mnmlist: the just in case syndrome

At the moment I’m on a plane to Guam with my family. I brought a small backpack with my laptop and a couple changes of clothes, for a month-long trip.

Packing light isn’t hard, until you run against the “Just In Case” Syndrome. Actually, having minimal possessions in your life isn’t hard, until you face this syndrome.

You already know what the “Just In Case” Syndrome is, without me having to describe it. You keep things (in your bag, or in your home or office) not because you actually need it, but just in case.

But when we look at this with actual evidence, we see that “just in case” means we keep a lot of stuff we don’t actually use. Try an experiment: monitor the “just in case” stuff you pack on a trip, or keep in your home. Make a list of the stuff you keep for “just in case” — stuff you haven’t used in the last few months but are worried you might need it.

Then see how many times in next 6-9 months you actually use that stuff.

I went on a trip to London & Paris recently and packed fairly light … but even then it turned out I packed stuff I didn’t need. I took running shoes and workout clothes that I barely used, because I was so tired from walking all day (and I could do bodyweight exercises in my apartment). I had an extra pair of pants and an extra shirt I didn’t need. I really didn’t need any guide books.

I made a list of the things I really used, and the things I didn’t. For my next trip (a weekend in Portland), I only took the things I really used in London & Paris. It was a small backpack, and it turned out to be perfect. I’m doing the same for Guam, though the trip is much longer and I’m much more likely to be swimming.

I have two pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, three T-shirts, deodorant, two pairs of socks, two pairs of quick-drying boxers. That’s all I think I’ll need. If it turns out I need more, I can buy it, but I don’t think I’ll need it.

We’ll see. And that’s the key: don’t just worry you might need it … find out.