I’m a maximalist at heart, in that I can never quite have enough of anything. This is true for most things in my life, but particularly true for me in the packing department. Five sweaters and thirty pairs of underwear is probably a safe number for wherever you’re going, and definitely sufficient for a weeklong trip to a mild climate, but for me it’s never quite safe enough.
That being said, as someone always fighting flakiness, I have accidental minimalist tendencies in my packing as well, in that I frequently forget the most important bits. I have become adept-ish at making do with a poorly packed bag over the years, like wearing bathing suit bottoms as underwear, or having nothing with which to occupy myself on a 10-hour long train trip, save my own thoughts (yikes) and a dining car. The great and secret delight of my manic mode of packing however is that I can rationalize exciting purchases of things when I’m away from home because, well, I need them. It’s never such a bad idea to “forget” dresses because these are the best things to buy when you’re away.
Like packing to go away for a weekend, packing to move between houses, and the extra difficult/ridiculous task of packing to move between countries, is also maximalist in my case, with an idiotic bent. For example, when I moved from Boston to Basel, I deemed it right to bring four silk robes and I Ching coins, a tiny, cracked, blue porcelain egg cup from a friend’s kitchen in Cambridge, UK (sadly since stolen), some small spoons, and an extra duvet in my two suitcases. But I must have been going through some sort of Fran Lebowitz –like dressing phase, because for all that luggage space, I only packed four white t-shirts, jeans, and a black blazer for the entirety of my future life abroad, leaving me shivering and bedraggled in the Swiss autumn.
My decision-making process of what to take and leave is purely emotional, with elements of the mystical, rooted in vague feelings of superstition and nostalgia and usually fueled by wine (which really helps you both get emotional and also forget important things you meant to pack).
Attached are images of some small things I have always brought with me since I’ve had them; it seems right to pack stones and tiny glass things when going anywhere. There’s something tremendously reassuring when they reach their destination and can be then unpacked from their tissue paper nests. In addition to what’s pictured, all these other things have made moves from Providence to Boston to Basel to Berlin, between houses and apartment buildings, storage units and friends’ basements:
- old perfume bottles
- photographs and old notes in envelopes
- burned CDs and mix tapes with no place to play them
- silver toast stands
- a wooden tea tray with silver corners
- a gold saucer missing its cup
- lilac smelling candles
- half written-in journals
- a yellow glass bird vial, for purposes unknown
I am essentially a traveling junk shop, or a bad episode of Antiques Road Show.
The ballerina, who has been balletically gracing funny places around my apartments for over 10 years, was a topper on a birthday cake; the tiny rug is on begrudging loan from my mother, and has made several un-homelike homes feel ten thousand times better; the green tasseled thing I found on Angel Street in Providence, as I was walking down to see a friend in 2005. It was bright green against the pavement and a bit dirty but I love it inexplicably and would never forget it.