Monday, March 11, 2013

Confessions of a Chronic Overpacker

When do you start packing for a trip?

The day before?

Two days?

Or are you one of those lucky people that, two hours before you get on a plane, can throw two handfuls of stuff in a duffle bag and go?

If you are, I sort of hate you.

Because, from day one, I have been an overpacker.  This is one instance where my natural ability to organize and strategize works against me.  I used to say that I’m just one of those people who always tries to have a Plan B.  Somewhere in the last few years I realized that, actually, I always try to have a Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, Plan E, and Plan F.  Which might be insane.

I try to plan for every eventuality.  For example, what if it rains?  I need to have rain gear with me, right?  And what if the weather is colder than forecast?  Or warmer?  So, I need clothes for that.  Also, I have to assume, even if we are staying at a hotel with guest laundry (or at someone’s home), that the washer and dryer will not be working.  So I cannot plan to wear a shirt more than once because, well, I’m kind of legendary for spilling food down my front.  Thus, I have to pack extra clothes in case I render all clothing unwearable by food stain. 

And, what if we suddenly decide to go to a ball and I didn’t bring my ballgown?  What then?  Yeah, you didn’t think about THAT, did you? 

I bring one and a half pairs of underwear for every day I’ll be gone.  And then one extra pair.  And God forbid I’m going on a trip where I don’t know what it is we’ll be doing.  That would send me into a blind panic and I’d start wondering if I could just ship the entire contents of my closet, dresser, and armoire to my destination.  

I took a three-day weekend trip by myself a few years ago.  I took two suitcases.  One of which almost exceeded the weight limit for plane travel.

I am not famous for anything.  But if I were famous?  It would be for my ability to overpack.

Then I had a child.

If you have a child, I really don’t need to say any more.

If you don’t have a child, let me explain.

You know how, when someone is getting ready to have a child, they register and you can go on the Babies R Us website and see this ridiculously long list of all sorts of toys and clothes and equipment?  You know the one.  It’s the one that’s a mile long with things on it like a changing pad, a diaper bag, two boppy pillows, fourteen receiving blankets, twelve different kinds of bottles with five different kinds of nipples, a bottle warmer, a bottle brush, a breast pump, thirteen pacifiers, a car seat, seventeen burp cloths, twenty-seven bibs, eight sleep sacks, a dizzying array of clothing in either pink or blue, diapers, diaper bags, wipes, a wipe warmer, a bouncy seat, a baby swing, a pack n’ play, a baby carrier, a baby wrap, swaddlers, nursing covers, diaper rash cream, diaper bags, baby soap, baby lotion, baby shampoo, a baby bathtub, baby washcloths, hooded towels, baby thermometers, nasal aspirators, many varieties of baby medicine, baby fingernail clippers, a diaper pail, baby monitors, a white noise machine, a stroller, toys for the car, toys for the house, toys for the stroller, toys for the bathtub, toys for teething, baby books, sippy cups, a high chair, a potty seat, and a crib.

Now imagine packing all of that in a suitcase.  With clothing and toiletries for you and your spouse.

Yeah.  That.

I will admit that things have improved since Iris was an infant.  These days, we can cut that list by about two-thirds.  But we do have to plan for the joy of working with a potty-training child on the road.  Which means trying to figure out just how many pairs of panties we should take with us when we can’t guarantee access to laundry facilities.  But, hey, she can sleep in a rollaway bed these days. 

Currently, I am trying to pack to go to my older brother’s wedding this weekend.  And, never mind that I can’t decide which of my own clothing to bring.  Never mind that half of what I want to bring either doesn’t fit quite right or isn’t clean.  Never mind that I can’t decide what dress I want to wear to the wedding itself, and never mind that I don’t think I even own a pair of panty hose which I will need if I’m going to wear a damn dress.  No.  Never mind any of that. 

Because what I have to do right now is get Iris packed. 

Iris who will only wear spinning dresses.  And who won’t tell me in advance which dresses will spin on any given day (because it changes based on her mood.  Or the barometric pressure.  Or maybe the alignment of Pluto and Saturn.)

Add to all that the fact that the wedding is in Rochester, New York.  Where it will be snowing. 

I think I may be hopelessly not up to this task.

Preliminarily, I have laid out in our guest room (otherwise known as “the staging area”) all the clothing I am thinking of bringing for Iris.  In there, I kid you not, are fifteen pairs of panties, ten dresses with matching leggings (not counting the two options of more formal dresses for her to wear to the actual wedding), eight pairs of socks, two pairs of mittens, two winter hats, three nightgowns, five pairs of tights, three swimsuits, and six little cardigan sweaters.  We will be gone for five days. 

And I am still not sure I’ll have what I need.

And I haven’t even started looking at her books, toys, sippy cups or toiletries.

My husband, Quinten, is no help.  He is also a chronic overpacker.

We leave on Wednesday morning.  Pray for me.  Or, better yet, come over.  I would pay you money to come to my house and pack us for this trip.


  1. Things to add to your list: outlet covers, nightlight, and step stool so iris can reach the potty and sink. I don't think you're over-packing at all. :) seriously.

    1. Unfortunately, we're flying. So definitely can't t take a step stool.

    2. Oh, noes, I left a comment, but it's not here! I even did it with my doesn't-let-me-type-more-than-one-letter-every-three-seconds keyboard problem, which was painful.

      Now it's too late, but I'll try to recap, in case it helps in the future.

      I wrote: if I'm staying in a hotel with a kid, three must-have items are a roll of paper towels, plastic grocery bags, and duct tape. I use the duct tape to cover tempting-to-kid outlets and for a variety of other purposes (sealing doors he won't stop opening, stuff like that).

      The paper towels I also carry-on the airplane. Spills happen, and having the paper towels close at hand is a mercy.

      The plastic bags are useful for holding everything from wet clothes to small toys to dirty laundry.

      Oh, also a small flashlight or book light, if you have an overnight plane or are staying in a hotel, so you don't have to wake up everyone turning your light on every two seconds (like the mother in front of me on our last flight did).

      My mantra to help avoid overpacking -- anything I need, I can also buy there. Usually, I don't have to buy anything, but if I run out of something, that's an option.

      If you're staying with family, don't assume the washer will break. See mantra above ;)

      I'd say one casual outfit for each day, and one to two back-ups.

      Getting luggage and a kid through an airport is hell, so the less you can bring, by far the better. Especially carry-ons, which you have to lug the whole time.

      Good luck!

  2. I guess you wouldn't stand me. I pack the day I am leaving, and I just pack for one day less than I am going to be gone.

  3. B and I went to Puerto Rico once as part of a training retreat for his employer. I thought I overpacked, too, with much the same mindset as yours, but when I found out that several women had one entire suitcase allotted just for their shoes, I felt a lot better.

    Thought: could you pack a box and overnight it to yourself c/o wherever you're staying? That might cut down on how much you have to haul around, and you can just send it home when you're done with it.