If minimalism is about being intentional with what you have and surrounding yourself with only the things that you need and use, then packing for a camping trip is great training…even for a professional organizer.  

I learned this lesson a few weeks ago when my husband and I went on our first-ever camping trip. We spent weeks preparing and buying all the gear we anticipated needing. We even had a trial run sleepover in the backyard. 

As a professional organizer, I was impressed with how compact, functional, and ingenious camping gear is these days. Our tent folds into a small sack, and the sleeping mats deflate and roll up. The cooking pots have handles that fold in, allowing the pots to nest together neatly. The cutlery does double-duty as forks and spoons. Even the LED lantern serves as our phone charger. 

But despite how minimal and compact the gear was, we still had the challenge of fitting everything we needed for 3 days into the back of our Mini Cooper. 

To figure out what we needed to bring, I started by visualizing each event of the day and making a list of all the supplies required for each event. From sleeping to cooking, to cleaning, to recreation, I used the list to guide me, but when it came time to pack, I still needed to pare it down and make some tough choices. 

It was similar to the process I used when working in a client’s home. Pull everything out and start editing back what you don’t need or use. Start by eliminating the duplicates and the single-use items. 

With only enough room for a very small cooler, we had to plan our meals carefully. We had to count out the portions and decant from bulky packaging into smaller containers. It was fun to think about how we could reuse and repurpose the containers after each meal, turning yogurt tubs into mixing bowls and chip bags into trash bags, and even the melted ice in the cooler could be drinking water if needed. 

And we applied the same minimalist approach to everything else – clothes had to work in layers and as pajamas. Only one book each and one luxury item (I chose to bring my pillow, my husband brought his mini travel guitar). 

minimal tent camping
minimal living in a tent

Packing our gear into our Mini Cooper was a game of Tetris. It took trial and error to get it all in, but by putting in the large items first, we could fill the smaller surrounding spaces with softer items. Anything we might need on the road was packed last. Everything had a place.  

Living with less for a few days reminded us that we don’t need as much as we have in our day-to-day lives. We can reuse, recycle, and do without. Having fewer choices to make freed up our time and allowed us to enjoy a minimal lifestyle truly…at least for a few days.