I find it deeply ironic that my favorite activity in the world is preceded by my least favorite activity in the world.
They are traveling and packing, respectively.
Nothing makes me happier than having a trip to plan for, anticipate, fantasize about and eventually experience. But nothing fills me with more panic-stricken dread than packing for such an adventure.
As a well-documented commitment-phobe, packing is really my ultimate test of will. We’re not just talking about a few decisions that have minor consequences; we’re talking about dozens of decisions that have the potential for dire consequences.
How many outfits is realistic for a two-week trip? What is the likelihood I’ll need high heels? The weather calls for 80 degree days, but what if it’s unseasonably chilly and I don’t bring a jacket and an entire evening is ruined? This is the type of self-inflicted battery I endure.
It’s not all fashion-related, either. It’s equally hard for me to choose which pajamas to bring as it is actual clothes. I would never pack impractical shoes for a trip that involves lots of walking. I am just as concerned with comfort as I am style.
For me, packing begins days, sometimes weeks in advance of departure. I make a master checklist, see what items I need to purchase (perfect — more decisions!), and begin mentally cataloguing my wardrobe. Three days before, I start laundry and restrict myself from wearing any of the clean items so I can save them for the trip. Two days before, I lay everything out on the bed, staring, moving, replacing, rejecting each item until I feel somewhat assured that the earth is not going to fall off its axis.
Mike packs in ten minutes or less, if you didn’t assume that already.
While living with roommates during and after college, they knew to come running at pack time, armed with snacks and wine and light-hearted music to get me through. They’d hold up items from my closet and say “yes or no?” and I only had a few seconds to answer or they’d make the choice for me. This worked remarkably well, apart from the hives it caused.
Nothing comforts me like being able to explain my neurosis to a willing party, in the hope that that person will agree with my sound logic or tell me I’ve lost my mind while stuffing my oversized hat back into its hatbox.
“But what if we have dinner out? And it’s cold? And I’m in a dress so I’ll need something with length?”
“Abby, you are going to Pennsylvania. In August. You will not need your wool trench coat.”
As it turns out, I’m not the only one fit for a straight jacket when it comes to packing. One of my best gal pals, Jamie, recently wrote a blog post on her twin sister, Jen’s, new blog. It’s all about packing, and it’s fantastic. Every word of it made me feel like less of an insane person. Jamie and Jen were in town last weekend and we swapped sob stories of packing gone wrong. We are all recovering overpackers.
I have to boast that my personal best occurred in May of 2011. Mike and I traveled to Europe for twelve days and we carried on. Yes, every piece of clothing and every shoe and accessory were combined with Mike’s items into four small bags fit for overhead bin and under-seat stowing. This, you can imagine, was a colossal feat that had me sweating all the way to the airport, convinced I’d forgotten everything essential.
The real conversion moment happened upon our return home. As I unpacked, I reached into the bottom of my bag and realized there were two dresses I forgot to wear. I was struck dumb by the fact that my micro-packing not only worked, it worked so well that I didn’t even miss my extra clothes. This, my friends, was life-altering progress.
However, for the trip to Italy we are taking in two days, I will be checking a bag (it’s free…hello). There is only one layover, and it’s for five hours, so I’m counting on the airline’s ability to move my bag correctly in that amount of time.
So for the next 36 hours, the pressure is on. My personal Olympic event is underway, and I’m limbering up. I’ve got my snacks, wine, music and my decision-making game face on. I’m not aspiring to medal, but I am hoping to finish in one piece (which reminds me: swimsuits…two piece or one? Both? Oh my word…).