My Entire Closet Fits Into a Carry-On

I had no goals or intentions when I started getting more hardcore about minimalism. I knew I wanted less Stuff, and I now have less Stuff. But a big part of this for me is about clothes. Not too long ago, I fled an apartment in the night, because of a crazy roommate. Not too long after that, I moved 700 miles via 4 suitcases and 3 (big) UPS boxes. I want to be able to grab my most important belongings at a moments notice and be in the wind. I have no plans to do this, but I like the idea that I could. Because of that, I recently decided on a completely arbitrary goal: I want my entire closet to fit into a single carry-on.

When I thought of this idea, I had already gotten rid of a lot of stuff, but I had no idea whether I was even close to meeting that goal. I haven’t traveled since I started this, so I had no concept of how much clothing I had, or how much of what I had would fit. I decided that if I got close, then it would be my new goal to get rid of enough stuff that I could make it happen. If I actually did it, then I would have a new benchmark for how much clothing I should own at one time. I.E. if it won’t fit into the suitcase with what I already have, I either don’t need it, or have to get rid of something else to make it fit. But how close was I? Could I fit all my clothes?

My closet, laid out and ready to be bundled

Here you see almost all of my clothes. This is what I was going to try to fit into a single carry-on. Before I go any farther, I should explain that I already had a trick up my sleeve. I discovered bundle packing several years ago, and it is simply awesome. Bundle packing is a very specific way of packing clothes, designed to not only maximize luggage space, but also keep clothes relatively wrinkle-free. Essentially, you lay out your long-sleeve shirts first, alternating which way the bottom faces, with the sleeves overlapping. Then when you have all the shirts, you do the same with pants; putting the waist band towards the middle, and the end of the legs meeting with the end of the shirt sleeves. Again, you alternate, putting the first pair of pants so the legs meet with the right sleeve, then the next pair with the left sleeve, then back to the right, until you run out of pants. Then you put folded undies, socks, etc into the core of the bundle. Once you have everything laid out like the photo above, you start folding. Pull the legs of the last pair of pants over the top of the core of the bundle. Then do the same with the pant legs on the other side. Pull the two pairs of pant legs tight, and you can sort of cinch down the bundle. Repeat until you are out of pant legs. Then fold arms of the top-most shirt over the pant legs, and then flip the bottom of the shirt over top of that from the perpendicular angle. Repeat for all of your shirts. You will now have a bundle of clothes that might still fit into a suitcase.

My closet, post-bundling

If you read the above paragraph, and you don’t see how I got from the first picture to the one above, search for bundle packing on you youtube. You will find better explained tutorials, I’m sure. So, with a few exceptions I will get to in a moment, I had bundled all of my clothes. But still, I didn’t know if they would fit. I thought I would be close, but that I would have to unwrap everything and start taking stuff out of the core. The core actually contains the stuff I was most hesitant to part with, but also the stuff I need the least. I have 5 work shirts, and I work 5 days per week. I have more than that number of t shirts, but I definitely don’t wear all of them in a week. After I get home from work, there’s only a few hours left in the day, so I don’t really need to change which t shirt I change into when I get home. Then one for Sat, one for Sun. At most, that’s 3 t shirts per week. Twice the number that I own, at least. However, most of them are sentimental. Two are fraternity letters, two are from Lebowski Fests, and one from Brian Brushwood. I don’t want to have to get rid of them. This is why I wanted to try this. I now knew that if I failed, I would be close enough that I would have to get rid of some t shirts. BUT was I going to fail?

The bundle, in my carry-on

I did it! I fit all of my clothes (with exceptions) into a single carry-on! It even zipped! I decided right then that I could keep all of it, as long as I didn’t buy any new clothes. From now on, any time I bring clothes in, I have to take the same amount out. Why does this matter? Well, as mentioned above, it means I know that if I decided to just pack up and leave, I can take all of my clothes with me, without leaving anything behind. It also means that packing for trips will be easy from now on. I can just pack my whole closet! If I don’t need it 50 weeks per year at home, then I won’t need it 2 weeks per year when I’m on vacation.

Now, to the exceptions. I own 2 three-piece suits, 2 nice dress shirts, 3 neck ties, and a pair of dress shoes. None of that is in the bundle. This is because I also have a nice garment bag I got as a gift from my parents. I only wear that stuff on rare occasions, so I don’t need to take it anywhere most of the time. If I did decide to leave some place quickly, one more bag isn’t going to make that much difference. The other stuff I didn’t include, I was either wearing when I packed, or ostensibly would need to wear to travel. I was wearing a t shirt, undies, and gym shorts when I packed. The only clothes I own that weren’t in the suitcase were the aforementioned dress clothes, the stuff I was wearing, a hoodie, a pair of jeans, and a sport coat. If I were to go somewhere, I could easily wear everything that was out of the bag. I wouldn’t do it in the summer, but I actually already had a sweater in the bundle, and the wrap layers are not as important to trim down as the core of the bundle, so I probably could have fit the hoodie, too.

My closet, packed – dress clothes and what I was wearing not included. Also pictured: my home gym

So there you have it. My entire closet (sans dress clothes, and one outfit to travel in) in a single carry-on. For a list of the clothes I own, you can see my inventory here. It’s slightly out of date again, but not for clothes, I don’t think.


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