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Does the hoarder within take over when it's time to pack? You're not alone. Overpacking, triggered by the fear of leaving something important behind is quite common. But it's curable. The key to letting go of all that excess stuff is to declutter and get organized -- both mentally and physically.
Actual hoarding, of course, can be a serious problem. But for those of us with just a touch of the hoarding behavior, I suggest six tips for correcting the urge to amass a lot of stuff when packing for a trip.
Set Some Ground Rules
The first step in reigning in an overpacking habit is to set up some ground rules and goals. Packing, like any organizational activity, requires a game plan. You be the coach: Ask yourself what perfect packing means to you. Do you want to learn to travel with just a carry-on bag? Do you want to stay within airline weight limits? Do you want to move from city to city with ease? Set up an end goal and then create some basic parameters that will help you get there. Choose the size of bag or bags you want to bring, and stick with it. Choose amounts of outfit pieces and shoes and stick with it. You get the idea.
Related: 8 Secrets of Ultralight Packing
Make a List
I say it all the time, yet it bears repeating: Create a checklist. A classic Excel spreadsheet works. Or you can print out a template. Shameless plug: I use SmarterTravel's Ultimate Packing List, which gets the job done nicely. Fill out the printed list, but don't throw it away. Fold it up, and save it for future trips. Adjust the list as needed. Did you bring one too many pairs of shoes? Make a note on the list so you know how to pack better for your next adventure.
Related: 11 Must-Haves for Your Carry-on Bag
Before you open your closet and drag out the suitcase, decide how you're going to tackle the task of packing. Pinterest makes this easy; the social media platform has lots of clever packing advice and smart organizational ideas that will help you take control of the trip-preparation process. It's a fabulous place to get inspired via visual, snack-sized tips. Great pinners to follow include BuzzFeed DIY, A Beautiful Mess and Travel Fashion Girl. And of course, there's our own comprehensive Packing Hacks board.
Use an App
A packing app might seem unnecessary. After all, those aforementioned print-out lists work nicely for most people. But if you really need help overcoming your overpacking habit, your smartphone can save the day. Look for packing apps with useful features that go beyond what a paper checklist can achieve. For example, the app Travel List (which costs $1.99) allows users to save multiple lists for different destinations and trip types. You could have a "Europe" list, a "cruise" list, and a "weekend" list. Moreover, you can use the app to set alarms for items you need to pack. So, an alarm might sound several hours before departure, reminding you to grab your passport before you catch a cab to the airport. The extra peace of mind furnished by a predetermined notification system, plus a set of manageable, reusable lists, can help you feel more comfortable leaving superfluous stuff behind.
Self-appointed rewards are great motivational tools that can help you reach your packing goals. Turn your struggle to pack light into a positive endeavor by setting up a prize for yourself, whether it happens during your trip or after you've come home. (The former seems more fun.) An idea: If you're going someplace with a favorable exchange -- and you've managed to meet your packing goals -- set aside some money to buy a new outfit on your trip. Treat yourself to a new, reasonably sized suitcase. Or splurge on a seat upgrade.
Get Some Organizational Tools
Remember that old phrase, "A place for everything, and everything in its place"? Apply those clever words to your packing process. Organize your suitcase! If your luggage lacks the right combination of pockets, straps, and such, get some extra help by way of organizational packing aids. These tools, from packing cubes to folders to compression bags, can help you keep your bag neat and ordered while traveling, so you can better control the volume of stuff you have to cart around.
-- By Caroline Costello