My Tips to Pack a Minimalist Wardrobe

posted by Andrea | 12/9/2015
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minimalist travel wardrobe

A couple months ago, Dave and I went on a mini “vacation” with the kiddos (yes, “vacation” is in quotation marks for a reason!) We traveled 1.5 hours away to Dave’s teacher convention — and although we were only gone for 3 days, I felt like we had to take SOOOOOOO much stuff with us.

We needed 2 pack ‘n plays, a stroller, James’ bouncy seat, the baby carrier, swimming gear, cold weather gear, a few books, toys, and activities for the kids to do in the hotel room, a cooler with food and snacks, everyone’s favorite blankets and stuffed animals to sleep with, diapers, diapers, and more diapers… and of course, our clothes!

Now certainly, we could have made due without some of those things if we absolutely had to — but I don’t love the idea of my kids sleeping in a hotel pack ‘n play, and I knew we’d go crazy in our room if we didn’t have a few toys and games along. We had continental breakfast at the hotel and went out for dinner every night, but I wanted to take some lunch and snack foods for the hotel since we had a microwave and mini fridge.

Yes, we may have looked like we were traveling for a month based on the massive amount of “gear” we took along!

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However, when it comes to packing our clothes, I am very organized and fairly minimalistic.

Although I definitely wouldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist in most areas of my life, I have always tried to pack a relatively minimalist wardrobe whenever I travel. And after sharing this recent post about traveling as a Type-A, Overplanned, Minimalist, I got lots of questions about how exactly I pack in a semi-minimalistic fashion.

So, since I know many of you will be traveling for the holidays (and because I’m wishing spring break would come sooner), I thought it might be good timing to share a few of my best tips for packing minimally — at least when it comes to clothing!

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1. I pack mix-and-match pieces

When it’s time to pack for a vacation, I really try to think through what we’ll need for each day (based on the weather and various activities we have planned) and then choose mix-and-match options as much as possible so a variety of tops will go with a variety of bottoms — and thus, stretch our traveling wardrobe a lot further.

Since Nora is very intent on matching (or at least her version of matching) I try to stick to colors that all go together — I’ll pack all brown, purple, pink, and jean/navy items for her so everything goes with everything else.

I do the same thing for myself — using black, grey, white, jean, and pink. And yes, this literally means that EVERYTHING I pack for myself is some combination of black, grey, white, jean, and pink.

If I know that all my tops will generally go with all my bottoms, I can get away with packing far fewer items — not to mention if one top or bottom gets dirty, I have plenty more to choose from without the need to completely change my entire outfit.

For example, the clothing in these pictures is a very typical wardrobe for me — both at home and traveling. It could easily last me 2 weeks or more (provided my children didn’t make a mess of all my clothing on the first day or two!)

Here’s everything I have laying out in the photos above:

PANTS :: dark blue jeans, pink jeans, black yoga pants, grey leggings

TANKS & TEE’s :: black, white, and grey striped tanks; black, white and pink tee’s; grey HOME T

SHIRTS & SWEATERS :: grey and pink cardigans; jean button-up; grey and white striped tunic; black sweatshirt

SHOES :: black flats; grey Skechers; black flip flops (not pictured)

EXTRA :: black and pink scarves; pj’s (not pictured); socks and underwear

I could have Dave do the exact math, but I know from experience that I can create an almost-endless combination of outfits from these options.

I can create a more tailored look with the pink pants, jean shirt and grey cardigan; a more casual look with leggings, a tank top, cardigan, and scarf; a sporty look with yoga pants and t-shirt; go super relaxed with jean and a sweatshirt, etc. etc.

And of course, thanks to the many different “layering” pieces, I’m easily prepared for various weather conditions and temperature changes. I can go with just a tank top for warm days, layer a tank, tee, and sweatshirt for colder days, or any number of possibilities in between!

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2. I limit “extras”

As you can see by the list above, I really don’t pack many “extras”.

  • I don’t take any jewelry besides my wedding ring and a pair of white gold hoop earrings.
  • I rarely wear belts so I never need to take those
  • I usually try to limit myself to 2-3 pairs of shoes
  • I don’t pack anything fancy (unless I’m traveling for a wedding or a special occasion)
  • The only makeup I pack is mascara, lip gloss, and bronzer
  • I use travel-size toiletries for the necessities, and I just do without anything extra for the few days I’m gone
  • Thanks to my short hair style, I don’t need to pack brushes, combs, curling irons, flat irons, or hair accessories
  • I don’t bring paper books — but rather read online via my phone or computer
  • I pack only the necessary electronics (usually just my phone, laptop, and charging cords)

Obviously, this approach to packing won’t work for everyone, but it does drastically cut back on the amount of stuff I need to pack (and the amount of time it takes me to pack).

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3. I use EzPacking products

I have no tricks or gimmicks to fitting massive amount of clothing into my suitcase. I don’t roll or fold anything a certain way, I don’t use space-saving bags, I don’t scrunch everything up so it’s completely wrinkled. I just fold the clothing like normal and use the EzPacking Cubes to help keep everything neat and organized inside my suitcase.

The EzPacking cubes are (in my opinion) a fabulous way to simplify and organize the packing process — and they sure make it easier to pack for, and travel with, kids!

The EzPacking cubes come in a variety of different colors and sizes too. We designate one color to each person, since I often like to pack multiple people’s clothing in the same suitcase. Or sometimes, we use one color per day and put everyone’s clothing for that day in one specific color. This works well for trips when you’re in and out of the car or staying at different places each night.

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The EzPacking Starter Set comes with the 4 cubes you see pictured above (in your choice of color). This is a great option for shorter trips or carry-on luggage (like my red duffle bag). The EzPacking cubes make it possible to fit more in less space, allowing you to save money by only taking a carry-on instead of paying to check your bags!

The EzPacking Complete Bundle is the best value for anyone who travels more frequently or for longer distances.

It combines 2 Starter Sets (in different colors) plus 2 shoe bags, a laundry bag, a set of folding boards, and a collapsible duffel bag (in case you come home with more than you left with!)

complete set

Not only does packing with the EzPacking cubes allow me to fit more into a smaller space and keep my items neat and organized, it also makes finding what I need extremely simple as the cubes are clear. No more digging to the bottom of the suitcase any time I can’t find something. Now, all I need to do is pull out the cube and grab the items I need.

Also, the bonus duffle bag and laundry bag make it super easy to separate the clean and dirty clothing so I can get a jumpstart on laundry when we get home.

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4. I remind myself that there is more to vacation than clothing

While I am fully aware that traveling is much easier and less stressful if you pack the appropriate items, I also have to CONSTANTLY remind myself that life will go on if I forget one of Nora’s favorite shirts or if I don’t look 100% completely “put together” each day. We’re traveling to have fun, not create a fashion statement 🙂

If worse comes to worse, we can wear dirty clothes, we can swing by a Laundromat to do a load of laundry, or we can even pick up another cheapy shirt or pair of pants at a local store. After all, it’s not like we were in the middle of nowhere!

So there you have it! A few of my best tips for simplifying and organizing the often-overwhelming task of packing for your next vacation…

Now, if they could only make pack ‘n plays, strollers, and various other toddler and infant gear slightly more compact 🙂

What are your tips for minimalist packing?

A big thanks to EzPacking Inc. for sponsoring this post and making it possible for me to provide all of the content on my blog free of charge! My opinions are 100% my own! Please see my full disclosure policy and contact me with any questions you have.

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10 comments

  1. Jacquie

    12/17/2015

    I do a lot of the same things, like just a pair of earrings and my wedding ring, none of my “special” face creams, etc. I also use my Amazon Prime membership to send things to the hotel in advance. I have done this with diapers, wipes, formula, pool toys, and Baby Bjorn potty chairs (my son is very particular!). It is most useful when flying.
    I agree with another commenter about the small medical supplies. Nothing worse than needing infant tylenol at 10pm in an unfamiliar city. I also keep some bandaids and Neosporin.

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  2. Babs

    12/17/2015

    Hi Andrea,
    Merry Christmas to you and your family! I, like so many others, feel that your children are MY VIRTUAL GrandOnes! And I’ll claim them since I have none of my own! Hugs to them!
    I just ordered the EZ Packing system after reading your experience and doing some online research. I also let them know where I discovered it. Now convincing my husband of its benefits will be a fun challenge…

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay — thanks Babs! I hope you enjoy your EZpacking cubes and take lots of fun trips to use them on! Thanks so much for sharing my name with the folks at EZ packing — I don’t get any commissions or anything like that, but it’s nice for them to know that my post was beneficial for them in terms of marketing strategies 🙂

    Good luck with the hubby!

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  3. Kelly S

    12/10/2015

    Those packing cubes look great!

    Have you seen the Pea Pod travel beds? They are like a little tent for kids and are WAY smaller/lighter than pack and plays. We have one and while I don’t think it would work for our baby – I think the zipper would wake her up – I think they are great for older toddlers who are not yet in a normal bed… or who would roll off a hotel size bed. (the age range is 1-5). Our 3 year old used it for awhile, especially at my in-laws, where they don’t have a bed for her, and the ground is hardwood so not very cozy for just laying blankets down on the floor.

    My favorite packing tip is to take a pop-up mesh laundry basket to organize our dirty laundry while we’re in the hotel/guest room/wherever. I still put it in a laundry bag (or grocery bags) to bring it home, but love having an easy place to throw it. That’s not very minimalist, but they fold up to practically nothing, and keeps our room feeling more “minimalist.”

    I like your suggestion to make everything mix and match. My wardrobe pretty much is this way anyways, but I could pay more attention to doing it intentionally, especially with my kids’ clothes. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Kelly, No, I have never seen those Pea Pod travel beds — so cute!!

    We actually have a pop-up tent that looks EXACTLY like those travel beds, but it doesn’t have any sort of mattress or pad at the bottom. It’s more to keep little babies in the shade when they are outside. I never thought to use it as a bed — but I bet if I put a nice thick blanket at the bottom, someone could sleep in there 🙂

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  4. lyss

    12/10/2015

    Good tips. I’m the same way…pack as minimally as possible, especially clothes. But when it comes to babies/kids, they do often require more stuff! And I always take a small bag of “emergency” medicines/supplements…never fails that someone gets a cough or a tummy issue. But I still try to pack it small.
    On the jewelry…I’ve lost count how many people I’ve heard say they lost their wedding ring on vacation! Off topic, perhaps, but don’t set nice jewelry down just anywhere! If it’s a true vacation(no special occasions), I do like you and wear earrings and perhaps a necklace that will go with any outfit, and my rings. But they stay either on my body, or in my purse or makeup bag(while I shower). I know jewelry doesn’t have to take up much room, but I’d rather just be wearing it all and not risk losing any.

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  5. Debbie

    12/09/2015

    Our family of 4 just returned from a 2 week trip overseas taking 1 carry-on suitcase, 1 slightly larger suitcase, and 4 backpacks. I used many of the tips you shared about minimalist packing to be able to travel light. For the kids, I packed their clothes in daily outfits that were rolled up and packed into jumbo ziplock bags for each kid to keep them organized and separate. I also made sure everyone’s clothes were able to mix and match. The good thing was that I knew we would have access to a washing machine about halfway through the trip, so I planned enough clean outfits with a couple to spare to get to the point where we could wash clothes. Packing cubes are definitely a plus, but ziplock bags work just as well. I also made sure we wore our warmest clothes on the plane (we were going to a country near the tropics) to maximize space and then we could remove layers when we arrived.

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    Andrea Reply:

    These are great tips — thanks Debbie!
    Hope you and your family enjoyed your trip!

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  6. Pixie508

    12/09/2015

    I always wear a belt. I have one that is brown on one side and black on the other, and the buckle flips back and forth. It’s a staple when I travel, because I can take just one belt. I tend to try to pick either blacks or browns for short trips, but it’s nice when we’re gone for a longer time to have options. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Dave does this too!!

    [Reply]