Spring Cleaning for Frequent Travelers: 6 Steps you Need to Take for a Better Trip

In February, I read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Let’s just say I was inspired and began immediately thinking specifically about spring cleaning for frequent travelers. 

Immediately putting Kondo’s method to the test as best I could, I’m a few more sessions away from being done and having a house full of only things which bring me joy. Already I can feel a difference in my mood and feelings toward my home. 

As someone who loves to travel as often as I can, I had a lot of travel specific items to sort through and I imagine you do to. Here are 6 must-do tasks for your spring cleaning list that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for your next journey. 

1. Travel wardrobe

Per Kondo’s instructions, you’re to start with the least sentimental things and then work up to the most. And since clothes tend to have a shorter shelf life than photos and souvenirs, it’s emotionally easier to part with them. 

Go through every room in your house and grab any clothing item that you either only wear when you’re traveling or that you acquired on your travels. 

You can use Kondo’s method the entire way and keep only the things you love. I recommend reading her book or picking it up at a secondhand shop (you can probably find it at most major locations as it’s a hugely popular book). 

If you’re not trying to eliminate clutter for life and are looking more for a simple spring clean, then just use the following steps:

  1. Sort things into 3 piles – those you know you want to keep, those you know you’re ready to let go of, and those your’e not sure about. 
  2. Decide which items in the middle pile you “unsure pile” you REALLY want to keep after seeing the characteristics of the items you loved.
  3. Figure out which items, if any, need to be specially cleaned. Put the others back where they belong. 
  4. Move the items you’re getting rid of out of your house immediately – ideally straight to the donation center or dumpster. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to actually get rid of everything.

2. Essential documents

This is the time to make sure your passport, drivers license or ID, visa pictures, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, any other important documents are in order. A complete list of things to clean and sort in this category:

  • travel gear warranties
  • itineraries and receipts for upcoming trips
  • tickets/copies of confirmations for upcoming trips
  • travel insurance
  • medical insurance
  • emergency contact information

Marie Kondo those docs, or do the following steps:

  1. Get rid of anything that’s out of date, irrelevant, or that’s easy to find without keeping a hard copy.
  2. Set alarms for any forms of ID or documents which must be renewed (passports, license, global entry, etc.)
  3. Store that shit securely! Do not put it in the bottom of that draw where you throw all your random papers. We all have one, except maybe Marie Kondo.

3. Travel gear

This refers to your water bottles and special filtration straws, your backpacks, your solar powered chargers, your cameras and fanny packs and passport covers. 

Sort into keep and get-rid-of piles as before.

Then determine if you need to clean any of your items before re-homing them.

4. Souvenirs

Travel provides so many opportunities to hoard trinkets and tickets and other miscellaneous momentos. Go through your pile with a keen eye for items that you can part with. If you’re keeping something but it’s going into souvenir storage, ask yourself “Why isn’t this on display?”

Maybe it’s not that special to you anymore, or maybe it just needs a creative storage solution. 

Two of the top categories of spring cleaning for frequent travelers are your photos and souvenirs. This photo shows some of my travel journals with a water color of a tree, a wooden wine bottle holder, postcards, and photos, laid out on a city map of Paris.
A teeny, tiny sampling of the photos, journals, and memorabilia from my travels.

5. Photos

There are two clear categories here: physical photo prints and electronic photos. 

I’d start with your physical prints and try to limit yourself to 5 photos per day of a trip, or whatever number feels right. Again, if your photos have gotten no views or love since you stored them in a box, perhaps it’s time to let them go or upgrade them to a proper photo album.

If you do store your photos in boxes, separate them into envelope by trip and date (Berlin, March 2018) or (Tibet, 2020). Then label the box with the contents so you can easily tell what’s inside. 

I’d organize your electronic photos much the same way, trying to keep to 5 or fewer top photos per day of your trip.

Since we can pretty much google any photo of anything now, don’t worry about getting rid of landscape shots. Focus on the special ones with you and your friends or family on the frame. Those will be the ones you’ll really want to remember later. 

6. Your travel bucket list

Most of us have some sort of bucket list, whether it’s written down or not. If you’re a list lover like me you might have these lists accumulating in multiple journals and notepads, with an indiscriminate accumulation of adventures included. 

I encourage you to go through these really considering why you want to do each item, and removing it if it doesn’t seem like something that excites you any longer. I know when I glance at my bucket list there are some things that seem like something I should want to do, or wanted to do ten years ago when I drafted my first list but have since lost their allure. 

Part of growing as a human means developing new preferences and interest, changing our minds, or gaining alternate perspectives. Travel can be a catalyst for that type of growth more than anything else.

Free yourself of feeling obligated to see every famous city and attraction that isn’t really calling your name. We’ll never be able to do every activity out there so spend your time doing on those which really speak to you.

A short list of items that really get you daydreaming will be a more effective motivation board than a list a mile long. 

Thanks for reading spring cleaning for frequent travelers!

Frequent travelers – you know how quickly the photos and souvenirs can build up. This year, try these easy steps to spring cleaning for frequent travelers – I promise you’ll feel lighter, cleaner, and ready to take on an adventure!

If you’re planning a trip and have some time to kill before you leave, read these 20 tips for sustainable travel and see if you can lessen or improve the impact of your adventure by just a bit.