Carson’s 10 Commandments: Packing Tips and Strategies

Stylist extraordinaire Carson Love is my fairy godmother of fashion (read our previous Q&A here), and one of my favorite services she offers is packing clients for trips. We’re lucky enough to be heading out of town for July 4th, and Carson swung by last week to help me pull clothes and get organized. I’m a serial over-packer and really value her .02 on how to keep things streamlined and efficient. Watching this woman pack a suitcase is like watching the Queen at work – she’s a total pro and within an hour, she had my outfits pulled and a look book made (more on that below). Carson was kind enough to let me share her process with y’all, so without further ado, I give you Carson’s 10 Commandments, Packing Edition (overstuffed suitcases, be gone!).


Pick your luggage first. Are you checking your bag or bringing it on board? Using a suitcase or a small weekender? Make that choice BEFORE you pull clothes. It’s much easier to make wardrobe decisions when you know how much space you’ll have.

Decide on a color scheme and stick to it. This makes it much easier to mix, match, and reuse pieces which is important when you’re trying to pack light (or at least, lighter). Obviously the Fourth is coming up, so we decided on a mostly blue and white palette with some red sprinkled in. Since I’m checking my bag (vs. using a rollaboard) I have some extra space, so we threw in a few multicolored dresses that coordinate with the accessories I have for the red/white/blue looks.

Start with the things you know you’ll need. Going to a wedding? Pull out your party dress and accessories first. Meeting up with friends for a lake weekend? Make sure you have plenty of bathing suits and coverups. Whatever your agenda, think activity by activity and cover those items before anything else. Once you have the essentials, you can fill in with other pieces. This way, you’re less likely to forget something important.

Remember: priority vs. variety. I know, I know – we all like choices. But Carson makes the excellent point that if we’re being honest, we all have that one pair of jeans we like more than the others, or that special dress we feel particularly great in. Just play the hits and pack your favorites. You’ll feel more confident and at the end of the day, who needs 3 pairs of jeans for a long weekend?!

Make a mini “look book.” Take pictures of all the outfit/accessory combinations you’re packing and save them to an album on your phone. This takes the thought out of getting ready so you can focus on having fun! Plus, you always end up with more ensembles than you can use (for my upcoming trip, we have 25 outfit choices just by combining different pieces). As such, you can continue to reference these look books for future vacations or even on those days at home when you have no idea what to wear. All of the photos in this post (see below!) are from the look book she just made me.

You can do something similar for your children’s clothes, too, so Grandma/Grandpa/your husband knows exactly what you want the kids to wear and can help get them dressed.

Plan your plane outfit. Eliminate “morning-of-trip” stress and decide what to wear on the plane in advance. Of course this also helps strategize your packing because you know what to leave out of the suitcase. Often I wear some of the harder-to-pack items, like a blazer or a pair of wedges, to free up suitcase space.

Par down the shoes. You aren’t Imelda Marcos. Make the hard choices and bring a few pairs that coordinate with the majority of your planned outfits. Same goes for clutches/evening bags.

Always pack a steamer. Carson swears by this steamer (affiliate link). It’s budget-friendly so she suggests keeping one in your closet and one in your suitcase so you never forget it. Genius!

Save those duster bags. When you get a new pair of shoes, chuck the bulky shoebox but keep any duster bags that are included. Obviously these protect your shoes when packing, but you can also use them for swimsuits, undies, socks, and even laundry.

Know how to pack oddly-shaped items. For things like wide-brimmed straw hats or purses, completely stuff the inside with workout clothes, sarongs, socks, sports bras, etc. Then lay the item into your suitcase and gently tuck more clothes around it to secure/protect it. You can continue to layer more clothes on top without crushing the item because the “stuffing” will help retain the shape.

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