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Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference

September 18, 2017
Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference | Tiny Ambitions

I don’t travel a lot. I’m a bit of a homebody and day trips are more my speed anyway. So, when I do travel, it’s almost always for work.

In fact, I’m actually at a week-long conference for work this week. Which means, I’ve dusted off my ancient carry-on and written a packing list so I don’t forget anything important.

Want to see what the inside of a minimalist’s carry-on looks like? Let’s do this!

Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference | Tiny Ambitions

The Plan

Since I kicked my shopping habit a couple of years ago, my day-to-day wardrobe is fairly small. That makes packing for work even easier because I really only have a handful of items to choose from.

I’m very much a “details” person. So, before I pulled out my work clothes, I make an itinerary of activities for every day I will be away. For this week, that looked like this:

Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference | Itinerary

I’m even more specific when I make my list (aka I account for as many hours in a day as I can). But, this gives you the general idea.

With the itinerary complete, I go through and make an ‘outfit’ for every day of the trip. This includes clothes, shoes, jewlery, and accessories. If I have multiple activities that require multiple outfits, that gets noted as well. As an example, this is what yesterday’s (aka flight day) outfit(s) looked like.

Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference | Sunday Outfit List

This might seem repetitive, but this way I know exactly what I need and which days I need it. It also helps me visualize what the outfit will look like so I can decide if it will pass professional muster.

The Problem

I’ll be honest. I have a bit of a complex when it comes to business clothes. This is because I look younger than I really am (I was once mistaken for a high school student the year I started my Master’s Degree). Therefore, people have been known to not take me seriously (what happened to don’t judge a book by its cover?). To help combat this problem, I steer clear of certain kinds of clothes that accentuate my ‘youthiness’. Aka, no ruffles, pleats, bows, peplums, bright patterns or colors. These are not inherently ‘young’ attributes of clothing. I’ve just noticed they make me look younger than I would like.

The List

That was a terribly long-winded way of saying that my business clothes tend to be staple colors in classic designs, save for a few prints. This is the rundown of what I packed, clothes-wise, for this trip.

Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference

  • 1 pair of dark denim jeans
  • 2 pairs of dress pants (one black, one blue)
  • 1 pair of yoga leggings
  • 1 camisole (white)
  • 1 t-shirt (white)
  • 4 blouses (white, green, blue elephant print, and floral print)
  • 1 cardigan (black)
  • 1 blazer (black)
  • 3 pairs of shoes (heels, oxfords, flats)
  • 1 short chain necklace
  • 1 long chain necklace
  • PJs
  • 1 pair of dress socks
  • Underwear

Does this seem like a lot for a four and a half day trip? I honestly can’t tell. If this was a normal ‘work from home week’, I would have no problem wearing the same leggings and t-shirt ALL WEEK (gross, I know).

But, at an event like this, I sweat. A lot. Partly, I’m sure it’s genetics. I’m half Scottish, half German and 100% Canadian. We’re not known for our dainty sweat glands.

The other reasons I need multiple tops and bottoms is because social situations give me the heebee-jeebees. Aka, I stress sweat, like a bawse (I’ve been binge watching Lilly Singh on YouTube – can you tell?). Since each day will have an education component as well as a networking component, I’m erring on the non-minimalist side of caution. That being said, my current outfits per day list has me wearing each item at least once, if not twice (or more).

The Red Herring

I actually packed a couple of items that I’m not 100% sure I’ll wear.

Wait, what? Doesn’t that go against the minimalist ethos? Yes, it probably does. But, I’m using this week as a test. If I don’t wear the Red Herring items I packed, I will donate or sell them at the end of the week. Think of it like a clothing boot camp. Maybe they’ll make the cut and maybe they won’t. But, I don’t know until I’m on my flight home on Thursday night.

Yes, it probably does. But, I’m using this week as a test. If I don’t wear the Red Herring items I packed, I will donate or sell them at the end of the week. Think of it like a clothing boot camp. Maybe they’ll make the cut and maybe they won’t. But, I won’t know until I’m on my flight home on Thursday night.

The Other Packables

Obviously, clothes are not the only ‘things’ I pack in my carry-on. I’m also bringing:

  • Makeup Bag (moisturizer, shower products, foundation, concealer, lip balm, eyeshadow, mascara)
  • Hair Tools (brush, straightener)
  • Briefcase (computer, headphones, phone, water bottle, other work-related items)
    • This isn’t going in my carry-on, but, it still counts!

The Packing Process

I’ve written before about KonMari and while I’m not 100% on board with everything she says, I do prefer using her method for packing. The results, I think, speak for themselves.

Minimalist Packing for a Week-Long Conference | Tiny Ambitions | Packed Suitcase
Left: All my clothes I’ll be wearing for the week. Minus the ones I’ll be wearing on the plane. Right: My packed carry-on and briefcase.

I really enjoy this method of packing because it makes it easy to see everything all at once. And the tight packing makes me feel accomplished somehow. Like, I didn’t just throw everything in my suitcase and hope for the best.

In the process of packing up our apartment in August, I also came across a perfectly new set of packing cubes. Now, I’m cube crazy! I don’t know how I ever packed a suitcase without them. Well, I do know how I packed without them. Aka, not very well.

Here’s another quirk of mine. I’ll pack, unpack and repack my suitcase at least five times before I leave. Three cheers for pre-travel stress!

So, this is what my minimalist carry-on looks like. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure I could manage with bringing less stuff. But, whatever I don’t use will serve as a lesson for my next trip!

Are you a packing pro? Share your tips in the comments below!

If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites all about social media and gamification, you can listen to it here. Stay tuned on Thursday for a new episode (or Wednesday night if you’re on Anchor).

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Crosby November 30, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Where did you get your briefcase!!?? I’ve been looking high and low for a sturdy, classic, stylish one for when I travel for work (which is a lot) and haven’t been able to find one.

    • Britt November 30, 2017 at 11:29 am

      It’s from Canadian brand Matt and Nat. They ship worldwide though!

  • Amanda of My Life, I Guess September 28, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I am an overpacker. And then I’m miserable that I have to lug around this heavy suitcase (even if it is just a carry-on) full of stuff I didn’t even need. In fact, for my last business trip, HALF of what I brought with me was just stuff to do at the airport (thanks to a 7 hour wait between the end of my training and my flights departure time). Every trip I’ve made mental (and physical) notes as to what I should pack next time, and what I absolutely do not have to pack. Slowly, I’m getting better at it 🙂

    • Britt September 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Every trip is a learning experience for sure! Even in my carry-on there were still things I didn’t wear/use. Now I know for next time! Thanks for reading, Amanda!

  • upsew September 26, 2017 at 8:34 am

    for a week away, I would probably pack 2 pairs trouser and 1 dress, 2 baselayers (long sleeve tee) 2 blouses, 1 cashmere sweater and 1 cardi – 1 pair ankle boots 1 pair shoes (if I thought I had room, I would probably pack another pair of shoes or runners in case there was a lot of walking). I think packing is about being realistic especially about weather, my main concern is I will be cold which is why I pack layering options which will mix and match. I also swear by cashmere sweaters – I have picked up a few over the years in charity shops and they are sooooo perfect

    • Britt September 26, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Weather is so key! We had a flash heatwave last week which threw off my packing plan. I brought two pairs of shoes with me and only ended up wearing one. Now I know for next time! Thanks for reading.

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment September 19, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Oh my gosh we are so similar! I’m very much a “details” person too and I always make a list of everything I need before a trip, planning outfits based on weather, interchangeability and social contexts I’ll encounter. In my opinion there’s no other way to do it. I’ve seen sooo many other people use an unsystematic approach and they end up with a gigantic, heavy bag and don’t wear or use half of the stuff that’s in it.

    Now to answer your question, not to humblebrag or anything (read: I’m about to humblebrag 😛 ) but I actually totally consider myself a packing pro! Probably because my Mum is, so she passed it on to me. I love the challenge of arranging and rearranging everything to get that perfectly packed bag that makes the most efficient use of space and also offers maximum accessibility to frequently-used items.

    My top tip is to think outside the square when it comes to use of space; I love squishing things into little crevices, wrapping things in clothes or socks within the bag and stuffing things into waterbottles or containers to avoid empty space. That way, I can use the smallest possible bag for the trip. I also always pack an empty cloth bag (rolled up tightly until needed) to use for dirty clothes so that I can keep these separate from my clean clothes and simply dump the whole bag in the laundry hamper when I return from the trip. This was especially handy when we went to France. Since we had laundry access while we were there, when we came home the majority of our clothes were actually clean so it meant the dirty ones didn’t get mixed up with them.

    Thanks for sharing your minimalist packing process Britt. Safe travels – I hope the conference goes really well! 🙂

    • Britt September 19, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to be uber prepared! Dealing with the dirty clothes is something I’ve never gotten quite right. I like your tip for that, I’ll have to try it out on my next trip!

  • Christine September 18, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Good strategy. I travel frequently and have honed my shoe game to only include 3 pairs. My Merrell minimalist running shoes, and 1pair of flats and 1 pair of heels that coordinate with everything I’m going to wear for the week.

    • Britt September 18, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      That’s such a good shoe strategy! I always struggle with what to bring. I want to bring heels for work, but I almost never end up wearing them. Thanks for reading!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.