True story: I’ve been more or less living out of a suitcase for the past 20 years.

Actually, maybe more: As a child of divorced parents living in different states, I began boarding planes on my own at age 6 and remember well the annual ritual of packing for a full summer at my father’s home. So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about packing a suitcase. By the time I was due to depart for college, I was already a pro.

But it was becoming a model that really polished those skills. Bouncing from location to location—and, often, climate to climate—while living out of an increasingly shrinking carry-on (thanks, TSA) is not for the faint of heart. But if you know how to do it, it can be a lot of fun (or, at least, a cool party trick).

I wish I could say that things have mellowed over the years, but as a Chicago-based editor at a New York City-based publication, mine is now a life lived ... midcoastally (Chicago being the “third coast”). In fact, I just spent the last two months living out of two small suitcases in a guest bedroom—and boy, is my wardrobe tired.

So when I caught Oneika the Traveller’s new Facebook series “One Bag and You’re Out” by the Travel Channel, I knew I’d found my ministry. And as many of us are packing today to take off for the holidays, I thought it was worth the friendly reminder: YOU DON’T NEED ALL THAT STUFF.

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For serious: Whether you’re packing for the next week or the next two months, as long as you have access to laundry facilities, you can easily create a capsule wardrobe that’ll keep you looking fly on the fly.

Now, Oneika’s tips are clearly more directed at international travelers like herself headed to warm-weather destinations. This evening, I’m headed from Chicago to Minneapolis. Needless to say, the lightweight jackets she’s recommending ain’t gon’ cut it.

So how do I go from brick city to arctic tundra in one carry-on? Check it:

Pack in neutrals and layers: Oneika got this right for sure. And I know—it sounds more basic than festive. But if you get your shapes and accessories right, it’s anything but. For this weeklong trip, I’ve got:

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  • one black tank
  • one black lightweight thermal turtleneck
  • one black-and-white-striped long-sleeved crew
  • one charcoal lightweight sheer wool tunic
  • one charcoal lightweight sweaterdress
  • one heather logo sweatshirt
  • one pair of sweatpants (for lounging with the fam)
  • one pair of jeans (with a velvet tuxedo stripe because holidays)
  • one pair of black crepe pants
  • one pair of black overalls (for playing with the kiddos)
  • one set of workout leggings and top
  • one lightweight linen robe
  • one nightgown
  • six sets of underwear
  • three bras (including a sports bra)
  • four sets of socks (including sports socks)
  • one pair of black control-top opaque tights (Spanx to the rescue!)
  • my toiletry kit
  • my flat iron
  • a brush
  • one pair of sneakers
  • one pair of velvet loafers
  • one pair of slippers
  • my favorite motorcycle boots, which I’ll wear on the plane (they slide off and on easily in security)

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In addition, I’m taking a black beret, a pair of gloves, three sets of earrings and a bracelet, an eternity scarf and a scarf/head wrap. And I’ve fit it all into a universally TSA-mandated 14-by-22-by-9-inch hard-side roller bag. Don’t believe me? Again, check it:

Courtesy of Maiysha Kai

With today expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the holiday season, I want to take up as little space as possible (save for my down coat, which is nonnegotiable in these temps). But since I may return with more than I depart with, I’ll employ my other pro tip, which is to slip my purse into a slightly larger shoulder bag just in case Santa comes with more than gift cards this year.

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Well, it’s almost time to fly, so I’d better get going. But wherever you’re going this holiday, I hope it’s a happy one!