I Tried This “Flat Packing Method,” and Now It’s the Only Way I Travel

published May 25, 2024
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Bag packed using the flat packing method.
Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

Like many others during the lockdowns of 2020, I spent way too much time binge-watching Netflix shows. One that truly inspired me to make a change was Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Although my methods of organization had already been set in place for years, I figured I would try reorganizing my clothes the KonMari way — after all, there was not much else I could do to pass the time at home. While I have maintained her method for folding my socks and undergarments (even to this day), there’s been one instance where I refuse to fold the way Kondo does: packing. 

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez
Marie Kondo's way of packing luggage.

The first time I packed a suitcase for a road trip in 2020, I packed it exactly the way Kondo does. As I filled my bag, it started to feel very compact and bulky, but I decided to trust the process. Once I arrived at my destination and took my clothes out of the suitcase, they were quite wrinkled. I felt annoyed at the thought of folding everything so tightly again before I went home (especially because rolling up my clothes took a while). For my next trip, I packed in what has become my go-to method that I’m sure Kondo would never approve of. 

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

I first started packing my clothes as flat as possible when I took a flight to San Francisco in 2021 for which I was not allowed a carry-on. This forced me to figure out how to pack three days’ worth of outfits into a backpack, which led to my “flat packing method.” 

By simply folding T-shirts and pants in half and laying all undergarments flat, I could stack everything neatly without adding the bulk of the KonMari way of rolling clothes. Best of all, I didn’t have the hard lumps of rolled clothes digging into my back and sides. Because this method worked perfectly in a backpack, I was sure I’d find success with it in a suitcase. Sure enough, it’s become my foolproof method for organizing my outfits and minimizing wrinkles.

Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez

When flat packing in a suitcase or carry-on, I can organize my outfits by day: The outfit I would be wearing to fly home is at the bottom, and the outfit I’d be wearing first during my trip, usually pajamas, would be at the top. Flat packing also frees up one of the sides of the suitcase for an extra pair of shoes or a toiletry bag, which I usually put in the side pockets. 

Although Kondo’s method might have fit one more outfit in my suitcase for my upcoming trip to New York, it doesn’t keep my clothes organized by day, which is a priority for me. If you have a small carry-on or backpack, have petite clothing, like to have your outfits prepared for each day, and/or don’t want to spend extra time getting wrinkles out, my flat packing method is worth a try for your next trip.