I am an organizer. I spend days and weeks organizing things in order to save seconds and minutes. Someday it might equal out and I'll have all the saved seconds and minutes hooked together into an extra day...then I'll re-organize!
I've had a request (well maybe it was just a polite comment) that I should share Oma's Organized Packing System. I'm thrilled to share! This has taken me years of trial and error, and it's always evolving, but I have some discoveries that have worked for me.
These are my secrets: I have made several "kits." I use makeup bags (that come free with cosmetic gifts,) or ziplock bags as my kits, and I identify them with permanent marker. I always restock them as soon as I get home, while I still remember what I ran out of, so they are ready for the next trip. I throw all these packed kits into my suitcase so that when I'm packing for a particular trip, I can choose the ones that are applicable. There's a typed list inside my suitcase so my clothes are quickly chosen, the "extras" found and packed, and the kits picked based on the type and length of trip. I use small, travel-sized items in each kit, which I just refill at home, and keep the kits about the size of a sandwich ziplock bag.
"Night Stand Kit." This holds chap-stick, a little flashlight, nail file and clippers, hand cream, kleenex...the little things I always keep in my night stand. When I unpack, this immediately goes in the drawer next to the bed.
"Toiletries Kit" for the bathroom which has cosmetics, etc.
"Femmies Kit" for the back of the toilet, with unmentionable necessities.
"Makeup Kit" is separate from the cosmetics, so I can use it in the bedroom while Dee showers.
"Laundry Kit" for overseas trips when we'll do laundry in our room. It consists of a few hanger type clothespins, a tube of liquid detergent, and several 2 gallon ziplock bags folded inside each other. I put a little detergent and some water in a ziplock, along with a pair of socks, zip it closed and squeeze it several times for a little washing machine action. Rinse and hang. Cinchy. Dee does his own washing, and we alternate nights so there isn't too much drying at a time. I include a tiny mending kit, a couple of buttons and several safety pins of various sizes in the Laundry Kit.
"First-Aid Kit" has Neosporin, Band-Aids, a tiny plastic bottle of alcohol, and a variety of o-t-c heart-burn, pain and nausea meds, plus a list of our prescription meds, phone numbers of our doctors and pharmacies, gauze, aloe, and a needle.
"Secretary Kit" holds a little pair of scissors, a tiny stapler, paper clips, elastics, a little calculator and a checkbook register to keep track of expenditures. I keep a little roll of tape, and a pocket knife in there, plus an envelope for receipts, a coin purse to hold the money not needed in that country, and a phone charger.
"Map Kit" is unique for each trip, with maps, itineraries, and applicable pages torn out of guide books and stapled together. Travel documents for car rental, hotel addresses and confirmation numbers, etc. are kept here. I use a plastic school folder for this kit that slides in a side pocket of the suitcase. I love to personalize a city street map with stars and circles pointing the way to the restaurants we've read about, and the stores I've just got to visit. I create a pocket size, personalized guidebook/map, with important addresses, numbers and store hours written in the margins. The maps are handy in the side pocket upon arrival, to throw into the glove compartment, or my purse.
I use a large black microfiber LeSac bag as a carry-on bag. It holds my book, a neck pillow, pashmina, cloth shoe bag with a pair of little black socks, and an "Airplane Kit." The Airplane Kit has the items I need handy in the airplane pocket, such as chap-stick, lotion, kleenex, iPod, advil, and a chain for my glasses. Nothing inside the bag is heavy, so it's easy to carry through the airport, and it gives me a footrest when I'm sitting for hours waiting for connecting flights. I have a tiny velvet jewelry pouch in my purse where I put my jewelry when I take it off for security. When I get on the plane, I take out my book and Airplane Kit, slide them in the seat pocket, take off my shoes, put on the socks, and pack my shoes in the shoe bag to replace in the carry-on. I take out the pashmina and pillow and stash my purse in the carry-on bag and put it under the seat. I use it as a foot stool during the flight, and I don't have to get into it until it's time to land. I don't have to search for wayward shoes, or several items stuffed in overhead bins, since it's all together. If we rent a car, I leave this bag in the car (but I take my book), since it's unnecessary in the hotel room.
When I pack, I choose the smallest wheeled bag possible. I need to be able to lift it over my head when it's full, while I'm wearing a jacket, and holding a purse. I take 2 knit tops, or T's (usually blue and green,) a striped button down shirt, 1 white camisole, 1 pair black levis, 1 skirt (denim, or black for church), red sweater set, jean jacket, a couple of scarves, 1 pair of comfortable shoes for a skirt, PJ's and a maximum of 4 sets of underwear. I use mesh and velcro packing cubes, with outfits packed together. I always bring a washable laundry bag for a hamper. I use another little "Jewelry Kit" to take long pearls and pearl earrings, and some casual silver jewelry. On the plane I wear black pants, a black lightweight sweater set, black shoes for pants, and turquoise and silver jewelry. I throw in the kits that apply, and my jacket goes inside, on top of everything for easy retrieval. I also take a mini umbrella, if necessary. I take less clothes for a weekend trip, but never more, even when we go for 3 weeks. We'd rather find a laundromat than haul heavy suitcases.
Dee always takes "disposables." A shirt or shoes that are almost worn out take their final trip and get left behind. It lightens the load, especially if we want to get some new things there. The only down side to my packing system is that because I stick to the same color combinations, even though the actual clothes change over the seasons and years, I always look the same in all the photos!
Except for clothing, everything is always packed and ready to go. But there are a few "extras" I have to add each trip. They are: wallet, passport, phone, iPod, camera, current book, tickets and applicable travel info, prescription glasses and sunglasses, and Rx enough for the trip. I keep a packing list (clothing items) and "extras" list inside the suitcase with the kits. I can pack in 10 minutes! Unpacking is just as easy, because after refilling the shampoo bottles, jotting down a list of needed items for re-stocking, I just throw all the kits back into the suitcase along with the packing cubes and a dryer sheet to freshen things up, and put it all away. I wipe off the shoes, and dump my laundry bag into the washer. Then there's the fun of going through the treasures and putting them in appropriate boxes and shelves for later perusing.
I sometimes take an extra LaSport sac that folds down into it's own case. When it's unfolded it can be filled with extras and checked as an extra suitcase. When I use it, I stuff it full of dirty clothes and use the suitcase to pack the souvenirs we've picked up along the way. Often we find a post-office and send some of our stuff home. We always accumulate lots of books, and the bookstore will sometimes ship them for us, or we ship them book-rate for less money. They take a couple of weeks to get home but it saves a broken back, and several dollars. Post offices have boxes and packing materials and tape, so we just do it all right there.
I love planning every aspect of a trip, even down to the packing. It's so fun to plan the trip of a lifetime, and creatively organize it into 14 days, or organize clothes for a week of romance and sophistication into 2 small packing cubes. When I'm organized, each worry and concern can happily be filed in it's appropriate folder and I'm free to have fun!