How to KonMari Your Packing List for Travel

Laura Lopuch

Marie Kondo is passionate about tidying up. Her method boils down to asking yourself: “Does this item spark joy?” Swipe her KonMari tidying up method for your carry on in #1 easy-to-use rule: Pack only items that spark joy.

Now that Marie Kondo is on Netflix, you better believe that she’s traveling.

Let’s peek inside her carry on (what, you think she checks a bag?!) and see how she applies her famous KonMari method to packing her bag.

“Ahem, what’s the KonMari Method, again?”

If you’re like me and read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up way back in 2011 when it was published, perhaps you need a little refresher on her unique method of tidying up. 

Straight from Marie (aka her website) on the KonMari Method:  

“Most tidying methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which dooms you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever.

The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

People around the world have been drawn to this philosophy not only due to its effectiveness, but also because it places great importance on being mindful, introspective and forward-looking.” 

Your takeaway for carry on travel?

Pick only items that spark joy to bring on your trip.

KonMari Packing: Travel Clothing

Beware: your clothing — those shirts, pants, shorts, t-shirts, workout shirt and shorts, pjs — are in serious need of the KonMari Method.

Going back to the definition of this method, it “encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes.”

I bolded the word category. Because clothing is where bloat in your carry on happens. (Hey, it happens to all of us.)

It’s where the fear sneaks in.

The thought of: What if I spill wine or beer on my pants on laundry night and need another pair to wear out to dinner? Yeah, gonna pack a 3rd pair of pants. 

Honey, let go of the fear.

It’s the same fear that won’t let you throw away those old Star Wars Coca-Cola cans that came out in 1999. Or that weird little figurine of a sad looking girl who somebody important to you gave you 20+ years ago.

If weird stuff happens on the road — and it will, because it always does — find a laundry machine and have an impromptu laundry/movie night.

So, let’s banish the clothing bloat inside your carry on.

If you looked inside Marie’s carry on, likely you’d see a black and white color palette as the base of her capsule wardrobe.

Meaning: lots of shirts, pants, blouses in white or black. Her accent colors would come from her accessories. Hang tight, we’ll get to those in just a minute.

In other words, her clothes play well with each other. Swipe her strategy and do the same with your clothes with these color combos:

  • Black and white
  • Navy and white
  • Black and black (works wonders if you’re Johnny Cash)
  • Black and grey

The formula is: dark color and complementary lighter color

Once you’ve picked the clothes for your trip, spread them out on your bed and give them a solid looking-over.

Look for:

  • Duplicates: Like 2 t-shirts in veeeeery similar colors
  • Similar clothes that execute a similar function: Like a t-shirt for pjs and another one for your workout
  • Clothes that are trying to sneak into your bag: Because of your fear or anxiety about the trip (when I’m stressed about speaking at a conference, my carry on gets crazy!)
  • Any item: That doesn’t spark joy… or make you feel like YOU

If you find a stowaway, pull it out, thank it for watching out for you and letting you know about this feeling of fear, anxiety, or stress you’ve been ignoring… and put that item back in your closet.

Then, pack the clothes that made the cut into a packing cube.

That way your clothing stays as a separate category and doesn’t go mucking about with your charging cords.  

Shoes for KonMari Packing

Okay, shoes are notoriously the hard category for me to pack. It’s like Goldilocks hunting for the perfect bed in the bears’ house:

  • “These shoes make me feel like a boss. But they’re awfully uncomfortable. And make my feet sweat like you wouldn’t believe.”
  • “Oh, these shoes are so dang comfortable! Ack – they make me look like a 400 year-old vampire who never cracked open a Vogue magazine.”

In the end, I pack two pairs of shoes.

Think Marie has this trouble?

Nope. She packs one pair of shoes that sparks joy. Joy from her big toe down to the little piggy… joy that she hits her morning run or hefting weights in her hotel gym… joy that she can walk for hours exploring the nooks and crannies of her client’s overstuffed house. 

So — and this is the highly personal question that only you can answer — which of your shoes spark joy for you?

Or as Gretchen Rubin puts it in Outer Order Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room For Happiness, “Or for people (like me) who don’t find that question particularly helpful, try, ‘Does this energize me?’ For me, focusing on ‘energy’ rather than ‘joy’ provides more clarity.”

Bring that pair.

And if you need an extra pair to pack flat in your carry on — no judgment from me! — consider Suavs. Beautifully light and breathable AND fold down into an itty-bitty living space in your bag.


KonMari Packing: Accessories for Travel 

Think of accessories as the fun pops of color or personality in your clothes’ neutral color palette.

Bring only items that spark joy, because that guarantees you’ll wear them. 

Check out your closet to find accessories to:

  • Keep you warm: scarves, hats, thick mittens or gloves
  • Keep you cool: lightweight scarf, sun hat
  • Dress up a basic black dress or shirt into something fancy

My guess is Marie’s accessories are minimalistic: diamond studs and her wedding ring.

KonMari Packing: Entertainment 

The fun section!

I’ll bet that if we looked into Marie’s carry on, we’d find an iPad Mini (because it’s a very useful item that lets me read books, watch movies or purge my inbox) and a pair of slim earbuds.

It’s a good thing she didn’t peek inside my carry on during my last trip:

  • Tablet
  • iPad
  • iPod Nano
  • Two smartphones
  • Four pairs of headphones

Her personal item is likely very light and efficient. Not overburdened with snacks, water, two books, and an iPad.

Remember? Pack only items that spark joy.

For me, that means paring down the above list into a smaller one, like:

  • iPod Nano (for my son to listen to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift on repeat)
  • Two smartphones
  • Three pairs of headphones

Look inside your entertainment section. Which items can pull double-duty? Which spark joy, like the iPod Nano for my son? And which items are just taking up space?

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