I Tried Packing My Suitcase the KonMari Way, and Now I’m Ready to Travel Anywhere

published Mar 16, 2024
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Suitcase on the floor packed with clothes and toiletry bag
Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

I am not what some would call a “light packer.” I’m working on it, though. I’ve Googled videos of flight attendants teaching me carry-on packing hacks. I’ve improved my handwashing technique so I can re-wear clothing. I’m even thinking of replacing my soft-sided luggage with the hard-shell kind so that I won’t be tempted to sit on my suitcase to zip it closed.

I should have realized that the organization queen herself, Marie Kondo, would have some thoughts on the topic. So when I recently heard that there is indeed a KonMari way to pack a suitcase, I couldn’t wait to try it out for an upcoming trip.

Spoiler alert: This method is a game-changer. Here’s how I’ll be packing my suitcase from now on. 

Quick Overview

What Is the KonMari Way of Packing a Suitcase?

To organize a suitcase the KonMari way, you’ll want to start by emptying it. Then, pack items that only “spark joy” and fold items using the KonMari folding technique. Finish by stowing things in packing cubes.

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Start with a Clean Slate — or Suitcase

The KonMari packing method starts by emptying everything else that’s been in your suitcase — especially rogue toiletries from your last trip. Luckily, this is a habit I have long been practicing. I never return my suitcase to the closet until it’s completely empty post-trip — even if it does take me an extra day or two to do it.

That said, there’s no judgment if you’ve still got things stowed away in your suitcase from your last trip, but empty it now. In fact, do it a few days before you need to pack so you can review what toiletries and other essentials you’ll need to purchase or gather before you depart. 

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Pack with Joy

If you’re even the least bit familiar with the KonMari method, you’ll know about the “spark joy” phenomenon. Basically, if any item in your home doesn’t make you happy, feel at ease, or otherwise contribute to your overall well-being, you should get rid of it. The same goes for what you pack in your suitcase.

In the age of rising checked baggage fees, packing a smaller carry-on with what only brings you joy — including reading material for your downtime — is even more important. But of course, some things are much easier said than done. 

When selecting your travel wardrobe, Kondo suggests packing just a few outfits that look and feel good on you. Ideally, this means garments that are comfortable and don’t wrinkle. 

To combat overpacking, I’ve adopted my husband’s habit of taking a few moments to try on outfits before they go in a suitcase. If any part of my travel wardrobe doesn’t spark joy at the moment, it stays behind in my closet — and yes, that means it might be donated when I get home if it no longer sparks joy in my regular wardrobe. 

Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

Fold Items the KonMari Way

If you’ve subscribed to the KonMari way of folding and storing clothing in your dresser and closet, know that packing clothes in a suitcase follows the same method. But if you haven’t yet heeded Kondo’s call to transform your clothing storage, here’s a quick primer.

  • Clothes should be folded and packed upright in your suitcase.
  • Suits and bras go on top (don’t flatten the latter). 
  • Small items like underwear go in a travel cube. 
  • Don’t bring large bottles of lotions or other toiletries. (You can’t do it in a carry-on anyway, per TSA rules.) But even if you are checking your bags, transfer liquids to small bottles or purchase them in travel size anyway. 
Credit: Barbara Bellesi Zito

What About Travel Cubes?

Glad you asked. Without exaggeration, travel cubes have revolutionized the way I pack. Kondo is also a fan of packing cubes — she’s even got her own line of them. From a KonMari standpoint, packing cubes ensure that the clothing you pack stays folded and upright. But here are a few other reasons why I won’t leave home without them in my suitcase.

  • They make the most of your suitcase. I simply play Tetris when packing the different-size cubes.
  • You can pop them into bureaus at your destination, leaving your suitcase empty for easier repacking later. 
  • You can use them to separate dirty laundry from clean. 
  • They’re washable, so just toss them fully into your laundry basket when you get home. Hooray, you’ve unpacked! 

Could it be that packing for a trip has transformed from stressful to joyful for me? Quite possibly, even though the thought of doing all that laundry when I get home does not.