Sunday, 5 April 2009

Living out of a suitcase

Once upon a time, I lived out of a gym bag. For a year or so after I met DH, I'd pack my bag on a Friday morning with whatever I thought I'd need for the weekend, put on my suit for work and head out for the next three days. In those days, when I was waiting for Dumbo to buy me out of the house we'd shared, I spent as little time at home as possible. I was gone from Friday morning to Sunday evening, every weekend. After work, I'd see DH ("DB" as he was then) virtually every evening, get home late and leave early.

Sometimes, I didn't get home at all. There was one memorable Thursday when, after donating blood, I nearly passed out in an Italian restaurant (note to self: don't drink red wine directly after giving blood it dilates the blood vessels too much). DH calmed down the waiter ("No, there is nothing wrong with the food. It's lovely. She's just given blood and feels faint."). I limped back to his place and crashed out. Not wanting to drive halfway across London and back in Friday evening traffic, I went out and bought myself a new 16-inch head gym bag and a weekend wardrobe. Some crafty shopping later, I got the bag, tennis shoes, jeans, 2 tee-shirts, a cardigan, underwear and toiletries for my £50 budget.

That gym bag survived until last year. I used it for long weekends away, overnight trips for work and, of course, trips to the gym. It pretty much died on a work trip to the Netherlands - the zipper tag ripped off and the contents crushed. That was the last straw. On the way home, I wandered the luggage shop at Schiphol checking out the carry-on bags and blanching at the price.

A couple of weeks later, I bought "Junior" for £10 from Tesco. It's a Relic small trolley case: 25L capacity, with an expandable front that adds another 10L; 46cm/18 inches high, 34cm/13.5 inches wide, 19cm/8 inches deep with an additional 5cm/2 inches available.

Not a huge case but, with planning, large enough to hold an entire week's clothes.

And a laptop.

Of course, packing such a small case for a week working away poses a challenge, but I'd rather a bag I can lift and carry easily than something larger. Here are my tricks:-
  • Consider your travel clothes. Usually, I drive up on a Tuesday and go straight to the Site office; sometimes I've driven up on a Sunday afternoon/evening instead. Either way, whatever I'm wearing is part of the grander plan for my wardrobe for the rest of the week. On a Tuesday morning, I'll drive up in my suit, wearing my work shoes; on a Sunday, I'll wear my jeans, smart cardigan and trainers.
  • Capsule wardrobes are your friends. The classic "capsule" is a suit jacket with matching trousers and skirt; if you're lucky, it'll be sold with a dress, too, or an alternative skirt. Recently, I tend to wear the suit from this post: charcoal grey with a pink pinstripe in the jacket and first pair of trousers, plain charcoal grey second set of trousers. I'll add a second "jacket" in the form of a black or grey smart cardigan, and alternate between the options.
  • Think monochrome. Everything you pack/wear must go with everything else. My work wardrobe is built around grey and black suits. I add colour and contrast with blouses, t-shirts and finely knitted sweaters. Whatever I take to wear at Site must be wearable with either suit option.
  • Think multi-purpose. The smart cardigan I'll wear in the office is also the cardigan I'll cuddle up in in the evenings and wear with my jeans on dress-down-Friday. The shoes I'll wear into the office have to go with both skirts and trousers. For my casual shoes, I'll pack my running trainers - in the hope I'll go for a run in the mornings.
  • Think fabric. Knits don't hold creases, neither does crepe or wool flannel. I hate ironing anyway, so rarely wear stuff that needs it.
  • Think slimline. It has to fold up small. Fitted clothes take up less space, too.
  • Think small. Don't lug around huge bottles of shampoo or conditioner. If you don't like the regular hotel toiletries, buy 100ml travel-sized bottles and fill them up with your regular stuff. Or get samples of your favourite products - Clinique regularly have offers. I pack shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, toner, moisturiser, cotton wool pads, a wide-tooth comb, a razor for my legs, body lotion, crystal deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush and floss, all in a small toiletries bag. Here it is with my phone and makeup bag for size comparison.

  • For makeup, again, go for samples where possible. Pack only the basics: you don't need 10 lipsticks, when you'll only wear one. Swap your regular makeup-base-plus-powder for an all-in-one compact.
  • Keep some essentials in your travel case at all times. My spare phone charger lives in Junior, as does a couple of week's supply of thyroxin. That way, I can't leave home without them.
  • Pack something to read and something to entertain you. I'll pack a book, a small knitting project (usually a sock), my MP3 player and, more recently, my personal laptop. One way or another, I won't be bored. The MP3 player and my travelling knitting project usually go in my handbag.
And my final piece of advice: remember, if you forget something, you can always buy it when you get there.

- Pam

1 comment:

Myownigloo said...

Heh heh. Reminds me of when I was married to a Dumbo of my own and kept a fully packed bag in the trunk of the car in case little daughter and I needed to flee for a weekend or so, which we did a few times.

Good times! (Glad they're gone.)