Have you ever packed a lot more than you needed? And have you ever struggled to drag your big suitcases and luggage around only to find that you barely used half of the items that you packed? Oh yes, we’ve all been there. But now imagine having just the right amount of stuff and not feeling like you’ve missed out on something. Sounds amazing, right? Let’s look at how you can accomplish this.
STEP 1 – CREATE A MINI TRAVEL CAPSULE WARDROBE
Usually, the biggest reason we overstuff our bags is our clothing because we want to have beautiful clothes, comfortable clothes, casual clothes, clothes for ‘just in case’ etc. And then the same happens with our shoes – we want some heels, flats, some closed shoes, trainers etc. and before we know it, we’ve overpacked and our bags become too full.
The problem is that we don’t recognise how little we actually need until we come back from the trip and then it’s too late anyway – how many times has that happened to you? So by packing without planning we find that many of our items don’t go together so we keep adding and adding and this is where the problem lies.
Two years ago, when I was getting ready for a week off, I remember putting anything I fancied into my suitcase. But it looked like a lot of stuff so I took a pen and paper and I started writing down the number of items for each category: tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, jackets etc. and I was shocked. I was packing for a week but without even realising I wanted to take six tops, four bottoms, four dresses, one jacket, two bags and four different pairs of shoes – for a week! I couldn’t possibly wear all of that. That was the moment when I realised I need to preplan my outfits and it made the biggest difference.
So I learned that the best way to pack our clothing is to create a mini capsule wardrobe for the time away. If you haven’t already, check out my blog post on How to create your own capsule wardrobe for more details but now let’s go through this a bit further because there are a few elements that you must keep in mind in order to pack minimally.
First, I created a travel capsule guide to help you with numbers and of course, depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing there, you can adjust it for yourself. But overall I found this is a pretty good guideline for most occasions. And if you’re a guy just change the number for a dress to an extra top or a jacket.
So once you know how many items you want to take with you, then it’s time to start picking your favourites. Here are a few notes to help you with that:
- MIX & MATCH: To get the most use out of everything you pack, you must really focus on mixing and matching everything – and I really mean everything! Leaving the door open for just one unique piece or pair of shoes that only goes with one dress is probably not a good idea (except of course, if it’s for a special occasion).
- START WITH SHOES: Usually, we need only two pairs when we’re away – one casual pair and one nice pair. So depending on where you’re going pick shoes that are most versatile, comfortable and you enjoy wearing. If you’re going away for longer or you absolutely want to, you can add a third pair but make sure they’re different in their practicality or look so you’re not just taking duplicates.
- BUILD YOUR CAPSULE: Based on the two pairs of shoes that you’ve picked, you can now slowly start adding to your capsule. I recommend putting everything on a bed or sofa so you have a good view of everything. That way you’ll know if something doesn’t match with other things or you’ll see if you have too much or too little. When you’re doing this, take your time, put on some music and keep adjusting your capsule until you’re happy with it. I recommend doing this a day or a two beforehand to avoid rushing and getting stressed.
- AN EXTRA NUDE TOP: If you’re not sure about the weather or there are some chances that the temperatures may change while you’re there, then take a nude cami you can wear under t-shirts, blouses, sweaters etc. instead of taking every possible top for every possible temperature – this is a little hack that can help you save some space.
- WEAR YOUR HEAVIEST CLOTHES: This is probably an obvious point, but try wearing your bulkier items instead of just putting them in your suitcase or bag.
- CLOTHES FOR EXERCISE: Another point I would like to add is to be thoughtful about taking sports clothes. It’s so easy to fantasise about training and how much we’re going to do when we’re away but be realistic about how much you actually need. I always packed my trainers with pants and tops but then I rarely used them, so now I allow myself to just take one set of yoga pants and top, without my trainers so I can do some yoga or light exercise. I accepted that when we’re away, routines are different so there is no point in forcing ourselves to do everything the same. And breaking our routines and relaxing is probably the whole point of us going away anyway.
STEP 2 – BEAUTY PRODUCTS
The second biggest reason we pack too much is our toiletries, creams, makeup, hair products etc. So let’s look at how we can downsize it without depriving ourselves of our beauty routines.
If you’ve already decluttered your beauty products as I mentioned in my How to declutter (use up) – beauty products, then you probably have a good idea what to take with you. But to stay even more minimal here are some tips:
- VERSATILITY: The best way to pack cosmetics is to think about versatility – if you have an oil you can use as a makeup remover, body oil and hair oil, that means you only need to take one product instead of three! Or maybe you have a face cream you want to use up that you can also use on your body. Not everything has the same versatile power but think about where you can do that.
- BREAK YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE: We automatically want to take everything with us but don’t be afraid to break your routine for a little while. So instead of taking all of your products, pick only the best ones – at home, I use an evening eye night cream and a day one, but when I’m away, I only bring one (or I go without). I do the same with night and day face cream, I pick my favourite and take one alone.
- DO YOU NEED TO TAKE EVERYTHING?: Are there some items you can buy once you get there? If you’re going on a holiday can you buy sunscreen there and then use it up so you don’t have to bring it back with you? It depends on how long you’re away for but sometimes this is a great idea. You can do the same with body lotion or something that you can easily use up.
- THINK ABOUT WHAT IS ALREADY THERE: If you’re going to a hotel and they have a shower gel and body lotion etc. do you really need to take your own? Maybe you want to take some items, like hair products but you can leave other things at home.
- SAMPLES: If you’ve successfully hoarded samples, now is the time to use them up and bring them with you. But don’t bring new ones back – they are probably just going to be sitting in your cabinet again. Also, samples usually expire very quickly, so I recommend only taking the ones you really want to try and leaving the rest.
STEP 3 – LUGGAGE
To truly enjoy our travelling experience, then we also have to look at our bags, luggage, suitcases, toiletries bags and so on. If you have a suitcase that is broken, its legs are falling off etc. then you’ll probably hate dragging everything with you. But if you have a luggage that suits your needs, it’s easy to move around and fits just the right amount of stuff, that will make a huge difference when travelling.
So with that being said, you can do a quick checkup – start by taking all of your bags and luggage out of the storage and put them into one place. Include toiletries bags and anything else you use for travel. Now think about what is practical, what you actually need and which items you enjoy the most – if some are broken, too big or too small, don’t be afraid to declutter them. We should only keep the luggage that is practical and we enjoy using.
STEP 4 – CHECKLIST
Have you ever packed everything but had a nagging feeling you forgot something? Or maybe you actually did forget something and that always seems to happen? A quick list that you can use to check that you have everything is a life saver when it comes to packing – it saves mental energy and makes sure you always bring everything with you. Down below is a checklist that you can use for yourself, of course, adding or removing items that you want.
- Organise your bags: tossing everything into a bag is probably not the best idea, either because your clothes are going to be wrinkled or you won’t get the best use out of space. So to nicely organise your bags consider packing them nicely – I love using a KonMari method for best results. Another thing you might enjoy are packing cubes, which are specifically designed to help you pack but if you’re not a frequent traveller they might be a bit unnecessary.
- A mini toiletry bag: I remember leaving everything open, ready to pack the last few bits, like toothbrush, toothpaste, lenses with the solution, face cream and things like that. But now I have a separate mini bag, to put all those items in just before I leave knowing everything else is entirely packed. This also makes it easier to unpack your necessities when you arrive at your destination because you don’t need to remove everything to get to a few bits that you need in that moment.
- Let go of the idea of perfection: even when packing lighter and with intention, we must let go of the idea of packing the perfect bag. What you can do is to focus on doing your best and if something unforeseen happens, trust that you’ll find a solution. What helps me, is changing my perspective from ‘I must have everything’ to ‘How much do I actually need?’ and ‘Can I find a creative solution?’. That way, I’m open to learning more about myself instead of focusing on what I have and don’t have.
I really hope this helps you next time you pack and don’t forget to share your thoughts 😀