Blog Post | Why Is Packing The Worst?


Why Is Packing The Worst? 

We’ve all been there. Sweatily shoving one last jacket into an already overstuffed suitcase while dragging it out the door to get to the airport/cabin/grandma’s house on time. 

For folks with ADHD, the last-minute dash to pack is often the norm rather than out of the ordinary. Our working memory issues make it difficult for us to picture ourselves in past situations, like on vacation, and then relate those pictures to the task of packing in front of us.

My first suggestion is to STOP frustrating yourself by relying on memory alone and instead try these ADHD-friendly packing tips. 

  • Walk around your home. Visual cues prompt our memory, so physically go look at your stuff! Be a detective asking “is this something I normally use?” Open cabinets in your bathroom and look around your bed.

  • Write it down! I guarantee you have some ideas already swirling in your head about what to pack. Trying to remember all those items while coming up with new ones is really taxing to our working memory. Start the list, don’t worry about finishing it, you’ll get ideas as you write things down. Getting them out of your head now makes room for other ideas to come to the surface. A college client recently came up with the categories of “To Pack, To Do, and To Buy” that worked well!

  • Live as if you’re on vacation. This one works well to pack your toiletries. Watch yourself get ready in the morning and go to bed at night. Whatever you use, put in your toiletry bag and live out of it until you leave for your trip. Bonus points if the bag is clear and you can see everything in it, this coach likes to use a gallon Ziploc bag for this purpose!

  • Use your 5 senses. If you’re going to the beach, what do you see? Water…what do you need to go in the water? Bathing suit and goggles! What can you smell? Sweat…and maybe sunscreen? Pack your water bottle and your favorite SPF! This also works for a plane/car ride. How do you normally feel in that vehicle? Are you cold? Do you like to sleep? What are the items you need to help with that? A sweater…a travel pillow…headphones!

  • DO NOT put it all away. Actually packing items into your suitcase should be the last thing you do. Keeping things out, like spread out on your bed, will help you remember what you’ve grabbed already and what you don’t have yet. You can even separate out complete outfits for as many days as you are there. Again, we’re making packing ADHD-friendly, so don’t tax your working memory by hiding it all packed away in a dark suitcase.

A last tip…pack as much as you want! Don’t let anyone shame you for the amount that you pack. They aren’t the ones living in your head and don’t deserve a vote in how you live. I hope your next trip goes a little more smoothly with these packing tips. Bon voyage! 


Riley Karbon, PCAC
ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC

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