Downsizing: How I packed my entire life into 3 suitcases

Well 2 suitcases and a carry-on

Step One: Get rid of stuff!

  1. Start early. The earlier you start, the better decisions you’ll be able to make when it comes to getting rid of the things you truly don’t want or need. Thankfully moving abroad has come as part of our simplifying phase and I have been slowly but surely stripping my closet of unused/unwanted items and replacing them with fewer, higher-quality items that I love! 
  2. Use online resources to sell, consign or donate your items. Here are a few of the sites I used to help me clear out our unwanted items. 
    • Any clothes or shoes that I had to get rid of, I would immediately pack into a ThredUp bag (get yours here) and send it off to ThredUp, an online consignment store of sorts
    • For our books and other media I used the decluttr app on my phone. You don’t get paid much, but when you’re moving abroad getting paid to scan and send (they pay shipping) your old books and media is awesome!
    • Facebook Beg, Barter, Buy groups, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist For our household items and furniture, I posted as much as I possibly could on these sites. At first I was just using Beg, Barter, Buy groups on Facebook, but when I added Facebook Marketplace, things were practically flying out of my house.
  3. Find a charity that takes donations. Since I work a at a resale shop that benefits a local charity, almost every Monday for a few months, I dropped of a carload of donations before going into work. Resale shops are great places to drop off household goods, electronics, clothes and shoes that you don’t have time or energy to sell. Some may even pickup furniture that you would like to donate! Goodwill is a great place, but you may find a local charity that makes your heart happy. (If you’re in NW Houston, take a look at The Hope Chest which benefits Cy-Hope!)
  4. Host a garage sale! Now my husband is the GARAGE SALE KING! We debated whether or not to host a garage sale and we are so glad we did. We made way more money than we thought we would be able to. Our biggest sellers were things we  thought we would just donate or throw out! And our garage type items were huge hits! A box of open spray paint cans went for $5!

Step Two: Sort, sort sort!

My time at the resale shop taught me a thing or two about sorting! I sorted my things multiple times. Basically, if I didn’t love it, I didn’t have room for it. So I sorted things into 3 categories:

  • Keep
  • Maybe (if I have room for it)
  • Get rid of

Once things hit the “get rid of” pile I tried to get rid of them as quickly as possible. I noticed that if I didn’t get rid of it right then, I would change my mind later and try to justify keeping it. (This happened more than once and I had to put a few things in the “get rid of” pile multiple times.)

Step Three: Pack Intelligently

Now I am a person who will travel (and has!) to Europe for 2 weeks with a carry-on and backpack. So packing intelligently isn’t a new concept to me. I hate to admit that I’ve lived through a lost bag, so I learned to make sure necessities/irreplaceables go in the carry on. These are my top tips for packing intelligently.

  • Pack everything irreplaceable and necessary in your carry on. (This includes $$$ and prescription medications)
  • Pack what you need when you arrive as well as a few changes of clothes in your carry on (I packed everything I would need for the first week in my carry on)
  • Use a backpack for items you want to have access to on the plane (such as a book, electronics, cables, chap stick, lotion, pillow and blanket) since your backpack will most likely be the carry-on at your feet
  • Spread your items and their weight over the remaining suitcases. I packed all of my winter clothes (since we were moving in summer) on the bottom of BOTH suitcases. It would be awful to lose a suitcase and only have winter clothes! I packed my shoes (winter and summer) in both for the same reasons and to distribute weight.
  • Roll as many items and you possibly can. Lay your pants and outerwear at the top. Use socks and intimate items to pack as many spaces as possible in your suitcase.

Watch as this former bond girl packs over 100 items into a carry on. 

Step Four: Don’t be afraid to re-sort!

You’ll find that some things you thought were absolutely necessary were actually extras and some things you thought were maybes become necessities. It’s normal, so feel free to re-sort and repack, you’ll find the way to make it work for you. 

If you’re having trouble getting rid of stuff, think about why the item was helpful for you and how it can be helpful to another person. You can even try to find a specific person that will be able to use it well (totally what I did with my mountains of books). Then hopefully you won’t feel so bad about letting it go because you know it’ll be used and loved!

TIP: It’s ok to pay the overweight fee. Depending on your airline, check into how they charge for extra weight. Our airline charged per bag up to a certain amount so we saved money by putting the heavy stuff in one suitcase and keeping the other one under the limit. Some airlines charge per pound, so it may not matter which piece it’s in if that is your case. And if there is a fee up to a certain amount, why not get as close as possible to that amount without going over?!


2 thoughts on “Downsizing: How I packed my entire life into 3 suitcases

  1. Brilliant! Can’t wait to follow you in your new adventure!!! And yes, we’ve traveled all over the world with a carryon and a backpack…it’s the only way to go! Hugs!!!


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