Cottage Q&A: Weekend packing tips

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I need some weekend packing tips for the cottage. Our late Sunday night return home and our 4 p.m. mad dash to the lake on Friday leaves me with a never fully unpacked duffle bag and piles of tools, laundry, and provisions. Any suggestions to simplify and organize it all would be greatly appreciated.—Claire Sullivan, via  email

Reducing the amount of stuff in your haul will go a long way. Look at what you’re taking to the cottage each weekend. Can some of it stay there? 

“If unpacking items you bring home is a challenge every week, then I would highly recommend that you have a second set,” says Linda Chu, the president of Professional Organizers in Canada and the founder of Out of Chaos in Vancouver. Obvious candidates are toiletries, swimming and hiking gear, chilly-weather clothing that you don’t wash as often (sweatshirts, jeans, raincoats), pantry staples, and items such as games and phone chargers.

“Make a list—what are you bringing back and forth all the time? You have to think of it like maintaining two households or setting up a dorm.”

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Next, assess what you really need. Do you use all of those tools? Every weekend? If not, assemble a toolbox of the basics that can live at the cottage, and only take up the rest for specific planned projects. Are you hauling up food on Friday only to bring most of it back home on Sunday? Menu planning helps to prevent overbuying and impulse buying. “Are you really going to be making a roast for 12 people this weekend?” says Chu. (Menu plan says, Umm, no.) 

If you have no laundry facilities at the lake, you can’t avoid bringing clothes and linens home; keep dirty stuff in separate bins or duffle bags, and, the minute you get in the door, take the whole business to the laundry area in your house. “The trick is to segregate it right away, extract it from the pile,” says Chu. 

Finally, during the week, pack the must-go-back-and-forth stuff—in specific duffles, bins, or boxes—and leave them in the trunk of the car or stacked neatly in a front hallway, mudroom, or garage. This still takes up space, but at least it keeps things orderly.

This story was originally published in the Mar./Apr. 2019 issue of Cottage Life.

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