Traveling with baggage (or learning how to pack the efficient way)

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Public Domain Pictures/Creative Commons

When preparing to go on a big trip, whether it’s for studying abroad or the next three-day weekend, knowing how to pack is key.

This trip to Scotland for the next three months is one of my longest yet so knowing what to pack is essential. I’ve been given a limit of one 50-pound suitcase, one carry-on and one stowaway item. Getting down to the nitty-gritty and deciding what is essential and what would just be luxurious has proven to be difficult.

I’ve got more boots than I can possibly fit in a suitcase and I’m a sweater fiend when it comes to autumn and winter clothing. Parting with an extra pair of faux leather ankle boots can be torture. My valued clothes and accessories make me feel like the unrealistic and spunky heroine in a rom-com. However, that spunk quickly wore off once I realized there aren’t many new friends who might help their crazy American friend drag their heavy suitcase across the cobblestones. I imagine myself towing my massive suitcase alone in Ireland and quickly realize just how little I need those extra sweaters.

Luckily, my mom is the queen of packing.

Since I’ve been home she’s been side-eying my packing skills (or lack thereof) while I’ve spread out around the house. Whenever she mentions “prepacking,” I wave my hand dismissively and proceed to jam my umpteenth sweater into my suitcase.

I have this whole packing thing covered. Naturally. As I told my friends at dinner a few nights before takeoff, “I have everything — it’s just not in a suitcase yet.”

“Well if you’re packed, then I am, too,” one friend sassily noted. “Because I have all of my things in a place, too.”

It might be prudent to note that this friend was not, in fact, coming to Scotland with me.

“Well,” I had to concede. “When you put it that way.”

Needless to say, the night before I left I had all of my things spread out around me on the kitchen table like a madwoman. I was scouring my old bedroom, now my dad’s office, for anything I might have missed. There were also clothes in the living room and the garage. I was surrounded by small, gentle piles that didn’t hurt anyone. My mom said I made her nervous.

I told her not to worry about it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried telling your mom not to worry about something, but speaking from a professional, it doesn’t work as well as it should.

Eventually, I began to gather my things in my own lackadaisical way until the rising panic began to set in. I had officially procrastinated myself into a corner yet again.

It was right around this point that my mom stepped in. She told me to organize everything by item: T-shirts, sweaters, pants, underwear, jackets and so forth.

Once I saw things laid out this way I begin to have an idea of where I had gone overboard (sweaters), and what I was lacking (socks). The next step was to go by color and outfit.

“What would you wear this with?” my mom said, picking up a green-and-blue sweater.

“This, or this,” I said, pointing to a dark jean skirt as well as a pair of crushed velvet navy pants.

“OK,” she’d say after assessing my choices. She’d fight with me on a few things but after a while, we had nailed down a color- and outfit-arranging system. It didn’t make sense to bring more than what I could easily mix and match.

And besides, my mom pointed out, you may fall in love with something abroad that you can’t live without.

My mom had a point, but then again, moms usually do.

Contact Lauren West at [email protected].