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How Marie Kondo Wants You to Pack Your Suitcase

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Many of us here are fans of Marie Kondo’s organizational methods. We consulted her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, for assistance clearing out our closets, stacks of papers, and books. Her latest book, Spark Joy covers more ground, it has helped us create order in our kitchens and it also provides illustrations—helpful for mastering her folding techniques.

Photo by James Ransom

We find ourselves thinking about her techniques even when we aren’t following them exactly (or at all). So, for my recent trip to Hawaii, I decided to test her tips for packing a suitcase (found in Spark Joy) and track my ability to stick to them throughout the vacation:

“Packing a suitcase for business or leisure trips follows the same basic principles as those for storage in the home. Clothes should be folded and packed upright. Fold suits and lay them flat on the top. Pack bras on top, and don’t flatten them. Pack small things such as underwear in a travel pouch, and transfer lotions and toiletries in smaller bottles to reduce volume.”

Waxed Canvas Toiletries Pouch

Waxed Canvas Toiletries Pouch

Carry-On Cocktail Kit with Spiced Travel Nuts

Carry-On Cocktail Kit with Spiced Travel Nuts


I attempted to follow her recommendations as closely as possible—at least initially.

  • I try to avoid checking luggage whenever possible, so the use of smaller bottles was easy, I already had them on hand.
  • I folded all of my clothing in her suggested manner and placed them upright in my suitcase according to type. This made it very easy to see what I had, and I felt a smug sense of self-righteousness about my superior packing skills. (Note: I have a fairly shallow suitcase, I can see this being more difficult with a deep one.)
  • I followed her decree to turn my underwear into lacy little spring rolls with precise folding and rolling, while still chafing at the need for them to be segregated away into a travel pouch like they’d misbehaved and needed to be separated from the group.
  • I ignored instructions to pack bras on top. Elsewhere in the book Kondo encourages us to “treat your bras like royalty,” which is likely where the request comes from, but to me it seemed more like a invitation for TSA to choose my bag to search and hold up items for fellow passengers to view.

Here’s how the rest of the trip went:

Packed and ready to go: I am nothing if not a good student.

Okay, this looks bad, I'll admit it. But just the top layer is a mess, it's still fairly orderly underneath. Plus, would you rather spend time folding clothes or watching whales? I rest my case.

Midway through the trip and back on track, though Kondo would not approve of my balled up socks.

Disaster zone. Can I blame this situation on the fact that Kondo never told me what to do with dirty clothes? Am I supposed to refold them all or separate them from the clean clothes? I opted for the latter and refolded everything else for the return home.

Back at home and ready to turn into an unpacking robot. Or not.

Couch, sweet couch.
Couch, sweet couch. Photo by Mark Weinberg

After spending the better part of a day in an airport, an airplane, or a car, I’m exhausted, yet thrilled to be home. Marie Kondo professes: “I enjoy unpacking even more than packing.” I’m not convinced. I don’t want to unpack, I want a glass of wine, someone to make me dinner, and to zone out watching television until my body agrees that it’s an acceptable hour to fall asleep. But I’m determined to see this through, so I persevere and read through Kondo's directive:

“As soon as I get home, I remove everything from my suitcase, put the laundry in the washing machine, and return everything else to its proper place. Then I wipe the outside of the suitcase and the wheels. I give myself a time limit of thirty minutes. The key is to pretend you’re an unpacking robot and move quickly and efficiently.”

Well, props to Kondo for accomplishing this task in 30 minutes and enjoying the whole process to boot. Here’s how it went down in reality. I put the laundry in my laundry hamper. I did not start a load of laundry, because it was 7 o’clock at night, and, as mentioned, I wanted to relax, not do chores. I put half of everything else into its proper place, then I made dinner for my daughter, put her to bed, gave up on my dreams of becoming an unpacking-loving robot, and collapsed on the couch.

Grey Narrow Elevated Laundry Basket

Grey Narrow Elevated Laundry Basket

Adjustable Laundry Drying Rack

Adjustable Laundry Drying Rack



The Good: I appreciated having the majority of my suitcase packed with clothes upright, it made them much easier to see and access throughout my trip—I’ll continue to use this strategy in the future.

The Bad: I was an utterly unsuccessful with her unpacking rules: I neglected to complete the task in 30 minutes and I failed to enjoy the process. In my defense, I was leaving Hawaii and returning to snow—even Kondo might understand my reticence at having to put my bathing suits away for another four months.

The Ugly: I still don’t get the bra thing. Granted, I didn’t play along for this part, but how does—“Pack bras on top, and don’t flatten them.”—even work? Does one need to leave headspace (chest space?) for them? Won’t they get flattened at some point anyway in transport?

Tell us: What are your best packing tricks and tips?