From clever colour-blocking to folding techniques, Leigh-Ann Pow shares her expert packing hacks for travelling light. Are you ready to pack like a minimalist?

Ironically, I learned how to be a minimalist packer while working at a fashion magazine. I was in charge of organising trips to picturesque locations, both in Australia and around the world, in order to shoot page after page of images of lithe-limbed beauties in fantastical fashions.

Packing for these trips was a laborious and all-encompassing process of lovingly folding and arranging layer upon layer of the latest designer pieces, and adding endless pairs of vertiginous heels and every iteration of accessory that could be dreamed up, including, on occasion, gems the size of gob-stoppers valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

All this loveliness was eventually contained in a convoy of gigantic hard-shell suitcases that were checked onto flights as part of the luggage allowance of each of the members of the creative team travelling (when I couldn’t beg, steal or borrow a few kilograms of excess baggage at no extra cost), leaving little leftover for anything else but essentials.

Not surprisingly, I became adept at packing enough clothes, shoes and assorted sundries to last two weeks into a bag the size of a carry-on suitcase, or smaller. The secret lies in a careful combination of folding techniques, well-considered colour blocking, and some precision shoving when needs must (usually on the return leg of a trip when I have overindulged at a local market; I once managed to squeeze a wooden side table into my bag on a trip to India).

My packing knowledge transferred seamlessly when I eventually moved from travelling for a fashion magazine to travelling for a travel magazine, whether I am packing for a spell in a frosty winter wonderland or an island escape in the tropics. Granted there are now fewer heels and a few more Converse sneakers in the mix, and the gems have been replaced with more budget-conscious baubles, but the basics are the same.


5 minimalist packing hacks


So, if you crave the freedom of flying in and flitting out of an airport without watching a procession of hernia-inducing cases going around a luggage carousel, try these packing hacks:

1. To roll or flat-pack? There are those who subscribe to the rolling method of packing, but using a combination of rolling and IKEA-worthy flat packing is actually best. The secret is to utilise every inch of space: underwear gets rolled and squeezed into the corners of a soft bag or down the middle recess of a hard-shell suitcase; ball up socks and pack them into shoes, which then go around the edge of the case; skirts should be folded diagonally, trousers horizontally, but only once, then layered;T-shirts are folded horizontally too. And choose accessories you can wear on the plane

2. Forget suit carriers: a bespoke tailor in Shanghai assured me that jackets will retain their shape if they are folded in on themselves so that the lining is on the outside and the arms are tucked inside; then fold horizontally once.

3. Choose a colour palette and stick to it: everything can then be mixed and matched requiring fewer shoes and accessories. My go-to colours are black, white and red.

4. Don’t iron before you leave: hang clothes up as soon as you arrive and email ahead to request an iron.

5. Use toiletries provided in your room instead of packing them, and don’t take them home; they’ll just take up room in your bag, and in your bathroom cupboard.

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