The Case of the Exploding Suitcase

Struggling with SuitcaseAs I write this post, I am on the Jersey Shore with my family, being present with my brother Jeff, who is not well. The ocean is beautiful and it feels great to be together.

We’re telling stories and rekindling memories, supporting and connecting, and creating new memories for my girls to talk about in their future families.

Being here feels great.

Getting here, however, is another story.

Packing and preparing for a trip, even one I am really looking forward to, is, shall we say, not my thing.

I hereby lay claim to the title, ‘World’s Worst Packer’.

So, what, you may be wondering, is the big deal?

Well, they say that how you do anything is how you do everything. So even my seemingly benign inability to get organized and pack for a trip is a window into the rest of my life.

What does it mean that I either pack every single thing I own, or that I manage to arrive at my destination with a full suitcase and not one usable outfit?

Last year I went to a coaches’ convention in Colorado. My friends Kay Duncan and Jennifer Armstrong experienced firsthand the phenomenon of the exploding suitcase. As we got settled and started unpacking, I opened my overweight and overstuffed bag (read: extra fee!) and the contents of this tightly packed clothing bomb literally exploded in the room I was sharing with Kay.

If you came to my house and opened my drawers and closets, you wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

While my home bears no resemblance to anything owned by Martha Stewart, I am pretty organized.

But when it comes to packing, my life theme comes up.

Enough.
Not enough.
Never enough.

I’m worried that when I get where I’m going, I may need some random article that I can’t risk leaving behind.

What if it rains, or snows, or I need to wear fuschia?

This particular trip is an emotional one, but I’ve had a month to think about what I want to take.

So how is it that I again have a potentially exploding suitcase and don’t have sweats for evening walks on the beach?

Here’s my theory:

1) I’m a procrastinator. I underestimate how long it will take me to pack and I leave it for the absolute last minute.
2) I’m worried about having enough with me, so I overpack in every category.
3) I can envision my end game… how I want to feel on my trip and what situations I want to be prepared for, but I don’t translate this to action steps I can take before my trip.
4) Instead of strategically planning, I make a general plan, thereby ending up being prepared for nothing,

Now, you and I both know that none of these reasons for being a challenged packer are life threatening. I’ll bet even MacGyver might gleefully go through my luggage, pulling out useful items for who knows what potential emergency.

But in my regular, everyday life, I’d love to conquer this.

Because if I could conquer something as simple as packing for a trip, I could apply those skills to other areas of my life.

For example,

* If I  could work through the theme of my life, of always worrying about getting enough, I could challenge myself to underpack and prove to myself that I will be ok, having just enough, instead of enormous amounts of things, just in case.
* If I work on getting clear on what I want to do and how to get the result I wanted, then I could allow enough time to get things together, and not rush at the last minute.
* If I could be more specific about what steps I needed to take to get the results I want, there’d sure be a better chance of getting them.

I am not alone.
Well, maybe you don’t have an exploding suitcase, like me.
But maybe you see your life themes coming up over and over in other areas, just like me.

If you feel like you can’t get ‘enough’, then you will take more in every area than you need.
Like food, love and things.

If you don’t take the steps to get what you need, you may get somewhere, but it won’t necessarily be where you want to go.

And if you don’t unearth your beliefs about yourself and your life, you will be ruled by them anyway.
It just won’t be intentional.

So here’s my plan.
Before I leave for home, I’m going to make a list of what I wish I had packed. And I’m going to notice all the things I took that I really didn’t need. And put them all in a TRAVEL file.

It’s no guarantee, but it’s a start.
I’m willing to look at myself.
Everything in my life is a creation.
By yours truly.

I can create anything I want.
Make it look however I want.
And so can you.

Your life, your body, your relationships.

And yes, even your suitcase.

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8 Responses to “The Case of the Exploding Suitcase”

  1. Lori Dube says:

    Cookie. I always blame it on the nervousness of getting out of town for not having what I want or need with me when I travel. Thanks for shining the light on all the other ways my lacking suitcase contents reflect ways I feel lacking in other parts of my life. I’m going to start looking at the packing process much more consciously and intentionally. Thanks for the the insight….valuable as usual!

  2. Nancy says:

    Oh my gosh Cookie, this was too rich! Seriously, you supplied the smile that I was searching for this morning.

    First of all, I will be sending you prayers and positive thoughts as you spend this time with your brother.

    Secondly, I am the “queen” of packing..or so I always thought. I use to have to travel multiple times a year for my other business, and I did that for 17 years..so you’d think I mastered it.

    One thing I found very helpful, was about two weeks before the travel I would just begin making a list of those things that I “had” to have…makeup, comfortable shoes, etc…then on the back of the sheet, I would make a list of things that I really wanted to bring because I thought they would be needed. When I made that list, I did it by day..so, if I was going to be at a convention for 4 days, I would actually list the days and then list exactly what I was going to wear on those days..yep, right down to the undergarments.

    I would say that 99% of the time it worked. There were a few times when I didn’t have an item, but life didn’t halt.

    Now, I will say, that recently I took a trip to New England to visit family and decided since I was only going to be gone for a weekend I would only pack a carry on piece of luggage…omg…NEVER again…I ended up with only 1/2 of what I needed..I was miserable..

    So, I think the key is “moderation”?? Isn’t that the key for everything??

    Have a wonderful, loving, time with your family.

    Nancy

  3. Maria Frias says:

    Nice post and very timely as I pack my suitcase for a 10-day trip to Maine. Like you, there is always that thought that I did not bring enough nor bring the right things. I love how you relate this seemingly benign act of packing to how you do things in your life. As I relax during this trip, I will take note of all the pointers that you ahve provided in this blog. Thank you for bringing this up and I hope your brother does better. All the best.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Maria.
    Isn’t it interesting how every little thing we do gives us access to ourselves!
    I’d love to hear how your ‘packing’ went on your trip to Maine.
    Cookie

  5. Nancy, what a great conclusion you just came to: moderation…the middle way!
    Too much makes us feel stuffed and weighed down.
    Too little leaves us feeling deprived.
    Just right is the goal. You’ve got it!
    Cookie

  6. Lori, your insights are always so spot on for me, so I’m glad you liked this one.
    I promise to report back to everyone on my next packing adventure….sure to be going somewhere in July!
    Cookie

  7. Let’s not forget, Cookie, that I was the light packer in the group..it was June and it snowed and I was cold!!! (I don’t even think I had socks, just sandals and running shoes!)
    I just returned from Colorado again a few days ago. The good thing about packing light this time was…SHOPPING! Space for some new stuff.
    Look forward to being with you in 2012 and get some packing tips and more wise insights on life. I loved this article xoxox

  8. Joanie, you crack me up! Yes, you are right. Talk about packing for the ‘just in case’ event! Who knew it would snow in June? And if memory serves me, you not only were the epitome of a light packer, but you actually came with a mere backpack! Here’s to our next adventure!
    xo,
    Cookie