How I Fit My Life Into a Suitcase

On February 11, 2016 at 6:08am, shortly after buying my one-way ticket and being granted my one year work and holiday visa to Australia, I quietly closed my laptop and surveyed my room.

image1 (3)

Across from me, leaning against the wall was my recently purchased Salomon snowboard. To the right of it, in the corner of the room, was my acoustic guitar, and to the left, was a table on which sat my recently gifted toaster oven and NutriBullet. Under that table was a small stack of several of my boardgames, as well as several paper bags filled with kitchen utensils.

To my left, in my small semi-walk-in closet, hung half of my clothes on probably 30-35 hangers. The other half of my clothes were folded and placed in a waste-high clothes hamper located between my guitar and snowboard. Under my hanged clothes was about eight pairs of shoes, all in paper bags that I hadn’t touched since moving into my room, and the small bathroom behind me was also filled with the usual toiletry essentials, as well as one small ‘make up’ bag, a hair dryer, a curling iron, and a big, red can of Big Sexy Hair hair spray.

Now keep in mind, I never considered myself a high maintenance kind of person. I wear make up about 10 times a year for special occasions, do my hair even less, and I don’t buy/own accessories because I’m hopeless when it comes to remembering to put them on; or I end up losing them in a couple days anyway. I’m happy to wear the same clothes that I’ve owned for four years, and purchases of material items come few and far between. But still, as I looked around the room, knowing very well that I could only take what was absolutely necessary with me, I thought to myself, ‘Damn.. I have a lot of shit.’

Obviously I wasn’t going to bring a snowboard or board games or a guitar to Australia, so at the very least that was a given. But the clothes. Oh the clothes.

Several hours and about fifty discarded school shirts later, I was able to cut my wardrobe in half. Although it was way more than would fit in one suitcase and duffel bag (more like three large suitcases) I already felt like I couldn’t part with any of the things that I wanted to keep. Luckily, my mom had a storage unit that I’d be able to place some things in so I filled two medium sized boxes with things I wanted but didn’t necessarily need at the moment, and after that I was able to fill my suitcase with the absolutely absolute ‘necessities’. All this cutting down and my suitcase was stuffed like a triple stuffed Oreo and I hadn’t even packed any shoes yet. I knew I had to get serious, so after an hour of going through my entire suitcase one more time, I was able to take out… one white t-shirt. Ridiculous.

Fast forward to eleven months into my trip and I hadn’t even touched half of my suitcase. In the winter, I wore the same North Face jacket every day. Every. Single. Day. It was the only thing able to keep me warm enough and who cares about fashion when you’re comfortable and warm. 

Ultimately, I ended up donating a third of my suitcase just to make the weight requirement for my flight home, and I even had to leave some stuff at the airport itself. But if I could write myself a list of clothes to bring for a year knowing what I know now, it would look something like this:

  • 1 pair of black jeans
  • 1 pair of blue jeans
  • 2 pairs of jean shorts (black/non-black)
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 2 sets of athletic outfits (e.g. running shorts, sports bra, and tank top)
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair of sweats
  • 1 beanie
  • 1 hardcore jacket/coat
  • 1 cotton jacket
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • all my crop tops/halter tops (because they’re small and cute and there’s only 7ish of them and why the hell not)
  • 1 maxi skirt
  • 2-3 dresses
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of athletic shoes
  • 1 pair of nice boots
  • 1 pair of casual shoes

And I’d be more than good to go. (Note to self for my next year-long trip)