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By Barbara Hemphill

Several years ago I received a call from a woman who said she had been planning all year to take a two-week trip to Hawaii. She told me how she had madly spent the day trying to clean up her office before she left. Then she raced home, feeling frantic about how she was going to get everything done there before she left. Slowly she had that sinking feeling that although she could get away from it for two weeks, she would have to come back to it — sooner or later. Suddenly it occurred to her that she could use the money she was going to spend on her vacation on getting her act together — and not have to go back to chaos! So instead of going away for her vacation, she stayed home. She spent her vacation money, and one week of her vacation, organizing her home. The next week she went to a nearby resort to relax — and she truly did, knowing that she could return to a home about which she didn’t have to feel guilty.

I found a delightful definition of “vacation” in Webster’s: “a time of respite from something.” A good first step to organizing your vacation is identifying what it is from which you need a respite.

If your job is boring, a 10-day trip on the Colorado River might be just the thing. If you’ve been eating fast food on the run for months, how about a week at a bed and breakfast which serves terrific home-cooked meals? Have you always wanted to learn to play tennis? Hire a local coach (many high school teachers would be delighted to have some extra income) and spend time on the local court. If one of the joys of being away from home is not having to cook, have meals catered to your home for a week — with clean up. It’s considerably less expensive than a week in a hotel.

Ironically, we often go on vacations to have quality time with the family — but end up squabbling because of weariness and unmet expectations. Children today need real quality time with their parents — a lazy afternoon at the pool or a game of golf. When I lived near Washington, D.C., August was my favorite month to spend time in the city, because everyone else was gone on vacation!

As for me, I head for the North Carolina beach with my husband’s family. For me it will be a respite from hose and high heels, from my computer and calendar — with lots of time for love and laughter — a real vacation!

About the Author

© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at