The packing list


My earliest memory of a packing list was a piece paper Scotch®-taped to the inside lid of the trunk that followed me to summer camp. It was an itemized rundown of every thing a camper needed to survive a four- or eight-week summer session away from home. If I recall correctly, it included how many of each item to bring and/or a space where my parents could fill in how many of each item was packed. Underwear and towels were accounted for along with calamine lotion and toothpaste. It was a portable accounting of all I had to keep track of and bring back home. After summer camp, a packing list had no place in my world…until a few years ago.

Getting ready for a trip often became a somewhat stressful process. I’d routinely find myself mentally and physically going through the armoire, the closet, and the bathroom as I recreated the patterns of my days, what I used, and what had to remember to bring with me. I’d make lists on scraps of paper again and again. Then came the notes as mandates. “PACK HAT!” would scream at me. “CHECK FILM” was the reminder to make sure I had enough Tri-X in my camera bag. So, it came to this: I had gotten tired of trying to remember what I was possibly forgetting whenever I took a trip. There had to be an easier way. And there was: I created a packing list.

Are you intrigued? Does this sound like something that could ultimately make your traveling life a whole lot easier? Here’s how to do it:

  • Open an empty document page on the computer, and save it as packing list. If you prefer to start with paper and pen and then transcribe to the computer, by all means, please do so.
  • Create a simple framework using categories that make sense to you. For example, clothes, toiletries, carry-on, and work bag may be starting points.
  • Let the free-flowing list of seemly mundane words that correspond to each category populate your page. Embrace the obvious and the minutiae. They are all part of your list and what makes sense for you.
  • Allow words such as hat or jacket to be broad yet non-specific so you can tailor your ultimate selection/s to the needs of each trip. A broad phrase like travel documents could suffice, or conversely, listing the actual array of items – boarding passes, reservation confirmations, passport – may be more helpful.
  • Adjust your list accordingly and save it.
  • Prior to each trip, print it out and cross things off as the item gets added to your luggage. Yep. It’s really that easy.

When I first sat down to make my list, it felt like a silly exercise, but as I saw the outline of my wardrobe and carry-on bag take shape before my eyes, silly gave way to relief and clarity. Over the course of the next year or so, I refined the list. It’s a flexible document that is ready, willing and able to be altered as my needs change.

My list is as close to complete as I could ever imagine it being, and whenever it’s time to hunt and gather for a getaway, I simply take my list and check it twice. It has freed my mind and my time. I now leave town with greater peace of mind.

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  1. Avatar
    $0.01 Reply

    So share your list with us!! I love to plaigarize!!

    • liberatedspaces
      liberatedspaces Reply

      If you really really want it, $0.01, I will be happy to share my list with you!

  2. Avatar
    Holly Reply

    My grandfather used to create a map of his car’s trunk. He would map out where each suitcase and box would go in order to make best use of the space. When he replaced his car (every six years), he would make a new map. And yes, he was a civil engineer.

    • liberatedspaces
      liberatedspaces Reply

      Holly, what an amazing family story that you shared. I love it! Your grandfather’s trunk maps obviously left an impression on you. Do you have any of his maps in your collection of memorabilia? (If so, I’d LOVE to see one!) And is it from him that you developed your passion for urban planning? Obviously, there’s something in the DNA…

  3. Avatar
    Mark Spiegel Reply

    I like these posts! Someone should organise an art show around these “maps of minutia” I would love to see them under glass. There is something deeply revealing about how we organise our stuff. Thanks Debra!

    • liberatedspaces
      liberatedspaces Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Mark. In general, I LOVE seeing other peoples’ lists. They are among the most interesting daily life bits of sociological insight out there – packing lists, grocery lists, “to do” lists, “honey do” lists…Oh, to see a wall papered with the never-ending range of possibilities would be something. Hmmm…

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