Thursday, July 5, 2012

Housesitting Capsule

The daily outfits
I don't know if i've mentioned it much here on the blog, but i am phenomenal at over-packing. Yes, little miss minimal wardrobe likes to throw about, oh, half of her clothing into the car for even an overnite trip. If we're going someplace for 3 days or more, watch out! I have no idea how i got started on this. I do know that i've been at it every since i can remember, and it's been a topic of fun from friends and family just about forever. On the plus side, when a superior 'light packer' comes to you half way through a trip and requests a pair of undies, clean socks or toothpaste it's a great feeling (if not all that nice).

On the minus side - when i say i take about half my closet i'm not exaggerating. Now you know my motivation for a small wardrobe (ba-doom-ching). Seriously though, it's ridiculous. That much stuff takes up space, physically as well as mentally. I can't keep track of what i've got which ends up nagging at me and i end up having too many choices so it takes me longer to decide what to wear. All this detracts from the feeling of ease and freedom ideally generated through travel.

I've felt and thought this way for years now, with no discernable changes in my packing habits. But for some reason, Mr. E made a remark that stuck in my head a couple of days before i was to begin my recent housesitting jaunt. I remember him saying something along the lines of, "Why don't you take less clothes? Nobody's going to be paying attention, you can just wear the same stuff all week if you want."

Variations on the daily outfits
 hmmm! He had a point. The house has washer and dryer. The only garments i wash with every wear are socks and undies, which just need a dunk in the sink. Even any tops i would take would be perfect for the handwashing/drying overnite treatment. My itinerary contained no formal balls at the ambassador's or tea with visiting dignitaries - casual wear is all i'd need.

I gave it a whirl. I did take fewer clothes (20-25% less than usual), but beyond that i tried to dress out of a small subset of what i had. I also diligently photographed all my outfits, so i could track what i actually wore and analyze it later. It went so much more smoothly than i thought it would! I enjoyed the looks i wore, having fewer choices made dressing super simple, and less clothes meant less trouble with clutter, packing, organizing, finding things. I even came up with a formula for packing in future.

But most unexpectedly, i found i really enjoyed having a 'sartorial theme' for the trip. Wearing the same few pieces over that time gave my soujourn more of a cohesive, outside of the everyday feel. In other words - it felt more like a vacation. Who'da thunk it?

What did i learn? First, my formula: i can pack two (for 2-6 days) or three (for 7-14 days) complete outfits that will blend with each other and be done with it for most trips. This means: stand-alone top, jacket, bottom, shoes, hat, scarf, something warm (down vest, shrug). Taking along camis, leggings, long socks, etc. may be advised if it's predicted cold and or rainy. Just two outfits of jacket, top, bottom will yield eight different looks if they all blend together (four different looks including the jackets, four different looks without the jackets). Throw in variations with shrugs, hats, shoes, scarves and your numbers really jump.

Other lessons i learned from this experiment?

  • That i actually really liked the stylistic consistency which emerges naturally from wearing the same clothing a lot. It way outbalanced any boredom (which i didn't feel). I strongly suspect that my happiness correlates closely with how well these pieces fit my personal style as well as my practical requirements.

  • That it's useless to bring any clothing that bothers my leg at all on trips. I just won't wear it. In fact, i need to rethink adding any more 'borderline' pieces into my wardrobe at all - they need to stay below a certain number (I'm talking about the dark stretch jeans at top left of first collage).

  • I need to bring at least one pair of low-heeled walking shoes in addition to any sneakers.

  • Flexible accessories and items come in handy. My dusky pink velvet ribbon rose spruced up my hat and also added some 'oomph' to my swiss dot blouse when i though it looked a little blah. Scarves can be belts, fill in necklines, trim a hat, etc. These items don't take up space, either.

  • I realized why i like denim and straw - they both dress things down, making what could look overly dressy and fussy a little rougher and less precious. Hats can easily look over the top in our everyday world - but straw reigns it in. The same with denim - and since i can only take so much of denim on my lower half, i'm plotting to acquire at least two more denim jackets. Ideally, one in a lighter wash, and one in white. 

I'm still feeling a bit surprised that my experiment turned out so well and that i learned so much! Do any of you struggle with over-packing the way i have? Do any of you have successful packing strategies?  Any packing epiphanies? Do you have to think thing through and plan thoroughly, or does it all just come together naturally? Any and all thoughts will be warmly welcomed - after all, i haven't test-driven my new formula yet!


  1. I don't have a lot of occasions to pack - but when I do, I usually pack "light". I really like the phrase and concept of "stylistic consistency". It describes me quite well.

    I haven't been blogging my wardrobe so much lately as I'm just now getting back to a weight to fit into my existing wardrobe. I expect to be more consistent in a couple of weeks.

  2. I love this - I agree that when we find a look that is truly and comfortably "us", we can thrive on a smaller wardrobe. I also am a firm believer in sink-washing when on a trip!

  3. I didn't count, but you came up with an amazing array of looks from your simplified capsule. And the hat is wondrous.

  4. I am so glad to find you again while browsing on Fashion for Giants. I wandered onto your blog several months ago and read the whole thing without bookmarking it and have been looking for you ever since. I love your style and that you are not young, although you are younger than me and actually you are quite thin. On a recent 19 day road trip I was challenged to bring enough clothes to cover weather from quite cool to very very warm. In the past, I've regretted not bringing enough warm clothes (even in Florida where one can freeze in air conditioned buildings) but my long johns, pullover sweater, turtleneck and sweatshirt went unworn. Layering along with my raincoat was enough for the cold and cotton shirts worked for the hot. Vintage necklaces, scarves, earrings added interest. Your travel "collection": Fabulous.

  5. I laughed out loud when I read this post. 'I am phenomenal at over packing' - ha ha! Last week, I visited my Mum for three days, and took way too much clothing with me. I was very conscious of what I was doing and found it deeply frustrating that I needed to have almost everything I own with me. I even took a bag full of stuff that I categorised as 'things I know I won't wear but will take just because I cannot leave them behind'. Your description of the mental and physical space it takes up is so apt, I used these very words myself when talking about it to my partner (once we managed to squeeze into the car and get underway - he, of course, is a light packer and finds my predicament baffling). And of course, I wore a very small number of items; I think I will follow your example and catalogue these, so that next time I can see what I actually needed. And like you, I actually enjoyed the outfits I wore. Thank you for the inspiration. I love your blog btw, have not commented before this, but always looking in because I love your approach and outlook and find your writing insightful and interesting.

  6. heh. You took that mental trick of What if you had to pack for a week? and showed how it reveals the heart of your style/wardrobe.

  7. Hello Rebecca! i love the idea of stylistic consistency too - i don't know that it gets a lot of love in the traditional style blogging world, tho. But it's been a goal of mind forever.

    Congrats on getting to a more enjoyable body! That takes a lot of concentration, so have fun with your clothes!

    Hi Patti! "when we find a look that is truly and comfortably "us", we can thrive on a smaller wardrobe" that's funny, isn't it? & it's only really 'clicked' for me (the idea) the past month or so. old dogs CAN learn new tricks!

    Thank you Terri! even i was surprised at the numbers! and the hat is new, i'm definitely smitten :)

    Greetings MyIdaho! i'm glad you found me too :) that happens to me sometimes and it's very frustrating!

    wow, that 19 day trip sounds like a challenge especially given all the temp changes. and very interesting that you didn't need any of the long undies! i've been concentrating on accumulating some woven cotton 'stand alone' shirts (short or no sleeve) myself for just the reason you explain. Beat the heat and look put together at once. And thank you for the compliment - extra nice coming from one with experience!

    Stay found! :)

    Hello Debbi! yes, i am thinking there is something about our relationship to things/clothing in our society that makes packing a real flash point. In terms of breaking unhelpful habits i have found that being able to 'see' yourself going thru those unwanted motions is a very effective way to start breaking those ruts and creating new patterns. So pat yourself on the back for taking the first and hardest step!

    I'm glad some of my ideas sound helpful to you. Let us know how your experiments turn out! And thank you so much for your kind words :)

    Hello Vildy! you are on fire these days with your comments!!! hitting the nail right on the head in my case, absolutely. your quips on YLF have had me in stitches, as well!

    Happy Friday!!! Steph

  8. What a fabulous capsule wardrobe. I am terrible about overpacking. I am not a high maintenance person from day to day, but heaven forbid I have to travel or spend the night somewhere else. I pack for four seasons, carry my own everything and often lose something in the process. I tend to just chalk it up to me being a homebody. I haven't traveled anywhere in a few years, but I think I could do a better job of packing these days. This post has so much good advice and many ideas to work from.

  9. Thank you Megan - what nice words to read :) ! that's funny you're an overpacker, you come across as the person who has every single thing well in hand, in a completely admirable way! and i hadn't really thought of it that way before but i'm a real homebody as well, there could be something to that. hmmm.

    I hope you're having a less hectic weekend! steph

  10. Congrats on the discovery! It feels good, doesn't it?

    I go back and forth on the travel capsule thing. If it's a driving trip, I'm typically not too committed or concerned but last weekend when we visited my in-laws up north for 3 days I made the effort and it paid off. I had only one regret: I neglected to pack a light overdress that would have been an ideal layer to protect me from the sun on the day we all gathered for a family picnic. Lesson learned!

    You look so pretty in all of the outfits, so clearly the planning paid off. Of course, you'd look pretty in just about anything :).