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Five Strategies for Chronic Overpackers

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True confession time – I’m afraid I may be an overpacker.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not one of those people who hauls three suitcases (one full of shoes) with me on a weekend trip.  Although I try not to judge people who do that (AKA many of my friends who don’t travel frequently).

But I am a pro at packing way too much stuff into a carry-on bag.  I’ve sometimes arrived at my destination to find that I have enough clothing to make two weeks of outfits when I’m only on an overnight trip.

I saw this graphic recently and it made me laugh… it describes my packing style perfectly.

This is what I feel like every time I pack my bags for a trip.
This is what I feel like every time I pack my bags for a trip.

Tea with the queen may be an exaggeration, but I am obsessive about extra underwear.

I blame 9/11 – after getting stuck for three extra days on a business trip and trying to find an open store to buy clean clothes, I always pack at least 24 hours of extra clothing for every 3 days of my trip.

I also try to always have something both business and nice restaurant versatile (a little black dress or a black top/skirt with black heels) even if I’m just going on a casual weekend.

And yet, no matter what I pack, I always find myself wishing I had thrown something different in.

Still, I think I do pretty well with my standard list.  For example, in addition to the items above, I try to always have a small clutch or wristlet in my bag.  I never seem to leave the house without a cardigan and a scarf that can double as a wrap.

I collect a lot of travel outfit ideas on my Pinterest packing list board.  But sometimes those can even border on the ridiculous.

It reminds me of traveling through Eastern Europe in 1989 at the height of the “Units” fashion phase.  Remember those silly things?

Units = Garanimals for adults
Units = Garanimals for adults

They were like Garanimals for adults.  The idea was that you could pack 8 to 10 pieces and make 400 different outfits (or something close to that) by turning them around, upside-down, or inside-out.  A bandeau belt turned into a strapless top – or a micro-mini skirt – or a head wrap – or sleeves.

The concept was great… but the reality was that a) most of the outfits were too outrageous for public wear and b) you still were stuck with the same pieces so everyone you were traveling with knew you were just wearing the same thing over and over again.

But I did take a few things away from a summer in Units:

  1. Comfort is key – so the more an item feels like an old t-shirt, the more likely it is to go in my bag (that applies to everything from business dresses to what I wear on the plane)
  2. Coordinating is not bad – sticking with three to four colors is a great way to not overpack (mine are black, grey, and a brighter color or two)
  3. Go with a staples+ strategy – staples like skinny pants, pencil skirt, sheath dress, blazer and plusses like tops, cardigans, and scarves
  4. Put half of it back – I know I overpack so for longer trips where I don’t have the suitcase room, I lay out everything I want to take and then pack only half of it.  Then if I have heartache over anything left, I pack it if I have room.
  5. Take stock – when unpacking, try to evaluate what you actually wore and what you didn’t – and pay attention to trends when packing in the future

Still, while my overpacking habit may be tamed, I don’t think it will be cured.  After all – I may still get invited to tea with the queen.

One Comment

  1. WOO HOO! Units. I had a few tops and a skirt or two.

    I sort of wear the same thing now – one of those fold down waist skirts from the Gap or a black skort, a uniqlo v-neck t-shirt and a cardigan. They all pack to absolutely nothing.

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