Traveling has taught me all sorts of lessons. It's taught me to say "yes" to new adventures, to excursions that seem a bit out of my comfort zone, and to cuisine that I typically wouldn't try. It's taught me how to navigate train stations and detailed directions that are in another language, and sleep on a long flight with no leg room. With each lesson, I've become grateful for my experiences, myself, and the beautiful planet we live on. I've been wrapped up in stories that I'll tell forever, and grown into someone who gets excited at the idea of planning a dreamy trip. There's one lesson, though, that I can't seem to get a grasp on: How to appropriately pack a suitcase. I always overpack and this one hack I tried on my latest trip proved that it's possible to change my ways.
My significant other and I were getting ready for a week-long trip to Florida, laying out our clothes, bathing suits, and a couple bottles of sunscreen the night before. The week or two leading up to the trip, we did some shopping for new outfits that would be easy, breezy, and beachy, and later make an appearance on our social media accounts. So, I went into the packing process feeling upbeat and positive about what I was bringing and what I could totally leave behind.
But, like every other time I've traveled, I began laying out the items in piles and second-guessing my looks. I began overthinking the shoes, the cover-ups, and even the earrings I wanted to bring along. Soon enough, my entire closet was on the floor of our bedroom in a stack that I declared was for "maybe's." I thought to myself, "What gives? Why do I always overpack?" Then, I remembered a hack my dad taught me when I was about to study abroad. Spoiler alert: It surprisingly worked.
Here's the one hack I tried that helped me not overpack.
The hack is pretty simple, and works well if you're a classic over-packer like me. It lets you lay out everything you want to bring, create your "maybe" stacks, and unload your closet onto your bedroom floor. Then, it dares you to cut it down and eliminate the items that, I promise you, you don't need.
First, start by pulling out the items you know you're going to bring. For me, these are typically the clothes I recently bought for the trip, the crewnecks I live in at home, and the shoes I know are super comfortable. Arrange them in piles based on the type of clothing item they are, instead of pairing them into outfits. (That part comes later.) Then, begin adding shirts, striped pants, tank tops, jumpsuits, and the rest of your so-called "must-haves" to these stacks.
Once you've reached a point where your piles are tall, and you're saying to yourself, "I wish I could take all of this," that's when the hack begins. Leave behind at least three or four items in each stack, and ask yourself a few questions that demand quality answers. These questions are: "Do I normally wear this," "Can this item be worn with at least two different outfits," and "Is this item comfortable?" Odds are, if the answer is "no," then you're not going to actually wear it or need it, and it's a total waste of suitcase space.
I felt organized, prepared, and stress-free.
When I embraced this packing hack, I instantly felt more organized and stress-free. I felt prepared for the trip, and like I had conquered the one part of traveling that I wasn't so skilled at. I liked knowing I had a lot of potential outfits, and I wouldn't be lugging a heavy and oversized suitcase through the airport. (Let's be honest: That's the real struggle of being an over-packer.)
When it came time to board the plane and then land in Florida, I found that I had zero issues with what I packed. Every single event, dinner, or casual night at home was accounted for, along with the Instagram-worthy moments I wanted to post on my feed. I didn't feel anxious or worried about the items I left behind, or if a different necklace would've looked better with my palm tree-printed shorts. I was able to truly relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the beauty of being on vacation.
What other hacks have I found helpful for not overpacking?
Believe it or not, this one hack isn't the only one I've found to be helpful in changing my overpacking ways. In fact, many traveling tips and tricks have proved me and my need to bring everything, well, wrong. If you're in the same boat, then you may find them helpful before your next trip, too.
The first of these tricks is to outfit plan. Especially if you know the kind of excursions, events, dinners, or tours you're going to be doing while you're traveling, outfit planning can be incredibly helpful. It'll allow you create comfortable and chic looks before boarding the plane, right down to the accessories. Not to mention, it makes getting ready at your hotel or your millennial pink Airbnb much easier.
You should also consider packing as many neutral items as possible. These are the white T-shirts, the boyfriend jeans, and the black dresses that can always be dressed up or down. They tend to pair well together, and with the colorful walls you'll likely pose with for Instagram. Who knew not overpacking was possible?