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Travel Me This—Part II, Keep Calm & Love Packing

To recap from Part I:

Packing. What if I loved it?

Do I love it now? Not so much.

What’s in the way? Mostly, last-minute packing that takes too much time.

So, after much thought, not to mention reading blog posts about packing and watching YouTube videos of smiling people rolling their clothes and stuffing them into packing cubes… I came to the following simple conclusion:

It takes too long to pack.

05-13 Suitcase Plus

I never quite believe how long it takes to get through my packing list, even though it is reasonably minimal. By the time I’m halfway through, I’m seriously wondering, “Am I done yet?”

So…. What are the things that take the most time?

  • Deciding what to wear.
  • Gathering everything into one place.
  • Checking and replenishing all the little things.

Here are my simple solutions:

  • Move toward loving packing by “getting into it” vs. “fighting it.”
  • Take advantage of the motivational (anti-procrastination) strategy of dividing things and tasks that take too long into smaller chunks.

Here are some enablers:

  • Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute. Pack over several days rather than mostly the night before. (Requires coordination.)
  • Keep Some Things Packed All the Time. Create a set of things that stay packed, so there are fewer things to gather. (Requires duplicates.)
  • Make Room for Packing. Create staging areas in your closet and in your bedroom for setting clothes aside ahead of time and for gathering things. If you can lay your suitcase open on a convenient surface for a few days before you leave, that’s a huge help. (Might require making room.)
  • Time, Containers, Location. Organize your packing list by multiple dimensions:
    • Time (when you’ll pack different things). This gives you the best chance of dividing your packing process into smaller tasks, which makes it seem less of a chore.
    • Packing container (what you’ll pack things in, for example, suitcase, computer bag, knapsack, pockets, or purse). This way, you know just where things go. This is also a great way to remember where to look for the things you packed. (There you are, three flights across the country later, and trying to find an essential item. So much better just to know where you put it.)
    • Current location (where things are before you pack them, for example, office, kitchen, bedroom). This way, you gather all the things from one area at once instead of making multiple trips.

Here’s my five-step, Keep Calm and Love Packing process:

  1. Always Packed. Pack the things you can keep ready to go all the time. Stuff that doesn’t spoil. Things you almost always use. In the example below, “BOK” stands for bedroom, office, and kitchen. Obviously, no two people are likely to have the exact same list. Plus, you can always make adjustments for different kinds of trips.
    05-13 1-Always Packed
  2. Set Your Outfits Aside. Days before your trip, decide what you’re going to wear. Mixing and matching, wearing some things more than once, and selecting reasonably packable clothes keeps the volume down. If you’re taking outfits for a business trip, you can move the clothes you are going to wear into a section of your closet. Hang them together until you’re ready to pack them.
  3. Pack Ahead. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to wear, and your trip is coming up in a few days, pack accessories that go with your outfits. Pack exercise and sleeping clothes, underwear, snacks, cash, and meds. This is a good time to add a novel or business book to your e-reader.
    05-13 2-Pack Ahead
  4. Day Before. Pack the outfits that you set aside a few days ago (this is on the theory that they’ll arrive in better shape if they’re in the suitcase for less time). Add casual clothes, business notes, and other almost-last-minute things to your bags.
    05-13 3-Day Before
  5. Last Minute. Just before you leave, add electronics and maybe a physical book you’ve been reading. Wear or carry your coat, if you need one.
    05-13 4-Last Minute

I tried this new anti-procrastination method just before writing this post. Even though I was super busy the days before my trip, I fit the packing in between project work and other tasks, following my five-stage list over several days, and it felt great. I was in control instead of the packing being in control.

As I was going to the airport, I felt like something was missing. Here’s what was missing: stress and worry. I didn’t forget anything. I knew where everything was. I didn’t pack too much. Even better—I enjoyed packing. Odd, I know. Makes me smile.


Travel Me This—Part I, the Problem

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