Getting Stuck Ahead of Time

My colleague and I take the train together every day and about a month ago she noticed something kind of unusual about what happens when I am packing up to go. She had been watching me stuff my laptop, files and lunch bag into my backpack and squeezing the zipper up each day, she asked me – “Melissa: What DO you HAVE in that backpack? You do this same wrestling match with your zipper every day.”

On that jovial and revealing train ride home we revealed what was in my overstuffed backpack – my laptop, 2 writing notebooks (my last completed one and my current one), my promotional material in a folder, my agenda, a few file folders with work, a large, Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen, a make up bag full of female supplies, an “emergency” book that I was not even reading during my travels (I heavily rely on podcasts), pens (it turns out I have a fear of pens running out of ink) and also another makeup bag full of mints, clips, granola bars, various garbage, more pens, cough drops (I don’t have a cold), elastics etc. We were laughing uncontrollably by the time we got to the end of unloading it.

It turned out I was telling myself that most of these articles were  “for an emergency”.  I would take another item out, she would question why I had it and I would ask: “What if I get stuck?”, and my colleague would ask: “Stuck where?” I have actually never been stuck on the train in my travels to or from work. Not once.

My very smart and organized colleague pointed out that I only need what I might need for the actual trip home which is at the most one of everything and to also consider what I might be able to live without even if I am somehow “stuck”.

What an eye-opener. I was living my life as if I was planning on being stuck. Staying in process and in motion is an idea that I have been shining light on in my life and this backpack full of stuff became a beautiful metaphor for living a stuck life.

I cleaned out my bag that night.

And, even though I still struggle with not accumulating stuff, I trust that it will continue to evolve. I have the urge to be prepared and start to stuff that bag with granola bars and mints (I don’t even like mints and I had two boxes of them). I decided to keep my emergency book (at that time it was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which I have already read and makes this all the more hilarious), all my writing notebooks and my laptop. I do love zipping up my backpack with ease though. I am in process with it.

Is it just me or do you like to carry your stuff with you too? Where does this come from for you?

Please email me at with your story of getting unstuck from your stuff.


ps – Claire Diaz-Oritz–love her stuff–also wrote a blog about the crap we carry a couple of weeks ago.

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