Packing for travel like a minimalist

Every so often I get to take a trip, from London, back to the North of England and visit my family and catch up with friends. In the past, this has been a really irritating task, because I’d often feel the need to grab my super large suitcase, which I’ve used to literally move house previously, and pack it with everything I think I might need for my visit.

Every single time I would open up the large suitcase, necessary because I’d like to take my laptop, and my games console for fear of boredom and then fill up the rest of the space with other stuff like clothing, and extra socks. Usually, I’d have extra space, but try to pack it up just enough so nothing moves around too much and gets damaged.
With my large suitcase packed up tightly, I’d then lug it down the street, onto a bus, down the stairs to the underground, onto a tube, through the train station and onto a train. Assuming I’m not on a peak train, then I’ll find a free space on the storage racks to place it. But such luxury is not always possible.

I’d arrive at my mother’s home, and during my visit, I’d rarely unpack the suitcase completely, and instead live out of it, only picking out what I needed. This proved at least a reasonable method at the time, that has further enabled me to see the error of my ways. The end result would, of course, be that I only used maybe 40% of the stuff I packed. I’d return to London each time, frustrated by having to drag around a small house, and further frustrated for forcing it upon myself.

Then Late 2015 comes around. I begin something of a minimalist journey – without yet knowing it – by removing items I no longer needed. Some more regular visits home developed my frustrations with packing, yet to be rectified.

Christmas Day and another Santa sack of unnecessary items coming my way from my mother. Except for this time, my mother has surprised me with something I actually needed. A reasonably sized, compact, travel case.

Me: “Mum, I was just thinking I really need something more compact for visiting home”

Mum: “Yep that’s what I thought, that’s why I got it!”

She’s a good egg.

It’s now Summer, and I’m preparing for a 4-day visit back to my hometown. I have that same travel case and use it semi-regularly to justify keeping it. It’s compact, it has a pullout handle, an extra front pocket. It’s pretty basic, but a good kind of basic.

Out it comes from the cupboard, and I begin to think about what items I’m going to need, first. So I make a list of the things I need:

  • Underwear. Boxers and socks for each day. In this case, 4 pairs of each. If it’s winter time, or I’m planning/expecting exercise or some other reason why I might need extra, then one spare pair of each might go in too.
  • Toiletries. I often would make a mistake here in the past, taking shower gels, shampoos, etc. Most of this stuff is available where I’m going, even if it isn’t the one I prefer. So this will typically consist of one zip toiletries bag filled with my electric toothbrush + charger, shaver, deodorant, fragrance, hairbrush, chosen hair product, and sometimes a mini bottle of shampoo and/or moisturiser.
  • A top for each day. So, in this case, it will be 4 tops, which might be 4 t-shirts, or 3 t-shirts and one shirt. There’s some variety in there because the situation or occasion might change or present itself.
  • Sleep/chill clothes.
  • Shorts for the summer.
  • Jumper. Because it’s colder in the North.
  • A second pair of shoes. Other than the ones on my feet during travels, I might put in an extra pair of shoes, such as something a bit smarter in case the occasion is there for it.

I will often have a backpack with me too, in here I put all of the items I might need quick access to, and for the travels. So in here, I’ll have:

  • Water. Always have water with me, everywhere I go.
  • Laptop. If I get a decent seat, I’ll open up on the train and occupy myself.
  • Chargers, cables, etc. The bits and bobs that I might need with the laptop, or my phone.
  • Jacket
  • Headphones. I have some not quite so minimal headphones, and they’ll be in here for my journey.
  • Sunglasses, and glasses that I need for the computer.

There are other things that may make the cut too, depending on available space in my travel case. But the travel case always stays the same, and I fill it with only what I need, and if I don’t have enough space then that’s just tough and another reason to evaluate what I thinkneed to take, and what I want to take.

I no longer have to lug my games console for fear of boredom, as I’m often preoccupied enough with catching up with family and friends that I never find the time to use it. Also, because of the beauty of technological advancements, I can actually play my console remotely, wherever I am. All I need to bring with me is my controller and the cable, now that’s minimising.

PS4 Remote Play

All of the above is situational to myself, as I often make (relatively) short distance travels to visit family, but the above might not quite be the best template for travelling for a holiday abroad, or travelling for long periods especially. There is one thing that rings true throughout any planning of how much stuff you’re going to take somewhere else; minimising by asking yourself some questions that need honest answers will create a clearer mind in the planning, and allow you to concentrate more on the doing.

As a last note, my best tip is to notice the difference between preference and necessity. I’d prefer to take a particular face wash and shampoo with me when I go, but if I’m honest with myself I really don’t need it as I know there will be face wash, shampoo, and anything else I might need already there. Making compromises to your preferences is a good thing when you are clearing the stuff, to clear your mind, and enjoy more of your visit.