Zen and the Art of Packing Light

Raised on a steady diet of Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island, we curbed our addiction to television by ridding ourselves of it many years ago. Oh, but computers, Hulu and Netflix have paved new paths back to our old, bad habits. I can now choose any TV show, anytime (woohoo!) oh the lure! I watched my first episode of a show called ‘Hoarders’ last night. I was amazed at the amounts of useless crap that people will hang onto in the name of their hoarding addiction/dysfunctional mind sets, even when it posed a biohazard (think moldy, puffy, outdated food- yuck!) To quote my thirteen year old, “SERIOUSLY?!?!”  The one thing these hoarders had in common was that they had a sense of security that was associated with their ‘stuff’.

When it comes to traveling and stuff, this is where I will admit that I fall down on the job. Just like the hoarders, many of us find comfort and security in our stuff and are unable to pack light. You never know, that extra dress and matching shoes may come in handy if you get invited to a formal dinner in Monte Carlo, non? Hee!

As an airline pilot, my husband Bill is a professional packer. He packs for work and leisure somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 times a year.  Most people only pack on the average of 2-8 times a year. He has become a Zen master at packing, as it has become an art/science to this man of German descent. His pickings are minimal, usually lightweight, man-made fiber apparel that washes beautifully in a bathroom sink. Clothes get rolled and not a square inch of space is ever wasted. Everything has a purpose, nothing goes unworn and he limits his shoes to 2 choices, can you imagine?!

I, on the other hand, find security in having more stuff along than I need. I’m even willing to shlep it around in bike panniers, just to be sure I always look good. My knees were not impressed with this tactic on an early season bike tour on some 15% grade roads. Will I ever learn?

Inspired from the hoarders television program, we cleaned out all the drawers, closets,  shelves and pantry in our kitchen. Then, I decided to free myself of this fear of not having enough, manifested in my over packing for trips. I’ve had packing lists in the past, but I would often fudge and throw in a ‘few extra’ things. I finally took my husbands advice and created a packing list that I actually used.

So the results…. I did pretty well, but I still had the urge to throw in an extra pair of shoes, a heavy tripod that I would rarely use and a few extra clothing items that may never see the light of day.  At the eleventh hour I needed to travel even lighter with only one carry-on bag and Bill ended up repacking my bag in 20 minutes. He is the Gestapo of useless items and lighten my load considerably. “Vas est dis madame? Really necessary? I sink not?” Ruthless!

Yesterday, I embarked on a fall tour of Tuscany with my father. We are doing a Daddy/Daughter trip for his 70th birthday. He wanted to come to Tuscany during vendemmia to pick grapes and drink wine. Do twist my arm!  We are on a train to Pisa and had a few exhausting days of travel to get here. My dad’s suitcase is tiny, he even said he thinks he brought too much. I laugh. With our light bags, schlepping on planes and trains has been a breeze. I am even able to hoist my bag up to the overheads. Ahhh, the freedom of packing light. I am sure I won’t miss any of those items I left behind, and now find comfort in this new freedom of being light on my feet and flexible with lighter load. Perhaps there’s room for that extra pair of shoes that I will shop for here in Italy.

Do you have any good packing stories? Feel free to leave a response… anyone out there? For a copy of my packing list, write me betsy@customtuscany.com  I would be happy to help clean up your packing addiction.

09/27/2010 08:40 pm | Share | No Comments

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