Lean Packing: 12 Days in (Chilly) Europe

As I mentioned earlier this week, I am tagging along on Greg's work trip to Berlin! We each packed one small carry-on suitcase and a carry-on backpack/laptop bag for the twelve day trip. I’m doing laundry as I write this mid-trip so we only had to pack six days of clothing. (I’m actually wearing my dressy dinner clothes right now since I’m done with them for the trip… leather skirt plus laundry ;)

So, what I've packed: I have four weeks left of this six month capsule wardrobe! I'm ready to wear out the things I'll be storing or donating at the end of the month like a wool sweater, turtlenecks, and furry boots. The weather is also very cool so I’ve focused on packing my warmest (for California) layers. A warmer-weather trip is obviously simpler with lighter fabrics and fewer layers.


When I’m starting to plan what to pack, I like to start with fixed occasions. I knew we were going to have at least two nice dinners; I selected a skirt and my black boots as weather-friendly dress shoes. I also knew for this trip, I’d be wearing the plane outfit for almost twenty four hours; I selected my comfy workout pants that don’t lose their shape, plus my Nikes, an oxford, and a cashmere scarf/blanket.

Then I focus on outerwear as I’ll be wearing it everyday. I like to layer outerwear for varying temperatures so I packed my hooded shell and wore my down vest on the plane.

For the rest of my clothes, the shoe lineup helps set the color palette for the trip. (This isn’t really an issue anymore if you have a capsule wardrobe at home since all the items probably work together ;) While two pairs is the minimum number of shoes I like to travel with, I decided to add a winter boot for cold and rainy days.

With shoes decided, I select a few pairs of pants that can go with them. For this trip, I’m experimenting with only packing two pairs of pants! I usually wear jeans three times at home before I wash them so this should work. If desperate, I'm sure I can find a pair to buy. I then choose a few tops to go with each pair of pants and I’m mostly done!

Here’s the tally:
3 pairs of shoes
1 pair of tights
1 jacket, 1 vest and 1 scarf
1 skirt
3 pairs of pants (including plane pants)
8 tops (including plane oxford and dress top)

I've also packed:
3 long-sleeve undershirts
3 bras
7 panties
7 pairs of socks
2 pjs
1 swimsuit (hoping for a hot tub!)
1 pair of mittens
1 pair of legwarmers (unnecessary if I had thicker tights)

For me, this isn’t about being as minimalist as possible. It’s about balancing what I’ll really need, how I want to spend my time, and how much weight I can deal with. Pack light, leave a little room in your bags for gifts (Belgian beers and chocolate!) and don’t let your luggage weigh your trip down!

+ Now that we travel somewhat frequently and have small wardrobes, I’m considering investing in shirts and pants designed for travel. They are usually made with lighter fabrics, can be washed and dried quickly, and can sometimes go longer between washes.

+ If you’d like some more minimalist packing inspiration, check out posts by Leo Babauta and his wife. Be aware that I kind of look like a hoarder next to them ;)

+ Next post, I’ll share my toiletries and carry-ons for lean packing.