Minimalist packing for the over-packer

I have a problem with over-packing.

I started therapy to help me deal with a family member’s health problems and it helped me realize that my planning and decision-making is impacted by my own PTSD, and I am trying to tackle things as they come up. Usually, packing for a few days away is always about planning for everything that could go wrong for me and everyone else. Half of the stuff I bring is never touched. I want to change this and maybe a kind soul or two here can help.

So…I will be staying in a rented house for five days with a small group of extended family. Activities will be exclusively outdoor, including swimming. Nothing is fancy but our habit is to dress a little better for dinner.

Any ideas?

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What things historically did you bring that you did not use?

Those may be the most obvious things to target in packing reduction.


I’m sorry you have this issue.D20 has anxiety so I understand the need to plan for every emergency.

The good news is this will be a week of fun and there won’t be an emergency :grinning: I am a fan of knit dresses (either tee shirt or polo) for summer vacations. They are a bit dressier than shorts and can be cooler if it is hot. I pair them with a leather sandal for dinner, or casual sandals/flipflops/Keds for casual. They travel well and are one piece so they don’t take up tons of room. I am also a black/navy/white bottom paired with a colored top kind of person so I always travel with one or two of those with a shirt for every day plus one extra.


I don’t think what I didn’t use fell into a specific category, except maybe dress shoes…I also didn’t usually use all the OTC meds I brought. It’s more like I brought too much of the same casual clothes and really didn’t need it all. I also think it would be ok to repeat dinner clothes or be a little more casual or mix and match better.


This is particularly helpful. Thanks!

A few neutral bottoms and a shirt for everyday. :heavy_check_mark:

Weather changes and nights are cooler. One sweater for dinner, and a sweatshirt and light jacket for cool days. Both or just one?

As far as long pants go, is one pair of jeans really enough?

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One pair of jeans is definitely enough. You probably won’t be wearing them much, if at all. Jeans would be too hot for outdoor activities and not dressy for dinner.

I have no problem with bringing all the OTC meds you regularly use. It can be very annoying to have to run out for meds while on vacation.


If it is non-dressy vacation, might as well leave the dress shoes at home.

OTC drugs that are for non-emergency “just in case” use which are readily available in stores near the vacation location can be left at home and purchased near the vacation location if needed.

Jeans tend to be heavy, bulky, and slow drying if you need to launder them without a dryer, so they are not great for travel purposes.

Can you get away with one outer layer (sweater or sweatshirt or light jacket), perhaps with another layerable item if you want to increase the cool or cold weather range?


Have you tried using packing cubes ? I find them very helpful for organizing all your items.

I know this doesn’t help with overpacking, but somehow having my suitcase more organized and using the cubes to sort out days/outfits really helped for me to bring less and use what I packed.


I recently packed for a 5 day vacation in a carryon bag and a pool bag. We were driving but I pack this way all of the time and have packed for a full week the same way.
We were going out to dinner, to a funeral, on the beach and to family gatherings. I packed 1 pair light weight pants and 2 pairs shorts, a light weight tshirt for each day and 1 extra. Layered light weight sleeveless top and 2 open weave covers, one for funeral and one for dinner. I packed a pair of dressier sandals and slip on Keds. A have a travel kit to carry travel sizes of everything I need. I pack # days+1 of my meds, vitamins and commonly used otc. I wore an extra pair of pants, the heavier walking shoes and jacket on the trip. By rolling everything (wrinkle free is key) it all fit. The pool bag had my suit, coverup, pool shoes, sunscreen and towels. You can do it. When you lay out what you want to pack put half back. That’s how I started learning to pack light.


Does the rental have a washer and dryer?

You are there for 5 days. Take 2 knit dresses, 1 pair of either Khaki type pants, skort or nice leggins- don’t take the jeans. Do you have a linen or cotton top for the leggins? Take a pashmina or cotton shawl, they are more versatile than a sweater, and a zip up type jacket OR sweatshirt. Will you need a sweatshirt? Two swimsuits and 1 coverup. Don’t take a top for every day if you have a washer/dryer. 1 pr. sandals, flipflops and keds.
OTC meds, take out of bottles, put some in baggies and label, a couple of bandaids and travel antibiotic spray, keep in a small zippered cosmetic bag. (When I stay where there are children, I put a baby pin through the zipper pull and pin into the fabric so a little one could not open it). Sunscreen, hat and towel. (We bought very thin, Turkish towels by Wet Cat on Amazon. I used one as a shawl on a couple of trips. Put toiletry items in small travel bottles.


Benedryl and eye drops and a painkiller should be good enough.

I’m also inclined to bring a few bandaids and antibiotic ointment, but I will survive without hydrocortisone cream.

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I use Eagle Creek packing cubes and love them. In the summer for a 7- to 10-day trip, I usually pack 1 to 2 quick-drying sleeveless dresses, quick-dry capris, a few shorts, 1 pair of jeans, tees, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of clogs and a denim jacket (worn on the airplane), compressible raincoat, etc. Three years ago when we did our 10-day East Coast college tours, I had packed this way and managed to get it all into a carry-on backpack and laptop case.


I see what you mean. One pair of jeans would be hard not to have. And the house has a dryer. I might keep them unless I find a better substitute. I don’t have much else in the way of long pants.

We had a trip in the middle of nowhere during which my husband really needed the antibiotic ointment and forgot to pack it. If you have drugstores nearby, I think you’re good. We were at least 1 1/2 hours away from one. :frowning:


I haven’t heard of packing cubes. I will investigate! :grin:


They will change your life - or at least make packing and unpacking easier :slight_smile: Kids are mad we are not letting them take ours to college - i am saving for a christmas gift, as one thing I know they will use and love!


Why not challenge yourself to do mix and match outfits like magazines have? Maybe two short/skort bottoms, a pair of jeans, a top for each day, evening sweater, beach wear and shoes for your activities? Stay in a color scheme where everything goes with everything else.

Make a list and when you come home, note what you used and what you didn’t. Use this as a basis for your next trip.

Weirdly, you may find it liberating to have less. Fewer decisions each day, less to haul around. Sometimes, this approach has made me more willing to part with things when I get home too!


Here’s my usual packing strategy -

Whatever I bring has to fit in an airplane carry on bag (I’ve gone to Europe for 14 days with just a carry on).

I also subscribe to a color pallet with everything being able to go. mix and match - for me it’s usually, black, navy, and beige.

I wear my bulkiest clothing on the travel days so they don’t need to be packed.

I bring one dark colored sweater for cooler summer evenings and I’d bring only one pair of slacks unless the forecast looks like it’s calling very much colder nights.

I also use packing cubes.

Unless we are going to be far from civilization, my motto is if we forget something, we can go buy it.

I do tend to throw in bandaids and Tylenol in my purse.

For dressier trips than what you are describing, I love the Traveler’s Collection from Chico’s. Everything is mix and match, nothing wrinkles, and the materials take up very little room in the suitcase. I have four tops, three skirts, and two jackets and can create enough outfits to get me through many dressier dinners. The whole set fits in a medium packing cube with room to spare.


I have been laying things out on my bed as everyone’s messages come in.

Now I will take your challenge and try to be a little more strategic with color scheme and mixing and matching.

Thanks for the ideas.


I just want to say a quick that you to everyone. I am getting so many great ideas and such very concrete suggestions which are sooooo helpful.

I would love to do this trip with a backpack and one other smallish bag.