Why intentional packing will probably change your life
A Marie Kondo pro explains why (and how, duh).
But for years, I wasn’t actually applying those principles to travel. My approach used to be laying out my clothes way far in advance—sometimes literally months ahead. Besides taking up so much of my mental and physical space (think big suitcase, small Brooklyn apartment), it also didn’t actually help me become a better packer. In fact, I somehow always overpacked. And it was a burden I couldn’t escape; once I arrived at my destination, I’d struggle with keeping everything inside my suitcase organized.
And then recently, I had an epiphany: If my home was an extension of my ideal life, I should be manifesting that in my carry-on as well.
Enter intentional packing.
Think of it as a form of mindfulness, where you’re much more present in the process. When I began to do that, I discovered just how quickly I could fill a suitcase—and how pain-free it could be. Packing with intention not only changed what I packed; it also allowed me to relax and actually enjoy the process. Now, my suitcase is ready to go just a few hours before a flight (and I cringe just thinking about all the months I spent with half-packed bags in my room).
Whether you’ve Kondo’d your room and are ready to tackle your suitcase, or just want to streamline your travel habits, here’s what you need to know about intentional packing.
The Intentional Packing Basics
Intentional packing, as the name implies, is packing with purpose. It can best be understood in contrast to how people commonly pack.
Typically when we pack we have a vague idea of what we’ll be wearing or what we’ll be doing on a trip, so we tend to approach packing by throwing everything into our bags, hoping we bring enough of the right things.
But intentional packing is the opposite; it’s exercising gratitude while you pack, touching your favorite things, interacting with your belongings, and envisioning how you’ll be using them on your trip. When we bring more awareness to what we’re doing with focus and purpose, we can assess more clearly what we need.
Intentional Packing vs. Minimalist Packing
Unlike minimalist packing, intentional packing brings the focus and excitement onto your trip and what your travel needs will be—not how little you can go without. This mindset frees you up to approach packing in an abundant, playful manner, rather than viewing packing as a chore.
How To Intentionally Pack
Think of the packing process as a meditation. Start by sitting on the floor in your space to set an intention. Visualize your trip, bring to mind where you’re going and what you’ll be doing, and ask yourself: What is my purpose on this trip? Get as detailed as you like here, since the more time you give yourself to visualize and get grounded, the easier the packing will be.
Then, with (or without!) your packing list, go category by category and collect your things in the following order: clothing, shoes, accessories, toiletries, electronics, and miscellaneous.
Lay everything out on your bed and from here revisit your initial intention. Do you need more? Less? What items would make you feel supported, confident, and excited about your pack? What items can you do without? (You can also play with paring down to just the essentials if you want to flirt with minimalism.)
Once you’ve made all your final decisions, divide your things into piles: one pile for carry-on and one pile for check-in luggage (that is, if you’ll be checking.) Now you can start packing, KonMari-style of course!
How To Go Deeper
There are several books that helped me look at ways I could reduce, enhance, and start living the more organized and streamlined life I desired. They include The Art of Discarding by Nagisa Tatsumi, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson, and of course, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, all of which address mindfulness and encourage using intuition as a touchstone for living in the present.
As I started applying their principles to my home, I found that the same principles could also be applied to packing and traveling; you might find they do the same thing for you.