Pack it Baby!

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Here we are post #33. I’ve taken a short break from my headless chicken impersonation (which I am quite good at) to write this post. We leave on Saturday for a month in New Zealand, and between now and then there seems to be an endless number of tasks to complete.

Listing! And not to the left… Fortunately, have pen and pad, will create list. List thus created, I am proceeding to complete it and tick things off it. Thus saving sanity and not driving household completely bonkers. This is a plus, I have found.

Some people are list makers, and some aren’t. Of the list makers, some even read their lists. Others have been known to find their lists crumpled at the bottom of their handbag months later, with obscure items on it that they can no longer fully comprehend like green suit, butter, scan pan, hot chicken, 4pm Candy Tues. No doubt, it meant something at the time of writing.

I love my list and am smugly able to report that I am deep into the third item (of six) with this-ee-here writing which you are now reading.

Pack me! I’ve always enjoyed packing more than unpacking. I’m not alone there… an extensive 3 minute Google search reveals that Ashton Kutcher also enjoys packing. Having travelled a great deal, and therefore packed many times, I have made many fine mistakes. The biggest one is packing with these three words in mind: “just in case”. When you pack for “just in case” you end up taking all kinds of unnecessary items. Like a rain slicker to go to places when the last known rainfall was before movies went colour. Or a swimsuit to visit Canada at Christmas (well, there might be a spa somewhere! I’m sure that’s what I must have been thinking at the time).

The Expanding Bag. The other big mistake I’ve made when travelling is purchase large and awkward shaped items to take back home. For years, I carried an Extra Bag with me to pack clothing into while the suitcase was co-opted into housing wooden African figurines, chinese blue pottery, Thai stone statuettes and other such items for the trip home.

The most awkward thing I ever purchased was two dinner sets in San Francisco. One was (well, still is) a giraffe pattern and the other is more of a tiger pattern. They were very well priced and I knew I would never be able to find them in Australia (and if I do, I will have to commit hare kari with a wet noodle in self-flagellation). We had also purchased a full set of suitcases on this same trip (yes yes, they were (are) in animal print — in fact, the second-to-largest suitcase is pictured above). I briefly toyed with the idea of packing the dinner sets up in clothing, etc, and carting them home with us in the new suitcases.

Sanity returned thereafter (can you imagine what our check in luggage would have looked like, let alone weighed? We’d have looked like we were fleeing for our lives with our entire earthly possessions on a luggage trolley, stacked halfway to the ceiling. And our excess baggage fees would have been, well, excessive indeed). We ended up taking the dinner sets to a FedEx who shipped them home for us. Cost us twice what the actual dinner sets did, but hey! Makes a great story and every time I use those plates (which is every day), I remember the sacrifices that were required to bring them home. Ahhhhhh.

So, just how is it done? I have learned that a packing chart really helps. When I worked for an international consulting firm and travelled every week to new and exotic destinations, like Perth and Adelaide, I would create a specific packing chart for each trip. These trips usually lasted 5 days, although sometimes I’d be away from home for a fortnight.

This chart had on it what I was going to wear every day (including travel days). It helped because it meant I did not have to remember what combo’s I’d dreamt up when getting ready at the obscenely early hours we would start work. And I also had to take less clothes, because I had pre-thought say 5 unique outfit combinations that could be created from say 1 suit, 1 jacket and 2 pairs of dress pants (with say 2 pair of shoes, various tops (usually knit t-shirt types) + a range of accessories. oh, and underwear – most important to remember to pack that. And usually I would also be packing flamenco gear as well. I have studied flamenco in many fine cities).

Sans packing chart? I don’t do that anymore, one reason being that my trips are never mostly work ones. They are almost always mostly ‘leisure’/fun trips whose purpose is to add to my personal happiness, with a bit of work thrown in. The work I do now has also changed, and I am bringing more of “me” into it (vs. when I worked for a big company and I was mostly “them” — I had a receptionist once call my client from the front desk and say “Deloitte is here”. It was me). This means that when I do dress for work now, it’s much more creative than how I previously dressed professionally. Thus blurring the lines between business and leisure clothing.

Pas – avec l’embalage graphique! Avec une difference! I still use a packing chart, but it’s different to the one I used in my old consulting days — I use it only in the preparation stages. As a guide to make sure I pack enough, but not too much. The packing chart I use is from one of my image books and it sure is helpful when I’m pondering what to take and what to leave at home.

We’re embarking on a long trip to a cold climate (important parameters to understand when the packing commences). Here is what I’ve been recommended to pack for such a trip (some of which has already made it into the suitcase, left):

  • 5 jackets. Check! A coat (animal print trench) + a jacket (orange suede) + a windbreaker (orange padded) + soft jacket (turquoise brushed cotton jean-jacket style) + cardigan (animal print Gerry Weber wool number I try to wear as much as possible to justify the exorbitant price I paid for it)
  • 6 bottoms. Check! Skirts are suggested, but I’m not taking any. Mainly because I only own 3 and none of them are winter ones. So, am taking 4 pair of jeans (dark ‘dress’ jeans + black Lucky jeans + pre-loved Dallas designer pair with shorter hem for wearing with flat shoes + boot cut pair from Target which fit like a glove and are semi-favourites despite costing less than all the others except the consignment pair). And 2 pair of lounging-about-the-house style pants
  • 12 tops. Check! Range of long-sleeve t-shirty knits (great for layering, when in/out of heated indoors and chillier/windier outdoors), couple of turtlenecks, one wool wrap top, one cardi-style drapey thing, a few camis (again the layering)
  • 1 dress. Nope. wont be taking. Own 5 dresses, none of which are winter weight
  • 4 pair of shoes. Ha! I am taking only 3 (that’s three, trois, tre, tri, tres, drie, kolme) pair. My enthusiasm for this may be slightly out of proportion to the task at hand, but it’s great to know I can travel with Less Than Recommended items. Slippers don’t count as shoes, do they?
  • 4 scarves. Check! Well, I’m taking about double that, but many of them are smaller ones. So that don’t count, right? And they don’t take up much space, so it doubly doesn’t count, right?
  • 2 bags. This is apart from the ones all this stuff is going into, I presume. Am guessing the recommendation is to take a bag appropriate for going out to dinner (at somewhere other than the local outdoor food bazaar) if one is travelling with a backpack as one’s day bag. I’m not sure if I’ll take two bags or not…
  • 2 belts. Check! Since I’m wearing one on the plane, I am officially only packing 2.
  • Extras such as a jersey (she doesn’t mean the the British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, surely?), a tracksuit (yiyck, but I have packed equally comfortable wear that feels like a tracksuit but does not look like one), a sweatshirt (all my sweating will be done in something that does not resemble a sweatshirt) and lingerie. Personally, I do not consider lingerie to be “extras”, they’ve always been essential items for me. So Check! on that front, too

All of this, plus a few extras like some wool wash, small packet of pegs (amazing how useful they can be, including when hanging up wet clothing), and a small hairdryer should all fit into my mid-size bag. You can see the beginnings of my packing effort in the photograph above, taken just this morning.

On a related note, I am sure looking forward to some real Autumn weather. Not this wishy-washy, wimpy, wussy Autumn weather that we get in Queensland (sorry, Queensland, but it’s true. You know it is. (I’m talking to a State now.…)). Crisp mornings, sunny days… not to mention the forecasted heavy rain, dense fog and high winds. Hmmm. Might be a good thing I’m not packing skirts after all. Right?

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