The rules of minimalist packing

Minimalist packing tips for travelers

Being a minimalist is very beneficial when it comes to packing – the less you take, the less you’ll have to take with you. Here are some rules of minimalist packing I like to follow for more convenient traveling.

I usually pack for longer trips and moving abroad and this system works like a charm. But these tips would still apply for any kind of a trip, whether you’re going for a weekend getaway or anything more!

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “but I might need it!!” which is the most useless sentence in the history of humankind. Might… Might not… No time to bother!

Benefits of following the rules of minimalist packing

  • Lighter bag. When traveling often, I have to carry my own backpack A – LOT. And it’s not the most joyful thing to do. A lighter bag definitely makes me a happier traveler.
  • Less stuff to worry about. Things happen. People get robbed, things disappear, bags get lost. And the less stuff I have, the less I have to worry about it.
  • Easier to manage. If you’re moving often and you have to unpack and pack a lot, a smaller amount of things in your bag is equal to easier and faster packing. Simple as that!
  • Simpler life. Overall, a smaller bag and less clothing or “stuff” equals to a simpler life. You’d have to make fewer decisions on a daily basis and cleaner surroundings!

Minimalist packing tips for travelers

The rules of minimalist packing

MINIMALIST RULE #1 If you can buy it in under 20 minutes for under $20 – don’t take it

This rule comes from my very beloved The Minimalists. And it’s as simple as that – if you can predict an option to buy this thing in under 20 minutes and pay less than $20, you really won’t need it in your bag.

First of all, you might never need to actually purchase any of these items. And even if you do – you won’t spend much money or much time doing that.

The reality is – more often than not it really is possible. If your destination is a city instead of a jungle, you will, quite likely, have the option to buy what you need.

The exception is something you really use on a daily basis and/or really love and need. For example, carrying a toothbrush with you is pretty important. If it’s a hat you’re wearing all day long – keep on doing that.

This can include hygiene products, simple clothing, as well as most of the “just in case” items which leads us to…


MINIMALIST RULE #2 Leave “just in case” items out of your bag

“I’ll take the second pair of sunglasses, just in case someone sits on mine…” (Totally me)

“I’ll take these sneakers, just in case I decide to go for a run for the first time in the last five years…”

“I’ll pack this umbrella, just in case it rains. The weather prediction shows that it’ll be sunny but you know… Just in case!”

Here’s the reality of “just in case” items – mostly, they NEVER get used. N-E-V-E-R.

Unless it is something VERY practical and you can REALLY predict its usability. For example, if you always have flu abroad, take your flu medicine – just in case it happens this time as well.

The other category of “just in case” items are those that get used (yay!) but you realize that you could’ve survived without it and/or purchased it right around the corner in case of the necessity. Sometimes, you even might feel pressured to use them so you haven’t taken it for nothing…

A terrible thing to worry about when traveling abroad!


MINIMALIST RULE #3 Create a “capsule wardrobe” for your travels

Even if you’re not that into minimalism and your closet is full of clothing, you should create a so-called “capsule wardrobe” for your travels.

Capsule wardrobe consists of thought-through clothing combinations that work well together in many different mixes.

Usually, capsule wardrobes are created based on rather neutral colors, for example, white, black, gray, pastels. It’s easy to mix-match and combine them.

The worst thing you can do on a travel is to take “dress that works only with THIS jacket” or “sneakers I’ll wear only with THESE shorts”.

Your travel wardrobe should be flexible. This means, one or two jackets working well with ALL of your clothing. Several different shirts – each one working with each of your bottoms.

The capsule wardrobe is a hard long-term work but I’m rather sure that almost any closet could pack such wardrobe for traveling so give it a go!

Here are some ideas that would work well in such a wardrobe (find some substitutes in your closet!):


MINIMALIST RULE #4 Don’t overthink it

There are all kinds of unpredictable events that can appear in our lives as well as travels.

“What if I get asked on a super fancy party??”

“I should prepare for a possible hike on a rainy day”

“What if there’s a Salsa dancing in the offer?!?!?”

First of all, we can’t be always prepared for everything. And packing useless stuff in your bag just because something could come up is not a very convenient decision.

Besides that, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t have that “something” in your bag? Let’s assume you don’t have it, there are no shops nearby and/or you don’t have any additional funds to make this purchase… So you’d live without it. Unless it’s a life or death kind of a situation, I’m pretty sure you’d be fine. And if it is… well… don’t blame me!


The baseline of packing as a minimalist is actually really easy: take what you REALLY need, don’t overthink it and just go. If there is no additional space in your bag or if it’s too heavy, throw some things out. Don’t get emotionally attached to stuff and you’ll feel a lot better!

Even though you might feel like on the other side of the flight you might get a desert with no shops and options to get what you need, it won’t be like that (as long as you ain’t arriving in Sahara).


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