Simplify by Sarah

How To Pack for 3 Months in a Carry-On

FashionSarah Anne HayesComment

At the end of July, a big change happened in my life.

I embarked on a two-day road trip that temporarily moved me from the DC metro area, where I've been for the better part of the last 17 years, down to the northwest Florida for the next 3-5 months.

Because I was driving, everything I brought with me had to fit in my little Ford Focus (I was not about to drag a trailer along with me), but beyond that I had a personal goal of fitting all my clothing for the next three months into a single carry-on.

That might sound like madness. Three months?? In a carry-on?? Yep. And, as predicted, I made it happen and today, I'm going to share with you how — with a few modifications.

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Before we get super nit picky about things here, I technically had two bags that contained my clothing — nearly everything went into a single carry-on, while my undergarments and shoes were packed in the bottom half of a weekender bag.

The reason I packed that way is because of the nature of my travel and time in Florida. All I had to do was pack the stuff so I could fit it in my car, because once I arrived in Florida, it would all be unpacked and placed in a dresser.

However, if I was taking an extended 3-month trip where I would consistently be traveling, I would've made a couple of modifications to the packing list that would have allowed me to fit it all into the one carry-on, and I'm going to share all of those tips and tricks with you today. 


Before we get started with all the tips and tricks, you're probably wondering, what exactly did I bring?

The short version is I brought somewhere between 80 and 90% of my wardrobe. The long version is the breakdown as follows:

11 tops
4 cardigans
3 skirts
6 dresses
2 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of shorts
1 jacket
7 pairs of shoes
2 belts
5 scarves

4 workout tops
4 lounge tops
4 pairs of workout bottoms
3 pairs of lounge bottoms
2 swimsuits
4 everyday bras
5 sports bras
12 pairs of underwear
8 pairs of socks
1 set of pajamas

That may simultaneously seem like a ton and not a lot at all, and it's a little bit of both. But the truth is, this what my wardrobe looks like now. I've pared down a lot over the last couple of years, so it was really easy to sort out what I needed from what I didn't without having to leave much behind at all.


The bag I packed everything in is none other than The Bigger Carry-On from Away Travel.

I recently decided to streamline my luggage from a full set containing a large suitcase, carry-on, and toiletry bag to just a carry-on. I did a fair amount of reading and research about a good option and ultimately went with Away.

On top of (clearly) having plenty of space, Away's suitcases are of an incredibly high quality, have a couple of super helpful features (like two USB charging ports in the bag), and they have a lifetime guarantee on their products. And I've heard nothing but great reviews from everyone I've seen who has one.

So now that I've shared both what I packed and what I packed it in, let's get to the how shall we?


When I said I packed 80-90% of my wardrobe, I really wasn't kidding.

The only things I left in Virginia were my winter coats and sweaters, a pair of boots, a few scarves, and a couple of shirts — all of which I would not need due to the climate and temperatures in Florida from late July to late October.

And that brings me to my first tip for packing everything in a carry-on for an extended trip — keep the climate in mind. 

If you're trying to pack for multiple climates, your pieces aren't going to mix and match as well, plus with colder climates comes bulkier items like coats, boots, and sweaters.

Florida from late July to late October mostly goes back and forth between hot and hotter, which means I wouldn't have a need for those bulky items and instead could focus on sandals, lighter cardigans, t-shirts, etc.

But even if you're trying to pack for a cooler climate, don't despair! It's still possible to avoid lugging a giant bag around with you! This is a situation where high quality items will really help you out and layers will be your best friend.

By packing some lighter clothes but layering them, you'll be able to fit more individual items in the bag, and if you have a really high quality pair of boots and a high quality coat, you can most likely get away with bringing just one of them, even for an extended trip. And all you have to do to save the precious space in your suitcase is wear them during your travel days and you'll be good to go!


This next tip isn't so much related to the types of clothing I packed or how much I packed, but the actual way in which I packed them. Specifically, by rolling instead of folding.

I don't remember when or who first told me that rolling takes up less space in a suitcase than folding, and at first I thought they were crazy, because how could the same item of clothing take up less space just because of how you put it in the suitcase? But I've packed by both folding and rolling, and it never fails — when I roll, I'm able to fit more in the suitcase every single time.

A bonus of this is that, if you're careful about how you roll, items that often crease or wrinkle won't do so as quickly as they would if they were folded! 


I've said it before and I'll say it again — the hallmark of a simplified wardrobe is that the more versatile your wardrobe is, the fewer items you need to bring (or have) and this same principal applies to packing for an extended trip in one bag.

Yes, most of what I was packing for this trip was lighter weight, smaller clothing, but I also didn't have nearly as much of it as I used to because I've curated it and so much more of what I own is far more versatile than it used to be.

This is a big advantage when it comes to shoes. No matter what you do to them, shoes are going to take up the same amount of space. But because all of my shoes go with basically every item in my closet, I'm able to bring one pair of ballet flats and one pair of dress sandals instead of multiple and I don't have to worry about them not coordinating.

And, just like with the rest of my wardrobe, all my shoes have been purchased from high quality brands and I know will last me a long time, so I don't have to worry about only have one of a certain kind.


I mentioned that for this actual trip I packed everything except my undergarments and shoes into the carry-on. It's important to note that this also excluded any toiletries you might bring for an extended trip, so in addition to the principals that helped me pack as much as I did in a carry-on, I wanted to share a couple of additional tweaks I would've made to truly fit everything you'd need into one carry-on.


I brought all of my workout attire and nearly all of my leisure attire with me for this trip because I'm going to be living more or less normal life while I'm here, which means I'm going to be working out regularly and there will be days where I just lounge around in my yoga pants.

It's not to say that you wouldn't have days like that during an extended vacation, but they probably wouldn't be as frequent — especially the lounging around in yoga pants days.


I've always kept my toiletries to a relative minimum, primarily because I don't like to spend hours and hours on that kind of thing. But when I pack for any trip, I reduce even more and take advantage of space saving options.

I have a relatively compact (discontinued) toiletry bag from Vera Bradley and whenever I travel, all toiletries (including makeup), jewelry, and hair products (excepting something big like a blow dryer or curling iron) have to fit in that one bag.

You can save space (and money) by using something like shampoo and conditioner bars, instead of a mini bottles, and forego some extras like shaving gel (seriously...dry shaving isn't that bad) or hair products. I also limit hair accessories like dryers and curling irons, even leaving all of them at home if I'm able, and letting my hair dry and keeping it free of product as much as possible.


Even though most of my wardrobe is quite versatile, there are a couple of pieces that are less versatile than the rest and can only be worn a couple of ways or with one or two other pieces. If I was running short on space, I would've left these behind in favor of some of the more versatile pieces in the wardrobe.

Have you ever taken an extended trip in just a carry-on? I'd love to hear any tips and tricks you have in the comments!

The Simplify Series: Your Bathroom

The Simplify SeriesSarah Anne HayesComment

I'm not one who is opposed to cleaning, but hands down, the bathroom is my least favorite place in the entire house to clean. Getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing tubs and around toilets is the exact opposite of my idea of fun, but it's gotta be done.

One of the ways I've found to make those days when I have to really get in there and scrub the bathroom down less of a pain and also less frequent is by simplifying what I keep in it, which makes doing a quick clean at the end of each day way easier than when my counters were filled to the brim with all sorts of random items.

Similar to the pantry in a kitchen, the bathroom is one of those areas in a home that can get cluttered fast because it's a weird combination of items we use on a daily basis (like toothpaste and soap) and things we only use on occasion (like ibuprofen or bandaids).

Fortunately, because bathrooms are also generally one of the smallest areas in a home, they're not that difficult to simplify and declutter and can easily be taken care of in an afternoon — or less, if you've got a super small one.

1. Take It All Out

Much like with your closet, start by taking everything out of your cabinets, shower, etc. and putting it somewhere you can see it all. This gives you a visual not just on what you have, but how much you have of it.

2. Divide It Up

Once you have a visual on everything you've got in the bathroom, the next step is dividing it up, which can be done in a couple of different ways.

One option is to divide it up by frequency of use, sticking the things you use on a daily, weekly, monthly, or occasional basis together in groups. Another option is to divide it up by general category like beauty or health, regardless of frequency of use.

3. Toss the Old + Expired

Just like when you're going through the pantry, after you've divided everything up, check it all for expiration dates.

Unlike the expiration dates on certain food items which are often more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule, expiration dates on medications in particular should be taken quite seriously. Using an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen after its expiration date can reduce its effectiveness and, depending on the medication, could pose potential health risks. Similarly, cosmetics can grow bacteria and cause infections or other negative reactions if not disposed of according to recommendations.

Something to note when tossing expired and old items is the size of them. For example, if you're tossing a giant bottle of ibuprofen because it expired before you could use the whole thing, consider buying a smaller bottle next time.

4. Assess What's Left

After you've properly disposed of anything that's expired, look at what you have left and consider how much of it you actually need or use on a regular basis and also how it's stored.

There may be certain items you only use on occasion, and so they would be better stored somewhere like a linen closet rather than cluttering up the bathroom, which is almost always in need of more space.

My general guideline is that if I don't use it on a daily, or at least weekly, basis, it doesn't stay in the bathroom. This means I keep things like makeup, shampoo and conditioner, face wash, tooth paste, and certain hair products in the bathroom, but nearly everything else is stored somewhere near the bathroom, but not in it, to reduce the clutter.

5. Keep the Counters Clear

Once you've decided what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to store in another place, look for ways to store the remaining items without cluttering up your counters.

Take it from someone who, as previously mentioned, hates cleaning the bathroom, this will make keeping your bathroom clean way easier than if you have a ton of stuff on the counter you have to move every time you clean it.

As a personal rule, I keep soap, hand lotion, toothbrush/paste, and cotton balls on my counter. That's it. Everything else goes in drawers or bins that are easily accessible, but keep the bathroom always looking neat and tidy.

And with that, we have officially wrapped up the physical spaces in the Simplify Series! Hopefully your home feels at least a little bit calmer and more peaceful after going through all these spaces together.

But don't worry, we're not finished yet! For the next six weeks, we'll continue the series by tackling some of those more intangible area of our lives starting next week with your style. And before you ask, it is different than your closet. See you then!

Photo by Logan Ripley on Unsplash

The Intersection of Minimalism and Sustainability

Simple LivingSarah Anne HayesComment

If you've been on a simple living journey for longer than a few months, it's probably taken a few twists and turns you didn't expect. I know that's certainly been the case for me.

When I started researching minimalism nearly three years ago, I never would've anticipated I'd be here three years later regularly blogging about it, seeking to simplify more and more areas of my life, and — the most surprising — becoming an advocate for not just simple living, but sustainable living as well.

A couple of weeks ago, during an overnight stop with my best friend on my way down to Florida, we talked about some of the shifts I've made personally regarding sustainability and how much it's become a passion of mine. She laughed a little, because when we met 15 years ago, she was all about those things, meanwhile I was collecting Old Navy flip flops in every color of the rainbow (and then some).


Much like minimalism and, by extension, simple living, I stumbled onto my passion for sustainability.

I don't remember exactly when it happened to be honest, but at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, as I continued to minimize and curate my wardrobe, I found myself recognizing that if I wanted fewer items in my wardrobe, they needed to be of a higher quality or I would be at Target buying $8 t-shirts every other month.

This led me to do research on how to find higher quality items, which ultimately led me to an article about fast fashion. In the same way that 7 smacked me in the face with my habits of overconsumption in 2014, this article smacked me in the face with the reality that what I consumed was just as important as how much of it I consumed.

Over the next several months, I continued to do more research and realized that not only are our consumption habits killing us, they're killing our planet as well. Much like that day in October 2014, I knew something needed to change.


When you stop to think about it, minimalism and sustainability pair incredibly well together because they share one major belief — quality over quantity.

The minimalist believes it is better to own fewer, higher quality items because it reduces clutter and, by extension, stress. It allows you to spend less time taking care of stuff and more time taking care of things and people you love. It allows you to spend less money on unnecessary purchases and focus it more on the things that are important to you. 

The sustainability advocate believes it is better to own fewer, higher quality items because it reduces the impact on the planet. It lessens the strain on non-renewable resources. It encourages you to view physical possessions as worthy of care and repair rather than something to be discarded at a moment's notice.

Both philosophies have the same result — you buy better so you can buy less.


If your entry point to the quality over quantity mindset was through minimalism or simple living, you might not see why sustainability is important. Just like shifting from a traditional consumerist mindset to that of a minimalist, understanding the importance of sustainability requires a shift in mindset as well.

I don't talk about it here on the blog much, but I am a Christian. I believe everything on this earth, from our homes to our physical bodies, is a gift that's been given to us by God, and that includes the earth itself. The Bible is clear about the importance of stewardship — of caring well for the gifts you have been given — and that's one of the major reasons sustainability is important to me.

But even if you don't approach stewardship from the avenue of faith, it's still important to consider how the choices we make now affect our own lives and those of future generations.

Thanks to our current use of plastic for the packaging of countless items combined with its inability to break down, there are now 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of the ocean and enough plastic to coat the entire planet in clingfilm. The amount of food wasted each year emits billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air and the United States alone produces 15 million tons of textile waste annually.

The numbers are staggering and if something about what we consume and how much we consume doesn't change soon, our planet could be in real trouble. 

While technological progress and industrialization has done a lot for humankind, it has not always been kind to our planet and it's time we start thinking about the long-term effects of such progress.

Minimalism is about reducing the excess from your life so you can focus on the things that are important. If you ask me, taking better care of this planet we live on is pretty high up there on things that should be important.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash