The last few times I traveled (both week long trips) I took only a small backpack with me in addition to my purse. The big question my friends asked when I arrived was, “how do you travel so light?”
I have two secrets for packing light but the backpack isn’t one of them. Some people may prefer a weekend bag or a small rolling suitcase. I have tried both and only went with a backpack on my last two trips. This is my backpack by Mountain Equipment Coop (It’s the ‘Cascade’.) I like it because it looks sophisticated and actually holds a lot more than it looks like it will hold.
My two secrets: I use packing cubes and a capsule wardrobe.
Use Packing Cubes
I’m not sure who invented packing cubes but I first heard about them a dozen years ago from a fellow traveler. This is what they look like. I bought my first set in a sale bin at Canadian Tire, and later found some more (again in a sale bin) at an airport. They are so useful and not only for packing!
My Packing Cube
For years I was a two-cube packer which means that I could fit two packed cubes on one side of my suitcase with room on the other side for shoes and accessories. The great thing about the cubes is that they keep your clothing contained in your suitcase and when you get to your destination you can just take the whole cube out and put it in your drawer.
I decided to pare down to a ‘one-cube trip’ partly to see if I could do it and partly because I was getting a ride with someone and was being considerate of the trunk space.
What you Need for a Week Long Trip
This pile of clothes fits into one packing cube.
Well, I can’t tell you exactly what you need because it depends on where you are going and what you’ll be doing.
A really good general rule is to pack for only half of the number of days of your trip. (If you are an adult, do you really need a clean outfit every day?) Plan to wear each item more than once. For your ‘delicates’ also pack for only half your trip and rinse out your socks and underwear in the bathroom sink. You can take a little vial of liquid laundry detergent, but to be honest I use the free shampoo that is almost always available.
For my trip to Maui in December (a yoga retreat) I took 3 pairs of workout pants, 3 workout tops, 3 casual tops, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts (the bottom of my swimsuit), my swimsuit top, a dress (also doubled as a swimsuit cover), 2 scarves big enough to cover a swimsuit, a light-weight cardigan, my Sunveil shirt and hat, a dressier straw hat that folds flat, and my Unshoes (flip flop alternatives). And with this, I still over packed.
I wore my yoga pants only once and the 2 pairs of capri leggings almost every day; I didn’t wear one of the tops or the dress at all – not even as a swimsuit coverup. If you are going to a place you’ve never been before it is hard to know exactly what the circumstances will be.
Most women like to shop when they travel and I am no exception. Last summer at my Restorative Exercise Intensive I had to buy an additional long sleeve top because even though it was August it wasn’t warm and the studio had a garage door that was open most of the time. The year before that (also an RE event) it was hot outside but the studio was over-air conditioned. Now when I travel I always include warmer layers even if it is ‘supposed’ to be warm. I shopped in Maui but not because I needed to: I shopped because it was Maui(!) and even though I almost never succumb to souvenir t-shirts and the like, I bought a souvenir Hawaii t-shirt. At least it is subtle enough to wear again and I wore it at least 3 times while I was there!
I did need some specialized clothes for this trip because it was a winter vacation to a hot spot: I wore my heavier clothes on the plane: jeans, a lightweight long sleeve top, a hooded merino wool jacket and a pair of walking sandals (with socks!) and except for the jacket, I wore everything again. It was still cool in the evenings in Hawaii.
Start with a Capsule Wardrobe
Starting out with a capsule wardrobe really helps with packing. A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to getting dressed – so that basically – figuring out what to wear will be a thing of the past. I recently signed up for this micro-course Capsule Wardrobes which is not what you would think it would be (this course is much deeper than finding the season’s pivotal pieces in the right colours.)
It is more about a minimalist approach to dressing. It is a really good course to take if you are feeling overwhelmed by your wardrobe decisions.
I have always thought packing for a trip is very revealing. The old me, before I started paring down, could pull out my 4 or 5 favourite outfits – the ones I always feel good in and have been time tested – and put them in my suitcase. But you could barely notice that I had taken anything out of my closet. I’ve learned that those outfits are my wardrobe staples and that with those 4-5 top, 4-5 sweaters/jackets, and a few different pants/skirts, I have a couple of weeks worth of combinations.
Note: If you find you are over-packing it may mean you have quite a large capsule wardrobe! I have under 50 items (including shoes and accessories) but I have separate capsule wardrobes for summer and winter – with overlap. Depending on where you live you may also need separate spring and fall wardrobes. (I keep my off-season clothes in my spare packing cubes.)
Now when I pack for a trip, my closet is pretty empty. I don’t take everything I own but I choose things that suit the trip and that will give me the maximum mileage. Usually that will mean solid (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
Here are a few additional tips that makes sorting out travel clothing easier:
I wear merino wool which doesn’t suffer from being in a suitcase, doesn’t absorb odours and dries quickly. If you sweat a lot this will be an life-saver when you are traveling.
Most of my solo trips are for yoga or restorative exercise workshops and my workout tops have built in bras. Although they are bulkier than a tank top, I find they don’t take up much extra room and I feel more comfortable throughout the day.
I limit my colour scheme: Usually that will mean a solid colour (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
I take things that can be worn more than one way:
My swimming suit consists of board shorts and a bikini top. I can wear the bottoms as shorts.
I will always take a top and skirt of the same colour that worn together is dressy enough for dinner but can be worn separately for more casual occasions.
My scarf will be big enough to keep me warm, give me coverage, protect me from the sun and act as a pillow on the plane.
Be very minimalist when it comes to your wash/cosmetic bag. I assume that except for my personal things and what I need for the plane, everything will be at my destination and if they aren’t they are just a front-desk or a drug store away. I take moisturizer and a hair product (sample or travel sizes) but no shampoo, soap, etc. I always keep my lip balm (etc.) in my purse anyway, so there is no need to add extra to my wash bag.
If your trip requires special clothes like formal wear, you will probably find you will need to pack differently. I am going on a two week trip in May where I will have to dress for dinner every night. I will use the same rules for my casual trips, but I will need to bring a few more things that are not in my daily wardrobe like dresses, shoes, evening bags and jewellery. Actually I think I could probably pull it off with my ‘one-cube’ trip, but there really isn’t a need. This isn’t about depriving yourself but about making life simpler.
Also called Barefoot Shoes, minimalist shoes are a special category of minimalism because they have a different meaning than what we usually mean by minimalism.
With minimalism the goal is to have fewer material things. Minimalist footwear could mean owning fewer pairs of shoes, or owning shoes that were as small as possible.
But in this case, minimalist shoes means minimal interference with the natural function of the feet. It refers to footwear that allows as much free movement of your natural, unshod foot as possible, while offering protection from injury (stepping on sharp things and having something heavy dropped on your foot) as well as protection from extreme heat and cold.
Minimal footwear allows your feet to behave as feet while still offering a buffer between the unnatural detritus found in the modern world that can cause injury.
Katy Bowman, Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear.
There are 4 main components of minimalist shoes: the sole, the heel, the toe box and the upper.
1. The Sole
Regular shoes are generally rigid and, sometimes, thick. Minimalist shoes have flexible soles and are usually thin enough to feel the contours of the ground through them and allows the foot to respond to the terrain. Ideally the soles are flexible so you can fold it.
2. The Heel
The next important thing about minimalist shoes is that the heel is non-existent. Just calling them ‘flats’ is misleading because many ‘flats’ have a very small rise. Minimalist shoes have a zero drop or a neutral heel. This is important because it allows your body to initiate movements from neutral, or an aligned position. A heel, even a small one, pitches the body weight forward and small adjustments are made in the joints to counteract it. These compensations have a physiological cost.
3. The Toe Box
Minimalist Shoes also have a larger toe box than traditional shoes, because toes are meant to move in all directions while moving, but most traditional shoes shape the toes into some fashionable shape that is considered attractive.
4. The Upper
The upper part of the shoe is why flip flops and slip-ons do not make good minimalist shoes. The upper must secure the shoe to the foot without requiring the wearer to grip their toes or tense the shin to keep the shoe on while walking.
3 More Reasons to Wear Minimalists Shoes.
To regain foot mobility. The greater the mobility in your feet, the less likely you are to have knee, hip, lower back, pelvic floor, and psoas pain/problems.
To regain lost calf and hamstring length. Your muscles adapt to whatever position you put them in most often. Wearing a positive heeled shoe (and also prolonged sitting) shortens the sarcomeres in the hamstrings and calves. There are a number of reasons why a person might want to reverse this, such as performing better on the ‘sit and rise test’ (how easily can you get to the floor or even touch your toes?), you want to squat, you have urinary incontinence or pelvic floor pain.
To get a better booty. When you don’t use the back of your legs much there usually a corresponding lack of development in the gluteal muscles, and you end up with a flat butt.
Transitioning to Minimalist
If you’ve worn rigid soled shoes with a narrow toe box and a heel (even a small one) all your life, make your transition slowly.
1. Begin by lowering the height of your heel a bit and get used to that.
2. Don’t trade in your shoes for flip flops (or any other shoe that requires toe grip to keep them on your feet, because you are just trading in one problem for another.
3. Be aware that your walking gait pattern will probably change so be mindful of doing hard hiking, pounding on city pavement or running while wearing minimal shoes until you build up more mobility (and strength) in your feet.
Well into our second year of living in a much smaller space, we’ve decided that our ‘this will do for now’ approach needed to be reviewed.
Even though we have scaled back several times, the furniture we kept was re-purposed, too big for the space and encouraged our hoarding tendencies. I also realized that we do not have things which go together, stored together.
For example our TV is sitting on an oak chest (making it very difficult to get anything out of the chest, by the way) while our movies are in a bed-side table re-purposed as an end table. So we don’t watch our movies and probably we do not need anything that is being stored in the oak chest. Right now it is just a place for things to be put away and forgotten about. We also ended up with these two pieces which kept some office supplies and books, but contained, frankly, too much junk.
Although the goal of minimalism is to have less stuff, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with replacing things with those that are more functional and beautiful. We gave away the larger dresser on the right, and the smaller dresser is (temporarily) in the bedroom.
We replaced it all with this sleek setup from Ikea (Hemnes) that holds our greatly reduced office supplies in the cabinet with the solid door, while more decorative things are in the glass upper portion. I really wanted a lighter feel and this is white stained pine.
All the movies, music and a considerable number of work-related CDs and DVDs are in the drawers below the television. The best part of this is that I don’t have any other hidden stashes. What we have is out on display, and we can better appreciate the fewer treasures we choose to keep without going through the stress of trying to find things when nothing is edited and organized.
Shoe organizers in our entryway set a peaceful, streamlined mood.
When you live in a small space, what you see when you come home is important. We are doing a long overdue apartment overhaul (more on that next week) and I’ve been working on sorting and organizing for a couple of weeks.
I started at the front door with this set of shoe organizers I got at Ikea. They are called Trone and come in a set of three (a third one, tucked in a closet holds my husband’s shoes.) They are also available in black, red and blue. Although I didn’t stack them, I liked the idea that I could, and I also liked the little shelf on top. Tucked just inside our front door this ‘relax’ sign, and my hand carved loon are now the first thing I see when I come home.
It is heaps better than the cluttered and jumbled mess I had before. (I am not going to give before and after photos because some things are best forgotten.)
In one bin I have my minimal shoe collection (get my list here) and the other holds umbrellas, hats, gloves and bags. It is tidy, organized and convenient (no more scrambling in the morning to get ready to go out.) Minimal shoes are fantastic because they take up so little space.
Best of all it creates a peaceful and welcoming entrance which will set the tone for our apartment re-do. I want to create a feeling of calm space that is highly functional with a place for everything and everything in its place. The next few weeks are going to be a bit chaotic but I keep looking at that Relax message and take a deep breath!
Whenever I clean, I pull out a few items that I haven’t used in a while and set them aside to dispose of. Usually I take them to my local thrift shop that supports Seniors.
When I do a bigger clean (like my wardrobe) I always find things to part with – even when I think I am done. It is because I (still) after all these years, convince myself that I need to keep it.
I think it is quite reasonable to keep outfits that are dressier – that you perhaps only wear a few times a year, but it is also reasonable to keep them to a minimum.
Among things I am parting with is a full length paisley silk skirt with velvet underskirt. It is gorgeous but after a couple of winters without finding exactly the right thing to wear with it, I’m done and I’m passing it on for someone else to enjoy.
Part of clearing clutter is also getting to know your own style. It seems every season I get caught up in something – it might be advertising or even the latest ‘must have’ lists – that I know isn’t me. I prefer solid colours that I can change with scarves or jewellery. Whether I’ve paid a lot, or a little, I get huge mileage out of those garments, while the patterned things I buy end up taking space until I admit I made a mistake.
Have you noticed a pattern with the clothing you rarely wear? Do you give away the same time of clothes every season? Perhaps it is a message that you aren’t listening to what you feel the most comfortable and natural in.
Last week I did a guest interview at Wendy Auman Wellness. Wendy is a Restorative Exercise™ colleague and Health Coach. In our half-hour conversation we talked about why we feel an urge to clean and clear in the Spring, how feng shui helps us keep up with changes in our lives, why removing clutter from your home reduces stress and gives you energy, and more. Listen below.
I was born at the peak of the baby boom and got to experience being a flower child only because my very small hometown caught up to the rest of the world so slowly. I have been a lifelong writer and reader, with aspirations of being a renaissance woman.