It's the end of the semester. You're saying good-bye, cramming for finals -- and looming in the distance is the one thing you don't want to think about: packing up your stuff. It's among the least desired tasks college students face, and it's often done in a hurried, panicked rush. But it doesn't have to be. Take all the stress out of the end-of-the-year move with six simple steps.
1. Start now: Starting a week before you leave, give yourself 30 to 40 minutes each day to pack. Most people just think they'll pack everything in a single ballet of organizational mastery. In reality, you'll burn out your precious packing neurons before you know it. So do it in bunches. Start with the stuff you don't need!
2. Make piles: Instead of packing precisely, just start making piles of things; it's simple and it lets you see what's really there to pack, instead of imagining what's in all of your drawers. Creating piles of books, clothes, and electronics is to packing what making an outline is to writing an essay.
3. Make it fun: Packing is not really fun, so put on some great energizing music and enjoy it. Dance if you have to, or make a game of it -- "how much can I do before this song ends?"
4. Resist distraction: Handling all of your stuff will bring back a flood of memories: "Look, my first paper of the semester" or "Ooh, that souvenir I got on spring break." You'll want to think of good times and bad. You'll get inspired to do something else. FORGET IT. It's just your mind's way of trying to avoid what you're doing. Remember, you'll get to go through everything again when you unpack it all.
5. Get a buddy: Really. You'll be surprised how easy it is to pack if you have a friend with you. Even if he/she is just in the room talking to you while you do it. Promise your buddy you'll do the same for him/her. Unpleasant tasks are always easier when a friend is there to give you emotional support.
6. Think to the future: Close your eyes. Imagine how you want to leave: you have two hours before you go, and you are completely done. You have time to say good-byes, relax, and leave campus on a high note. Think of how good that would feel. Then picture the opposite: scrambling on your last day, hurriedly stuffing bags while breathless, barely getting out in time. Do you really want that? Give yourself an idea of what you want and what you don't want to help keep you motivated.
These don't take much time or extra effort, and a little work each day goes a long way. You can feel proud that you packed with calm and grace. Then you get to start your summer feeling really great.
Follow Mark Gilman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/untinydancer