Packing It All In: On Life and Suitcases

One of the benefits of a semi-nomadic childhood is a great deal of expertise in packing. Unlike my time-management, which tends to be illustrative of Parkinson’s Law, my packing is extremely effective.

Sometimes too effective.


Because while I can pack a remarkably large amount of stuff into a given volume of suitcase, the regulations of various transport companies still have a limit by weight. It doesn’t matter if you can pack 30kg of stuff into one medium suitcase if the weight limit is 20kg.

This is the problem with so much of modern time-management: it assumes that the sole criterion of successful time management is more, more, more. Pack your days more efficiently, filling in all those little nooks and crannies of time, and you’ll be able to fit in so much more!

Except there’s no use trying to pack 30kg of activity into a 20kg day. Unlike travel, energy allowances vary from person to person, but we all have a limit. Overpack, and you’ll end up paying the price. The sides of your day will bulge out into your sleeping hours, and sooner or later you’ll lose your handle on things – or the whole thing will burst in all directions, leaving you sitting amid the fragments like Marius amid the ruins of Carthage, tempted to abandon the whole thing and move to Latvia under an assumed name.

M O V I N G O N (Unsplash)
The difficulty, of course, is that no one ever tells you what your weight allowance is, and it probably varies from day to day anyway. But here’s the thing: as attractive as the idea of a one-size-fits-every-day routine is, there is no requirement for us to have every moment of our lives pre-organized into maximum effectiveness. We are humans, not machines; organic, not mechanic.

Trial and error (my least favourite research process after Interviewing Strangers) will generally direct us to a base-line – think minimalist holiday packing – and more can be added or subtracted as the day’s weight limit requires.

Ever packed for a trip and found when you got home that you hadn’t packed a single thing you didn’t need? Yeah, me neither. But going away on a trip – getting away from that Everyday Suitcase – can be very helpful for figuring out what you’re packing into your life that you don’t really need.

Dundrum Sunday Market, June 2010 (09)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have an unpacking list to write.

What do you think?