What if you could wear your favorite outfit every single day? No magic wishes, lottery winnings, or fantasy shopping spree required. You just wake up and get dressed in your favorite shirt, pants that actually fit, comfy merino socks, and shoes that go with everything. And even crazier, you get ready in a few minutes because the only items in your closet (or backpack) are all your favorite things.
Sounds great, right? It is. But for some reason the simple goal of liking your clothes feels out of reach for most people. Is streamlining your closet (or packing list) down to the things you want to wear really that hard?
Not according to Marie Kondo.
To understand why, let’s take a deep dive into minimalist travel and the philosophy behind the KonMari method to learn how you can build a wardrobe you love, get rid of the clutter in your closet, and pack like Marie Kondo.
If you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or seen her hit Netflix show, Marie Kondo is the tidying expert that’s downsizing the world one closet at a time. And her method centers one simple question:
“Does this spark joy?
Kondo asks her clients to hold every single item of clothing (or books, papers, etc) in their hands and ask, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to thank it, throw it out, (or donate it), and move on.
That’s it. The entire Marie Kondo method boils down to asking the same question over and over until you find yourself surrounded only by the things that bring you joy.
It seems almost maddening simple—but that’s why it works. There aren’t any rules about how many shirts you can have or shoes in your closet. It’s not about external pressure, because at the end of the day you’re the one that has to live with your stuff.
Likewise, when you pack a backpack, you’re the one that has to carry it. If it weighs 50 pounds, but everything in it brings you joy, that's totally cool. So if “joy” is the only criteria for your packing list, what does it mean to be a “minimalist traveler?”
At its core, minimalism isn’t about getting rid of all your stuff and living like a hermit. Instead, minimalism is about recognizing what you already have, then paring down those items to the things you really like and want to use on a regular basis. That’s it.
If you have a favorite mug or pair of jeans and want to use or wear them without sifting through a ton of crap, you’re a minimalist. You just haven’t gotten rid of the clutter yet. Or as Kondo puts it:
“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”
The KonMari method isn’t about emptying your closet. You’ll still have everything you love. In fact, you’ll probably have more great stuff than you even remember buying. Here’s another quote about minimalism from Kondo’s book:
“Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy. If you discard everything until you have nothing left but an empty house, I don’t think you’ll be happy living there. Our goal in tidying should be to create a living environment filled with the things we love.”
It’s easy to mock the image of the stereotypical black-clad minimalists, but there’s actually a lot to learn from the KonMari method. Especially if you’re a frequent or long haul traveler.
Minimalist packing isn’t about cutting the handle of your toothbrush or selling everything you own to cram your meager belongings into a fanny pack. A minimalist packing list is simply a tool that lets you transform a closet full of “I have nothing to wear” into a carry-on backpack neatly packed with your all-time favorite items. And when that happens, your bag gets lighter, your stress plummets, and you actually get to enjoy the places you paid so much money to visit.
Here’s how to pack like Marie Kondo, along with a few simple tips to help you embrace the “less is more” attitude of mindful minimalist travel on your next trip.
The KonMari travel packing method is all about simplicity. It’s really centered around just five steps. Heck, you’re probably doing some of these steps already. Here’s how Marie Kondo packs her bag for a trip:
That’s how you pack like Marie Kondo. If that list seems frustratingly simple, it is. But if you follow each step, you’ll be surprised how well the system works.
The beauty of the KonMari method is that the single question, “Does this spark joy?” cuts through all your excuses for packing things you don’t need:
None of those are good reasons to pack something. Or as Marie Kondo puts it:
“Keep things because you love them—not ‘just because.’”
It’s jarring to see everything you plan to pack all piled up in one place. It’s even more embarrassing when you realize that you’re about to pack seven t-shirts, three button-ups, four tank tops, and two sweaters for a weekend trip. And worse, you probably don’t even wear half of that stuff on a regular basis back at home.
Ditch the clothes that don’t spark joy and the ones that remain will become that much more desirable. It’s spooky how it happens almost every time.
It can be daunting when you buy your first really good piece of travel gear. Merino t-shirts cost more than cheap mass-produced cotton shirts. But the thing is, you get what you pay for.
When you invest in a few key pieces of quality travel clothing your packing list shrinks down to just your favorites, and packing becomes a breeze. No more thinking about what to pack. No comparison shopping for a new shirt for every vacation. You’re always ready to go. And that’s the dream.
Marie Kondo has a ton of other little tricks and tips, but the KonMari packing method always revolves around grouping items together, folding, sorting, and discarding things that don’t spark joy. And it’s honestly kind of brutal.
Packing like Marie Kondo makes you stare into the void and realize that you make a lot of bad decisions when it comes to buying clothes you don’t need. Not everything you bought is useful, and a lot of your stuff probably shouldn’t ever make it into your backpack. And that’s ok. Now you know.
“At our core, the things we really like do not change over time. Putting your house in order is a great way to discover what they are.” - Marie Kondo
The knowledge of what you like and don’t like will is powerful. It’ll keep you from buying more useless clothing in the future—which is the whole point of the Marie Kondo method. When you feel confident in your tastes, packing becomes a breeze. Heck, shopping becomes a breeze because you know exactly what you want, and you’ll get to wear your favorite outfit every single day.
The Marie Kondo method can help you pack a (carry on) backpack full of hand-picked favorites. But regardless what you bring, minimalism is all about building confidence. Confidence in yourself, your ability to make choices, and your skills as a traveler. Believe in yourself and what brings you joy, then go and make the best of your trip.