Learning to Pack a Minimalist Suitcase

For me, ethical fashion and minimalism go hand-in-hand, because one of the simplest ways to have a more ethical closet is to simply consume less clothing.

This is where I have always fallen off the wagon a bit. I tend to get really anxious about not having the right things to wear to a meeting, or event, or trip, despite the fact that my life has changed a lot and my work is no longer so image-driven. I’ve made huge strides, as you guys know, but I’m not a full-fledged minimalist by any means.

This past weekend, I was in Paris and Barcelona for my friend Claire’s bachelorette party. Claire and I met several years ago – she worked in my company’s office in Paris, and I of course was working here in the U.S.

She came to Connecticut on a short-term assignment in 2015 and we became friends. Fast-forward a few years and a few thousand miles, and we still are!

Packing for an international bachelorette long weekend was harder than I anticipated. I knew I didn’t want to check my luggage, since it was such a short trip for the other girls and they would certainly all have carry-on bags for the flight from Paris to Barcelona.

However, I also get anxious about not packing enough things or the right things. I’ve always been this way, but it has gotten a lot worse since an ill-fated trip to Norway one August where I bravely brought a carry-on, only to have it torrential downpour the entire trip. I had to buy boots and a raincoat. And, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Norway, just know it is very expensive. So, approximately $300 and one bad mood later, I was swearing I would never put myself in this situation again.

So let’s just say, I have packing paranoia. But, I have also become increasingly more committed to my small and ethical closet as the months go by. So, I set out to pack my minimalist suitcase for this trip.

And I failed. I mean, I seriously failed.

Here’s a list of all the clothes I packed. The bolded items are what I actually wore.

Tops:

  • Cuyana linen tank
  • Madewell black tee
  • VETTA wrap top
  • VETTA boxy blouse
  • Free Label tulip top
  • Only Child Charlie top
  • RUBA RUBA bandeau
  • Everlane silk camisole (I tried this on at my destination and was reminded of how much I hate it, so why did I even pack it? It is in the donate pile now).
  • Amour Vert modal cardigan

Bottoms:

  • Madewell denim culottes
  • VETTA black cutlottes
  • Madewell button-fly jeans
  • Madewell high-rise jeans
  • Target chambray shorts

Dresses/Jumpsuits:

  • VETTA linen tunic
  • VETTA striped jumpsuit
  • BCBG navy romper

Bathing Suits:

  • Ralph Lauren Black one-piece
  • Kate Spade maroon one-piece

Shoes:

  • Clarks wedges
  • Madewell brown sandals
  • Botkier black sandals
  • Havaianas flip-flops

Accessories:

  • Rains backpack
  • rag & bone crossbody
  • Kevia tassel necklace
  • Vrai & Oro initial necklace
  • Stud earrings
  • Wedding rings
  • Madewell sunglasses

I wore 17/30 items. That’s less than 60% of what I packed. 

I also wore a sweatshirt that I didn’t even pack, I got it when I was invited to stop by noyoco, a Parisian eco brand.

It’s crazy, right? I bet if I did this exercise with my closet, I would probably only wear 50% of it – if that. But I pack and hold onto so many things because of fear. Fear of not having enough, of not being enough, of not fitting in with the people I’m with, of being caught off-guard and not being able to improvise. The only items I did an okay job at packing were bottoms, because I know I tend to change my pants a lot from day-to-night. I feel like people generally change their tops more often, but not me. And some of my accessories don’t even really count as accessories since I always wear them, like my stud earrings or wedding rings.

So, what did I learn?

I need a whole lot less than I think I do.

Less time deciding what to wear means more time exploring. I was reading Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver on the plane and this quote really stuck with me: “The less interesting my clothes became, the more interesting my life became.” How true is that?

Also, never pack a carry-on that weighs more than you can comfortably lift over your head on your own 🙂

So, I wish I could show you photos of my neatly packed suitcase and have some better expertise to share, but not this time. My next weekend trip, the goal is 16-20 items.

Are you a paranoid packer, or a pro? Any tips for me moving forward?

xx

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Comments

  1. It seems like the further away my destination, the more I tend to overpack!! It’s like I forget that people in other countries also use bandaids/toothpaste/medicine, and I can always buy some if I need it!

  2. I’m travelling in Europe right now and I’m finding a very similar thing. I even thought I’d packed fairly minimally but there’s still so many clothes I haven’t worn and don’t think I will. It’s certainly inspired me for cutting down my belongings even further when I get home though!
    Do you feel similarly about the things you have at home or is your aspiration more for travelling light? 🙂

    • Hi Kerrie! Hope you’re having a nice trip, thanks for stopping by my post ???? I am definitely also trying to have a smaller closet, too! If you are interested in checking that out, I recently did a closet tour on my Instagram account of my progress, challenges with it, and so on. (@wholeheartedwardrobe).

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