Living Abroad While Minimalist: How to Pack
Disclaimer! This post is not about what I packed. If you want to know that, please comment below, rather, this post is about how I packed my stuff. This post also contains affiliate links.
Ain't I A Minimalist?
I have been working on minimizing my possessions for the past five years since I started this minimalist journey. In 2017, I really thought I was getting down to the bare bones, that is, until I had to go through all my belongings and decide what I was going to take to Mexico.
I was so confident I knew exactly what I was taking and that it would all fit, that I actually procrastinated until the last two weeks before leaving, to begin packing. Minimalist fail! This packing process was one of the most stressful ever in my life!
Luckily, I flew on Southwest which allows you to check two bags free with a 50 lbs. limit each, in addition to a carry-on and personal bag. Having clear limits on how much stuff I could bring was helpful initially for getting my mind right cuz I don't pay baggage fees, ever. Still, fitting my life into four bags was a daunting process.
Step 1: Purge.
The first thing I had to do was go through everything and purge. I went through everything, even stuff I knew I wasn't planning to bring with me initially. The stuff left behind is living at my mom's place and I wanted to take up as little space as possible in my absence.
Some things I left behind included my jewelry making supplies, art supplies, my big fluffy robe, and important papers I didn't necessarily need in Mexico, but needed to be saved.
I also donated stuff to the Samaritan House and gave stuff away to family.
Step 2: Pack.
After getting rid of as much as I could initially, I began packing. I had two small backpacks, a carry-on travel backpack and a rolling carry-on suitcase.
I had two sets of packing cubes, one for each piece of luggage I was checking. I rolled, folded, and stuffed things into every crack imaginable. I also purged and repackaged things to make everything fit as I was packing.
On top of all that, I had to pack things I was bringing for my friends in Orizaba. Now while I love my friends and I know they are very appreciative of me bringing items they can't get here in Mexico, I would not recommend this when you're first moving because I need my robe! The weather here in Orizaba is funny acting, the homes are made of concrete and don't have central heating. It's the one thing I really regret not bringing, but I knew I wouldn't have space with the extra stuff I had to pack. I've managed to survive the winter here without buying another robe.
Step 3: Purge more and repack, again.
When I picked up the last items for one of my friends, I realized I was going to have to purge even more stuff to make them fit and hopefully remain under the weight limit. So at the hotel, I went through all my stuff again and reorganized my bags. I ended up leaving stuff at the hotel to be tossed and giving stuff to my boyfriend. All the repacking and additional tossing definitely felt like a minimalist fail.
I was nervous headed up to the check-in counter because I wasn't able to weigh my luggage before going to the airport. All I knew was, if my bags were overweight, some of my friends' stuff was going to be S.O.L. Fortunately, my bags were well under weight, weighing in at 35 and 30 lbs each.
While that was great for everyone involved, the bags were extremely heavy and difficult to maneuver for me. I only weigh 110 lbs y'all and don't forget I had two carry-on bags stuffed to capacity also. I was almost carrying another me on my person. I usually travel with just a backpack and personal bag, so it was challenging to say the least.
Even though it was exhausting, I made it to Mexico with everyone's belongings! I'm definitely grateful for the people who helped me along the way through two flights and a bus ride. I'm also happy my checked bags arrived at my final destination. I was definitely nervous because I haven't checked a bag since Dulles lost my rolling duffel bag back in 2006.
I've been in Mexico for about four months now. Every now and then, something will come up that I need and I'll remember I had it back in the States, or I'll see something I brought with me that I'm not using here like my rain boots. Mostly though, I have brought the main things I needed or was able to acquire them here. I'm returning to the States in April and I'm looking forward to downsizing somethings and bringing a few new things back.
My Final Tips:
Do a test-run on packing about a month before you leave.
Packing cubes are your friends.
Know when to roll 'em, know when to fold 'em a la Kenny Rogers. (Sn: The song "The Gambler" offers some sage life advice.)
Prioritize. Go into packing with the mindset you will have to take less than what you can fit. This will help you in the process of breaking attachments to things you've been holding on to for a minute.
Acceptance. You can't know everything you will need beforehand, but do as much research as possible, and really scrutinize what is needed.
Only bring what YOU need. Don't agree to bring things for others unless you have room after packing everything for yourself.
Know the airline's standards and limits, as well as your own personal limits, especially if you're traveling solo.
Wait to purchase additional or bulkier items you may need (i.e. rain boots) until you get to your destination. It saves space while traveling and it may less expensive.