The Clutter Coach


Organize for Travel

Cynthia EstesBy Cynthia Estes, Mountain Democrat columnist
Mountain Democrat - February, 2011
Reprinted with permission of the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA

When I was told the subject of this month’s column was “Recreation and Travel”, I panicked. After all, my idea of recreation is a weekend at Harrah’s.  Then I remembered that I used to travel for business and had packing down to a science.  And due to of the miracle of the internet and my world-traveling friends, I’ve found some great tips on how to pack for every trip.  But first let me tell you something you probably already know if you’ve traveled at all.

Murphy’s Laws of Packing

  • What fits in your suitcase when you left, will no longer fit when you pack to come home.
  • You will always come home with more than you left with even if you think you didn’t buy a thing.
  • Dirty laundry expands to twice its normal size when traveling.

Start With a List
Whether you’re a first-time or experienced traveler, a packing list is a must. If you’re one of those people like me who always feel like she’s forgetting something, make your own checklist.  One of the best ways I’ve found is a customized survey online that will create a personalized checklist according to your destination; means of travel; season and weather; and type of vacation. You can keep a running list for the basics and then customize the list every time you travel.  Be sure to take a look at the list again when you return and see what you really used.

According to the website, in the real world there are only two kinds of luggage: carry-on and lost. You may still love your 1950's model with the matching bungee cord, but the experts at this site say that traveling light is about determining the minimum amount of stuff you truly need to cart around with you, and then finding the smallest, best-designed bag that will comfortably hold it.  Check out this great website, it will save you money and a backache.  When you pack that perfect bag, make sure to put your name and address inside.  And in order to keep traveling light, don’t take the entire heavy travel guidebook; just copy the pages you need for each trip.

What to Wear
If you must drag luggage from place to place, why pack two different sets of clothing to take for changeable weather? Wear layers for the trip and buy the clothing you need at each destination (you know you’re going to buy it anyway). If you’re a domestic traveler and don’t want to spend a lot of money, look for a major discount store where you’re traveling.  In any case, pack a couple of flat totes for unexpected purchases. Or do what experienced travelers do and take easy-to- wash and dry clothing and a travel clothesline and pins.  Some even pack their old clothing that they won’t mind leaving behind when they’ve finished with wearing it. Stick with basic colors that you can mix and match, won’t show dirt and then accessorize with belts, scarves and costume jewelry.  

Those Darn Wrinkles
No matter what you take, the preferred method of packing on travel websites is bundling. Bundle wrapping or bundle packing involves wrapping clothes around a central pouch, avoiding the folds that result in creases. The tension created in the fabric by the wrapping process significantly reduces wrinkling.  Fill the pouch with soft items (socks, underwear, etc.) to form a pillow to wrap the clothing around. The internet even provides videos on the subject.

BOGO for Packing
If you’re a shopper and love a bargain, you’ll want to use this tip. Buy your favorite toiletries or makeup when they’re on a buy-one-get- one (BOGO) free or half-off sale and use the extra item for your travels. If BOGO’s not for you, try out the travel-size items in your local discount stores. You’ll be surprised at the selection available. Yes, it will cost you more to buy them, but the size is right for travel and it’s a great way to try new products.  While you’re in the store, look for a hanging zippered pocket organizer to hang on the hotel bathroom door. Upon your return home, simply restock and you’ll always be ready for your next trip.

If you’re flying, check the airline’s website for medication and liquid packing guidelines. Otherwise, check out online websites like for suggestions.  For example, gather all essential medications to avoid leaving lifesaving medication at home and having to get a refill in a different state or country, but just in case, take a copy of each prescription. Make sure all medication is properly labeled in your name and put all medications on top of the carry-on bag or purse that will be going on the plane, train or bus with you for quick access.

Leave the ironing board at home
Why pack a hair dryer and iron when your hotel provides one?  Call ahead or check their website for amenities provided. Just for the asking they may give you a small refrigerator or microwave for little or no cost to save money on eating out. 

There’s much more…
This column is just a start. Have fun exploring the internet or ask someone for assistance. I don’t know about you, but I’m so inspired I’m going BOGO shopping, travel or not!

Cynthia Estes is a Professional Organizer, owner of Uncluttered for Life, and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Uncluttered for Life serves clients throughout Western El Dorado County. 

Call (530) 957-2975 for a free 20 minute phone consultation and estimate!