When I hear someone say "I'd better pack for my trip," I ask when they are leaving.

I am astounded when they say they are going away in a few days or a few weeks.

Why do people start packing so far ahead of time?

If I began getting stuff together days in advance, I'd forget what I'd packed and keep checking the contents of my suitcase. Because I change my mind every 15 minutes, I'd be removing stuff from the pile, then putting it back again, and round and round.

I'm similarly incredulous about how much baggage travelers take with them. A friend told me she took eight pairs of shoes for a one-week cruise. A couple I know nearly got divorced because the wife insisted on packing four suitcases for a trip to Europe. One bag contained his stuff alone!

Their journey included a lot of train travel. The ill-fated husband wrenched his back carrying the luggage, and they spent part of their vacation finding a doctor.

A couple of months later the husband still suffered back problems as he complained, "She didn't wear half the clothes she brought along."

As they related the story, my then-husband Tom and I exchanged knowing looks.

Early in our relationship we drove up to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif. As he placed my small carry-on in the trunk of his car, I almost fainted. Wow, I thought, this man intends to move in with me when we return. There was a pillow, a large suitcase and a coffee pot!

It took me a couple of years to show him a better way to pack. My rule is one carry-on suitcase whether I'm going away for a weekend or for three weeks. And I pack the day I'm leaving.

Friends ask, "How do you manage with one suitcase? Why don't you pack ahead of time?"

Simple: I wear the same clothes over and over again. If something gets dirty I rinse it out or spot clean it. I am always cold on an airplane so I wear a blouse, a sweater and a jacket. These articles of clothing are interchangeable, easily mixed and matched. I'm prepared for most kinds of weather.

The morning of my trip I put my carry-on suitcase on the bed. After showering, I place underwear in my bag, along with a lightweight robe, nightgown and slippers. As I put on slacks, I add a pair or two to my suitcase. Next I add two or three light blouses. No bulky sweaters - my traveling outfit takes care of anything else I might need.

In addition, I have a lightweight handbag I use only for air travel. It's big enough for my wallet, glasses and other sundries.

"What if you forget something?" is the most engaging question I receive.

"What if I do? I'm not traveling to the moon," I reply, smugly adding, "But I've never forgotten anything packing this way. My ex-husband did forget socks once so I bought him three pair at the hotel. Unfortunately, we were at the Rio in Las Vegas. He now owns three pair of the most expensive socks on the planet."

When it comes to makeup, after I apply it the day of departure, I add it to a plastic bag and slip it into the suitcase, along with toothbrush and toothpaste. I don't travel with moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner or hair spray. If the home or hotel I'm staying at does not supply what I want, I buy it.

Admittedly, there is one teeny-tiny problem. Occasionally I'm unable to control shopping. Paris is that kind of town. As you walk the streets, the shop windows are filled with clothing shouting, "Buy me." But because I've brought such a small amount of clothing with me, I don't feel guilty if I buy a "few" things.

Laughing, I confess to my friends, "Oftentimes that warrants buying another suitcase, but I've rationalized this. If I'd taken two suitcases with me, I'd be returning with a third, right?"

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Meet Alexis Powers

Northwest columnist Alexis Powers will join another local author and a local photographer to present a seminar at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Oro Valley Public Library, 1305 W. Naranja Drive.

Powers, writer William Ascarza and photographer Jane McCutchen will answer questions from attendees about writing and photography.

Along with writing for the Northwest Star, Powers is the author of several books, including "Kiss My Tattoo," "Madi's Dollhouse," "Don't Die Before Paris" and "Paths to Freedom."

McCutchen is the photographer of "Drifting in Beauty" and "Uncommon Thread," collections of poems and photography.

Ascarza wrote "Tucson Mountains" and "Southern Arizona Mining Towns."

The seminar is free and open to the public.

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com