So, what exactly is it about packing and moving that is so entirely horrendous?
I’ve said to many people in the past week that it’s an exercise in ongoing under-estimation. Underestimating how much, how long, how expensive, how heavy, how tired.
It’s got a lot in common with working on an enormous project with not enough time and not enough budget, and the media booked for launch.
(This is why I’ve started encouraging my clients to work in increments now. I’m starting to think all enormous projects are doomed – not to mention rarely profitable… but that’s a whole other post).
I’m looking forward to only have two suitcases worth of gear. Must try to keep it to that for as long as possible. It will be good to not have possessions for a while!
I’ve noticed a few interesting behaviours in the last week of organising ‘stuff’ (see, packing up a house has a lot in common with information architecture… and I get to be the architect and the user at the same time! I am my own usability test!)
Some of these may be abundantly obvious, but I’m tired enough to find it interesting.
It’s much easier to be diligent at the beginning of the exercise than it is at the end.
This is because it’s natural to leave the trickiest things to last.
Things are tricky when they don’t have a natural place. They don’t fit neatly into a box, or they’re hard to wrap, or no one wants to take them off your hand. They end up in a pile in the corner of the loungeroom. You enter the room with hand on hip, stare at the weird little pile, and sigh. Then walk out again.
You will always argue over what can be thrown out and what cannot. The person with the best rationale wins. Except if the item was originally a present. (Although, I’m not sure how the present fits in the the IA metaphor… any ideas? While you’re thinking about it, read what Christopher Fahey has to say about throwing things out and web redesign.)
Throughout the process you will group things together in different ways. Sometime because they are similar types of items. Sometimes because you will need to get to them at similar times, sometimes just because they’re the same shape or share a fragile nature. It doesn’t really matter. If there was a rational reason for the grouping, you’ll remember it and be able to refind the item quickly.
You never group things logically at the end of the packing process. You throw things together randomly. This is when you lose things.
Once you start throwing things together randomly, the entire system breaks down. Even those things that are grouped logically suffer because you lose faith in your system.
The number of ‘special places’ you have to put important items is inversely proportional to the ‘specialness’ (read: useful/memorableness) of those special places.
The only time you go through this process is when you move. There are some possessions you *only* see when you move house. You still don’t throw them out.
The longer the time between moves, the more hellish the packing process.
We’re very close to hopping on a plane and heading off on our big adventure now, so posts might be a bit sporadic and possibly off topic for the next couple weeks. Promise I’ll brew up a few great posts for my return… (from a lounge chair in the shade on a beautiful Thai beach! Now that’s blogging!)
My name is Leisa Reichelt. I am the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
I lead a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design.
If you're interested in working with me or would like to talk more please email me