Where Should I Unpack?

Unpack.  Repack.  Repeat.
What will make you happy in the next phase of your life?  “Unpacking” means asking the right questions, rather than offering the wrong answers.  As simple, yet powerful, as “what is the good life?” Am I living in the place I love?” can present a new passport to the next phase of life.

12 Important Factors When Deciding the Best Place to Unpack
Home is where the heart is, but what if your heart doesn’t know where it should be?  From weather to cost of living, there are many variables to consider when choosing your version of “the good life.”

Your vision of “the good life” dictates “where” you live and “how” you live.  You not only live in a home, you also live in a total environment – family, friends, community, climate, and politics.  All these influence whether or not your place is an inspiring, nutritious place that allows you to unpack your fullness.  So, it’s important to periodically reflect on your sense of place.

Where are you living now and how did you decide to unpack there?  What are the factors that are most important to you?

Repacking is more than a simplification strategy; it addresses the core questions for happiness.  Quite simply, we must, first “unpack our bags.”

What is Unpacking?
Unpacking means taking a long, hard look at what we’re carrying and why.  Seeing if our place, possessions, and purpose are weighing us down.  So, start with “place.”

Place is a combination of factors that makes a place “my place.”  Sense of place involves the human experience in a landscape.  Writer Wendell Berry famously said, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

Many people, today, spend so much time online, in their cars, or in an office that they may have little connection to their place.  Is the “sense of place” becoming a lost sense?

It takes courage to “unpack” – to look at what we’re carrying – and even more to consider repacking for a new place.  It’s much easier to just live with what we have, secretly longing for a new map, a new itinerary, and a fresh, new territory.

My Place Inventory
To find out how well your current and future place fits your vision of “the good life”, rate each factor by a number from 1 to 7.  Consider three different places.  Current Place is where you live now.  For Place A & B, consider living in the next phase of your life.  A score of 1 means no fit; 7 is a perfect fit.

Key Characteristics of My Place

My Current Place

My Ideal
Place (A)

My Ideal
Place (B)

1.   Climate:Living in  a climate which I’m most comfortable, seasons, days of sunshine vs. rainfall, temperature, air quality, etc.
2.   Environment:Proximity to mountains, hills, lakes, desert, ocean, rivers, open space, trees, wildlife, cityscape, etc.
3.   Lifestyle:Real estate values, architectural styles, choices available, quality, aesthetic appeal, etc.
4.   Healthcare Facilities:Easy access to good healthcare, hospitals,  preventative, and special needs, etc.
5.   Access:Commute time, public transportation options, air, bus, train travel, proximity to an airport, etc.
6.   Cost of Living:Living comfortably and within my means, affordability, tax rates, cost of “quality of life.” (gasoline, utility services, etc.)
7.   Culture:Cultural stimulation, offerings, retail choices, ethnic diversity, etc.
8.   Town or City Size:Pace of life, congeniality, character  of the community, sense of belonging, population density, etc.
9.   Safety:Civic responsibility, public services, crime rate, feelings of safety, etc.
10.   Learning:Education system, college and university access, community  education, lifelong learning activities, etc.
11.   Religion and Politics:Close proximity to like-minded people, feeling a sense of belonging, religious and racial acceptance, diversity of religious experience, healthy political climate, etc.
12.   Leisure:Sports, arts, recreational experiences, night life, restaurants, hobbies, special interests, etc.
13.   Employment Opportunities:Job market, opportunities for part-time and second careers, business services, etc.
14.   Proximity to Family & Friends:Driving distance or travel distance, opportunities for your family, spouse, or partner to take part in what the community has to offer, etc.


80 and above:  This place fits your definition of “the good life.” Enjoy your good fortune! (Or think about packing up and unpacking there.)

65 to 79:  There are parts of “the good life” missing from this place. Explore ways to make this place your place.

50 to 64: This is an okay place to live based on your vision of “the good life.” But what’s your Plan B?

35 to 49:  This place does not fit your vision of “the good life.” Decide your timetable and priorities for repacking.

Under 35: This place is a really poor fit for your vision of “the good life.” It looks like it’s time to consider repacking.

”There is no there there”
The reality of choosing a new place to unpack encompasses an incredibly large series of factors, all competing for your attention.  In order to be thorough in your place reflections, you must determine what is most important to you (and your relationships), do your homework, and then continue to be vigilant in your exploring until you find the right place to unpack.
Places that lack a “sense of place” are often referred to as “placeless” or “inauthentic.”  Placeless landscapes are those that have no special relationship to the places in which they are located – they could be anywhere.  A classic description of such placeless places is Gertrude Stein’s “There is No There There.”

Lightening Your Load
Unpacking and repacking is an ongoing, life long process of reflection and choice.

Reframing our vision of the good life.  Reimaging our place.  Rearranging our priorities.  And, recovering a fresh sense of growth and vitality.

If you’re feeling weighed down, here is an exercise for lightening your load.

Having completed this inventory, reflect on the following questions:

  • Picture this.  You’re moving to your ideal place – “the place” for you in your next phase of life.  You’ve decided to pack ALL your belongings as if you were moving.  Everything!  And, then you would “unpack” only the items you needed in the new place.  Just the things that added value to your new life.  Were all those things that were supposed to make you happy doing their job?  If not, is it time to donate or sell much of it?  Is it time to “lighten your load for the good life?”



Richard, known to his 1 million readers as “The Purpose Coach, has written ten books, including three bestsellers – THE POWER OF PURPOSE, REPACKING YOUR BAGS, & LIFE REIMAGINED. He writes about unlocking the power of purpose at


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