10 May 2010

Packing a suitcase

I've always wanted to write this post, because despite the fact that a google of the phrase 'packing a suitcase' elicits a whopping 811, 000 hits, I've never ever met somebody who packs like I do. And believe me I've packed a lot of suitcases.

My method works whether we've been spending a weekend in Melbourne, staying in five star hotels in Europe or doing it rough with a single backpack in Indonesia, and I dare say it is different from what you're used to...

So. Here goes. Deep breath.

Most packing gurus advocate one of three methods for packing your luggage.

In the rolled method, everything is rolled into neat little packages that are then stacked any which way into your bag. I dare say this probably works quite well in a top loading backpack, but everything comes out wrinkled. Really wrinkly - it has to, really, doesn't it?

In the stacking method, everything is neatly folded and then fitted jigsaw style into the suitcase with 'smalls' shoved into the gaps. Light things on bottom, heavier things on top to hold them down. The clothes stay flatter this way, but imagine what happens when you get to your destination and your jarmies are packed in the middle of your suitcase. With this method, it is almost impossible to remove any single item without disturbing everything else at the same time. Grrrr! This method drives me mad!! It is also my husband's method. We use it on the journey home when we need to get as much in as possible and it doesn't much matter what anything looks like the other end.

In the daily method each individual outfit is packed into its own individual plastic bag, and these are packed together in the suitcase. This method works okay for a stay of a few days, but when the journey is longer then it is much better to pack mix-and-match items than individual outfits and then which plastic package to you pack the items in? I can't see this one working for me - I'm not obsessive-compulsive enough.

All of these methods works to get your items from A to B, where the suitcase in unpacked just once on the trip.. What they don't seem to accommodate as well as my method is journeys involving more than one stop, trips with a stay of two or three days in one place and then another short journey to your next destination.

So, on to the Jeanne method.

Firstly, lay out everything you need on a bed or other flat surface. Place any specific outfits together so that you don't forget that all important belt, or hubby's black socks to go with his black suit. Make sure everything you need fits into one smallish suitcase. Yes, even for a three month jaunt around the world. Especially then - imagine what space you'll need for purchases on a trip like that! You do not need to pack your whole wardrobe.

Pack using one base colour. Black is best, but grey, brown or navy will work if you happen to have a wardrobe of navies that all work together. Mostly they don't though. Pack a couple of wow accessories. I've chosen a bright red shawl and a grey and black scarf for this journey. Make sure everything mixes and matches with at least one other thing. Preferably more.

Consider your circumstances. For example:
  • On this journey we are visiting only cities. We will not be doing any hiking so we don't need that type of clothing.
  • The season is spring so we will need layers of lighter clothing for a variety of weather possibilities rather than just woolens or light tees. Ensure everything mixes and matches.
  • It may rain.
  • We will need 'posh' clothes to wear to church and to dinner in hotel restaurants. Men wear suits to the church we attend in Japan, and ties in restaurants, so Hubby will need a suit and tie.
Fold everything as neatly as possible. The neater they're folded the less they will crush and the less likely they are to need ironing when you arrive. Fold into small packages but try to minimise the number of folds for the same reason. This may not be the way that you would fold them into your drawers at home. Button every second button.

Next stuff your shoes...or else your shoes will be stuffed. Packing's really hard on shoes. The tighter you can pack you shoes the less likely they are to be damaged by the journey in a squashy suitcase. Use your smalls for this - socks, knickers (or whatever you call them) and hankies. Really shove them in too, not forgetting to fill up to the back of the heels. Pack molded bra cups the same way. Set them aside for later.

Next pack your clothing in two neat piles in the middle of the case. This is the important bit, because it means that whatever you need can be easily accessed at any time in the journey. If worst comes to worst and the item you want is at the bottom of a pile, it is easy to remove a whole stack from the suitcase, assess the item and then return the pile to its home. I've taken photos of our two suitcases packed like this below.

Wrap belts around the outside of the case. A rolled belt takes almost as much room as half a shoe. Don't do it. Similarly, fold ties at the neckline, for the same reason, and pack flat.

Pack neatly folded smalls (yes, really!) around the edges of the piles. Books, essentials like Vegemite, and other flattish things fit too. Fasten any suitcase straps to hold the clothes in place.

Place shoes in the corners of the case as shown, heels into the corners to preserve their shape. Carefully position bras in the same way. Placed like this, the items should survive the journey intact.

Other bulky items fill the centre - toilet bags, bags of electrical adapters, and makeup go here. Make sure you use flat bags for these items. I have an old toilet bag that I use only for travelling.

If your suitcase has an outside pocket then this is the place for wet weather gear. If you pack it then presumably you're likely to need it. otherwise, take a risk and leave it at home. You can always purchase an umbrella at your destination if you're really in trouble.

Finally, that suit jacket. It is impossible to successfully pack a structured suit jacket, no matter what they tell you. If you really need to take a jacket then wear it onto the plane. As soon as you board, hand it to a flight attendant with a nice smile. Nine times out of ten they'll hang it in a wardrobe for you to collect on your arrival. Don't forget to pack a jumper in your in flight luggage to change into though, or you'll freeze.

So that's it - the Jeanne method. The trick is in the piles. Try them. They work in backpack, soft sided duffel bag, suitcase or a basket for weekend with the parents. The principle of the piles is always the same, and it always works.

Try it next time you travel.

Don't forget to let me know if you try it, will you?


  1. Now that was fun.

    My husband packs with the precision of an engineer and I watch with fascination as he put his suitcase together. My method is more intuitive, as yours seems to be.

    What do you consider essential as you walk around the city - that's what I'd like to see.

  2. Hmmmm. So just heaving things in and praying for the best isn't a good method? :)

  3. My method: wear the worst thing you need to pack. Shove undies, change of clothes, sleep wear and a layer or two for weather changes into a tiny package. Even in a village in Africa I had no trouble getting a stove-fired iron to fix any problems. Naturally, this method works best if you don't have to impress anyone!! Oh Jeanne, you just HAVE to meet my cousin... Oh that I had some of "that" which you two share for neatness and order!!

  4. Just thinking about all that packing is exciting. It's amazing how much I don't need when I travel. I pack in a similar fashion but did not know it was a method! I love the challenge of packing light. Have a lovely time, I'm sure you will.

  5. lol. Almost exactly as I pack ~ only neater ~ because I insist on travelling light & can't be bothered with fuss. Despite the fact we didn't get to go I had everything for Ditz & my trip to Singapore organised to fit into ONE smallish bag. I am trying to get through to Libby that if YOU are the one to carry something you really don't want heavy, bulky & unnecessary. ☺

    Ooh, I would sooo love to be coming with you! Lots of pics please so I can live vicariously. ♥

  6. Cool...this has been interesting, you are full of surprises Jeanne! I'm am excited about your holiday by just looking at your suitcases, I can't imagine what you are all feeling! Have a great day! xxx

  7. Ummm, I'm just a throw everything in type of girl. Ahem! I am very impressed with your method. xo

  8. I'm with Jo! Just thinking about packing gives me a headache. Watching me pack gives my husband a headache. :o)

  9. My dad packed for me when I went to Africa...I was 20! He considered the possibility of losing a bag, and packed half my essentials in the cargo bag, and half in the hand luggage...making sure my toiletries were in the hand luggage...thankfully nothing went missing. But it was a good idea I thought. I like your ideas too...especially the shoe heels at the corners and a fully matching wardrobe with a few nice accessory type thingos.
    Have a truly wonderful trip and we will miss you.Bye bye.God's blessings on your journey.
    Butter Fly

  10. ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING stuff, Jeanne and I adore what you said about stuffing your shoes or they will be stuffed "O) Enjoy your trip!!!
    In my case, I would be told a day before leaving that we were leaving and have about 12 hours to wash, fold, find and pack everything for five! hahaha. I'm a "stuff it in and hope for the best" kinda gal these days... though I have to admit it is not actually the method I like... yours appeals "O)


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