No one thought I could do it. My friends and family didn’t believe in me. Well, I’m happy to say I proved them all wrong. I spent three months living out of a carry-on and I didn’t need to buy new clothes even once. I was about to embark on a three-month journey that would take me from Orange County to New York City to Pittsburgh to Stockholm, then back to Pittsburgh, and finally home to Orange County. I knew I wouldn’t want to be weighed down by heavy baggage over the following months and I also was not eager to check bags — and pay fees — for the 10 different flights I would be taking. Hence my journey began with a single carry-on filled to the brim with the bare minimum.
How I Did It
Credit where credit is due, I don’t think I could have done it without my Away carry-on. Seriously, that bag can squeeze in a lot of clothes. I was able to fit two pairs of shoes, three pairs of pants, a dozen T-shirts and tank tops, three dresses, a bikini, shorts, two sweaters, two sweatshirts, undergarments, pajamas, and was even able to bring my hair straightener along for the ride. It may have been a team effort at times to actually zip it, but it did the trick. When it came time to pack, I basically created a travel capsule wardrobe. I could only bring one pair of tennis shoes, one sandal that worked for the beach and walking around, and one pair of slightly dressy shoes. Because my shoe options were so limited, I knew everything I brought with me had to match them; the same theory applied to pants. I had one pair of jeans, one nicer non-denim pant, and one pair of workout leggings. This meant that all tops had to work with those pants. When packing, I mapped out a color scheme (neutrals for the most part) and chose items that could be dressed up or down like camisoles and classic button-downs. I also only packed items I absolutely loved. It was pretty easy to make do with my limited wardrobe when it was all my favorite styles.
What I Learned
Because I wouldn’t have room in my luggage to bring anything home with me after the trip, shopping basically became a no-go. This meant that I was able to worry less about trying to find the perfect souvenir or chic outfit while traveling. I also had no choice but to ignore many alluring sale alerts from my favorite brands. Of course, there were temptations, but I really wasn’t able to act on them. Before I left on this journey, I was shopping in person or online pretty frequently. Even though I often didn’t make a purchase, I spent a lot of time hoping to find the perfect styles. What I realized during my forced shopping freeze was that I already had so many clothes that I loved. I found other non-shopping related ways to fill my time and found I was more active and read more frequently. Less time scrolling for style inspiration on Instagram meant more time practicing my French vocabulary.
My Closet Today
Before my travels began, I was curious to see what effect wearing the same outfits day after day would have on my personal style. To my surprise, when I came home, I was still primarily reaching for the same clothes I’d packed on my trip. Over the years I’ve allowed social media or trends to dictate my style choices and my wardrobe wasn’t as cohesive as I wanted it to be. Now I know with absolute certainty what works for me. Classic button downs, simple sweaters, anything navy or dove grey, straight legged pants, chunky sandals, high necklines, and a good trench coat are all likely to make the cut.
How I’ve Changed
For me, shopping was just a habit I formed over time and was fueled by not wanting to miss a great deal or turning it into a social outing. Fortunately, I had three months to beat my bad habit. I still enjoy shopping, but it’s not my go-to anymore. I’ve been home for longer than I was gone and I’m proud to say the only thing I’ve bought was three more of the exact T-shirt I wore nonstop over the summer during a Black Friday sale. I know I wasn’t really spending much money while shopping and even though I’d often come home from the mall empty-handed, I still felt the desire to go. Now that desire is pretty non-existent. Do I want shiny new things? Of course. But would I rather meet my best friend for a walk or spend an afternoon at home with my family than go shopping? Absolutely.
Thanks to my forced spending freeze, my closet is more organized, my wallet is fatter, and I’m no longer turning to retail therapy when I need a little boost. How’s that for a souvenir?