Monday, February 28, 2011

packing 101

When we moved, I packed all of our clothes into our suitcases since we have two sets (that includes two large suitcases and two medium cases plus two carry-on sized rolling suitcases) and I thought it would be really dumb to move them empty (plus I was trying to use boxes for more important things). I ended up packing our entire wardrobe (that includes sweaters, housecoats, pajamas, everything -- including some tableclothes I had forgotten to pack earlier) into the two larger suitcases and one of the medium sized cases, and I think it was all due to a little clothes packing trick I learned years ago.

Idle Husband had to go to a conference in San Francisco this week, so I thought it would be the perfect time to show you how I always pack our suitcases.

his super thick sweatpants

Here's my trick. When dealing with any clothes (pants, hoodies, whatever), don't fold or roll them and place them in the suitcase creating unneccesary bulk. Unfold them and lay them inside the suitcase. Then fold them into the suitcase making sure you fit them as much to the width or length of the suitcase (depending on the garment) and lay them as flat and wrinkle-free as possible.

Obviously, it depends on the size of the suitcase as to how flat you can get each garment. Since IH is just going for a few days, he's only taking a small carry-on. That means, I have to fold a little more than I would if he were using one of the large suitcases.

When it comes to sleeves or hoods that don't quite fit, fold them in as close to their seam lines and with as little folding/layering as possible. You're trying to keep one article of clothing to at least two layers. The idea is not to add bulk (or wrinkles) by creating folds. Take the above long-sleeved shirt. I unfolded it and laid it inside the suitcase, tucking the sides in so I could lay the arms down flat.


Once you start, each addition gets added opposite the previous garment. This sweater has the neck now clockwise to the blue long-sleeved shirt. That way everything keeps laying more or less evenly. If you didn't stagger each garment, you'd start to see a definite neck/collar mountain on one side and a slope down to the bottoms of all the shirts on the other (especially when you're using a larger suitcase and everything lays almost completely flat inside).

When packing a larger suitcase, you might notice that the sides can start to get a little emptier than the middle. Don't waste that space! First of all, you can prevent it by either staggering your shirts with some pants, laid flat lengthwise along the top and bottom of the suitcase or you can stagger your shirts by laying one lengthwise, then one widthwise. Sometimes it's kind of inevitable, so my favourite thing to do is to use that space to stuff other smaller clothing items that don't necessarily need to lay flat (like a bathing suit or socks or even pairs of shoes, for example).

So that's his whole suitcase packed. One long-sleeved shirt, two sweaters, and one t-shirt plus his socks and underroos (I didn't think it would be smart to share that picture, but I did lay everything flat) and a t-shirt and sweat pants for lounging around at the hotel. It doesn't look like there's a lot of space left, but there really is. He's wearing his jeans and he doesn't need a second pair for such a short trip, but I totally could have fit a pair in and maybe even 3-4 more shirts (with the suitcase expanded). It always really amazes me how much I can get into suitcases packing this way! (In fact, after the sweatpants went in, I thought that maybe he would have to take the medium sized suitcase, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to get all of his shirts in. I even doubted my own technique!)

When we go to Greece (usually a 2 week stay), we can get away with checking only one large suitcase for both of us since I can easily fit both of our vacation wardrobes into it (including two pairs of shoes and, ok, ok, more of my clothing than I actually use. I've definitely packed a lot of clothes for vacations that I've ended up never wearing) and we'll still have room for purchases or gifts. I should mention that we're not particularly fussy dressers, so maybe we're not taking as many clothing options as other people might. But I still like to think it's all because of the packing technique.

Just a word on when we moved. I packed everything in this manner except for things that were hung up on a hanger. For those items, I didn't even bother to remove the hanger. I just grabbed about three hung garments at a time, laid them flat in the suitcase making sure the top of the coat hangers were tucked inside the suitcase and doubled the garment over at the bottom if it was too long to fit flat inside the case (like dresses or pants, for example. Just try to keep it to one fold if possible). Then I staggered the next few shirts so the hangers were at the opposite side of the last hangers I put into the suitcase. That way you save time by not removing the hangers from all of the clothes plus you don't have to deal with gathering and packing a bunch of hangers on their own. Strangely enough, the hangers don't add as much bulk to your packing as you're probably thinking. The trick here is to grab at least three articles of clothing at a time to kind of match the thickness of your hangers. Ours are plastic, so if you had the really skinny metal ones, you could probably grab even more hangers per layer.

When we were unpacking after the move, all we had to do was grab the hangers and hang all the clothes up in the new closet. It probably took me less than 20 minutes to unpack and put away our entire wardrobe (I don't know how psyched you are to put shirts onto hangers, but I find it really annoying. I'll have three shirts to hang and I feel like I'm standing there forever. It's a real time sucking task).

I know there are so many different ways to pack a suitcase and I've tried a lot of different methods, but I find flat folding to be the best and most space saving technique. Try it the next time you take your clothes on vacation. You might be surprised!

1 comment:

Tricky Nag said...

Clever idea. Now that we have graduated from our backpacks to suitcases I'll try it next time we go somewhere. Although I suspect I might find it hard to break my habit of rolling my clothes.