Moving Stress? My Car Packing Secrets To Save Space

Rachel HannahFebruary 21, 2021

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This post reveals my top car packing secrets to save space in a small car.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m going on vacation I tend to overpack. I’m SO indecisive when it comes to clothing… Wellllll, when moving across the country in a small car I had to try and break that habit. That was hard for me so I came up with a system to pack my car in a way that saves space!

When I say I packed every inch of my Ford Fusion, I mean it!! I really did not want to leave much behind in Michigan that I would regret leaving and would need to rebuy. I also did not want to bring unnecessary items with me that could be taking up space for more important items.  

1) My secrets to condense your packing list to save space

• decide what goes and what stays

The 3 pile rule

I would make three piles for all categories.  Ex: clothing, desk items, shoes



Not sure

After I’ve packed all the items in the “yes piles” I’d leave the “maybe” pile sitting for a day or two and think about how many times I think I’d use or wear the item.  If the number I came up with didn’t seem worthy enough I’d kick it to the “no” pile.

There were some items I still really want to bring but were optional. I kept them off to the side in my room and waited to see if there’d be room to squeeze them in. If you aren’t at the luxury of leaving items behind at your parents’ house like me you’d want to do this step at least a few weeks in advance to have time to sell certain items.

2) Affordable and space saving packing equipment

• Avoid using too many suitcases and opt for duffle bag type options (no rigid edges)

• Use reusable grocery/ cooler bags instead of boxes for household items

I LOOOOOVE my cooler bag because it zips shut, holds a ton, and is easy to carry over my shoulder. I used them to back up my toiletries. It was perfect because products like shampoo and conditioner could stay upright to prevent spilling + it helped keep me organized.

• If bringing breakables such as dishes use clothes to wrap them instead of packing supplies

I also did this with my small tv, I wrapped a blanket around it to protect it.

• CHEAP HACK: Use garbage bags for clothes and shoes to save space

The great thing about garbage bags is that they are cheap. They also compress if you press the air out before tying.  Plus you get to look homeless when moving in, lol! But seriously, this technique was LIFE-SAVING for me because I brought my whole wardrobe.

More expensive storage suggestions:

• Vacuum seal space-saving bags. 

• A car overhead bin attachment

I found this article by Jonathan Zavaleta in which he shares 3 car overhead storage bins all under $100!

3) How to pack your car to save space

Remember, the order you load your car you will unpack in the opposite order. I might be stating the obvious but it could be easy to overlook! Try to pack your important and possibly needed bags last. If a bag with your beach towel is buried it will be really inconvenient to reach it during the road trip.


1) To begin, bring all large items outside near the car so you can visualize everything. This will help you not to randomly place things in the car.

• Having the majority of your stuff laid out in your driveway will allow your brain to process which spots are best for each item.

The packing order for space saving success

1) Pack all large/heavy items first (Ex printer, big luggage), so you know what you have to work with.

2) Sandwich fluffy unbreakables such as pillows and blankets under or in between larger items to compress them.

• I forgot my pillow but if I would’ve packed it I would have put underneath heavier items to squish them down a bit. I’d also recommend this if you’re bringing a duvet or thick blankets. 

3) Save fragile and flat items for last 

4) As you’re layering items be sure to pack flexible items around the larger to save space

5) Save space at the end to keep your water bottle & snacks within reach.

6) Use every area, don’t leave any open space empty, something can fit!

7) Don’t be worried to rearrange.

If you enjoyed this content you may be interested in my post all about how to plan a road trip!

Rachel Hannah preparing for her road trip.  Standing next to car

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