Embrace Iteration

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I long to be someone who can travel with only a carryon suitcase. I would swish through the airport, sailing through security, then slip my case in the overhead compartment. Once we arrived at our destination, I would sashay right past baggage claim, breathing the rarified air of a traveler who was so confident in her choices that she had no need for additional luggage.

Alas, this is not who I am… yet.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an over packer. It’s such an expected part of who I am, that Joe does a “weight check” on my bags prior to leaving for the airport. Since we are all friends here, I will admit that it has been a little too close for his comfort, quite a few times. And, since I know none of you would ever be judgmental, we have, on several occasions, had to pay fees for it being over the acceptable weight limit.

If you have interacted with me in the past 9 months or so, you know* that I have been engaged in heavy duty decluttering, with a goal of moving toward some level of minimalism. (*You would know this because I basically will talk about it to anyone who will pretend to listen).  I believe that the very nature of minimalism tends to cut off any real ability to overpack, so I am doing all I can to change my ways on this.

And while the spirit is willing, the flesh has some bad habits. Habits that were formed over a length of time, which means they will take some time to unwind.

Luckily, we have had a couple of trips already (both personal and professional) this year, with a few more to go. That means I have chances to practice making different choices. But making these changes won’t happen without careful planning.

Now it’s possible that you are reading this thinking about a change in your life you need to make (maybe it’s overpacking, too!) wondering how to do that. Here’s my advice: embrace iteration. Iterating is when we engage in repetition, with the goal of getting closer to a desired result (paraphrased from Merriam-webster.com).

To successfully iterate, we need to enter the process with a bit of information:

  1. Know the goal – In this case, I want to pack what I need, with little excess.
  2. Determine what stands in our way – I like options and being prepared. I tend to think the more I take, the more likely I will have what I need, if conditions change or if I am “just not feeling” the original options.
  3. Assess our current state – Even though I make a list before travel, I usually give into the temptation to take “just one more _________” or think I will have time for activities (such as entertainment) that I haven’t gotten to at home. Example: “I will take this huge pile of magazines, because surely if I run out of content on the plane, I can get to these!” (This is, of course, in addition to a hard copy book, stack of in process work and preloaded content on my iPad).

Once you know these things, you can then:

  1. Try the new solution out and notice what works well or what still needs improvement – One of my favorite phrases is “we have to put our weight down on it” which encompasses this step, perfectly. You have just got to try things out and see if they work. For example, after a miserable night in April at a hotel, I decided to take a miniature white noise machine on the next trip. Major success with that, so, it will become a permanent part of my kit.
  2. Assess and repeat – In my case, I have been making notes on each trip via a stack of Post-It’s in my toiletry bag. As I become aware, I make note of anything that I think I should have taken and when I unpack, I make note of anything I didn’t use.
  3. Celebrate and build on success – When I end a trip with very little excess, it helps me know I am making progress, which gets me closer to the goal. In turn, this gives me confidence to keep trying. And honestly, trying is really all any of us can do.

Whatever change you want to make, consider the idea of embracing iteration. Your process might not look exactly like mine, but I am guessing it will be similar. And if you want to share your success with someone? I’d love to hear about it. Just don’t look for me at baggage claim.