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Pack Challenged

Beware things that look simple – they can be hiding many layers of complication.


Like packing.


I admire people who can grab a couple outfits, toss them in the suitcase without a second thought and “travel light” the same way I admire Olympic athletes.

Regardless of how much I practice, I am never going to be able to do that on the uneven bars. It looks so uncomplicated, watching those girls fly effortlessly through the air. But the first time you hoist your bottom over your top to twirl up onto the lower bar – even though it’s only your fourth grade weight and your gym teacher is standing by as spotter– you will see it’s not easy.


That's how packing feels to me.


The thought that I may not have thought to pack something I should have thought to pack is too much to think about.

It’s a Fear Of Forgetting Something (FOFS). Similar to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I have an unbalanced anxiety about bringing the right things for every possible permutation of:


Weather 🌦 X Activity 🚶‍♂️ X Mood🤪

It’s mostly clothing insecurity – with no basis – since so far I’ve never had to show up naked, except maybe in a few dreams. Yet every possible contingency must be addressed because that moment of realization that I forgot to bring (something) is so frightening it must be avoided at all cost – including the cost of checking an oversized bag when everyone else has a carry-on.


Needing to pack an extra just-in-case handbag and a couple pairs of what-if-scenario shoes are also part of the disorder.


Here’s a question I have for those fast-packers: How is it possible to anticipate your future mood? For me, certain days “feel” like certain outfits, and NOT like certain other outfits, and I don’t want to be forced into a planned outfit that doesn't fit how I feel! Forecasting a future mood state, given the myriad dependencies, is similar to predicting the stock market, and equally unlikely.


Recently, I began packing a week before a family trip. At first I tried experimenting with a “devil may care” attitude, grabbing a few things that I wanted to bring as a starting point. But the thought that I may not have thought to pack something I should have thought to pack is too much to think about. And so ultimately, it felt irresponsible until due diligence was done with a full assessment of the local weather conditions, activities planned and attendees, integrated into a day-by-day wardrobe plan, broken down into thirds for morning, afternoon and evening outfits, and cross-correlated with expected mood.


Here's how that looked:


Not everyone is so consumed though. I once worked with a woman who wore black every single day, and asked her about it.


She said “I’m afraid of clothes! Clothes send messages – about the wearer’s age, preferences, status, education, etc. and I don’t know what message I want to send – or have to figure it out every morning!”


Embracing the void and wearing black every single day was how she simplified it.


Although BLACK x BLACK x BLACK was a such a strong message in itself that it prompted me to ask her about it.


Honestly when the final zipper is zipped on my luggage, I look at the piece in awe: It’s just a simple rectangle and looks so innocent and uncomplicated sitting there. Yet packing it to provide for all of my hopes, activities, and moods for the next 5 days and 4 nights took me at least twice as long as the trip itself.


Even if it manages to scrape by the weight test, the struggle to get it into and out of the car will be real.


Of course, après-travel, there will likely be four unworn outfits, plus shoes and handbags, travel understudies, who made the trip to serve as buffers for the potential vicissitudes of mood, only to get unpacked and recycled back home.

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Katherine Rabinowitz
Katherine Rabinowitz
18 feb 2022

I, too, suffer from packing-itis. Not so much what to bring, but bring way too much sutff, and of course, not bringing something that could have been useful. But I make a note in my calendar for the next trip - "don't forget the ........"

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