On Packing

I tend to overpack for trips.  I always pack more socks and underwear and t-shirts than I could ever possibly wear for the number of days I’ll be gone.  I always have more stuff than I will ever need.  “It’s a three day trip in the dead of winter?  I’d better pack my swim trunks. And I really should bring a pick-axe, a compass, and night goggles.  You never know!”

When I was asked last fall if I wanted to move to Germany for a few years, my belongings were already in storage. I had been selling a condo, and part of that process involved getting me and my stuff out of it. I placed almost everything I own into two storage units, one large and one small, and I moved into my brother’s spare bedroom for the (theoretical) short term. My goal was to find an apartment once the sale was complete, but my focus changed to Germany before I ever had a chance to lease a new apartment.

When I knew for certain that I would be going to Germany, I started to offload a lot of my possessions- particularly the big furniture. A co-worker in the Florida office had moved to Florida with his wife a short while earlier, and they didn’t have much in the way of furniture, so they took the bed-frame, night stands, dresser, couch, dining room table off my hands.  They had instant furnishings, and I had less to store. Another co-worker took a deliriously comfortable mattress off my hands, and some smaller things went to other folks.   Before long,  I only had an ancient desk chair and my beloved coffee table remaining.  I was able to downsize from two storage units to just one, and soon after that, I moved to an even  smaller one. During that time, I also made choices about what to ship and what to store.

I brought a few things with me, but for the most part, my lifestyle here is pretty austere.  I travel a great deal, so most of my extra cash goes into that.  What can I say?  I’m an inveterate overpacker in life as well as on trips.  Ryan Bingham is kind of my hero.

I wish I had the experience then that I have now, however, because my ship-or-store choices would have been very different.

  • If I had a do-over, I would have shipped my books. With the exception of three or four technical tomes, my hilariously outdated guide to London, and my Kindle, all of my books are still in storage in Florida.  My signed Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams are there, along with dozens of paperback novels, cookbooks, reference books, and more.
  • If I had a do-over, I would have shipped my DVDs, because even though I rarely watched them at home, there are times that I miss the movies in my collection. I have Netflix, but the selection there is utter rubbish these days.  Netflix has primarily been good for watching old How I Met Your Mother episodes, and not much else.
  • If I had a do-over, I probably would have shipped my coffee table. I worry that being in storage for three years will destroy it, and if it were here, I would have less shin pain than I do now from smacking my legs into the evil bastard of a table currently filling that role.
  • If I had a do-over, I would definitely have shipped my Rollerblades. I sometimes think it would be fun to inline skate around this town.  Regensburg is really a bike city, but I do see inline skaters from time to time.
  • If I had a do-over, I… well, I probably would still have put most of my kitchen goods in storage, but I would have shipped my knives. Good kitchen knives are a vital cooking tool.  I had to buy a few pieces when I got here even though I have a great set of Henckels knives in a box back at home.  I really didn’t think that one through.

Here’s the real problem: Despite the fact that a still-fairly-large storage unit is full to brimming back in Florida, the items listed above are nearly all that I can remember from it.  It’s only been eleven months and the rest of the contents have fallen entirely out of my brain.  Nothing else in there is memorable.

For clutter, out of sight really is out of mind.  The less I remember of my belongings back in the US, the more unmoored I feel.    It’s an alarming sensation, to feel so adrift, so homeless.

Oh sure, I know there’s a box of photos and a some old paper files, but that’s just two boxes. What else is there? Old bedding and cushions that I should just give to charity? Glassware and plates that would be cheaper to replace in three years than to store?  I don’t really know.  I’m pretty sure that there are at least two pieces of cookware in there that have actually never been used. (Long story.)

I think I need to revisit the storage unit when I go back next month, even though I can’t really bring the do-over choices back with me.  It would be much too expensive to consider shipping anything else over right now.   I might be able to get rid of a bunch more crap and move to a still-smaller storage unit, though.  Maybe some of my Florida friends would be interested in dishes, glassware, pots and pans, and whatever other mystery items turn up in the storage unit.

Maybe I can whittle it down enough to really be Ryan Bingham.


6 thoughts on “On Packing

  1. What about buying a CD/DVD wallet and decanting your DVDs into that, take out the pieces of paper from the covers, and bring the DVDs back in something much smaller? I have (most of) my DVDs in binders now and the documentation in a separate binder.

    Personally I’d recommend carrying these on — they are rather dense and heavy, but at least you’d have your movies!


    1. I thought about that, but this is several hundred DVDs. And the only DVD player I have here is in my laptop. Good idea though. It’s worth some thought before I head over in November.


    1. I have some stuff in digital form, just not all of it. However, it’s been good for me to try to watch German television. You’d be surprised what you can learn from Futurama in German. Also, I keep seeing the German version of How I Met Your Mother eps right after I re-watched the English version, so that’s kind of neat.


  2. I second the books and DVDs. I’m currently working on a short list of the ones that I want my parents to send in the next package. Being Ryan Bingham would be awesome, but I’m aaaaaaaaaaaalmost tired of rewatching old episodes of ‘The Office’ when I want background noise.


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