I Tried the “333 Method” to Pack My Carry-On Bag, and I Can’t Believe How Much Space I Saved

published Jun 27, 2024
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Shoes lined up beside bag of rolled clothes.
Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

While my packing technique has improved thanks to packing cubes, I still default to using a larger suitcase every time. But after seeing TikTok creator Rachel Spencer’s 333 method of packing a capsule wardrobe, I’m ready to start traveling with much smaller luggage again.

What Is the 333 Method?

The 333 method is simple: Pack three tops, three bottoms, and three pairs of shoes, then mix and match for at least nine different outfits or 27 different looks if you’re counting the various shoe options, too.

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Now, I can get on board easily with the three shoes and three bottoms, but sticking to just three tops is a bit tricky. I’m no fashionista, but I like to change things up when I’m on vacation, which usually means a different top (maybe even two!) each day. But after seeing Spencer curate a whopping 19 outfits out of her nine pieces, I realized that it was possible to change up my look without overpacking. I watched her video about half a dozen times and took notes.

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Spencer selected tops that could be layered or stand-alone for different looks. For example, she wore her cardigan buttoned up, open, and even flipped around so it looked like a pullover. She also selected a basic white tank as one of her tops, which made a great base layer, and her trio of shoes could be worn with every outfit to dress them up/down accordingly.

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

How I Used the “333 Method” to Pack My Carry-on Overnight Bag

I was inspired by Spencer’s careful curation of her tops, especially her strategy of using button-downs to create multiple different looks. So here’s what I dug out of my closet for an upcoming trip.

  • Tops: A button-down cardigan, a button-down shirt, and a black T-shirt
  • Bottoms: Dark jeans, lighter jeans, and black pants
  • Shoes: Sneakers, flats, and wedges
Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

I mixed and matched a few and found that, yes, there were at least nine viable outfits there, and zipped it all up in one packing cube. I packed everything in my new overnight bag. Well, now it’s officially a nine-day bag because it fit the shoes in the bottom compartment and had plenty of room up top for my single packing cube and the rest of my items, including underwear, pajamas, toiletries, and a smaller makeup bag — no way I’m traveling with a half-dozen different lipsticks now that I can change up my look so easily!

While I don’t need nine different outfits on my next trip, this was a fun experiment. And it’s one that I can easily replicate whenever I want to pack light but still feel like I have a lot of wardrobe options.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Tried the “333 Method” to Pack My Carry-On Bag, and I Was Shocked by the Results