It’s that time of year: Spring Cleaning. If you are dreading it, you aren’t alone. I mean, you’ll probably spend a weekend vacuuming, boxing up stuff, and maybe throwing out a few things, only to see your house feel cluttered by the next weekend. For those of us with fun travel plans, we’d rather spend the time packing and planning our itineraries. So, when I tried the KonMari method of organizing last fall, I immediately realized that Marie Kondo’s system is perfect for families who travel. Contains affiliate links.
What is KonMari?
KonMari is a method of tidying up created by Marie Kondo in Japan. Instead of going room by room and cleaning/organizing, you organize by category. And you find every single item in that category and pile it in one area and meticulously go through each one. So, if you were going through your clothing, you would empty out your entire closet, your coat closet, the laundry room, any clothes in your car or gym bag, anything left in a suitcase, and any clothes boxed up in a basement or garage.
The categories are ordered from general to very personal. By the time you get to the last few steps, you’ll be a pro at discarding items you no longer need and keeping just the items you really want.
HERE IS THE KONMARI METHOD CHECKLIST:
- Clothing (for you and each of your family members)
- Books (board books, kids books, cookbooks, directories, novels, reference books)
- Papers (files, bank statements, coupons, tax documents, recipes, bills)
- Miscellaneous (kitchen, bathroom, office, DVDs, garage, toys)
- Sentimental items (photos, heirloom items, wedding dress, letters)
“DOES THIS SPARK JOY?”
One of the main tenants of the KonMari method is asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” It’s a simple question, but it makes you really evaluate every item you own. The easiest example of this is when you go through your clothes. Pick up a shirt. Does it make you feel confident when you wear it? Or do you remember that it was a good deal but you never wear it? Or does it make you feel old? Or frumpy? Or just blah?
When you get to your sentimental items, you can figure out if they are sentimental for good or bad memories. Did someone give you a gift that makes you feel guilty about not using it every time you look at it? Are you holding on to letters that stress you out? Are you holding onto a decorative object just because you feel like someone in your family should have it? These are all reasons why you’ll feel so much happier removing them from your home.
How Does KonMari Help Families Who Travel?
My family tends to amass a lot of stuff. I love a good discount and I’m passionate about bargain shopping. It’s one of the ways I relieve stress. Plus, it becomes a treasure hunt and I’ve found lots of amazing items for a fraction of retail costs. However, I forget what we own and often buy the same item multiple times.
But the real kicker is that we can never find the items we’re looking for. I start looking about a week before our trip for items we’ll need on the airplane. Usually, it’s my noise-cancelling headphones, portable USB charger, my son’s Boogie Board, etc. I never know where we stashed them after our last trip. Sometimes I find them in time, and sometimes we go without. It causes me a lot of stress.
We also buy souvenirs at the places we go. Sometimes they are cool items that we can only find at a particular destination. We love finding new books in Hawaii. And my son treasures the little Eiffel Tower key chain he bought in Paris. And my new Minnie Mouse ears from Disney’s Aulani Resort bring me a lot of happiness.
However we frequently buy generic toys for our kids to keep them occupied in hotel rooms and on the airplane. These items end up cluttering our home as soon as we return. When we went through all our kids’ toys, we saw they had duplicates of several items. And post cards, coloring sheets, so many packs of the same 4 crayons, and other freebies.
TRAVEL SIZED ITEMS
I’m guilty of stocking up on travel sized items. Sometimes it’s grabbing the toiletry kits from a hotel because “they are the perfect size for travel!” Or, I’ll start collecting sample sizes of products in case I want to pack them. Or promotional items from events we’ve attended. My thought was that I was saving us money and we’d have a stockpile of amazing travel products.
When we gathered all the travel sized items from our entire house, it filled a small plastic tub. I went through each and every item and sorted it by items we actually use AND pack for travel versus samples of items we don’t use. If you guessed that the vast majority of products were items we don’t even use, you’d be right. It was quite disheartening to see how many products were just taking up space. So, we bagged them up and donated them.
If there’s one thing my husband and I own too much of, it’s luggage. When we gathered all the bags from our entire home, we were shocked. Not only did we have lots of rolling luggage in a variety of sizes, but we had 5 or 6 backpacks, probably 10 tote bags, 6 or 7 carry on bags, and a few duffel bags. It seems like we bought a new bag for almost all of our recent trips.
So, we went through each bag to see if it was still something that fit our lifestyle. I had an overnight bag that I used to use when my husband and I were dating. However, it only had small handles and no wheels, so it no longer was a bag we used. But, we rediscovered a backpack that was now the perfect size for flying with a baby.
Why Your Family Should do KonMari
The KonMari system makes you contemplate each item you have in your home. It takes hours and hours to go through everything you currently own. This, in turn, will make you question every purchase you make in the future.
For our family, this means we are being more careful about what we buy both at home and on vacation. We take a moment to ask ourselves if we really need it. And if we don’t need it per say, does it bring us joy? If not, we’d rather use the money to fund trips and experiences.
After doing KonMari in our closet, I’m finding that it’s so much easier to pack for trips. I only have items in my closet that actually fit me (no more maternity/nursing clothes or pre-pregnancy pants that just don’t fit the same.) Plus, each piece of clothing is something that I actually WANT to wear. So, I’m not packing clothes that just take up space in my suitcase.
How Do You Get Started?
1. Read the Book
The first thing you should do is read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s a quick read and is surprisingly entertaining. I ended up listening to the audiobook in the car after dropping off my oldest at preschool. The audiobook is just 4 hours long and I felt really clear about why I should organize using this method.
2. Find a Consultant
I was extremely lucky because my neighbor is becoming a certified KonMari consultant so she’s been helping us. Her business is My Spark of Joy and she’s in the Seattle-area. Try finding a consultant near your home. It really helps having someone keep you on track. If you don’t have a consultant available, grab a friend to hold you accountable. Or you can always use the KonMari app.
3. Hire a Sitter
The smartest move we made was getting a sitter for our kids so we could focus on organizing. This is extra helpful if you plan to go through your child’s clothing or toys. It’s quicker when they aren’t involved. However, if your kids are older (ages 5+), you can definitely involve them in the process!
4. Block off 5-6 Hours Each Week
Doing the KonMari method takes a lot of time. It’s best to tackle each step completely before moving on to the next. You will get so much more done than trying to do an hour a day. Plus, purging items is quite energizing and you may find yourself in a great groove!
How to Pack a Suitcase the KonMari Way
CHOOSING A SUITCASE THAT “SPARKS JOY”
So, you know how my family had a millions bags and suitcases? It turns out that most of them gave us bad feelings. A few of our rolling suitcases always toppled forward or didn’t roll smoothly. Some of our backpacks didn’t have the right pockets for our needs. And a few of my totes were freebies from work events where I was totally stressed out. Not great memories.
I know it may seem counter-intuitive to buy more luggage after donating so many. But, if you find the right ones, it can make you feel even more excited about your trip. For instance, I just got this Chalo Seattle Boarding Pass Tote Bag to use during the Women in Travel Summit and it makes me smile every time I see it. I know it’s going to be a fun conversation starter and it reminds me that I’m a Seattle girl!
KONMARI METHOD OF FOLDING CLOTHES
When it comes to clothing, the KonMari method is all about taking care of your clothes and storing them in a respectful way. Are you guilty of shoving clothes in a duffel bag and hitting the road? That stops here.
First, I recommend investing in packing cubes. I like to get a variety of sizes until I know which size works best for me. If you travel with kids, I suggest getting each kid a different color. This makes it really easy to make sure everyone’s clothes are packed.
Next, pull out all the clothes you intend to pack. Lay them out on your bed or your floor so you can see everything. In line with Marie Kondo’s question of “Does it spark joy?” ask yourself if you’d be excited to wear it on your trip. And then try each item on. Does it still fit? Do you want to look back at photos of yourself wearing that outfit? It may sound superficial, but you might surprise yourself when you actually do it.
I was recently looking back at photos from a trip to Hawaii from last year when I realized I looked annoyed in many of the photos. Then, I remembered that I was wearing a dress that had a large arm hole and I was constantly fidgeting with it so my bra wouldn’t show. Had I taken a moment to really think about if I even liked the dress, I wouldn’t have packed it and I would probably have worn something that fit better.
Then, use the KonMari method of folding clothes. Basically, fold your clothes so compactly that they can stand up on the edge. So, for shirts, you would fold the sleeves in toward the center, then fold the shirt bottom to top, and finally fold it bottom to top 2 or 3 more times. That way, you can stand it on it’s edge in the packing cube.
What’s really cool is you can put the packing cube in a drawer at your hotel and you are all set.
This is the number one thing people pack and never use. I’m also guilty of this. But, shoes take up a lot of valuable space.
So, what you can do is lay out all the clothes you are planning on packing. Then, bring out the shoes you think you will bring. Are there shoes that only go with one outfit? Do you really need to bring them?
Keep in mind the activities you are going to do on your trip. Maybe you are hiking with friends one day. Then, it makes sense to bring hiking shoes, even if you are only going to wear once. Or maybe there’s a pool and you’ll want to have flip flops or sandals.
I used to fill a gallon Ziploc bag with shampoo, my razor, a comb, random make-up, toothpaste, etc. It was a hot mess. And at the end of my trip, I would realize that I only used a handful of the things I packed. Toiletries are surprisingly heavy and they are easy to overpack.
So, using the KonMari method, go through each item you plan to pack. Think about if you REALLY are going to use it. Do you bring your own shampoo but end up using the one provided by your hotel? Are you really going to spend time each morning doing your hair to warrant all the hair products?
Once you have narrowed down your packing list, write it down. I’m serious. Every single trip for years, I would end up not packing moisturizer for my face. After a couple of days, my face would get so dry that I had to track down a drug store to buy some. Now, I look at my packing list and I know it’s smarter to pack it at home.
Chalo sent me a bag for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Tips for Family Travel
My Top Tips for Flying with a Baby
Hawaii Packing List for Flying with Babies and Toddlers
Flying with a Toddler
Summer Travel Tips for Moms (Plus My ULTIMATE Travel Packing List)
Summer Family Travel Tips from The National Children’s Cancer Society