to furnish the camper for the season.

I see a benefit to both options, but ultimately, I believe it’s more manageable to use items you already own.

From what I gather, many people will take camper items back to the house during the off-season to clean and store. These items typically end up in the garage, banished to a space in the basement or put back into rotation of your daily items, which might be maxed out.

Where do you begin when stocking your camper? I’ll touch on my five principles of organization to help you understand your repeat process: Role, space, stuff, accessibility and flexibility.

The role of your camper is to offer a scaled-back amount of daily essentials and activities. The space your camper offers typically is limited, so creativity is needed. The stuff you need encourages the primary reason you have retreated away from your home. The accessibility factor includes being able to retrieve items quickly and easily. The flexibility of your mindset promotes the understanding that your needs and wants of items will vary in time.

You can categorize your items easily:


Food/beverages and utensils used to cook and consume.


Linens and clothing that need to be washed.


Physical objects to sit in, play with, provide entertainment or store items within.

This presents a prime opportunity to use similar sized clear storage bins and vacuum bags to transport your essentials. It might be an easy option to keep your stuff in bins if you are ultimately planning to relocate after the season. This idea is aimed toward things stored anywhere other than your kitchen cabinets.

Your suitcase

I find it helpful to categorize smaller clothing items and use Ziploc bags or clear travel pouches. This makes for less chaos when getting ready.

For example, toiletries. I have three Ziploc bags containing shower items, makeup/vanity, and toothbrush and consumable supplies.

For small items, finding your earrings or medication quickly versus rummaging through in a large bag will save you time and sanity in the long run.

I also suggest having a bag for dirty laundry. This saves you time at the end of your vacation when packing up and unloading your suitcase. It sounds crazy, but also fold/roll your dirty items within your laundry bag to take up less space. This preserves any clothing you did not wear, preventing the effort to wash unworn items.

The last tip for packing your suitcase/bag: Roll items. Jeans and tops are easy to identify when you can see them versus pulling out a stack of various categories.

The greatest advantage of organization is that there is no right or wrong way to do things. You always can modify your strategy. The most important step is to start.

Jessi Bushman is a professional organizer, member of the Iowa Professional Organizers Association and owner of Organizer Jessi in Dubuque. Visit her at or on Facebook at OrganizerJessi. You also can email her at

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