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How to Use Our Best Minimalist Packing Tips to Organize Your Home, Streamline Your Belongings & Produce Less Waste

our best minimalist packing tips to organize home

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After years of running Her Packing List, a certain correlation among travelers who learn to pack light has become apparent. It turns out that when a person discovers they can downsize and travel with less, they often make big changes to their home life – ultimately striving to live with less and be more organized in the process. 

I made the initial connection between travel and minimizing at home after returning from study abroad many, many years ago now. It was that trip that started my path to becoming a minimalist because it truly helped me change my relationship with clothes and belongings altogether.

brooke packing ultralight
I learned how to pack super light which further strengthened my desire to live with less at home.

When I started to receive feedback from readers, especially those who stumbled upon my ultralight packing post, I saw the same sort of pattern. Not only were they inspired to pack a smaller bag for their trip, but they were also inspired in a way that bled over into their daily life.

They applied their newly found packing light skills to their handbags and wardrobes at home.

It’s amazing to think that my personal obsession with traveling with as close to nothing as possible could have such an impact on how so many other people travel AND live life in general. Yet, it shouldn’t surprise me since I am living proof of that connection.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to share how all my best ultralight and minimalist packing tips can be used to better organize your home, streamline your belongings and ultimately produce less waste.

And I should note that this is not a matter of the chicken or the egg here. If you adapt your home life to be more minimal, you will find it easier to pack smarter and lighter on your future travels – and vice versa. So get to it!

WHOLE HOME

Minimalist Packing Tip: Downsize Your Luggage

My first and most important and effective tip for those wanting to pack lighter is to simply lessen the size of the vessel that carries it – your luggage! Downsizing your luggage gives you a boundary for packing in addition to a packing goal.

Long story short, if you have a smaller backpack, you can’t pack more than what fits. It also pushes you to be creative and extremely selective with what you do choose to fill the smaller space.

How You Can Apply This to Home

Give yourself some boundaries and you will downsize, minimize, streamline, you name it!

Things like walk-in closets and spare bedrooms and garages and backyard sheds give you too much space to accumulate without worry. Why minimize if you can keep every article of clothing you ever purchased in the closet of the guest room, or in boxes under the bed?

set a boundary with your clothing space
Set a boundary to only keep the clothing that hangs on a single rack.
  • If you tend to use your closet section and also some of your husband’s, make your husband’s section off-limits.
  • If you have kitchen items sprawling out onto your kitchen counter, make it a goal to only keep what fits inside your shelves and drawers.
  • If you have a never ending supply of craft goods, give yourself a goal of downsizing to 1-2 storage containers.
  • If your kids have enough toys to fill the entire living room, let them keep only what fits into a specified toy box.
  • If you have makeup and beauty items covering your bathroom counter, challenge yourself to cut back to whatever fits inside a single makeup bag.

However you do it, push yourself!

Why We Like It:

  • Clear boundaries give us a goal to work towards.
  • This tactic makes us more likely to keep what we truly love and need.
  • This can be applied to any aspect of your home and life.

Minimalist Packing Tip: Compartmentalize

minimalist packing list
The organization of a 16L minimalist packing list. Notice the compartments!

Learning to compartmentalize composes a big part of our packing tips section, and it goes hand-in-hand with packing super light. When you compartmentalize (assigning belongings to different cubes, sacks, pouches, bags, etc.), everything has a home.

And this helps you for 3 main reasons:

  1. You have given your belongings boundaries (see tip above). You pack what fits into those boundaries and nothing more.
  2. You know what you have packed quickly and easily. No second-guessing that you’re forgetting something or that you lost something in the giant pile.
  3. You feel less overwhelmed or worried looking at your luggage, which will help lessen your stress levels that add to the ‘what-if’ last minute packing.

How You Can Apply This to Home

my organized kitchen drawer
A real look inside one of my kitchen drawers. Those compartments make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

The organizational guru herself, Marie Kondo (author of the Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up), helps her clients create a happier home by decluttering and adding in some good compartmentalization. Old shoe boxes go into drawers, and containers get labels. Belongings are put in logical places where they are used.

With this system, you know what you have and where you have it.

How many times have you bought something you couldn’t find just to find it a month later in a weird box under your bed (when it was supposed to be in the garage)?

Why We Like It:

  • You don’t waste spending money on things you already have (but just couldn’t find). According to this article, Americans collectively spend $2.7 billion dollars every year replacing those misplaced items. What?!
  • Less stress!

Minimalist Packing Tip: Think About Contingency Plans

Whenever someone is thinking about adding an item to their packing list, and they are doing so because of a “what-if” thought, I always recommend that they think about the contingency plan before adding it to the packing list.

What would you do if you didn’t pack that thing? How would you get by without it?

Most of the time, you can get by with being creative with what you already have. You may not have the best option, but you have a sufficient option.

How You Can Apply This to Home

I’ve moved apartments more than a few times while living in Sydney. Every single time I go through the process of packing up my belongings, I constantly catch myself finding items I forgot about but still wanting to keep them because:

“I might need that someday.”

Just because I run Her Packing List doesn’t mean I’m immune from the “what-if” and “might need” mindset. But, I will say that I am much more likely to question myself for having these types of thoughts than I was in my pre-travel days. 

And just like when I’m packing my bags for vacation, I quickly run through the contingency plan should I not have that item in my possession anymore. If it’s acceptable, then I thank it for its service and say, “Buh bye!”

It’s a good tactic to get into before making a new purchase, too!

In addition to helping you to cull general belongings, the contingency plan tip can help you clear out your old fridge and pantry items. Get creative with your food! Even if you don’t have the exact ingredients, there is probably something you have that will make a sufficient alternative!

Hello saving more money for your next trip!

Why We Like It:

  • You are constantly redefining your concept of need with every contingency plan you create.
  • You save money by not making unnecessary and regrettable purchases.
  • You rid yourself of clutter that causes stress and increases cortisol levels. (Yep!)

CLOSET & WARDROBE

Minimalist Packing Tip: Pack No More Than a Week’s Worth of Clothes

52 One Week Trips

Clothing is the hardest part of packing light for most of us. My biggest tip for the travel wardrobe is to pack NO MORE than a week’s worth of clothing, and then mixing, matching, and washing before wearing them again.

With this concept, you pack the same as you would for a 1-week trip as you would for a 1-month trip, and so on.

The kicker here is that a week’s worth of clothes doesn’t always equate to 7 tops, 7 bottoms, 7 socks, etc. My 1-week travel wardrobe is often just 2-3 bottoms with a combo of versatile and layerable tops. This is the mindset that will have you packing ultralight in no time.

How You Can Apply This to Home

There’s nothing worse than coming home from a trip and finding all the things at the bottom of your backpack that never actually saw the light of day. (Laura made massive changes to her packing after discovering tons of forgotten and unused items at the bottom of her backpack.) What a waste of space and luggage weight!

It’s no different with your clothing at home in your closet and dresser drawers. If you get real and start tracking the items you actually wear on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that you go back and re-wear the old faithfuls and a vast majority never leave the hangers. 

Did you know that we tend to wear just 20% of our wardrobe, 80% of the time? Studies have even shown that at least 50% of most people’s wardrobes go completely unused… and these numbers go as high as 80% in some countries.

Get rid of the excess!

There is also a thing called decision fatigue, and it can affect you when you open your closet and have to decide what to wear. What a waste of time and energy so early in the day.

create a capsule wardrobe at home
Get out some paper and a pen and get creative with your home wardrobe.

Think about creating your own capsule 1-week wardrobe and living out of that. If that scares you a bit, try creating a different 1-week capsule wardrobe for each season of the year, or for each facet of your life (office attire capsule and casual wear capsule).

Remember:  Every small step adds up!

Why We Like It:

  • You get full use of the items you keep in your closet. You know exactly what you have and nothing is left unused, taking up space.
  • You start making more conscious purchasing decisions. (Did you know that fashion is responsible for around 4% of the world’s solid waste?)
  • You can opt for quality over quantity. Instead of purchasing 4 mediocre jackets from Target, you can opt for that one nicely tailored jacket from an eco-conscious small business.
  • You minimize your decision fatigue, freeing up just a little bit more mental white space you can use for other tasks, like starting a side project blogging business.
  • Just like in your backpack or suitcase, it’s SO MUCH EASIER to organize fewer belongings!

Minimalist Packing Tip:  Two (Max Three) Pairs of Shoes

Ah, shoes. Even though you wouldn’t pack 8 pairs of shoes for your trip (you wouldn’t, right?!), it could be easy to do so. The problem is that shoes are bulky, heavy, hard to pack, and can be oh-so-particular to a specific activity.

However, if you choose your travel shoes wisely, you can generally get by with packing just 2-3 pairs!

How You Can Apply This to Home

If you can live out of a backpack for 3 months with just 3 pairs of shoes, why is it that your closet is filled with 20 pairs? I’m not saying you have to only own 3 pairs, but culling to half your current amount is not out of the question.

Just like when traveling, it’s important to think about all the specific activities and circumstances your shoes will need to endure. And then to pick your minimalist shoe collection accordingly. 

This cute video shows how one gal built her shoe collection:

Another fact to keep in mind: When people head off on big travel adventures, they often invest in really high-quality travel shoes that are durable, functional, and can adapt to various situations.

However, when they get home, they fill their closets with el cheapo shoes from Kmart and Target to keep up with fashion trends. Those same shoes soon end up wearing out or simply lack comfort.

Our tip: Stick with less but higher quality. Then, if the shoe breaks or wears down in any way, you can get it fixed rather than throwing it in the trash! In a single year in the US, it is estimated that 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away and end up in landfills, taking some 30+ years to decomposes. YIKES.

  • If you do want to buy a new pair of shoes, look into sustainable brands, like Rothys and Allbirds for your new kicks.

Why We Like It:

  • It lessens the amount of footwear waste in the world.
  • You make smarter choices, which could cost more money per pair but save you money in the long run.
  • You have better shoes! People always seem to give me grief for spending so much money on a pair of shoes, but I then can wear those shoes walking around all day without pain. So it’s worth it.
  • Your closet and shoe rack are uncluttered and organized.

Minimalist Packing Tip:  Layers

layers are the answer to every clothes packing scenario
Caroline showing her layers while packing for many climates! Left: Caroline indoors with presentation layers (Chica Cool Hoody, hat, scarf); Right: Caroline outdoors with extra jacket layer (Exofficio Storm Logic Sweater Jacket).

Layers take your minimalist travel wardrobe to the next level. In fact, I push the idea that if an item of clothing isn’t something that can work as a layered piece with your other items, then it shouldn’t be packed at all.

Layering adds depth to outfits, versatility to ensembles from fewer pieces, and warmth without having to pack bulky, heavy items. Layering can take you from warm days to cool nights with ease, or from summer travels to autumn travels in one travel capsule wardrobe. It’s how you pack for multiple climates.

Layers are your friend!

How You Can Apply This to Home

TLC’s What Not to Wear taught me back in the day that layers add sophistication and a more polished vibe to your ensemble.

So, when you are preparing your 1-week capsule wardrobe, it definitely helps to think about layering. You will maximize the look, the feel, and the function of your smaller wardrobe.

For example, unless you live in freezing cold places for winters, it probably isn’t vital to have a ton of heavy winter sweaters and clothes taking up precious space when you can get similar warmth from layering a few high-quality (and thinner) merino wool tops – the same tops that can also be worn individually on less cold days.

Those heavy sweaters can ONLY be worn when it’s super cold, but the lighter layers can be worn throughout several seasons.

Why We Like It:

  • You maximize the use of every item you own.
  • You can change the look of your wardrobe by mixing and matching layers.
  • You can put together looks that feel more purposeful and put together.

Minimalist Packing Tip: Invest in Clothing with Special Fabrics

womens travel underwear guide
These travel undergarments are made with special fabrics, making them quick-drying.

While traveling, you can help make your minimal wardrobe more versatile and functional and easier to maintain by investing in special fabrics.

We love some good merino wool here at Her Packing List. It smells less, dries quickly, and is temperature regulating. We also appreciate that bamboo fabric smells less and offers built-in UPF protection.

We love it when our fabrics dry super quickly (so we can wash and go in a pinch – like with our Anatomie pants), and we also appreciate that other fabrics come with built-in anti-microbial protection for less stink (like in our Exofficio underwear).

These fabrics mean we can hand-wash in the sink and dry our clothes without a drier. We can get more warmth with less bulk, and we can get a couple more wears before needing to wash at all.

And that’s how you can pack super ultralight with a full-purpose wardrobe.

How You Can Apply This to Home

Storing fewer bulky items helps to declutter, but it’s not the real draw of investing in special fabrics for your home wardrobe. What we like in particular is the fact that those quick-drying items can be line-dried easily, saving electricity.

We like that those merino wool items can be washed a little less, saving soap, water, and electricity.

We like that some of those more ethically made fabrics produce less pollution with every wash. Did you know that everytime you wash your clothes, millions of microfibers are released into the water? If you think more critically about what you buy, it’s about more than fashion and money and clutter.

  • A really great brand that we love here at HPL and that lives by these values is Encircled. See our review of the Chrysalis Cardi for just one of their many versatile and sustainable fashion pieces.

Why We Like It:

  • When you start to think about clothing on the fabric level, it changes your whole perception of fashion (for the better).
  • When you invest in smarter fabrics for your clothing, you can get more wear and more versatility from a minimal wardrobe.

Minimalist Packing Tip:  Use Packing Cubes

Oh, how we adore packing cubes when packing for your adventures! They serve many purposes, from simply keeping your clothing in one place during transit all the way to giving you a boundary for how much clothing you can actually pack!

Eagle Creek packing cubes - favorite packing cubes for travelers
Our favorite Eagle Creek packing cubes – uncompressed and compressed before placing in luggage.

My favorite reason for using packing cubes goes back to giving your belongings their own home (compartment) in your luggage. You know exactly where specific items have been packed, making it easy for you to find things and then to repack them all on the road.

If you’re not using packing cubes, you should definitely jump on that train. Unless you’re more like Ali, who dislikes using packing cubes even though she’s a fairly accomplished carry-on only traveler.

See my use of my favorite packing cubes in my 12L packing list video.

How You Can Apply This to Home

If the opportunity presents itself, use packing cubes in your closet! As a tool for storing clothing that might not be in current rotation, they’re perfect!

Think about putting all of your swimming and beach gear into a large packing cube and storing in the back of your closet during winter, making room for a couple of sweatshirts in your drawer. And when the seasons change, pull out your packing cube and switch it up.

This keeps your closet and drawers organized. You’ll know exactly where things are in a pinch because you’ve compartmentalized similar items, even if they are “stored away.”

Why We Like It:

  • You get to use your travel gear (packing cubes) in a day-to-day setting. More purpose!
  • You keep similar items together, even when stored away.
  • You keep the clothing options in the current rotation clutter-free.

BATHROOM

Minimalist Packing Tip:  Invest in Solid Toiletries

HPL solid shampoo bars, 3-pack
Solid shampoo bars are great for travel.

When you’re a minimalist traveler, you’re traveling carry-on only, and that comes with its own set of challenges beyond just fitting it all in a carry-on sized bag.

For one, liquid restrictions on most airlines will have you down to 1 quart-size bag. And that goes for any liquids, creams, or pastes (lotions, toothpaste, shampoos, etc.)

To bypass this drama, we often recommend investing in a range of solid toiletry products, like solid shampoo bars, lotion bars, solid perfume sticks, and even toothpaste tablets if necessary.

We have reviewed many different liquid-alternative products by Lush, and we even have a solid conditioner bar recipe for you to test out before hitting the open road. Not only do these products make it easier to travel carry-on only, but they also protect your luggage from spills and leaks, tend to be more eco-conscious, and often last longer than their liquid counterparts.

How You Can Apply This to Your Home

A stack of solid toiletry bars for home.
A stack of solid toiletry bars for home.

You may not be worried about spills or leaks in your bathroom, but all the other features of solid toiletries benefit your home life.

Since solid toiletries tend to last a while, you can remove giant bottles from the side of your shower. You can remove the need for all of that plastic packaging and opt for bars that need much less – or no plastic at all. The beauty industry generates a lot of plastic waste.

And you get to be kinder to your body and the environment by choosing some of the more natural products that are present in the solid toiletry market.

Why We Like It:

  • Takes up less space in your bathroom.
  • Produces less or no plastic waste.
  • More natural products which are eco-friendly and body friendly.

Minimalist Packing Tip: 80/20 Rule of Beauty Products

Our low key traveler's beauty kit is a good starting point.
Our low key traveler’s beauty kit is a good starting point.

I don’t think I’ve ever referred to it as the 80/20 rule of beauty products before, but I’m definitely going to start. The concept I take when it comes to beauty products is to only pack the few items that make the most impact for you personally.

So while you can have a giant makeup bag of all the colors and all the tools, there are usually 1-2 items that can make you feel put together all on their own. These 2 pieces are the 20% of your beauty kit that produces 80% of the intended outcome.

Pack just those items if you can. We recommend The Low Key Traveler’s Beauty Kit for inspiration.

How You Can Apply This to Home

HPL generally recommends embracing your natural self as much as possible. However, if your beauty and skincare items are a necessity, you can attempt to minimize it using the 80/20 rule. 

Take a good look at what you use regularly and what makes the most impact. You might discover that you’ll be just as happy using fewer products.

Why We Like It:

  • You can save money by buying fewer products.
  • You can learn to embrace more of your natural self.

PANTRY

Minimalist Packing Tip:  Repackage Everything

minimal toiletries
Minimal toiletries making use of my favorite tiny Nalgene bottles.

I normally use the repackage everything tip for your toiletries while traveling. Putting your beauty and haircare products into smaller travel containers is literally the only way you can travel ultralight, carry-on only, and have most everything you need of the liquid variety in a tiny quart-sized bag.

(Ok, no, I lied… switching to solid toiletries works, too!)

Think about it – you might use a small dab of facial moisturizer or cleanser every day. So why would you pack a container that would normally last you months for a 2-week trip?

Also:

  • Why would you pack a container that takes up an awkward amount of your luggage space?
  • Why would you use a container that doesn’t let you easily see how much product is left?

How You Can Apply This to Home

For the home, I think this tip can help you out in the pantry of all places! I started repackaging my pantry items years ago after a bad pantry moth infestation ruined just about everything I had stored away. Things like flours, nuts, cereals, and anything in paper/plastic packaging started going into jars and clear, stackable containers.

repackage pantry items into clear jars for storage

I noticed immediately how much I liked being able to see my food on the shelves. I knew immediately what I had to work with, and how much I had left.

The best part? They stacked so much easier for better space utilization – that which I discovered the true benefits of when moving to a tiny inner-city apartment for a while!

Why We Like It:

  • You can better see what you have and are then more likely to use it.
  • You can get a better feel for how much packaging waste exists with food.
  • If you get used to storing food in this way, you’re much more likely to start shopping at bulk food shops where you bring your own containers. This cuts back on packaging waste and food waste since you can buy exactly what you need. (Read about the benefits of shopping at bulk food shops.)

Further Reminders:  The Rest of the Minimalist Packing Tips

If the points and tips above weren’t enough, there are always these final packing light tips that can help you change your perspective at home.

The first one is something we tend to overlook as adults who live in a world where you aren’t simply complete without having it all:

You can buy or borrow if you end up actually needing something.

And finally, my favorite:

Imagine carrying it on your back. 

Yes! If that doesn’t make you think twice about what you keep and what you buy, I don’t know what will.


I hope you found this article interesting, inspiring, helpful, and all the other warm fuzzies whether you’re looking to go more minimalist at home or on the road (or both!). Thank you for reading!

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Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Haley says

    I loved this article. It makes so much sense! I am currently living in a tiny basement bachelorette pad and it make me so anxious when it gets cluttered and messy. I am the light packer in my family when it comes to trips… I should really apply these tips for my home too. Spring cleaning, here I come!

  2. Jennifer says

    Such a comprehensive article, thank you so much for all the tips!
    Keeping only things I’d be glad to carry (even if it wouldn’t fit on my back…) also made me able to earn money for future trips (selling books, electronics, clothes, …), that’s always a good start 🙂

  3. Kay Cater says

    I loved it especially the solid shampoo & conditioners, dove soap and solid perfume. So I can pack light because of you.

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