Practical Matters: Three Packing Tips I Live (and Swear) By, by Feifei Sun, with illustration by Jonny Ruzzo first appeared Ker & Downey’s QUEST Magazine. To read the current issue of QUEST magazine online, click here, and be sure to stay up to date on all of QUEST’s online content by following the QUEST Facebook page.

Like many travel writers, I learned how to make the most of small spaces by living in one myself—an 800 square-foot apartment in New York City, shared with two roommates, to be exact. My bedroom didn’t even have a closet; I hung up nice dresses on a $20 metal rack I purchased from IKEA and kept tees, sweaters and jeans in suitcases. It was great preparation for my career as a travel writer, especially since I never check bags, even for weeklong trips. How do I make that work? Here are my go-to tips:

Packing Light

Make a List. Then Edit it.

As soon as I get my trip itinerary, I go through the events and activities and write out what kind of outfits I’ll need. I find that people often think they need to pack more than they’ll actually wear—and hav- ing a written list keeps that habit in check. Your list doesn’t have to be specific; often I’ll write, “one nice dress, three casual outfits,” or something to that effect. After I complete the list, I’ll go back and see what I can cut out or wear twice. I often get away with wearing the same little black dress for two separate dinners by changing jewelry or the sweater I toss over it.

Everything Must Match

You can make a handful of pieces go the extra mile by making sure everything matches with the next piece—meaning ev- ery shirt you pack must go with every pair of shorts or jeans you pack and so forth. I find it’s easiest to accomplish this goal by sticking to neutrals. In fact, it’s rare to see me in something other than whites, grays or black on a press trip. A white shirt isn’t going to make the same impact as a vibrant, patterned dress, but your travel- ing companions aren’t likely to notice that you’re repeating an outfit as a result.

Skip the “Travel” Routine

Pack what you wear and use in your every- day life and resist the temptation to pack things you think you’ll want when traveling. If you don’t use a face spritz or calming oil in your everyday beauty regimen, you’re probably not going to use them while travel- ing either—even if they seem like perfect airplane items. The same applies to special pumps, shawls or that spunky fuchsia lip- stick that you never seem to wear in real life. Only pack what you know you’ll use.

Feifei Sun is a former editor of TIME, where she oversaw the magazine’s style and design content and worked on special issues like the TIME 100 and person of the year. She was also an editorial assistant at Vanity fair, blogging about photography and fashion.