August 10, 2012

Packing Just Enough; or, how I learned to fake low-maintenance

One topic I addressed on several instances in the earlier days of this blog was packing. A few people lately have commented on my organization skills: One peep into my bedroom and these people would realize these skills are reserved for my public duties only. The truth is, I love to put things in order, but the very minute after they're sorted it is my greatest delight to immediately mess them up again so I can put them in order again. To me, life is a never-ending process of arranging and rearranging; to me, tornadoes and computers are equivalently magnificent.

Anyway, back to packing -- I had someone at my previous job ask how I got all my "stuff" over to London when I studied there.  -- "I know another student going over who'd like some tips. Did you ship boxes or check extra luggage?"

"I didn't ship or check extra anything," I told him.

"What?"

"I just took over a big suitcase and a backpack and that was all I needed."

"Really?"

I actually reflected for a moment on whether or not I ought to feel offended at this reaction. Certainly there were mountains of things I could have shipped to London, but the purpose of traveling is the very opposite of having those mountains of things to entertain yourself with -- the entertainment is in the marvelously atypical surroundings. I knew that. I thought everyone knew that. Did I come across as so high-maintenance?

I guess people who know me (ish) might draw such an assumption quite readily. It would pair understandably with my generally neurotic brain, my constantly-shifting wardrobe, and the ever-expanding piles scattered about my room. What it all comes back to, though, is the fact that I'm just really bad at getting rid of things. I'd happily sort through and label 700 photos if it meant I got to keep them instead of tossing them away cold turkey. I cling to objects of sentiment and I hate to see materials go to waste. So, even though I never paint my nails, I have 13 colors of polish. Despite the fact no hair product works for me EVER, I can name at least 4 sitting unused in my bathroom this very moment. I have 7 bras. I wear three.

What I learned from London was this: No matter what illusions the neurotic packrat in my head paints for me, I know I can live with a suitcase worth of stuff and be perfectly (if not more) content. Part of it is necessity -- I'm not going to pack 7 bras because I want to be able to wear more than just underwear -- but another part is letting go, taking a risk, knowing we can (almost) always find (or construct) what we didn't realize we'd need. Our society has bred us to believe we need a huge wardrobe or a bigger kitchen or a (gulp) impressive library to get by. I think deep down we all know that's not true. Especially these days when electronic information is at our fingertips. Much as it goes against my joi de vivre to admit, life is for living, not for sorting.

That enormous tangent aside, I present to you the suitcase that got me through five months of European living, from August in Spain to December in London, from school to beach, from hostel to dorm room.*

video


*Disclaimer: Again, I did have an additional backpack. This was essential to keep my laptop, camera, ipod, passport, pound notes, Visas, school information, waterbottle, travel journal, umbrella, toothbrush, and a change of clothes on me at all times.

What's in the bag?
   I'm so glad you asked!



Go forth and pack light! The less you have to keep track of, the more you get to discover!

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