Packing: How Many Clothes to Bring?

Kiara Smith
May 29, 2018

Are you searching for advice on packing for an extended stay abroad while your clothes await your careful choices? Have you heard other students regretting their overstuffed suitcases and don't want to repeat their mistakes? In this article I'm going to explain my method for making sure I don't pack too many clothes (and that I don't pack too few!).

Obviously, people pack differently. My friend, who left for China a few weeks ago, packed two hours before she left for the airport. She was comfortable with either going without or re-buying whatever she forgot. I could never do that. Two weeks out from my own departure to Berlin for two months, I practiced packing to see what I will want to bring before I leave.

For the past few years I have practiced minimalism, meaning I strive to own only things that I use and that bring my joy––thus paring down my belongings significantly compared to the average American. Almost all of my possessions can already fit inside a small carry-on suitcase and my trusty backpack; packing shouldn't be difficult for me since I can theoretically bring my entire wardrobe and still leave space for souvenirs. However, the fewer things I pack the lighter and easier to maneuver my suitcase will be––not to mention that bringing everything just in case is not the minimalist's way.

In order to know how much to pack, you must figure out: how often will you be able to wash your clothes?

For me, I know my homestay is in an apartment complex which will probably have access to a washer nearby, if not in the building; therefore, I will plan to wash my clothes every two weeks.

What you do is figure out how many times you have to wear a category (ie socks) in the time period between washes––in my case, fourteen days. Then think about how many times you can wear any given piece before you'll want to wash them (given the type of clothing, climate, personal preference, etc). For example, I can typically wear a pair of socks twice before I wash them. I will probably wear socks nine days out of fourteen (since I have a pair of shoes which don't require socks). Nine days divided by two wears per sock equals around five pairs of socks. Done!

To use another easy example, in fourteen days I will wear a pair of underwear every day, and I only wear underwear once before washing them. Thus, I will need at least fourteen pairs of underwear. Personally, since underwear are so small and wearing dirty pairs is so gross, I will probably bring around seventeen pairs just to be safe.

To use a more complicated example, let's talk shirts. Some shirts can be worn a few times before anyone notices (i.e. flannels) and some can only be worn a few times (i.e. tank tops). Do the basic math shown above: for me, fourteen days equals fourteen tops. Consider your country's climate and how many different kinds of tops you will need; Berlin ranges from hot to chilly in the summer, so I am bringing one or two shirts from different warmth levels, like sweaters, t-shirts, and tank tops. Also, remember that dresses, if you bring some, count as tops and bottoms.

I am bringing four dresses (each worn once in fourteen days) and seven tops (mostly worn once in fourteen days). I could probably bring fewer tops or dresses, but it's important to bring a range of clothes for temperature changes.

Bottoms are similar to shirts in considering each piece individually in terms of number of wears per wash. What you don't want to forget is making sure you're bottoms and your tops match! If you have a cute pair of pants you can wear three times per wash, but you only have one shirt to wear it with, then you won’t get your full use out of it. I am bringing five bottoms each to be worn twice (and of course my four dresses).

Keep in mind that these numbers are just guidelines! If you want to bring a statement jacket or fancy skirt you might only wear once or twice, do it! Just remember that it takes up extra space and make sure that not all of your clothes are statement pieces and will hold up to the extra wear. Personally, I am bringing a snazzy white crop top for those fancier nights out. If you were struggling with how to pack at the beginning of this article, I hope you’ve found some inspiration for where to start!

Kiara Smith

<p>I study Nutritional Sciences and Linguistics, with a focus in Dietetics and Sociolinguistics respectively, in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. I am also minoring in German and Korean. Outside of the classroom I volunteer with the Beekeeper's Club and LGBTA Resource Center at PSU and work part time for Hillel (delivering kosher soup, actually!). During breaks I like cooking, gardening, and playing D&amp;D with friends.&nbsp;</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
Penn State University
State College, PA
German Language
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