Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to UNPACK Your Suitcase

Ah, the eclipse was amazing! So was my 14-hour drive home... (a trip which charitably might take 6 hours if you're a slow driver....) If today's post feels a bit incoherent, understand that I got 2 hours of sleep!

After we got back from Ireland last week, our suitcases were laying open on the floor in our apartment for a couple of days - partly because we were tired and just didn't get around to doing all of the laundry immediately, and partly because I'm trying to cultivate a very slow and attentive process for unpacking. I'm doing this so that I can review what I packed (and remember what I forgot!) immediately after the trip, and try to learn something useful for future adventures...

You might remember from my post before I went away that this is what I packed:

Everything I packed for Ireland August 2017

At the time, it felt like quite a lot, and it turned out that I might have easily cut back a few things. Let's walk through the same process that I go through when I get back from a trip....

I'm going take a look at each piece that I packed, and grade it according to this absolutely arbitrary and personal scale:

How to rate clothing that you included in a travel capsule wardrobe

First up, my travel outfit:

A travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe
scarf - Missoni (similar here); tee shirt - J.Jill; earrings - Wadarat Supasirisuk; cardigan - J.Jill; pants - Eddie Bauer; shoes - Stuart Weitzman (similar here); backpack - Hershel

I loved this outfit - I felt like it looked good, and I was very comfortable. The only real hesitation that I had here is that I never re-wore my tee shirt. That's partly because I had packed so many clothes that I never needed it again! Had I packed 1 fewer shirt, this tee would have been laundered and worn at least once more...So? More a failure of my plan than anything wrong with the garment itself...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

Next up are my clusters, starting with the essential black jeans:

the black jeans cluster for Ireland August 2017
earrings - Majorica; Paris scarf - Echo; b&w pocket square - Hermes; b&w scarf - Hermes; cardigan - J.Crew; handbag - Issey Miyake; chambray shirt - J. Crew; jeans - Dearborn Denim; graffiti tee - Uniqlo; star tee - Agnes B.; ballet flats - Thierry Rabotin; athletic shoes - New Balance (similar here)

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

All of this was wonderful - but since it rained so often, I always wore my jacket, and NEVER wore my lovely cardigan. For a less rainy destination, this would have all been perfect...

Then, there was the white jeans cluster:

a travel capsule wardrobe
print shirt - Lands' End (similar here); tweed sweater - J.Jill (similar here); necklace - J.Jill; knot earrings - Pichaya; square earrings - Alexis Bittar; star earrings - Unwritten; checked shirt - Lands' End; striped sweater - Eileen Fisher; white jeans - Uniqlo; loafers - Everlane

I pack these 2 black and white shirts for every trip... That's worth remembering if I see other black and white shirts that are as well-made and fit as well...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

Even though it rained on me with relentless regularity (it is Ireland, after all!), I found that my white jeans were great - a nice break from the black ones. The only real issue that I had with this cluster is that I didn't wear my striped sweater as often as I might have done. It's beautiful - I can't explain what happened...

So far, so good. My intention, when I left Chicago, was to get up in the morning every other day and run down the Quay (pronounced key - don't ask...) before I got dressed for real. However, (a) there was so much construction on the Quay near me that it would have been more of an obstacle course than a run, and (b) my bad knee started behaving petulantly...

Nonetheless, I had packed these pieces:

Running gear in a travel capsule wardrobe
tee shirts - L.L.Bean; skorts - L.L.Bean; jacket - L.L.Bean; wool shirt - IceBreaker; socks - SmartWool; running shoes - Adidas

It's hard to evaluate these pieces, since I didn't wear them as intended...

Evaluating a travel outfit from a travel capsule wardrobe

This is the area of packing for which I have the least experience, and you can tell! I should have just planned to hand-wash running gear, and managed with 2 sets. Even though these clothes are relatively lightweight, adding in undergarments bulks up each outfit considerably - running bras as NOT tiny...

And it never got cool enough to wear my wool shirt - but I'd still pack it. One never knows... This shirt is so nice that it wouldn't look out of place under my black cardigan. It has a logo on the sleeve, which irks me, but wouldn't be a deal-breaker in bitter cold. (especially if I had it layered underneath something else!)

Finally, the dresses:

Clothing items in a travel capsule wardrobe
dress - Eileen Fisher (similar here); jacket - COS; sweatshirt - Lands' End; sleeveless dress - J.Jill

And how I felt at the end:

Evaluating clothing items in a travel capsule wardrobe

Probably my biggest packing mistake was grabbing the wrong sweatshirt- the one that I ended up packing was MUCH heavier and absolutely unnecessarily warm. I should have pulled this out of the closet a few days before packing, as I had done with everything else. An annoying but ultimately modest error...

But I had an offsetting super-win - my sleeveless dress turned out to be PERFECT to wear over shirts - there was just the right amount of space around the armholes and in the body of the dress. This dress over my denim shirt was a great outfit - an ideal merger of dressy and casual.

In more general terms, I packed too many scarves, but I always pack too many scarves. For me, the phrase "too many scarves" is almost as nonsensical as "too much chocolate." And I didn't wear all of the jewelry that I packed, but I enjoy those small options enough that I wouldn't change that either.

What did I learn? Maybe cut back 1 sweater from this assortment. Definitely trim back the number of workout ensembles I pack. And don't wait until the last minute to take things out of the closet - that's a precarious path!

Does anybody else analyze their packing after they get home?

love,

Janice

How to Un-pack your suitcase - How to evaluate your travel capsule wardrobe
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35 comments:

  1. Well done, Janice! Just a mere sprinkle of reds/oranges. A success!
    I analyse post-trip too, though not as scientifically/colourfully as you! I use my holiday pics for analysis and mine is just - did I wear it multiple times/just once/never. The second just went on a holiday in my case and the third hardly justified it's place in the case anyway. Those last two are the lessons learned for next time. What I've learned is that too-posh items are in the latter two groups always. I am always more casual on hols.
    But I do love your excuse for not unpacking for a few days - I'll remember that one to use to defend myself when I just can't be bothered to get the unpacking started ๐Ÿ˜‰! X.

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  2. I once read about a woman who traveled without a suitcase. She wore a wool skirt and jacket and a trench coat and she carried a second set of underwear/hose/ and blouse in her purse. She washed things out every night in her hotel room. This is my theoretical ideal. Reality is quite different, though, because 1) I am easily bored, 2) I really really hate putting on still-damp clothes in the morning, 3) wheeled carry-ons have been invented now. Still her example is a shining star to reach for.

    I think you did well. In my experience, there's always something that languishes in a suitcase because... weather. Even professional forecasters get it wrong. Plus, it's interesting to me that there are certain pieces that I wear all the time at home but they just don't seem right once I reach my destination for reasons I can't figure out.

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    1. My dream! A black cardigan, silk tee shirt, and skirt, with a tote bag full of scarves!
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. I travel without a suitcase -- after many years -- well, decades -- of travelling with at least 1 large suitcase. It all started when I booked a flight for the same day I was travelling and then realised that I had only 20 minutes to get ready and pack before I needed to leave for the airport. So I just got out my ultra lightweight but unexpectedly strong bag that I use for carry-on, and threw just a few things in it and then had to leave. I forgot loads of "essentials" -- and discovered that I was fine without any of those things that I'd been lugging around on previous trips.

      So when we went on a big trip (2 weeks) travelling around Eastern Europe recently, I just took my ultra-lightweight bag, and whilst I will admit that the lack of washing facilities demanded some creativity on my part to get things washed (in the shower, with hand soap!) I actually still intend to continue this policy of travelling ultra light, because it is so incredibly freeing and convenient. When there were delays and missed flights en route back to California, we were given the last two seats (chosen from what looked like hundreds of passengers wanting to get on that flight) on a flight from Germany to Los Angeles because we had nothing but the tiniest hand luggage bag. I have to take a suitcase when I travel later this year and I am frankly dreading it, and wondering if there is some way to avoid doing so! I highly recommend travelling with almost nothing. You can always buy stuff wherever you are if need be -- and I've never needed to.

      I too carry several scarves -- they are wonderfully lightweight and add polish and variety to the severely limited travelling wardrobe I take with me.

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  3. I do try to do this at the end of a trip - and even though I pack very lightly, there always seems to be one outfit that I either never wore, or only wore once so it didn't really earn it's spot in my suitcase. The key for me is to stick to a firm colour palette - if I let myself wander over to another area of colour then it always ends up being the mistake.
    Hope you now get a chance to just relax and breathe for a few days after all your travels!

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  4. Well done! Totally agree w/work-out gear; I only take two sets. Glad you're home safely from both trips . . . and I thought our TEN hour drive home from So. IL was long. Yikes xoxoxox

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  5. Janice,
    I love this evaluation ! Yes, I go through the same process, but I tend to do it as I am repacking at my destination, just before leaving for home. I tend to take along too much costume jewelry, but I like options ! In my original packing planning, I mentally divide the trip in half, and then plan the number of outfits , all garments to be worn at least twice, but in different combinations with the bottoms and toppers. The bottoms get 3 wearings each. Twin sets provide 3 wearings -- once together, the cardigan or shirt with a different pairing of other garments. and the tank or tee with another different ensemble and accessories .

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  6. I analyze my what worked and didn't work when I get home too. This spring I went to Sicily and wasn't sure what the weather would be since it was the shoulder season. I packed a down vest that I never wore and took up way to much room and a bathing suit, which I also never wore (and never do so I don't know why I keep packing it). I also packed clothes that ended up with wrinkles and creases that I couldn't get out (irons are not allowed in hotel rooms in Italy by law, apparently) so I never wore them. I am going away in the fall, another shoulder season, so last spring's packing will help me this fall. I won't take the bathing suit or the shirts that wrinkled and creased, for example.

    I also like to look at photographs when I get back and see what kind of clothes photograph well. When I went to Guatemala, I packed a lot of wicking workout clothes, many of which had logos on them from events I competed in. Well, suffice it to say that I hated the photos where I wore those clothes. The logo was distracting and ruined the photo in my opinion. So no more logos for me when I pack. That is why I bought a plain, black, logo-free baseball hat to take to Sicily with me this past spring.

    While I don't normally wear black or other neutral shirts a lot in my day to day life (I am pale so I need color), I often pack them when I travel because they photograph well, are not memorable so you can rewear them easily, and hide dirt and stains.

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  7. Yes, a trip "debrief is standrad for me, not just for clothes but for all items taken. For my last long weekend away I did the 5-4-3-2-1 method of just my very favorites and it worked out quite well.

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    1. Nancy, I'm guessing your system is 5 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 toppers, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 jacket ?

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    2. Yes, roughly http://apairandasparediy.com/2015/06/how-to-pack-the-5-4-3-2-1-guide/

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  8. I enjoyed your analysis! I try to take notes after a trip on what worked and what didn't. So much depends on weather, sometimes it isn't what we expect even after checking forecasts. This is especially true of trips two or more weeks long. On my trip to Beijing I was dismayed to find I hadn't packed a good "mid-length" necklace. I had short necklaces and one long one. It was too hot and humid for scarves. I was also glad my daughter talked me into packing one more skirt than I had planned. I wore skirts more than I anticipated. I just need to keep all my notes somewhere so I can remember for the next time!

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  9. Janice, Thanks for such a good description of your experiences. Did you eventually need all of those shoes?

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    1. I wore them all - I could have left the black and white loafers behind, because they're somewhat too new to be good for long-distance walking. But I liked having them for a change of pace when going out to dinner. If I needed to conserve space, I could have done without them...
      hugs,
      Janice

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    1. Nope! A normal person might want one, but the rain usually only lasts 10 to 20 minutes, and I rather like getting wet! (I'm not 100% normal...)
      hugs,
      Janice

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  11. I really like the way you've evaluated your packing list (or unpacking list :-) I always evaluate what I packed after a trip and make detailed notes (what worked, what didn't, what I wished I'd packed and what I wish I'd left at home). The list for each trip has it's own file on my computer and I re read those files when putting together a packing list for the next trip. Since we tend to travel during shoulder season, packing is always a bit of a challenge so my notes really help me be disciplined about what I pack!!

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    1. That "between the high season and the low season" that often happens after school starts, but before the weather gets cold. It's a great time to travel because the crush of crowds has diminished, but the weather can be unpredictable!
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. Ah, thank you , Janice, I have never heard of this expression before today!

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    3. We're fun AND educational!
      hugs,
      Janice

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  12. Thanks for sharing your system - I have intuitively done this before, and after a trip to Italy, I actually threw away a cardigan/jacket item (it was too worn to go to a new home). It was something that I loved until I saw it in photos! It had to go. And we say "key" in Canada, too!

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  13. Like you and many commenters, I evaluate what I packed when I get home. This has been a very useful habit that has helped with packing for future trips.

    Since my last trip, I've had surgery and recently discovered that lifting and carrying more than about 25 pounds can create aches and pains for a few days after. So, that will have an impact on my future packing scenarios!

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  14. For international travel, I've gotten in the habit of leaving a Note to Self in the little bag that I keep my passport in, listing the location, the month, and the outfit or two that I found myself wearing most often. I actually do this before I return home, since it's easy to forget to do it after arrival and such notes help a lot the next time I'm packing.

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  15. Sounds like you did a really great job overall. I always overpack, even when I think I'm not. I really overpacked for our recent trip to China, but it was things like toilet paper and mosquito repellent and lots of things I was told I'd need on You-Tube, but turned out to be unnecessary. I also packed a ton of food because of allergies, and that ended up being unnecessary as well. But how do you know for sure? I actually had less clothes than I'd really like because I had so many supplies. But that was an unusual trip.

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    1. How would you know NOT to take advice that you read? I think mental comfort is pretty important, so I would have done just as you did!
      hugs,
      Janice

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  16. What a great idea to evaluate your post trip clothing for wearability. I really need your help as I am travelling to the US from England in October for a formal black tie dinner to honour my brother n law. This will be a very large prestigious event at a science facility in Orlando. My husband has black tie suit so no problem for him but should I wear full length formal dress or dressy cocktail dress? It is years since I have needed either so will have to buy. Any thoughts extremely welcome.

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    1. I'm going to write up some suggestions for a post on Monday, and throw the question out to the greater Vivienne Files community to get some advice...
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. We live in a sartorially conservative part of the US. Decades ago, black tie would usually mean floor-length gowns for women. I don't like them. So every time we went to one of these functions and belovedest insisted I wear floor-length, I would point out to him every woman in a cocktail dress or even dressy slacks! He gave up. Since then, I've gone the dressy slacks route as well as the cocktail dress route.

      Except at a presidential inauguration, Oscar night, or a high roller fundraiser among the 1% social set, I can't imagine floor-length gowns as mandatory attire for women. Our visitor from the UK might see if there are photos available online from prior years of this event and have a look at what the women are wearing. That said, Catherine's status as being among the party of the honoree, might impel a dressier standard, but IMHO, personal comfort in the clothing is a higher priority.

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  17. Thank you, that would be great. Bear in mind that I am a slightly larger lady. UK size 18.

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  18. I usually spend my trips mentally repacking while ON the trip...and write down nothing. Therefore, I am doomed to repeat my over packing mistakes. Over packed, but all the wrong items.... I dislike travelling so much that it is hard to focus and plan carefully what to take...clothing gets thrown in willy nilly and of course...it's WRONG!!!! I love your blog and am doing a much better job at home but not on the road....

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  19. I do an informal post-trip wardrobe analysis too! I'd love to see the big graphic of everything you brought with the stars on it. My last 2 big overseas trips I did pretty well - we had the biggest variation of weather I've ever seen in Ireland when we went (2 weeks a year ago June). The trip started out in the 90sF (record-breaking high temps) and at the Cliffs of Mohr it was so cold & windy that I needed a winter hat & gloves. I check the weather pretty obsessively before I leave & have been known to do last-minute swaps based on the forecast. One funny anecdote - I was in an orthopedic boot for my Ireland trip last year on my left foot so I only brought shoes for my right foot! It felt VERY weird when packing, but I did end up wearing the boot the entire time & never needed a left shoe.

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  20. I do a mental check while unpacking too. When packing I always panic at the last minute and throw in a couple of extra tops. Usually those come back unworn. LOL! Your blog has helped me so much in the packing department! Thanks for sharing!

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  21. My family has only ever traveled by car so space is less of an issue for us. Still I've gotten in the habit of evaluating what we did and didn't need and what we wished we'd had at the end of every trip (both clothes wise and all the other things we haul with us). We've managed to get by comfortably while still taking less with us on our last couple of trips because of it.

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  22. I travel for work a lot and have an always packed bag. I have tried to downsize my bathroom/first aid bag but have things in there like nail trimmers that I use 1 out of every 10 trips. I have tried a couple multi-wear garments but they never live up to their hype.

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