A life in Two Suitcases…

I’m here (at least when this is being posted).

Building a wardrobe. Northridge, California, USA. September, 2014.

In reality, I’m typing this the day before I fly out, sitting on my couch and watching TV while I should be finishing everything else I should be getting to. Then again, it’s do this now or in the first few days I am in country—now is better.

This week has been the week of tying up the loose ends—cleaning and packing up my life while trying to see the well-wishers who are coming out of the woodwork.

But the main point of this writing is to talk about the process of packing for a larger scale move. I’ve covered packing for a vacation before but I’ve discovered that there are great differences in the packing styles—and a surprising amount of similarities.

I’ll be moving away for the span of a year (unless a job works itself out and I can manage to stay longer), so there is a lot of things that I need to bring with me—much more than I needed for a quick trip.

Originally, I thought that I’d pack everything I would need immediately in one large suitcase and a carry on, but then I looked at shipping costs. The cheapest I found would ship out a parcel of 30 pounds for about 120 USD, while (if I book ahead of time) I can bring a second suitcase of 50 pounds on the plane with me, have it immediately, and only spend 50 USD. Therefore, it became my task to place everything I would want of need—the makings of my life—into two suitcases and a small carry-on bag.

But how to choose what to pack?

A few week ago, I talked about what to buy in country and what to bring with you… as it turned out, my mom had other ideas. As it stands, the Pound is up, making the US dollar about half as effective as it would otherwise be. That unfortunately make it easier moneywise but causes some space problems.

This is where space bags come in. I prefer the vacuum variety rather than the press type as they are more efficient at removing the air, but you will have to practice stuffing them a few times to see if you can get them as flat as you can get them (read the diagrams if you have them—it really does work the best!). For suitcases, flat is also better than a cubed bag. When you pack and vacuum the bags you should work on shaping them as they shrink. If your suitcase has bars along the back rather than a flat surface, you can sit or kneel on the bag in the suitcase while you suck out the air and you’ll get a better fit. Then press out the wrinkles that you can—flattening it. Repeat as things go. If they are too lumpy, try repacking and vacuum again—that’s why you should practice.

But what do I put in the bags?

Just like when packing for any other trip, you have to look less at the individual pieces you pack but more at the whole of the wardrobe you pack.

To help with this process, I set up a clothing wrack and put the clothes I thought I’d want to pack on it on hangers or folded along the bottom rack. By looking at the pieces presented, you can see any piece that doesn’t work—that you wouldn’t wear with anything else. Then look for anything that is a close duplicate (not really in the cases of shirts as those are wash and wear but Jackets and blazers), and narrow the number down, especially for bulkier pieces.

Once you’ve narrowed down the selection, try every piece on. I mean this step. If you try on every piece you’ll see what fits, what doesn’t, and what needs mending. The first goes in the suitcase, the others do not (unless you really, really feel like mending in your last weeks!).

Now you’ve reached a nice place with what you have. The last bit to look over is if what stands is what you not only will wear (useful pieces), but also fit the life you’ll be living. If you are moving to a colder region, do you have warm clothes? If you are going to be working, are work appropriate clothes packed? And so on and so forth.

Next, vacuum and pack them, weighing the bags as you go. Remember, if you go over the weight limit, you’ll have to pay fees!

Finally, look at the space you have left in your bags for things like shoes, makeup, toiletries, ect. Remember also that these items tend to have a higher weight so keep track of your distribution on items.

For your carry-on, you should look at the measurement guidelines of your airline (this goes for extra baggage costs as well) and then pack everything you’ll need on your flight—books, music, ect.—as well as a full change of clothes, just in case. Also dress in layers for your flight and that’ll sort you if you lose your luggage for a bit.

And with that, I’m off to finish the rest of my tasks. Next week and the year to follow, I’ll be writing from my new home in London so we’ll just have to see where the year takes us.

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

A life in Two Suitcases…

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