From the Vault: Come Fare Spazio Nella Tua Vita or How to Make Space in Your Life

Tesoro Irlandese: Day -23 (September 8, 2021)  

How do you decide (come decidi) what to pack when moving away? What is essential (essenziale); what is useful (utile); what has sentimental value (valore sentimentale) but is otherwise a complete and utter waste of space (spreco di spazio)? 

Those who know me well will know that I am a terrible hoarder of things I don’t need; shop receipts (gli scontrini del negozio), ‘collector’ item dolls, snow globes, perfume bottles, multiple copies of the same books, heaps of broken clothes I am adamant I will one day return to their former glory. You name it; if you’re looking for something (cercare qualcosa) in my house, it’s best to come to me. I’ve probably hoarded it for ‘safe-keeping’. 

So, now that it has finally come to having to pack up my whole life to move to Rome, I am REALLY struggling to figure out (per capire) what I need, what I want, and what I can leave behind. 

May I introduce the life saver technique?

The Rule of 5: How to Cut Your Life into Pieces (this is my last resort)

So, your first plan of action is to divide your life into five sections (cinque sezioni). These can be any five sections that best suit you. For example, mine are: 

  1. Clothing (L’abbigliamento)
  2. Beauty (Bellezza)
  3. Books (I libri)
  4. Electronics (L’elettronica)
  5. Hobbies (I Passatempi)

These are the five sections into which you’re going to create further categories of items, creating hierarchies of high, medium and low need. 

How to Make Space In Your Life: Packing Up Clothes

1) Clothing

This is arguably the most time-consuming and difficult (difficile) category if you are like me, filling your closets with as many items of clothing that you can get your hands on, refusing to throw away or donate anything that breaks or no longer fits. In order to figure out what I would actually be wearing in Rome and what I actually like to wear, I took some inspiration from my fashionable and talented cousin, Lauren Paxton, of The Edit: Wardrobe Stylist.

The Edit: Wardrobe Stylist Instagram became my mini-Mecca for creating a functioning and comfortable capsule wardrobe. Following Lauren’s tips and tricks, I gathered all of my favourite clothing items and lay them out, figuring out what is my most versatile piece of clothing and building from there. I figured out what colours were going to work across the seasons (for me, I am a big earth tones girl) and what pieces I can build outfits around with little effort. E quindi, I was ready to play the Rule of 5.

How I played The Rule of 5 for Clothing was by choosing shirts, trousers, t-shirts, skirts, shorts and so on that I really liked and actually wear on a regular basis (regolarmente). I lay out my bases ─ trousers, skirts, shorts, (i pantaloni, le gonne, i pantalonci) ─ and then I tried to match each top and shirt to AT LEAST five of the base items. If I couldn’t, or if there were too few matches, I put it back in the closet (l’armadio). This eliminated many of the items that were either too similar to other items and eliminated some of the heavier skirts & jackets that matched virtually nothing (even if they are super cute).

Eventually, I ended up with a written list with five items on each category of clothing: 5 shirts (le camicie), 5 skirts (le gonne), 5 trousers (i pantaloni), 5 t-shirts (le magliette), 5 dresses (i vestiti), 5 jackets (le giacche) and so on. I then put these 5 things in order of preference and need as I only have one 20kg suitcase (la vaglia) coming with me on the day I move, and two arriving the following week. In my 20kg case that’s travelling with me, I put my highest matching and most essential clothing items. In the other two cases, I divided up my remaining clothing items.

2) Beauty

Next, beauty. Now, as I’ve mentioned previously in another blogpost, I am not a big girly-girl. I don’t spend a lot of time making myself beautiful, doing my hair or nails or makeup. Part of the reason I am so determined to embrace ‘Bella Figura‘ as a concept is to put this to rights.  However, this isn’t to say I don’t have a terrible hoard of makeup and beauty supplies. Oh boy, do I ever.*

So the Rule of 5 came into great use once more. Can you guess how it went?

That’s right: 5 lipsticks/liners, 5 palettes, 5 face cleansing/moisturising products, 5 eye brushes, 5 face brushes, 5 eye products (eye liner, eye brow gel etc.) and so on until I had a bag filled with bare essentials. Seeing as I am going to live in the home of Kiko, bringing this much still feels a bit excessive, but considering the absolute mountain of eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks I currently own, it still feels like quite a victory.

*I seem to have accumulated in the short three years of living in my family’s house a plethora of tester and freebie bottles of Clinque. I don’t mean just a handful. Currently, I have 12 small 50ml ‘Dramatically Different’ moisturisers sitting on a shelf. The kicker? I don’t even use this moisturiser because it’s too oily for my skin type. Why do I have 12 bottles? Beats me. I just can’t bring myself to throw them out.

3) Books

Okay, so maybe I lied and THIS is the hardest category. It’s fine to sneak a cheeky chiffon top in with your five shirts, squeezing it into a secret sixth item (un sesto oggetto segreto). Even a small in-case-of-emergencies (in-caso-di-emergenza) lipstick can be overlooked. But it is much harder to hide all the translated works of Plato into a single ‘book’ and get away with it when it comes to suitcase weight. I entirely scrapped the notion of just five books because c’mon, I’m an English Literature graduate (la saccente di letteratura), however, I did use the Rule of 5 to dictate what kinds of books I could bring in abundance. That list is as follows…
    1) History books and traveller tales
    2) Language books & guide books
    3) Books I have stared at for a solid 5 years repeating, “You’re next, I swear” over and over until I die
    4) Books to warm my heart when things are absolutely horrible (life has a way of doing that sometimes, no matter where you are!)

How this went was almost a Rule of 5 within a Rule of 5. I lay out my top five favourite Roman history texts to consult and my favourite travel novels. I lay out my language and guide books. Then, the books I am desperate to read but just haven’t found the time yet. And following these, I lay out my all-time favourite books that must be at hand in case of a bad day where I need a good escape.

As I was absolutely bringing every single one of these, I decided by order of necessity which were coming with me and which were coming in my later cases. Then, because I am a hot mess who struggles to follow the rules of my own creation, I made the arduous trip up and down from my attic bedroom with my two suitcases to follow me, standing up on the scales with them in my arms to check how many books I could sneak into the bags before I went wildly over the limit. I reckon maybe 5 more…

Maybe if I stuff all my clothes into one suitcase… I could bring more books in my carry-on… Nobody needs to know…
4) Electronics
This one is delightfully straightforward. It functions almost more like a ‘do not forget’ list rather than a difficult-decision-maker
1) Phone & charger (il telefono & il caricatore)
2) Laptop & charger (il portatile & il caricatore)
3) Camera & charger (la fotocamera)
4) Speaker (charger same as camera) (il altoparlante)
5) Hair dryer (l’asciugacapelli)

Packing up to move abroad: What to bring and what to leave behind

5) Hobbies

Again, delightfully straightforward. Pick 5 behaviours you’d class as hobbies. Pick your most necessary items (gli articoli essenziali) for this, and work your way down to item numero cinque (if you have that many; I thankfully don’t). For me, these are: 1) Pole Dance & Fitness (5 dance sets, my hand grip, 5 towels)
2) Music (Guitar capo, pick & songbook)
3) Writing (research journal)
4) Muscle Rehab & Flexibility Training (bands, blocks, ball, wrist & ankle straps)
5) Hoop (gloves, 3 leggings, 3 sports bras)
At this stage, you should be almost completely packed. But don’t forget (non dimenticate)… 

Hand Luggage: Carry-On & Handbag

The ultimate test of packing comes down to these two pieces of hand luggage. If you fly Ryanair like the cheapskate (uno spilorcio) I am, you will want to get every single penny worth of the money they extract from you in the booking process. If I have to pay extra for my cabin bag, you can be DAMNED SURE I am stuffing that thing with as much as I possibly can without incurring further nonsense costs. The carry-on case is also a good place for a laptop and for all the heavy electronics to go, should you need to save some weight in your check-in bag. I also try hard to pile as many of the heavier books into this case to save myself the weight of my check-in. This is also where I put all my stockpiled medicines (thank you trash immune system). I never trust that my check-in bags will arrive in the same country at the same time as I do, so it is important for me to pack this travel-on bag with some essentials should I find myself trapped abroad waiting a week or two for my luggage to reappear. 
Another sneaky thing I enjoy doing is bringing the largest possible handbag I can to further stuff with secret additional clothing and books. At the bottom of my handbag on any day I am travelling by plane, you will find approximately 10 pairs of socks, a few pairs of underwear rolled up tight, 3+ books of varying sizes, a spare phone charger, spare earphones and much more. Anything that can be tightly shoved into my bag below my passport and purse is going in the handbag. Need a hair straightener or an English-Italian dictionary in the airport, anyone? You know who to call! 

So that’s the whole process of packing up my life, broken down across the many ways to play the Rule of 5. I hope you found this somewhat helpful in gathering your s%*t together to make the big move away! 

Alla prossima, 

Ciara O’Síoráin (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)

My Top Tips for Making Space in Your Life: 

  • Donating your unused, unloved clothes is great, but throwing away “friends” who make you feel used and unloved is FAR better. Start making notes. This is a great opportunity to leave behind you a great deal more than just a cigarette-burned shirt you loved when you were sixteen.
  • Don’t forget – wherever you’re going is more than likely going to have shops. So don’t go wild packing silly nonsense. Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Look up TheFoldingLady on TikTok. They have incredible ways of folding your clothes into the tiniest, tiniest balls to fit any nook and cranny. Incredible. Thank me later.

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