(written in a finger-breaking 21 minutes!)
Being a human being in a society which places an unusually high level of importance on carrying seemingly useless stuff around with you all day, from books to folders to folding bikes, I have a great deal of experience with shoving bits of paper into a space too small for those bits of paper, and dragging the entire thing around all day. I shall now impart some of my wisdom onto you, humble reader.
And by the way, this refers to backpacks only, because they are sensible.
1) Pack in size order
This sounds kinda obvious, but stick the big, flat things on the back of the bag, and the smaller, nobblier things at the front; that way, your back will rest against a big flat surface, and when you open the bag, you’ll have a series of small things right in front of you for easy access.
This is especially important when considering the nature of these things: diaries, pencil cases and planners are likely to see use throughout the day, so having them in an easily-accessible location makes sense.
2) Pack chronologically
Derived from this idea of the small, useful stuff being at the front of the bag, arrange the larger items in the order that you will need to use them: if you need to use one folder in the morning and one in the afternoon, place the ‘morning’ folder closer to the front of the bag, just behind the small stuff. This means that it will be a lot easier to withdraw from the bag when you need it. Then, if you have time between the occasions these folders are required such as a lunch break, switch them around, so the ‘afternoon’ folder is the easiest to reach.
If you do this well enough, you’ll never have to waste time at the start of lessons or meetings taking everything out of your bag to get to the important stuff at the back, which can help make you look like not an infant.
3) Buy a bag that is too small
The ultimate goal of packing a bag and using it to carry stuff is the reduction in size of the bag and, by extension, the stuff in it; if backpacks are designed to be convenient, would it not be more convenient if they were smaller and lighter?
With this in mind, get a bag that is totally, zip-bustingly full when you need it, as this will encourage you to pack lighter; you’ll soon streamline your packing, for instance by replacing a pencil case with stationery stored in a pocket, leading to lighter loads to carry. If you need to carry 10 things, but would like to carry 15, having a bag that only holds the first ten will force you to have a smaller, lighter bag.
Obviously, don’t go too far; the bag needs to be able to carry enough to be useful, so experiment a bit: try one bag for a month or so, and try to streamline your crap to fit it. If this seriously isn’t working, only then move on to another.
And on that note, here are some great bag-lightening tips: replace plastic wallets in folders with hole-punched pages, making the folder smaller, lighter, less slippery and cheaper to maintain; don’t carry full bottles of water, instead carry empty ones and fill them up when you get to school or work, and drink them until they’re empty before you get home; and put as much as you can onto a USB, so you’ll have to carry less stuff in general.
5) Don’t pack it the night before
…if you don’t want to. Coming back to convenience, the time of bag-packing needs to fit with your schedule. Some like packing the night before to ‘get it out of the way’ and sleep with peace of mind, while others like to use bag-packing as a means to mentally prepare themselves for the impending horrors and highlighter-based Armageddon of the average school day.
You’ll argue that oversleeping scuppers this plan, or that packing in the morning only gives you one chance to get it right, but I’d disagree using the argument of competence: carrying spare copies of work on a USB outright removes the problem of having to remember to pack a printed copy the night before and, frankly, if you can’t read a timetable and place the corresponding files into a black sack in the morning, you really shouldn’t have a job important enough to demand the use of files in the first place.