Want to know the life-changing way of packing a tidy suitcase?
We have the expert in all things neat and organized to show you the way — Marie Kondo. The tidying expert, author, and founder of The KonMari Method and KonMari Media is the perfect person to pack with, and we frankly wish we could put her in our suitcase for the way back home.
Instead, we asked her to share her favorite tips and tricks for packing a suitcase, or an even smaller and more challenging carry-on bag, so that everything inside is neat, sorted and most importantly, sparks joy once you arrive at your destination.
Read on for her tips on not only how to pack but also what packing cubes, storage bags and other gadgets can help get the job done, so you can focus on having fun on your travel adventures — like laying out at the beach on your vacation in 2023.
What should I do to plan before I pack my carry-on?
The best thing to do in order to stay organized is to make a plan. Instead of throwing in all your items at the last minute, Kondo suggests sticking to a plan to make things easier for you.
“One of the first things I suggest doing before packing is make a list of all travel essentials that you will need for your trip,” said Kondo. “From there, lay everything out and categorize by the type of item to get a complete look at how many you have for each category. By applying the KonMari Method in your approach to packing, you can proactively eliminate potential stressors in order to make the most of your time away from home.”
To do this, we suggest counting the number of days you will be away and considering the climate for both day and night, making sure you have one full outfit (mix and matching allowed) for each.
“When packing, remind yourself that traveling is temporary and it should be about the actual trip and experiences itself, rather than the extensive wardrobe selections,” she added. “I’d recommend packing versatile clothing options to make wardrobe decision-making easy and to lighten your overall load, especially when using a carry-on. Packing just a few outfits that you absolutely love will make getting ready each day easier too.”
What is the best way to pack a suitcase?
This is where it gets contentious. Some people swear by packing each item flat, while others roll every item of clothing in an effort to maximize space. Marie Kondo has a different method, which not only maximizes space but makes it easy to dress yourself once you’ve arrived at your destination.
“When using the tried and true KonMari Method folding technique, your selected items will be stored upright instead of stacked in a pile. By folding clothes neatly and standing them up vertically, you’ll prevent wrinkles, maximize space in your suitcase and easily be able to view all of your outfit options when you simply open your bag or suitcase upon arrival.”
This method is great for clothes and other fabric items, as seen in the video above. However, what happens when you need to add liquids and toiletries to your suitcase?
“For toiletries such as lotions, shampoos, and mouthwash, I recommend adding these items into smaller bottles to help reduce volume,” suggested Kondo. “Once travel size toiletries have been accounted for, it is best to use a waterproof toiletry bag, this way in case any unplanned accidents occur, products will not spill onto clothing and your bag will be easy to clean!”
One last tip? Try not to overpack, as the way home may be even harder than the journey there in terms of fitting everything nicely into your pack.
“I recommend leaving 10% of empty space in your suitcase, so you can buy souvenirs and pack them for your trip back home!” she said.
Shop the best packing cubes and gadgets for travel in 2023:
1. Paravel Packing Cubes, prices vary
This is a Marie Kondo pick, for their versatility in size and flexible material.
“I enjoy using packing cubes to keep items as tidy as possible within my suitcase,” Kondo said of the cubes. “Having a variety of packing cube sizes will help make the packing process more seamless, as well. The Paravel Packing Cube, Set of 4 has different sizes that I like to use during my own travels.”
2. Tidy Tech Kit, $59
Keep your tech organized as well, using this Bellroy kit that can hold cords, chargers, headphone and more, now sold on the KonMari site.
“With space for a power bank, mouse and various charging cables, the pack unzips flat for full visibility and easy access to everything inside,” reads the product page. “It is designed to keep larger items separated from small essentials, which means less time spent untangling charging cords from earbud wires.”
3. Away The Insider Packing Cubes, $45
These packing cubes are made with mesh tops, which are great for re-packing your used clothing for the way back and minimizing any odor. They are also perfect for many sizes of clothes, with socks and underwear in the smaller cube and larger sweaters and pants in the large ones.
“When using the KonMari Method folding technique, you can fit up to 5-6 pairs of undergarments into each of the small cubes, 6-8 pairs of pants into the medium cube, and 9-10 shirts or 2-3 bulky items like sweatshirts into the large cube,” said Kondo.
4. Kitsch Ultimate Travel 11 Pack, $14
For your liquids and toiletries, Kondo suggested using smaller bottles and filling them before you leave. This set of 11 is perfect for just that, with larger bottles for longer trips and smaller bottles for lotions, sprays and more.
5. Calpak Terra Hanging Toiletry Bag, $48
Kondo also suggested using a waterproof bag to store the bottles of toiletries above. This one makes it easy to keep organized on your trip as well, with a hanging strap for over the bathroom door.
6. 30 Pcs Travel Storage Bags, $15
On the way home, make sure to have some waterproof clothing bags as well, keeping swimsuits and towels away from other items to prevent mold or stinky smells from getting into your clean clothes and suitcase.
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