Packing: A study in chaos theory

Hi, my name is Mary and I am a total mess. I can create a mountain of clutter in just a few seconds flat. I don’t know how I do it. I want to be a minimalist, someone who has a place for everything and everything in its place. I am constantly battling my pig pen tendencies with my many misguided attempts at organization. I wish OCD and anal retentiveness were communicable diseases so I could have half a chance at attaining any semblance of order in my home, my car, my purse. Particularly my purse.

This admission brings me to my subject du jour, packing. I really suck at packing. I believe  it comes from my gimongous grab bag of neuroses.  A bag of hang ups and irrational fears I hope to clean out by living a la mode. I have been driving back and forth to Blacksburg for years. Over the past two to three years I am in Blacksburg more weekends than I am home in DC. You would think by now I would know how to properly pack an overnight bag. You would be so very, very wrong.

This is how it starts:

I am heading to Blacksburg after work on Friday and returning Sunday evening. It is a five-hour drive so I will be in Blacksburg from about 11 pm Friday evening until 2 pm Sunday afternoon. So, not including what I am wearing on Friday, I need to sleep in something Friday and Saturday night and dress for Saturday and Sunday. One of those days will include mass because I like to keep my father from worrying that my soul will burn in eternal hell fire because I committed the mortal sin of skipping mass. It’s the least I can do. I digress. Since I do laundry every Saturday and Sunday morning for my folks, I can wear what I have on on Friday on Sunday, so really, one pair of pants, one top, undergarments and socks. Shoes? I wear the ones I have on Friday the entire weekend. Throw in my toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, cleanser and moisturizer.  Simple, one bag. In theory, or so it seems, until…

Neurosis No. 1: The “fat girl” mindset

The fat girl mindset in packing is, at any given time or place my hips, thighs, buttocks and back can grow one size to big for whatever clothing I own and consequently, the outfit I packed. It is a universal truth, like gravity. And it happens, more often than you think. Now, in theory,  I understand that I am beautiful at any size and that self acceptance and a positive attitude makes all the difference in how I look to the world. But my inner beauty and self acceptance were nowhere in sight when I decided to eat my weight in almond macaroons on Wednesday (and we all know it takes at least two days for the fat to settle.) So let’s add another pair of pants and top as well as a seasonal cardigan for good measure.

Neurosis No. 2: The “what if?” mindset.

What if I need to attend some last-minute social event in a town where I don’t know anyone because I have not lived there for more than 15 years? What if I spill something on my first and second outfits and find that my cardigan is too snug? What if there is no hair dryer? I remember there being one, but it could be broken. What if I get my period? So, of course, in goes two more outfits and half a drugstore.

Neurosis No. 3: The “now would be the perfect time” mindset

I am going to be there for at least 36 hours, maybe 20 awake. In addition to whatever tasks my dad has set aside for me I can easily bring the work to do that I avoided all day Friday because I will have all day Saturday with nothing to do, in theory. This weekend would be the perfect time to finally clean out and organize my car, work bag and/or purse. Those thank you notes I have been meaning to write? Hell yeah, and throw in the address book because I will have plenty of time to address and stamp. Hey, how about throwing in three or five files of misc. papers I keep meaning to go through? Excellent.  Let’s include half my home office. It is really just one extra bag. Sort of.

Neurosis No. 4: The maternal instinct gone awry, a.k.a. Sadie’s stuff

Sadie is small, 12 to 15 lbs depending on how much I spoil her. She does not eat dog food in Blacksburg because my father spoils her. So really, a leash? a few poop bags? Um, well, sure. But she might want to have a few of her toys in case she gets bored. And if I have to run an errand she might want to nap in her little bed that will remind her of home. She also might want a few treats, just in case. And if it is winter, add the sweater, booties and coat to the mix. And what about the kong? She never uses it at home, but you never know. Add to that the metal stake and long leash for when she wants to hang outside alone, which she never does. But it could happen some day. And on second thought, maybe some dog food because she might actually want to eat that instead of the steak, lamb or bacon awaiting for her in the burg. Where is that dog carrier she never goes in? Sweet lord.

The result: I have enough crap loaded in my car to make a Tibetan sherpa green with envy. And this is all for 36 hours, not all waking. You can only imagine how many bags I packed to dog sit in Georgetown for four days last weekend. So right now, as I write this, I have packed one pair of pants, one top, undergarments and socks. Shoes? I’ll wear the ones I have on Friday the entire weekend. In the morning I will throw in my toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, cleanser and moisturizer. In theory.

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