Monday 1 August 2011

The "Joys" of Packing

I used to quite enjoy packing. I like making lists, I like ticking things off lists. I especially like ticking things off the list as I repack to come home, because noone else does, so it makes me feel smug.

I have always packed light. My mother left me to pack for myself for my first Brownie pack-holiday with only these words for advice "only pack things that you will use". Wise words indeed. For some reason, my obsessive adherence to this rule has led to a genuine anxiety about being the person on any given trip with the biggest bag. Psychoanalyse that...

Think through the day step-by-step - gather toiletries, a few Tshirts, one book for every 2 days, enough pairs of knickers for until you get home / get to use a washing machine. If camping, grab waterproofs and a sleeping bag, and that's you pretty much done. My second packing rule is "make sure you have the essentials - those necessary to get you where you're going (passport etc) and those necessary to keep you alive while you're there (meds) - anything else you can buy when you get there (subclause : and you can always wash your knickers in the sink if you run out)".

My third rule emerged during my DofE expedition when, for some bizarre reason, I ended up carrying the tent, the stove and, after a while, someone else's bag : "only pack what you can carry and pack smart so that the load is balanced".

My ability to pack was greatly enhanced by my time at boarding school. My house mistress taught me that "rolling is better than folding", and indeed, I am now excellent at stowing socks in impossibly small spaces.

These four pieces of wisdom stand me in good stead now. My carrying is not so good anymore. A modest sized hiking rucksack with a couple of books topped up with clothes is about my limit on a good day. On a bad day I have been known to try and exercise my Matilda-esque mind control techniques to move a heavy bag along a station platform.

The problem that I had while travelling back from my elective yesterday was that I left significantly more disabled than I arrived. On the way I could manage to carry the cat in her box for short periods, along with my rucksack, on the way back I really shouldn't have carried anything. I'm paying for it today.

So, here I am, repacking. It's a slightly different process these days. I feel less secure in my ability to pack only what I need. I'm anxious about my ability to carry anything, and anxious about leaving something behind that I need for comfort. It's less about squashing stuff in, and more about streamlining. On the way to my elective 1/3 of my rucksack was full of meds. I need to take cushions, splints, the stick of wonder, wheat bag and hot water bottle (they both help with different kinds of hurting) blah blah etc blah.

Tomorrow I will employ the technique perfected yesterday - cat in a box on a wheelchair that this wobbly bod will use as a walking frame. And we're only taking one bag between us so my rib will take less of a pounding.

Now, if you'll excuse me, three skirts are flirting with my attention and only one will make the cut... decisions!


  1. Until this year I would have read this and understood, but not appreciated it. Now being permanently 'at risk' of lymphedema and prohibited from carrying anything more than about 5kg on my affected side and/or big backpacks which have served me for decades, I can, to a degree, empathise. I am contemplating buying one of those shopping trolleys that little old ladies have...

    Oh, yes, three pairs of knickers and a small bottle of travel wash if all else fails...!

  2. It's strange, isn't it? I *hate* wheelie suitcases - they always attack me and fall down - my weapon of choice has always been the camping rucksack.

    Those shopping trolleys are cool again, so you'll be ok ;) you can find great ones with lovely patterns. If only they solved the prolem of getting the shopping up two flights of stairs, I'd be ok!