How I Never Forget to Pack Stuff in My Backpack

I almost never forget to pack stuff for my regular trips to the gym, family visits, or shopping. Of course I sometimes do forget to pack something for a weekend trip, or I overpack books when I visit friends over the weekend and am afraid to run out of reading material during the train ride.

But for the daily leaves of my appartment, I do not forget to pack keys, phone, money, writing utensils, sketchbook, etc.

This wasn’t always the case. I attribute the immense improvement in reliability to my 2017 christmas read of Mari Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.1 At first, I thought it was funny to give my backpack time to rest and relax. That’s how she frames emptying the bag completely. I still do think it’s funny, but the practice stuck. I tried a couple of her tips, no matter how they were explained or tied to a value system probably related to Shinto beliefs. And lo and behold, emptying the backpack completely helped to make sure I have everything packed when I leave.

I think this is because I would be so accustomed to having all necessities ready to go at any given point in time. If I ever took a piece out of the backpack and forgot to immediately re-insert it, I’d forget about it missing completely. Relying on an always-ready backpack made me more vulnerable to forgetting to pack e.g. my purse. It happened all the time, really. I almost never forgot my keys, though, because I always leave them next to the door for picking up whenever I leave. Packing my every-day carry backpack every time before I leave works in the same way.

Because my backpack is empty by default, I have to run through my mental checklist of things to pack just before I put on my shoes and leave. This actually makes me more resilient in practice: I have to fetch all the items I need everytime and I do notice when they are misplaced, actually making it less likely to misplace them in the future.

Here is another tip taken from Mari Kondo’s book: Optimize your storage for putting away, not for retrieval (see page 142 of the book). Chaos emerges from too high a threshold to put a thing where it belongs. Storing away should be the easiest part. When you need something, you will fetch it no matter the cost anyway. – But I do mind the cost of picking up, so I trained myself to put things into similar spots more reliably over time. I execute almost the exact same movements everytime I pack my bag now, it seems.

So as counter-intuitive as it may seem, emptying my backpack every time I get home helps me not to forget to bring anything when I leave.

In case you wonder: My beloved backpack is a Maxpedition Falcon III1, by the way. It’s a tactical backpack, and I love the form factor. I got the backpack last year as a thank-you from a good friend for being his best man when he wed his bride. It’s one of the very best gifts I ever received. I enjoy packing and unpacking it, it’s crazy. And I really dig that I can attach pouches using the Molle webbing. It’s a cool toy for grown-ups.

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