First (and foremost), it serves as a pact that you make with yourself, an agreement (and ongoing reminder) that if it's not on your list, it's not going in your bag (because all the necessary items are on your list). This defends against last-minute attacks of "I might need this." The worst possible time to be considering what to take on a trip is while you are packing for it!
It's important to understand that the goal is a single, lifetime packing list, not different ones for different trips. The primary purpose of the list is not to specify what you will take with you on any particular journey, but to serve as a model for your travels, a constraint on your packing exuberance, a personal blueprint that you can continue to refine over time (but not change every time).
The world is awash with so-called "packing lists". Thousands can be found on the Internet, and almost any travel store will happily supply you with what usually amounts to a list of the many things you might buy from them. And therein lies the fault of most such lists: they enumerate the possibilities, rather than eliminate the liabilities. A list of stuff you might want to take is very different from a list of things that you can't travel (comfortably) without.
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