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How does Minimalist Packing Revolutionize Your Travel?


You’ve probably heard the term minimalist packing a lot. But what exactly is minimalism? How does the concept apply to packing? How people understand and apply the idea of minimalism vary by degree. Minimalism can be interpreted as simplicity. Clarity. But if there’s anything the majority of people can agree on, it’s the practice of getting rid of things you don’t need. Or in this case, not bringing things you don’t need.

What is minimalist packing?

Packing way too much is downright frustrating. And travel is already a stressful endeavor. Don’t make it even more of a burden, literally and figuratively.

airport conveyor belt

Minimalism can mean a process of re-evaluating what you have and getting rid of things you don’t need. Being aware of the things we value and the things we don’t essentially need, or as some people say, “the things that distract us”—and applying it to your packing habit.

The minimalism concept was recently brought to popularity in the last couple of years through Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. While the book mainly discussed tidying up your space, your home; the principle applies to packing as well.

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In the book, the idea of “treating your things with respect” was discussed. While this may sound overly idealistic, the idea actually makes things much more practical. Do you squeeze your stuff inside your suitcase instead of making a room for it? Do you look for corners of your bag where you can squeeze more stuff in? Beyond the idea of treating your belongings with respect, that practice is just going to inconvenience you during your travels.

Bags and suitcases may not be as large as a wardrobe. But that does not mean getting something that is squeezed in the middle of your bag is going to be any easier. It’d be a pain for you to get them out when you need them (if you need them at all, that is). Minimalist packing doesn’t just help prevent overpacking; it changes the way you travel.

How to be a minimalist packer?

Now that we have the concept down, here are the hows to tackle. It may be a daunting task if you’re one among the masses who can’t seem to travel even short distances, without multiple bags. But the majority of travelers who are now minimalist packers have been an overpacker at some point in their lives. So all you have to do is start.

squeezing your clothes into your luggage

Start questioning yourself: Do I really need this item?

The art of minimalist packing starts by being aware of your very own needs. Start by creating a packing list with the most basic items you’re going to need in your destination.

The most basic packing list comes to this:

  • Clothes:
    • Underwear
    • Tops
    • Bottoms
    • Outerwear: jackets, coats
    • Footwear (can be the one you already wear)
  • Grooming essentials
  • Electronics
  • Personal health kit (birth control, medicines, first aids, etc.)
  • Travel documents (passports, ID cards, etc.)

After you get the list down, ask yourself this: what are the items you can easily get in your destinations? Note those items down, or cross out some of the things on your list.

carrying only a carry-on

And that’s it. From this list, you can expand to fit your needs. You don’t need to bring an umbrella, for example, even if you know it’s gonna rain there. You can always get one where you travel to.  Minimalist packing helps you realize that you actually don’t need all that much in your travel.

Also read: How to Travel Light Anywhere While Staying Stylish

1. Start small 

You don’t have to immediately aim for only bringing a carry-on every time you travel. Starting with small, manageable chunks is the best way you can keep working on it without thinking “this is impossible for me” then quit halfway. Minimalist packing is supposed to ease you, not stress you out.

packing like a minimalist

Take things gradually. If you usually bring three large bags or suitcases, then, learn to start bringing only two, or bring smaller sizes of those bags. If you usually bring three shoes, not including the ones you already wear, then start by bringing only two in your bag.

2. Downsize everything

—And that starts with your bag. The bigger your bag is, the more you’re going to think you have space, and you can (and you feel you should) stuff more stuff in. The smaller your bag, the easier it would be for you to bring it everywhere. This is one of the key elements of minimalist packing.

3. Do laundry on longer trips

You probably think that this is your vacation and you don’t want to be doing any chores. But not doing your laundry during longer trips is asking for dirty clothes to pile up. And people usually don’t want to deal with dirty clothes. A lot of people don’t fold them properly. This would eventually lead to more space being consumed. Do your laundry as early as you can manage. It’ll help you a lot in keeping your stuff organized. Minimalist packing during a longer trip can only be achieved this way.

coin laundry in japan

4. Wash your clothes every day during a shower

Laundry does not have to be a big deal nor does it need to take so much time of your day. Do it a little bit at a time. You can try washing your underwear in a washbasin with hands and detergent. Not used to hand-washing your laundry? Then it’s time to learn.

5. Avoid the “Just in case” trap

This is a common mistake everyone made at one point or another in their travel. But really, mostly just everyone. Chances are, you’d end up not using the item at all.

6. Don’t bring stuff you can obtain in your destination

The most common example of this is your toiletries. And anything weather-related, such as umbrellas, or raincoats. Unless you needed to use a certain brand of soap because of something like allergy or skin irritation, chances are, you better be off without bringing toiletries.

 toiletries image

More readings on packing: Winter Travel Outfits: Dress Well and Pack Light

Now that we’ve touched upon the hows, here are merely a few things you can benefit from minimalist packing:

You can save money on luggage

Luggage is not getting any cheaper. In fact, it’s only getting more expensive, whether it’s a full-service airline or a budget one. But it’s especially true for budget airlines. If you want to cut down on your travel expenses as much as possible, then minimalist packing is simply the way to go.

waiting for luggage

Enjoy hassle-free travel

Not having to drag the heavy, and not to mention, multiple suitcases or backpacks you have feels like a blessing. You won’t have much to worry when it comes to walking with all of your belongings with you.

You less you bring, the less you’ll lose

check-in luggage at haneda airport
Haneda Airport check-in counter queue. Image source:

Luggage gets swapped or having to arrive at your destination days after you do. Some are lost. Such stories of nightmares are often heard. Even though you have yourself covered with insurance, losing your things can simply ruin your travel. Minimalist packing does wonders to prevent this.