Extreme Packing Tips from a Mom of 15 {tutorial}

Packing clothing for a few days’ trip takes some organization for any sized family, but when that family includes a number of small children, the task can seem daunting!

Extreme packing tips from a mom of 15


As I related in this earlier post, we started traveling regularly as a family back when we had nine children, the oldest only thirteen years old.

Since we homeschool, we don’t usually worry too much about what the children wear most days. This doesn’t mean we go around in our pajamas, far from it! It just means that if the little boys want to wear their army outfits every day for weeks (being washed regularly, of course) this is just fine with us (one of our sons wore his army gear until it fell apart!). Or, if one of our girls has been reading through all of Jane Austin’s novels and wants to wear her favorite empire-waisted dresses over and over, no one gives it a second thought.

However, when we began traveling, as I related in an earlier post, our destinations were usually retreats and conferences, which meant the clothing our children wore to these events could not look like they had come from a rag pile! The clothes not only needed to be coordinated and more formal than our usual fair, but they had to at least look new.

However, creating a different wardrobe for a trip was an expensive undertaking, and even though the kids needed to look as though we had an unlimited allowance for clothing, the opposite was true! The money we spent for clothing was carved out of a budget that had to cover many, many other bases, so I had to be careful just how much (or little) I spent. In order to have clothing that seemed nice and new, I had to start going through the clothes we already had on hand and shopping thrift stores and garage sales months in advance of each trip. There was actually a Goodwill “outlet” store near our home where the clothing and other items were sold by the pound! Many bargains and treasures were found there, some almost new but just missing a button or sporting a hem that was partially out. If the shoes there were a little scuffed and worn, we found ways to renew and revive them.

I would take all of the wardrobe items and gather them together in a special place, washing and mending them as needed. Then, just about a week or so before we started out, I would begin the packing process.

I learned long ago that being the mother of so many children was far beyond my mental capabilities, so, as always, I laid the problem of coordinating and packing so much before the Lord in prayer and awaited His answer (in accordance withPhilippians 4:6-7). Praise His holy name, He gave to me a system that helped me for over 10 years, and I believe it can bless you, too!

Here is the system I learned:

1. Launder all items.

2. Iron and starch (the starch is very important; it refreshes clothing and makes it look new, and it prevents most wrinkling) every piece of clothing (even underwear if necessary).

Iron clothes with for packing with starch to make them look new.

3. Place outfits together for each child, for each day, and for every different event. This includes socks (or tights), underwear, tops, bottoms, etc.

4. Stack each outfit with the largest item on the bottom, the next largest on top of that, and so-on.

Put a complete outfit together


5. Fold the sides of the stack each approximately 1/3 to the inside, then roll up in sleeping-bag fashion and secure the bundle with a rubber band.

Fold in the sides 1

fold in the sides 2

fold in the sides 3

6. Label each bundle with the name of the child and the day and/or event. For example, if we were going to an evening service the first night, I would label it, “Day 1, Evening.”

label with the day and or time the outfit will be worn

7. I kept these bundles in separate piles for the children so that I could pack them away easily into their “luggage.”

As I mentioned previously, our budget was pretty stretched, and there just wasn’t any extra for luggage, not even at thrift store prices!

So, after prayer, I came up with another idea: pillow cases!

place bundles in pillowcase and secure top with a rubber band

We had been given mounds of these, in all sorts of different colors and patterns, perfect for distinguishing each child’s clothing. What’s more, these sacks fit easily under the seats of our 15-passenger van.

place pillowcases under the seats of your car or van


Since the clothes were all in neat bundles, there was no fear of them all ending up a jumbled, wrinkled mess. Of course, a few items still needed to be “freshened up” with an iron before they were completely presentable, but an iron and ironing board were usually included in the hotel room furnishings, and most items didn’t need any extra touches.

  • Shoes were wrapped in plastic bags (could be grocery bags) and included in the pillow cases.

put shoes in plastic bags secured with a rubber band


  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste were included in my personal hygiene bag, each in its own zip-style bag. I kept track of these for all of the children! A comb and brush were also included, one for each bathroom (we usually required two adjoining rooms). I kept track of the barrettes for all of the little girls. I also kept all of the baby items and made sure that I took along things such as stomach remedies, fever relievers, bandages, and other things little people need! I relied on zip-style bags to keep everything I took along organized for easy retrieval when needed.
  • The older girls were allowed to take a purse with their own personal items.
  • Bathing suits and swimming pool items had their own bag.
  • Extra pillow cases were brought to be used for dirty laundry. These were kept in the bottom of the hotel room closets in each room.
  • Daddy and I were able to use the few luggage items we did own, and we usually shared these with the tiniest baby. Of course, our clothing was not rolled and bundled with rubber bands, although the outfits in my garment bag were bundled together with a rubber band around the tops of the hangers!
  • I always made sure to bring a number of quarters and some laundry detergent (the detergent from dispensers is very expensive) just in case we needed to do a load or two of laundry during our stay.

I can’t tell you how much stress this saved me over the years! Instead of scrambling and squabbling each day, everyone knew just what he/she was going to wear when, and the children even felt very special opening their “new” outfits and showing them off in public.

Besides all this, it was a marvelous way to plan for the next season of clothing–and this large family mom is always looking for ways to get two (or two hundred) things done at once!

What are some of the tips you use when you pack?


5 thoughts on “Extreme Packing Tips from a Mom of 15 {tutorial}”

  1. What a cool system for packing! I love it, and it will be very helpful in our travels. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  2. Thanks for this. We recently went on a big trip. It was casual so I didn’t iron and starch as most clothes were knit and looked fairly neat after being rolled. The rubber bands helped so much to prevent the mismatched outfits that usually occur at the end of the trip when I just stack outfits up and the children rifle through to find what they want. I have five kids now and I needed this post to push me out of the mentality I had with 1, 2, and 3 children where I could just be in charge of what they wore each day.


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