Baggage has emotional baggage – on packing up my life to move to Japan

One of my most hated tasks is packing.

It has everything in a task that I despise. As a rule, I like tasks to be like a brick wall. Structured, logical, perhaps heavy, but divisible into smaller distinct parts. Packing, however, is like a massive, spongy mass that you can’t get a hold of. Chaotic and pulsating like some evil mutant mould. It is boring without being mindless. It is ambiguous – you can’t just do it, it’s full of tiny little micro-decisions. It’s very difficult to know how long it is going to take so it seems infinite – like mutant mould engulfing every section of your life.

When my university flatmate and I were undertaking this unpleasant task when moving out of our Leeds flat we would play “X or packing,” and we discovered that there is very little in the world that I would rather not do.

How I see packing. But more evil.
How I see packing. But more evil.

“Clean toilets or packing?”
“Toilets.”
“Clear up vomit or packing?”
“Vomit”
“Have sex with David Cameron and never have to pack again?”

Understandably, the prospect of having to pack up my life to move to Japan for a year was making me vaguely nauseous with dread. The most difficult thing was the “emotional element.” The prospect of travelling across the world is an emotional roller coaster and brings out strange reactions in people. I have discovered that I am surprisingly emotionally attached to many of my clothes.
“Awww there’s the skirt with the rip on it from that time I went out to my University’s awful clubnight and had a stand off with a bush on the way home.
“I won’t be able to go on awful clubnights with my friends for a WHOLE YEAR and if I don’t take this skirt the memories will die!!”
It’s not just clothes that have emotional baggage either, bags too. I found it extremely difficult to part with, for instance, the bright yellow bag given to me by the girls I worked with in London, despite it being very tatty now. Baggage has emotional baggage, who would have thought.

Surprisingly, despite these obstacles, packing up for Japan wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be. Although the following may be overly simple for people who actually have their lives together, I thought I would share tips that helped me, for the benefit of my fellow packing-phobes.

1) Make a list. Actually write it properly. Do it well in advance and do it on the computer so you can add to it when you remember. Put it into sections, like clothes, toiletries and documents and include everything, even really obvious things like pants. Then it helped me to have a two tick system – tick once when you’ve got something out and put it in your ‘to take’ pile; and again when it’s actually in your suitcase.
2) Be as ruthless as you can. Especially with clothes. Instead of coming over misty eyed about some top you bought from Camden market aged 15 that never suited you, why not look at this move as an opportunity to shed some clutter? I combined my packing with a clear out and I was genuinely a little disgusted at the amount of clothes I own. It’s kind of nice now because I’ve taken only my absolute favourite and useful clothes, so it’s easier to decide what to wear in the morning. Granted, I need to stock up on some things but part of the fun is shopping in Tokyo – once payday comes at least! Also, you should save space in your suitcase for other things…

Photo credit: Best Western Plus
Photo credit: Best Western Plus

3) Don’t neglect: tools, things you won’t be able to get in the country you’re moving to and things you can’t buy there. Boyfriend and I have been thankful several times a day that I brought my penknife. Stocking up on Yorkshire Tea and Earl Grey was also a strong move.
4) Start early. Traditionally, I leave my end of term packing to some crazy 3am-the-day-I’m-leaving kind of time with excuses such as, “Well I need half of this stuff before I go anyway so there’s no point in starting when I have to brush my teeth six times before then!” or “Well it’s so horrible I may as well shove it into a few short stressful hours to minimise the duration of the pain.” That won’t cut it this time. The day you leave will be stressful and emotional enough, if you only start frantically shoving pants into your suitcase the night before, you may go over the edge. Refer to aforementioned list and start at least a few days before with stuff you definitely don’t need – I started with jumpers, which felt weird in August, but I am here for a year after all. It also helped me to plan what I was wearing on travel day to make sure that those clothes were put aside.

And remember the old mantra… passport, visa, phone, purse. Everything else can be worked out!

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