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How to Marie Kondo Your Travel

I know. I know. This post seems like it is a jumping-on-the-bandwagon kind of post due to all the craze around Marie Kondo's Tidying Up but… bear with me.

Last week Mr. Misadventures was in France which means that I usually catch up on Netflix shows that he may not be a fan of or have an affinity for. The first day the hubby was gone I was still under the weather and I stayed in bed. I had seen Marie Kondo mentioned everywhere on social media and I was curious.

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I queued up Tidying Up and binged watched the entire season. If at this point you are wondering who the hell is Marie Kondo, learn more on her website.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Turns out I have been a disciple of the Marie Kondo style of organizing for at least 2 decades. I have always been somewhat of a minimalist. Growing up military and moving every 2-3 years, you learn to eliminate a lot of unnecessary things in life, although looking back, I would still say I had a lot of stuff. Once I moved to California and started adulting, I moved often, 11 addresses in the first 14 years.

So having a lot of stuff meant moving was a pain in the ass. Therefore, I didn't have a lot of stuff. Then I did an international move with the company I worked for which really restricted what I could take, as there was an allowance on poundage. Same for the move back.

Once we moved back to the Bay Area we bought our home in Berkeley. It was 1450 square feet, had 3 levels, and had exactly 2 closets. One in the one-and-only bedroom on the 3rd floor and one utility closet on the bottom floor where the washer and dryer went.

Before moving into that home, I forced Mr. Misadventures to go through everything he had filling up the 2-car garage in our rental condo and basically made him get rid of anything he hadn't used in years (he is a former and recovered packrat).

With the help of Elfa at the Container Store, we designed for every inch of available space and maximized our organizational efforts by putting everything in clear plastic boxes. Even items already organized went into containers like toiletry bags, my hair tools organizer, and first aid kits. The kitchen is my husband's domain, but he used inserts to compartmentalize everything à la Marie Kondo.

Berkeley Closet

When we decided to sell the house and hit the road in the RV, we re-purposed our Container Store plastic boxes for storing both inside and outside of the RV. The cargo space under the RV was larger plastic tubs with plastic boxes inside.

When we towed our Jeep there were plastic boxes in the back, inside every drawer and cabinet were plastic boxes. It was not only a matter of organization, but it was also a matter of survival, weight management, and keeping sane!

Even in our home in the Phoenix area, we continued to repurpose the boxes we bought in 2007 (!) to keep every inch of the house and garage clean and organized. Our 1 slippery slope is books. I have culled through them many times, but probably have more than what Marie Kondo would like – according to my good friend Lois, the magic number is 30, I've got way more than that!

I have also systematically and unapologetically cut people out of my life because they did not “spark you.” It is not that I am not a supportive friend, but if you are drama 24/7, if the cup is always half empty, you and I aren't probably going to be besties.

But this post is about travel. So let's get to it!

I have been reading some great Marie Kondo-inspired posts about how you can apply her philosophy to social media (on Entrepreneur) and your digital life (on CNN) which got me thinking about how it applied to travel. Here are my thoughts.

The Super Obvious – Packing

How to Marie Kondo Your Travel - Packing

The most obvious area where the KonMari method can be implemented is packing. I am not going to spend a lot of time here, there are lots of travel bloggers (in particular Travel Fashion Girl) who have written excellent posts on packing, particularly getting it all into a carry-on!

In the Misadventures household, we rarely if ever do carry on, but we do pack with Eagle Creek cubes. We've had these babies for nearly 2 decades and are convinced this is the best way to pack and stay organized while on a trip.

Here are some additional posts on the subject:

Doing Things and Activities that Spark Joy

How to Marie Kondo Your Travel - Standing in Line

Does waiting in a huge line, being preyed on by pickpockets, and hoping for good weather (not even to have the best view) of the Eiffel Tower spark joy? Does fighting the crowds to see a tiny frame of a smug Mona Lisa spark joy?

I didn't think so.

Well, stop doing it! In 2009 I attended a blogging conference in which a very wise blogger said, it's YOUR blog, do what makes you happy! It's the same for your trip.

It's your trip, do what makes you happy, and don't worry about whether you marked everything off the list. If your perfectly planned itinerary is turning into one misadventure after another, chuck it and start again, it is perfectly okay to spend a week in Paris doing nothing but sitting in cafes and eating croissants. No one has the right to judge you on your travel style!

The same goes for bloggers working on paid or unpaid projects. And in particular when it is an unpaid project. Don't let a destination or a brand dictate your story. Do what makes you happy. You are going to write a better story and it is going to be more meaningful to your readers.

I'm working with a destination at the moment to craft an itinerary and their original list had activities on it that weren't on-brand for me, I would have a hard time authentically writing a story on it and communicating that to the client. They appreciated my honesty and eliminated those items and added new ones.


How to Marie Kondo Your Travel - Shopping

Kids aside (they have expectations) do your friends and family really need more stuff? Do you? Haven't we moved past the trivial keepsakes we collected as children? If you feel you must buy something, consider food that can be enjoyed together, a memory is created, but there isn't any residual physical item.

Or buy something highly functional. For example, a scarf which has so many uses or a hat! Consider the person’s tastes you are buying for and try to buy genuinely local goods.


How to Marie Kondo Your Travel - Airplanes

I'm going to be honest with you, in the last couple of years, airplane travel has definitely NOT sparked joy! That's one of the reasons that Mr. Misadventures and I have done more domestic travel – with lots of road trips which does bring us joy.

If getting on a plane has you furrowing your brow, consider trains, and boats. If you are getting on a plane, do everything you can to make the experience as joyful as possible! Consider:

  • Packing your own food, things you really like.
  • Bring your own water bottle (I travel with this one) and stay hydrated.
  • Wear clothes that allow you to be as comfortable as possible in those teeny tiny seats.
  • Bring a great book or pack your Kindle with a few. Download movies or TV series that you will thoroughly enjoy through any long (and inevitable these days) delay.
  • Get up and move around. I know I hate it too, I prefer the window seat so it means disturbing my neighbors, but you will feel tons better if you walk around a bit.
  • Protect yourself from illness by using antibacterial wipes (I swear by these ones!). Nothing worse than showing up in Paris with a new cold or flu (it's happened to me and it sucks!)
  • Don't overpack your personal items (or your carry-on). As the day progresses and you get more and more tired, they get heavier. Also, it's no fun fighting to get them in the overhead space or shoving them under the seat. Really take into consideration every item you bring.


How to Marie Kondo Your Travel - People

A final word about traveling companions. Choose people that spark joy. Mr. Misadventures and I recognize that we have our own rhythm and style when it comes to how we travel. It has been highly honed after nearly 2 decades of being together and it doesn't necessarily mesh well with others. Trust me. We've tried. I would say if you are traveling with others, resist the temptation to stay together.

I know that it can really help with the financial burden of lodging, but it can also add stress. If you are traveling with people for several days, have planned alone time. Don't plan on doing everything together 24/7, things will go a lot smoother and everyone will get the opportunity to do activities that spark joy.

Don't eat all your meals together as well, it gives people the opportunity to eat the food they want and not compromise by going someplace everyone can eat. You will finish the trip with your friendship still intact. I think this is even more important when traveling with family!

Have you hopped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon? Do you have additional Marie Kondo-style tips to add? Do share!

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  1. I love how you’ve applied the idea of only doing/keeping things and people in your life that still bring you joy. I would never have thought to apply Marie Kondo philosophy to traveling but I’ll keep these tips in mind for sure!

  2. What a great idea, to take the Marie Kondo method and apply it to the rest of your life. Removing everything that doesn’t spark joy.. like those toxic friends! Or other things that weigh us down. I totally overpack when I travel and it’s good to streamline as much as possible.

    1. @Marysa, I think especially when it comes to the people around you, people don’t always think they have a choice of who they spend their time with, but once you realize you do, it is so freeing.

  3. Never did I think the method is also applicable to traveling. I am an over pack and I really need to learn from this.

  4. It’s such a great idea to actually look at all the aspects of travel and decide if it sparks joy. Too many times we plan travel and then just do what we think we should instead of actually considering if it’s the right fit for us!

  5. I am the worst over packer, so those articles are going to be super helpful. I have become a total KonMarie disciple since watching her show so I am getting better about clutter and sparking joy, and that needs to spill over into travel!

  6. I love this post and your way of looking at sparking joy throughout a trip. I could definitely nix standing in line for less-than-amazing attractions. I really need to get better about packing though, LOL. My husband forces me to pack in a carry on most of the time but I still struggle with overpacking! I think I just like to be prepared for any adventure hahaha.

    1. @Amanda, I am lucky that my hubby needs all the carryon space for his camera equipment, otherwise he might force me to travel with a carryon, as he doesn’t I am still a little lax in that department and tend to overpack – but I am getting better!

  7. I love Marie Kondo and have been decluttering even before her series. My latest has been the laundry room, and I am rather pleased with how it has turned out! I’m horrible when it comes to packing because I am afraid I am going to want or need everything. Ughhh…my goal this year is to become a lighter packer and just enjoy the trip!

    1. @Sheila, I hear you on the packing. There isn’t much left I can Kondo – except more books, but I did notice that my sock and underwear drawers are not neatly folded a la Maria Kondo (although still neat) so I might need to attach that next!

  8. So fun! I got the Kondo big too and have had fun organizing our home (900 square feet baby!) Never thought to translate the skills over to travel but that makes sense! Especially the packing, my Achilles heel.

  9. LOVE the bits about how to be organized in your RV and in your daily life. I started following Mrs Hinch, and am still waiting til I have a good weekend that I can sit down and really delve into Marie’s show. The part that I appreciate the most about this article though, is that I have a friend that I almost feel guilty telling her that I don’t want to travel with her anymore. We are really good friends, and travel well together when camping – but our styles of travel are so vastly different that it is hard to do ANYTHING without getting frustrated on international trips. I don’t know if it is because I have traveled alone for so long that it is now hard to travel with people, even though I would love to – or if it’s more feasible for me to make genuine connections and have that sacred introspection that I just don’t get at home. I look up to you a lot, and really appreciate you putting that bit in there – as it makes me feel A LOT less guilty.

  10. Nothing like living in an RV to force you to be a minimalist. Air travel still brings us joy with all of the direct (cheap) flights out of Orlando but we need to apply minimalist principles here too since you can almost double your ticket cost if you have to pack a full bag. We have been learning more and more things we can do without on travel or, better yet, duel purpose items that can serve both needs. It seems like with every trip our bag keeps getting lighter.

  11. I love how you wrote this post, Andi – way to take advantage of a massive cultural movement! I appreciate that you haven’t focused just on the obvious, which is packing, but also other ways to keep things minimal and joy-sparking during travel. I’m pretty good at that when I travel but I struggle in my at home life.. I’m planning on doing a MASSIVE Marie Kondo closet/belonging cull when I get back from my Spring travels in May. I’m hoping that living minimally out of a suitcase during my travels will put things in perspective and make it easier to get rid of stuff when I return.

  12. What an interesting perspective to see travel but definitely got me reflecting on my past trips. I’m with you on doing activities that spark joy. I have taken on less sponsorships recently because I am starting to focus more on what we love (instead of dedicating time on promoting brands). Shopping is something I can’t give up though. But I typically buy food (snacks) and drinks (wines) so they don’t really pile up at my home 😛

  13. Everything should spark joy!! We have just begun to implement thhis method into our family lives. We are currently homeschooling and travelling the world.