How I Transform My Chaotic Wardrobe Into A Super-Organized Travel Spreadsheet

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As I discussed last week in my post about the all-powerful capsule wardrobe, my own closet (and general sense of style) are much messier than can be contained in a capsule. I have several distinct looks I rotate through on a whim, own several precious pieces that fit in with absolutely nothing else, and, inspired by a few inherited pieces from my grandmother, cultivate a bit of a fondness for completely impractical outerwear. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the ease and versatility that a perfectly-curated-and-minimalized wardrobe would imply, it’s just that, for me, a bit of chaos in style is exactly like a bit of chaos in the kitchen: constant experimentation means happy surprises, heightened creativity, and a minor hobby in the process.

For this reason, I’ve always found travel-packing to be particularly difficult, as I am someone who is prone to always, without fail, bring far too much in the interest of always having options. I also know that, for most of my trips, laundry won’t be an option, so my need to always err on the side of “too many clothes” is rooted in at least some kind of practicality. But I hate limiting myself, and I hate the idea of bringing one pair of pants and just rotating out a bunch of boring tops. I will always prefer to check a bag and carry more stuff if I’m going for a decent chunk of time, because part of what feels so great about travel is all of one’s travel #looks. If I don’t get to have some sartorial fun while I’m away, what’s the point?

This means that I’ve had to find a solution somewhere in the middle: yes, I can pack relatively heavily, and don’t have to go minimalist just because I’m getting on a plane. However, I have to be sure that everything I’m bringing is getting used, and that each outfit/item is accounted for. This has translated to a spreadsheet I make for each trip in Google Sheets, where I go over everything from the details of the trip (weather, outfit needs, aesthetic inspo), to the actual outfit combinations themselves. (Lauren was kind enough to turn it into a fancy lil’ PDF for the purposes of this post!)

For this example, I’m sharing my spreadsheet for my upcoming (this Friday!) 10-day trip to France, mostly to be spent in Paris, with a few days at Marc’s Grandmother’s farm in the South. This spreadsheet will continue to be tweaked as the flight draws near — I’m sure I’ve forgotten stuff, and I’ll be filling out the individual gifts as we figure them out — but this is the basic structure of it. The theme I’ve picked is a neutral palette with a few pops of red, and my inspo is “Inès de la Fressange hanging out in the 6th,” which is something along these lines. (Frankly, just Googling that woman’s name is an lifespo gold mine.) But essentially, the idea is lots of focus on pants, blazers, simple tops, walkable-but-chic shoes, neutral outerwear, and a sporty-yet-put-together look. There will be a few exceptions, but that’s the overall idea, and it goes well with the weather forecast.

Allowing myself to think in palettes/themes, and then plan it out to the last detail, helps me narrow down my frankly chaotic wardrobe into something that feels simultaneously creative and organized. I’m not going totally minimalist, but I’m also not just shoving everything I might want to wear into a bag. I’m somewhere in the middle, and it’s the right fit for me.

CHELSEA's FRENCH PACKING LIST

CHELSEA's FRENCH PACKING LIST2

CHELSEA's FRENCH PACKING LIST3

If, like me, you’re a bit of an over-packer, and don’t want to choose between any of your beloved #looks when going on a trip, I recommend this strategy. It’s easy, meditative, and actually kind of fun to put together!

Bon voyage!

Image via Flickr

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  • Christian Gonzales

    This is exhausting just looking at this. I mean props for putting it together because its of course meant to make the process easier but DAMN!

    • chelseafagan

      🙁

      • Scissors

        Oh don’t be sad! This is really interesting. I’m a much lighter packer but I’m also quite disorganized so I think the idea of having a spreadsheet is very useful.

  • Abby S

    I’m loving this…great inspo for packing which I need. Have a very similar wardrobe to yours and tend to over pack without a plan (and end up packing a few items that match nothing). Also, gave me some outfit ideas! Thanks!

  • KJO

    I am ALSO flying to France on Friday for about the same amount of time – thank you for making my packing list infinitely easier 🙂 Can I ask what kind of oxfords you own? I’ve been trying to find a nice pair, but every style I find makes me look like a professional bowler…

    • chelseafagan

      How cool! And they look almost exactly like this, but patent! (I got them at TJ Maxx)

      http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-thing?.out=jpg&size=l&tid=115216126

      • KJO

        Cool, thanks! Those are cute!

  • It is so hard to pack for trips! I certainly pack much less than this because I tend to not even wear make up when away on vacation.

  • carrie

    I do this too! Except I don’t recommend traveling with (as my mom calls it) “the good stuff”: diamond earrings, grandma’s jewelry, etc. I’m too afraid of losing it somewhere (especially abroad!). I have a cheap watch (that doesn’t look too junky) from Target that I use when I travel in case I leave it on the nightstand or whatever. That’s just my opinion though! I know it’s nice to have your favorite accessories (especially if they go with a lot of things) when you’re away from home.

  • alyjarrett

    Perfect timing!! I’m traveling to Europe for 2 weeks next month, and I’m committing to a carry on backpack, personal bag, and nothing else. Packing will be intimidating but this will help a ton!

  • Alexis

    You write packing/outfit combination lists when you travel? *sobs* I thought I was the ONLY ONE!!
    Seriously though, your planning sounds superb: well edited and considered but not so spare as to be boring/too easy to spot the tourist 🙂 Have a great time!

    • chelseafagan

      Thank you!! *Recoils slightly at the word ‘tourist’* haha

  • Summer

    While I do prefer to pack light—largely because it seems that no matter how much planning I do, I tend to re-wear the same things and 70% of what I brought remains untouched—I really like the level of organization here. I also make lists to remember not to forget things, but I usually glaze over the clothing section of said list (despite the fact that it’s arguably the most important). I’ll put outfits together in my head…sort of, but more often than not, I’m not happy when I go to put something on for the day. Hence the cycle of wearing the same crap over and over because it basically boils down to to, “fuck it, this is comfortable and nobody cares if I wore it yesterday anyway.” I absolutely need to do better with not just mentally composing outfits, but actually trying everything on as I would plan to wear it BEFORE I pack it.

    I’m flying to Orlando (ick) next week and then Reykjavik (YAY!) for a day/night on my way back to Germany, and I have been puzzling over what to bring with me, so this is as a good a time as any to implement a new strategy.

  • Great idea! My list would probably be a lot shorter b/c I’m boring like that when it comes to my outfits, but it’s good to have an idea going in. 🙂

  • chelster759

    I always write out a packing list by hand with outfits by day/activity, but now I’m tempted to unleash my spreadsheet obsession on my next trip. Seeing everything laid out makes it so much easier to see where I can consolidate or get multiple uses out of something, and thinking in outfits helps make sure I don’t forget the right bra or a pair of tights, etc.

  • Stef

    Bless you! Heading to Zambia tomorrow and haven’t packed yet (granted, Zambia’s a bit (read: MUCH) less fancy than France, but still, it’s a work trip so…) and this has helped me immensely!