Sometimes the best new ideas aren't really new ideas at all. They're more like the new application of an old idea.

Case in point: A year ago, I wrote about a simple trick my uncle taught me to avoid forgetting important things.

It came up when we went sailing on his boat in Rhode Island. As we came back to the harbor and tied up, he told me about the last two steps he always takes at the end of a cruise.

  1. First, he takes out his phone and takes a picture of the boat engine ignition in the "off" position.
  2. Then, he takes a second picture of the knot he used to tie the boat to the buoy.

As he told me last year:

"This is so when you wake up at 2 a.m. wondering, 'Did I tie up the boat correctly?' you don't have to drive an hour back to the dock to find out."

Mind. Completely. Blown.

I mean, I forget things all the time. It's been a challenge my entire life.

So, for the past year, at my uncle's implicit suggestion, I've been taking reminder photographs of everything.

Now, I've come across an even more useful application -- specifically for when you're packing and traveling. 

The ultimate packing hack

Here's how it works. Again, it's so simple that I can't believe I haven't been doing this my entire life -- or at least for the 15 years or so I've had a phone with camera.

The problem we're solving here is that nagging feeling you get when rushing to get out the door or hurrying through an airport, trying to remember whether you packed something important.

It's tough enough when you're going somewhere by yourself. It's even more of a challenge when you're packing an entire family for a week-long trip at the beach.

So, what I've learned to do, thanks to my uncle, is to take photo after photo after photo of my luggage as I'm packing.

It all winds up looking something like this:

100 photos, no problem

I did it last weekend, as my family and I were leaving for a week at Cape Cod.

Imagine those photos, but repeated over and over and over for each of about 25 bags and packages loaded up in the back of my Honda CR-V.  

Yes, you can easily wind up with 100 photos on your phone. But so what?

You save so much time and drama later on, when you're trying to recall if you packed enough sunscreen -- or else to remember which bag to look in to find the baby's must-have nighttime stuffed animal.

It also works for business travel, when you sit up in a panic on your flight, trying to remember if you packed your dress shoes -- or if you'll have to go to that meeting when you land in the Nikes you wore on the plane.

Also works for home remodeling

I saw my uncle again during our recent vacation. We had a laugh over last year's article. And, I realized I shouldn't keep this new application of his old idea to myself.

Also, I should share a more robust version of this packing hack -- from when we remodeled one of the rooms in our house earlier this year.

This required packing about 15 boxes worth of items and knick-knacks into our attic. I shot photos of each box as I loaded it, then drew a number with a big Sharpie on each of them, 1 through 15, and took a picture of the numbers, too.

Everything was about 100 times easier to find later on, just by looking at my phone.

Brilliantly simple

I know that when you get right down to this, it's all a matter of documenting your life -- something many of us are doing anyway.

It's a remarkably simple hack, and one that takes mere seconds. But for me, it's been brilliant.

And that's the point. You're almost certainly walking around nearly 100 percent of the time with a camera in your pocket that's far more powerful than anything that existed even just a few years ago.

Use it. And then, use the part of your brain that you free up for things that are much more important. 

Published on: Aug 4, 2019
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