My minimalist suitcase & 100 things challenge

Today is my last day on British soil. In a few hours I’ll be on a plane to the other side of the world with just a suitcase and a small carry on. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working out how to fit my life into such a small space. Normally, a backpack or small suitcase would be enough for me for to go for a few weeks, but this time I will be away for much longer than that.

Moving to a different country for as long as a year calls for dramatic changes. I’ve thought about it carefully and have decided that I will do it with less than 100 possessions. Getting down to 100 things has always been the kind of holy grail of minimalism, even though I know it isn’t for everyone. But as I had predicted in ‘Can Minimalism is Measured‘ (previous link) my needs have now changed and I am ready to take on the challenge.

getting down to less than 100

Before we start, I just want to clarify  that I’ve grouped a couple of similar items with each other to make it easier, for example: socks, underwear, important documents, essential textbooks, purse, very small jewellery, makeup, electronic devices with their chargers and toiletries. Even though some people may count this stuff separately, to me, they come as a set, so I prefer to count them together. I think separating them would be bordering on a bit too extreme.

So here is my list of less than 100 things:

  1. important documents (passport, birth certificate etc.)
  2. laptop + case, charger etc.
  3. portable hard drive
  4. iphone +  charger
  5. headphones
  6. camera
  7. nintendo ds
  8. socks
  9. underwear
  10. checked shirt
  11. checked shirt
  12. checked shirt
  13. checked shirt (I really like checked shirts)
  14. toiletries
  15. running shoes
  16. running shorts
  17. running trackies
  18. sports iphone strap
  19. running t-shirt
  20. brown t-shirt
  21. casual shoes
  22. black pumps
  23. black heels
  24. brown boots
  25. travel adaptor
  26. karate gi +  belt
  27. leggings
  28. blue jeans
  29. denim shorts
  30. black shorts
  31. cream t-shirt
  32. ribbed vest
  33. dark grey top
  34. long grey top
  35. pink bow top
  36. pink and black top
  37. pink print top
  38. white and black top
  39. cream half top
  40. little black dress
  41. black pencil skirt
  42. black linen trousers
  43. beige coat
  44. beanie hat
  45. PJ’s
  46. PJ’s
  47. guitar accessories
  48. essential textbooks
  49. very small jewellery (only 5pcs)
  50. college shoulder bag
  51. rucksack
  52. blue handbag
  53. carry-on bag
  54. small purple bag
  55. small brown bag
  56. brown belt
  57. brown cardi
  58. light grey cardi
  59. face towel
  60. body towel
  61. straighteners
  62. makeup
  63. suitcase

So, that’s it. A total of 63 things that I’m taking with me to Japan. Even if I didn’t group a few of the things together, I think I would probably still make it under 100. Also, I haven’t counted the presents I’ve bought for my host family since they aren’t actually mine. (But because of them, I had to get a bigger suitcase!).

I also should add that I have a few items that I’ve left a home, they are things I still need but aren’t essential enough for me to take to me abroad:

  • about 10-15 pieces of various clothing and accessories
  • a few books
  • my art posters
  • bed sheets etc.

packing

Here is almost everything I own all laid out, looking quite messy and unpackable. I’ve tried to put everything here but I haven’t included a few things in this photo… namely my underwear ;)

If you want to find out more about my minimalist wardobe and how to create one, check out my previous post.

how to pack a minimalist suitcase

1. Reduce. The first thing you must absolutely do is reduce reduce reduce. Even if you have quite a small wardrobe already, chances are you may still have one or two things you haven’t worn very much that you can get rid of. It might help you to make a ‘definitely taking’ pile and a ‘maybe pile’. Then, look at the ‘maybe’ pile and ask yourself:

  • does it fit me the way I want it to?
  • is it easy to clean/does it require ironing/other maintenance?
  • is it only suitable for certain occasions, or more than one?
  • will I be able to wear this in different weather conditions?
  • does it go with many other clothes?
  • have I worn any of these in the past 4-6 months?

Obviously these are questions for clothes, but you can also pare down things like toiletries, gadgets etc. by asking yourself:

  • how often do I use this?
  • how easily can I buy a replacement?
  • what is available to buy at my destination?
  • what is the worse that can happen if I don’t bring it?

Systematically looking at each item and going through a few points in your head sounds like it will take a long time, but in my experience it actually only takes a few seconds for me to decide whether or not something is worth taking.

2. Sort. Decide what you will put in your suitcase and what you will take as carry-on. It might also help to decide what you will wear for the flight – if you choose the bulkiest/heaviest stuff, then you can fit a little more into the suitcase.

3. Compact. Once you’ve decided on what you’ll take, it’s time to start packing. In the above photo, I’ve folded and piled the clothes on top of each other. However, this kind of arrangement is only good for your everyday wardobe at home because you can then pull out any garment you want from the pile. In a suitcase however, you don’t need to do this and there are other more space-saving ways to pack clothes.

You could roll your clothes into tight cylinders, but I found another method via OneBag.com whereby you lay out all of your clothes flat in alternating directions and fold them around a ‘core’ which I chose to make out of clothes that were too short to make the outer layers.

I managed to reduce this pile which measured about 32 cm in height:

To this pile which has all the same clothes, just folded differently. It measures just 20 cm in height, saving almost a third of the space. The bundles are also much easier to handle.

4. Arrange suitcase. After bundling the clothes, you want to pack everything into the suitcase. I’m taking a new 67cm trolley case I bought especially for this year. It is quite a huge suitcase, but I bought it because I didn’t want to squash the presents.


After a bit of Tetris manoeuvring, I managed to fit everything comfortably into the case. Two quick tips that helped me to pack things a little tighter were to use the insides of shoes and space around heels to pack socks and underwear and to wear your heaviest/bulkiest stuff on the plane instead of packing them.

5. Zip up and go. Finally, there’s not much left to do but wait! My flight will be at 07:30 am from London Heathrow. I’ll be making a stop in Rome before arriving at Kansai International at 09:55 the next day.

Wish me luck, I’ll see you on the other side :)

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  • http://wingsofflight.wordpress.com Rose

    Loads of luck and what a fab idea of folding your clothes in bundles – you won’t need then until the other end anyway! I’m only moving back to my University 80 miles away, but I’ll be sure to use that method to pack with.

    Rose

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  • http://minimalinux.blogspot.com/ Aberinkulas

    Those are some amazing packing skills.

    Good luck and have fun on your trip!

  • http://minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com Mark L

    Love the post. I backpacked in Europe in summer 2009 and I had a very small school sized backpack. I was awesome. I didn’t have to check anything when flying; i knew everything was in one bag.
    Seeing others with 2 or 3 huge packs made me cringe. Thanks for the post.
    Mark.

    minimalistlifestyle.wordpress.com

  • Randi

    Good Luck on your trip to Japan!!! Look forward to reading your posts & seeing pics from the otherside of the world.

  • http://radicalturtle.com/ Leslie Cao

    Wow, awesome packing skills. I especially like the tip on folding clothes in bundles. Have fun!

  • http://sunnysblog.typepad.com sunny

    good luck and safe travels! I bet you’re already there :)

    thank you for your blog and sharing from your life. I learn so much from you!

  • gilberto

    I think if you were backpacking you could travel with your credit card, cell phone, and a wad of cash.
    Buy whatever concessions you need there, then give it all to charity when you’re done.

  • Chloe

    I’ve looked at other parts of this blog sight, so not commenting on this page in particular, found you in the times magazine article!! :) And I just want to say that I’m finding this sight so useful and inspiring and also want to say WELL DONE, it’s a really good sight and thanks for all the effort that has obviously gone into creating it. My minimalism starts here and I’m the most cluttered person I know!! :P xxx

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  • http://- Joseph

    I would like to ask you about the money side of this lifestyle. Do you make money while you travel or do you safe money before you hit the road?

    • http://minimalstudent.com Jessica

      Hi Joseph! Thanks for your comment! Actually, I do a little bit of both, it’s a good idea to have a little nest egg to get your started before you find a job to get you going. I’ve being proactive and going out to look for a job (like teaching English) instead of waiting for one to show up to be really fruitful. I hope this helps!

  • Vdaley13

    I am so glad I found your blog! it is such an inspiration for me to make the most of this life that is given and enjoy the experiences, not the things <3

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