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Can the KonMari Method work for Digital Nomads?
I’ve always loved organizing. So much in fact that I considered a career as a professional organizer. Seriously.
And recently I started asking myself:
- How can I pack more efficiently?
- Can the KonMari method for packing work for a full-time traveler?
- And (GASP!) could Marie Kondo’s folding clothes technique be better than rolling?!
The answer to all of those questions is YES!
So if you are ready to tidy up your travel life keep reading!
Quick Note: This is not a packing list post, but rather an exercise for full-time travelers to declutter their suitcase and ultimately their travel life using the KonMari Method.
Why use the KonMari Method when Packing?
Like so many people around the world I binge watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and felt inspired to find which of my belongings sparked joy.
I had been aware of Marie Kondo and her organization tips for a while, but to be really honest, I didn’t think I needed much help.
But after traveling full-time for almost a year, my suitcase was starting to feel heavy and weigh me down and I started to dread moving to new locations.
A definite issue for a Digital Nomad.
Most packing tips on the interwebs are geared towards short term trips, but after tackling my suitcase with the KonMari method, I’m a believer that it can work no matter the length of your travels.
What is the KonMari Method?
If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, it is a system created by Marie Kondo that focuses on only keeping items in your life that spark joy. She even wrote book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She has a completely systematic way of tidying up by category, not location.
The categories in order are
- Komono (miscellaneous items)
- Sentimental items
And there are 6 basic rules to follow:
- Commit yourself to tidying up
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle
- Let go of unwanted items first
- Tidy by category, not location
- Follow the right order
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy
How to Decide What Sparks Joy
It’s important that throughout this process and with every item, you ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” (see rule #6).
At no point is this about shaming yourself for the items you have chosen to hold on to or worrying about what other people might think.
If an item SPARKS JOY FOR YOU than keep it. If not, thank it for its service to you and decide whether you will donate it or throw it out.
Here’s how to tell the difference.
Step 1: Pick up an item of clothing that you absolutely LOVE! The one in your suitcase that makes you smile when you see it. Hold it close to yourself and take note of how it makes you feel. *That* is the spark of joy you are looking for.
Step 2: Now, pick up a different item of clothing in your suitcase that you typically try to avoid wearing unless you have to. Notice the difference in how it makes you feel. Did you get a slight frown on your face or make a little sigh. *That* is an item that does not spark joy.
Now that you have an idea of the muscle you are trying to strengthen let’s get started!
Applying the KonMari Method to My Nomadic Travel Life
As someone whose entire life fits in 1 suitcase and 1 backpack, Marie’s categories were a abit too broad for me, so I narrowed them down to align more closely with the categories of my travel life.
Below I walk you through the process of how I applied Marie Kondo’s methodology and the spirit of tidying up to my full-time travel life.
Step 1 of Tidying Up: CLOTHES
We always start with clothes first. It’s a great place to start because it creates some quick wins and helps you to start strengthening your “spark joy” muscle.
For all categories, you always want to start with putting all items into a single pile.
So take all of your tops, pants, jackets, underwear, socks, hats and whatever else you clothe yourself with and put them into a pile on your bed.
At the time of going through my clothes, I had switched seasons from a New Zealand winter/spring to an Australia summer.
So my quick wins were letting go of my winter clothes that were taking up space and were no longer needed. I did keep a couple of warmer items (that still sparked a lot of joy) for those cooler nights.
But many of the items I was grateful to start to letting go of like those socks with holes in them and that itchy top. I could feel the weight being lifted off me with each item I decided to stop carrying. (insert lame joke about carrying around baggage) 😆
I will admit that during this process I also ended up with a short list of “items to replace”. These included an ill-fitting pair of jeans and two bras that no longer fit. SIGH.
Another unexpected benefit of releasing a handful of my items, was that I became more intune to all the items I owned and their current state. Within a couple of weeks of tidying up my suitcase, my athletic shoes quickly got added to my “need to replace” list.
Step 2 Tidying Up: TOILETRIES
This is where my categories start to vary a bit from Marie Kondo, but I believe the spirit still applies.
(Note: this category probably belongs closer down to the MISC items, but I chose to do it second because 1) I use these items everyday 2) I didn’t think it would take me long to get through and 3) behind my clothes, it was the category I was most anxious to complete).
Admittedly, with house sitting I find that I acquire more toiletries than if I was constantly on the go. For example, I’m okay with traveling with full size shampoo/conditioner bottles because I know I’ll be in one place for 2-4 weeks at a time.
I also travel with a hair dryer because not all my homeowners have them and after doing a winter sit without one and spending a week with a cold head waiting for my hair to air dry, I decided to bite the bullet and travel with one. I don’t regret this decision.
BUT I was still carrying around unnecessary items.
I carry 2 Vera Bradley pouches – 1 for makeup and 1 for toiletries. Plus I had spilled over into a small plastic bag- it was TOO MUCH!
I went through all of my bags and was able to hand pick a few items to get rid of/focus on using up to lighten the load.
Now I have space in both pouches again and I’m not struggling to force the zipper closed.
Step 3 Tidying Up: ELECTRONICS
As a Digital Nomad, electronics are very important.
If you are a gadget lover, this category might be a bit more challenging for you. I see it as the Digital Nomad version of the books category.
Because electronics are the life blood of my business, I started with identifying the items absolutely necessary! This included my laptop, phone and chargers for each.
Everything else got a serious second look including my 2 sets of headphones, car charger, auxiliary cord, backup phone charger, back up NZ adapter, and how I store them.
Depending your business, your necessary items and the gadgets you travel with may look different than mine.
I don’t really have that many electronics that I use on a regular basis and most aren’t very big so I don’t think I let go of anything in this category, but it did give me a good opportunity to re-organize all of them.
It’s all about what sparks joy for you!
So if your new drone is your baby that brings joy whether you use it for business or not – keep it!
On the other hand if you’ve been carrying around a fraying charging cord that only sometimes works when you use it…. maybe it’s time to get rid of it or replace it with a working cord. (#guilty)
Step 4 Tidying Up: PAPERS & BOOKS
This category was my biggest surprise!
Until I started #tidyingup I hadn’t realized how much paper I was ACTUALLY carrying around.
If you would have asked me beforehand, I would have said my paper consisted of my small moleskin journal and my printed NZ visa.
Nope. I was wrong.
And for anyone who has ever held their breath after putting their suitcase on the scale at the airport and hoping the weight didn’t go over the maximum amount… carrying around even one extra ounce of paper seems silly.
This category for me included documents I had with me for NZ immigration that were no longer needed, sim card pamphlets, city maps of past locations and just other random documents.
I also combined books for this categories instead of keeping it separate because a) they are made of paper and b) as full-time travelers your collection should be fairly small.
Personally, I’m not an avid reader and I’ve done pretty good about reading one book at a time and then leaving it a hostel when I pass through.
If you are carrying around a lot of books and not sure what to do with them, I recommend taking the time to make a plan. Maybe you decide to try using an e-reader more often or start listening to more audio books.
As for physical books, you can always check with a local library if they take donations or gift it to a new friend or hostel.
Step 5 Tidying Up: MISC
When it comes to your travel life, this will just include everything left that you haven’t yet given any attention to.
For me, this included things like
- my reusable bags (I have about 4 of them and love them all so they all got to stay)
- my 2 sets of travel tissues (1 set is probably fine, thank you)
- the trash in my purse (good-bye!)
- my face roller (which I’m keeping, but decided to get rid of the box it was in)
And that’s it!
CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING TIDYING UP YOUR TRAVEL LIFE USING THE KONMARI METHOD!
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Bonus #1: TIPS FOR ORGANIZING
Now that you’ve done the hard work of going through all of your items and deciding what to keep, it’s important to put a system in place to keep things organized moving forward.
My biggest tip is assign everything a place.
I’m a huge fan of small bags or pouches for things like my toiletries, make up and electronic cords.
For my larger clothing items I use packing cubes (similar to these on Amazon). If you carry a large backpack you might not find them as useful, but if you carry a suitcase then I swear by them!!
Once you have items grouped into pouches then you can figure out the best method of packing them in your suitcase/backpack. I liken it to packing the trunk of a car when moving.
Think about what items you use infrequently and pack them in first with your most regularly used items being packed on top.
Bonus #2: ROLLING VS FOLDING
If you’re like me and have been told that rolling your clothes is the most efficient way to pack then I’m here to tell you WE WERE WRONG.
Although I went through all of Marie Kondo’s teachings I was still skeptical on this point (LOL seriously, why?!)
I decided to reach out to a friend of mine, Erin Mursch with Organized for Good, who also happens to be a KonMari Consultant.
Below is her response when I asked about rolling vs folding and how to deal with wrinkly clothes:
KonMari Method all the way! I fold for suitcases into little packets that are about 4×6. Wrinkling depends on how tightly packed they are, so let go of the clothes or items you aren’t crazy about and that should take care of it!– Erin Mursch of Organized for Good and a Certified KonMari Consultant
To truly test this, I took all the clothes I had decided to keep and packed them the way I typically do by rolling them.
I THEN took everything out and folded them using the KonMari method and again packed everything up. (Yes, this was very time consuming. You’re welcome.)
YOU GUYS! The difference was majorly noticeable!
With rolling I didn’t have any extra space, only the breathing room I gained from discarding some items.
But when I packed them using Marie Kondo’s folding techniques, I had extra space within my cubes that I didn’t even know what to do with!
So I agree with Erin, KonMari Method all the way!
Let me know in the comments below your experience using this method or if you have any questions!
See the list of travel essentials that go with me everywhere!
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Other posts you might be interested in:
- Choosing the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
- Laptop Friendly Cafes in Wellington with Free Wifi
- Living the Digital Nomadic Lifestyle & How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work Remotely
- Best Coffee Shops in Seoul for Working Remotely
- Best Coffee from Around the World