How you pack your bags is a pretty personal. There are people who roll and people who fold, planners with lists and last-minute shovers. There are those who challenge the laws of physics with sheer volume of stuff they pack, and people who pride themselves on taking carry-on only (and boast about it on social media). But it wasn't until I discovered the KonMari method that I finally found the way I want to pack.
Years after her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up was passive-aggressively gifted to daughters-in-law the world over, Marie Kondo continues put things in their place with her KonMari method, turning it into a global lifestyle brand.
First through the Netflix series, Tidying Up, and then through her books, I had managed to get my house under control. I'd always been a last minute shover when it came to packing for a trip. Could she help me with my luggage?
According to Kondo, tidying is the act of confronting yourself, while cleaning is the act of confronting nature. In her follow up book, Spark Joy, Kondo outlined six rules for tidying:
- Commit yourself to tidying up
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle
- Finish discarding first
- Tidy by category (not by location)
- Follow the right order (clothes, then books, then papers, then komono (the bitsy stuff), then sentimental items)
Her final instruction? Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
"When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising" says Kondo.
In this sense, using the KonMari method for packing seemed vaguely achievable: I was ready to commit, my ideal lifestyle was somewhere exotic with a cocktail in hand, and I already followed her categorical rules: packing clothes, then books, then passports and the fiddly stuff, with my sentimentality extending only to my decade-old hiking boots.
And when I pick up my suitcase, oh boy does it spark joy.
I decided to try to KonMari my luggage. The internet provided a number of aesthetically pleasing examples of KonMari-ed suitcases, including snaps shared on Kondo's own Instagram account.
As a chronic over-packer (and souvenir-buyer in recovery), it was inspirational, but not instructional. Luckily, Kondo's practical tips for packing a suitcase are covered in a section in Spark Joy.
In short, Kondo recommends the same principles for luggage as she does for your wardrobe: fold your clothes and store them upright. Suits are folded on top: bras on top as well, (but there are specific instructions not to flatten them).
Travel packing cells are given the green light; decanting toiletries into smaller packages is also advised. Oh, and when you return, wipe the outside of your suitcase and its wheels down (an instruction that received an enthusiastic response on social media when I mentioned it).
Digging up old packing cells from my backpacking days, as well as new ones sourced from my local Kmart and Daiso for under $20, I got to work. Most of my clothes were, to be fair, already folded into the simple, standing upright rectangles Marie Kondo is renowned for- instead of stacking things in drawers on top of one another, each piece of clothing faces upwards, like a series of books on a bookcase.
According to Kondo, every piece of clothing has its own 'sweet spot'- where it feels just right, which is tricky to manage with sundresses, fleece active wear and hiking boots. But I got there. It's not as pretty as Instagram, But then, what is?
My Kondo-ed luggage. Photo: Shaney Hudson
My first take away is that while I'll admit straight off that packing underwear, socks, toiletries and clothes into packing cells took more time, I did fit more into my suitcase. And hey, it looked great.
But the biggest advantage was that it saved me time when I got to my destination. Even with my shampoo leaking, unpacking took minutes. I've always been prone to living out of an open suitcase dumped in a corner (that I'd constantly trip over), but this time everything ended up unpacked in drawers, with my luggage stored neatly under the bed for the first time ever. It also meant when it was time to repack, it took just minutes- leaving me more time to enjoy the sun in Mexico.
So the KonMari method worked its magic for me, and I'm no longer a last minute tosser. I just keep forgetting to wipe suitcase wheels down.