Rahul Khann. Photo courtesy: Burgoyne
Rahul Khann. Photo courtesy: Burgoyne

The art of packing (and why we all need a separate shoe bag)

Invest in packing cubes that can be assembled in your suitcase like a game of Tetris

I travel a lot and find packing and unpacking stressful. Truth be told, I have not always been as methodical as I am now, and have worked on mastering the art of packing efficiently over the years. So I recognize the value of being orderly even before the process of packing and unpacking starts.

A while ago, my friends introduced me to the KonMari method, founded by the Japanese organizing expert and author Marie Kondo. Kondo preaches that one should only own things that spark joy—your possessions should have a proper place and must be easily accessible. I follow this principle even while packing. I also use her vertical folding technique that allows you to store and pack clothes in such a way that everything is immediately visible.

I find a lot of people struggle to put their toiletries together before a trip. My first tip is to have multiple sets of all your essential toiletries. I typically have at least three sets—one that I’m currently using at home, one for my gym bag, and one that is kept packed in a kit, ready to be thrown into a suitcase at a moment’s notice.

My second tip is to invest in garment cases or packing cubes (mine are from Muji) that can be used for packing specific items (one for socks and underwear, one for T-shirts, one for dress shirts, etc.) and then can be assembled in your suitcase like a game of Tetris. If I’m carrying a jacket, it goes in last, laid right on top, with just one fold. Cables are my pet peeve. I use cable clips from Nappa Dori to organize them and then put them all in a small travel pouch.

I always have a fresh set of clothes, neatly packed in a case, in my carry-on bag, in the event that I spill food on myself mid-flight.

The strangest things you’ll find in my suitcase are avocados (I love them and you don’t always get them everywhere), dark chocolate (I try and only eat 85%), and a cricket tennis ball to work on stiff muscles and trigger points.

But the most unusual thing I’ve had to pack into a suitcase was the body of my lady love whom I had just murdered in The Americans. The scene required Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and me to break the limbs and stuff the body into a suitcase to smuggle out of the hotel. We used a naked contortionist as well as a dummy for the shots!

My third tip is to put shoes in shoe bags before packing them in your suitcase. My grandparents had their tailor make cotton shoe bags, and I found that idea cool even as a child. One of my defining travel style experiences was with the late actor Feroz Khan. Many years ago, we were on our way to the Dubai International Film Festival. After arriving in Dubai, I collected my one suitcase, and, after watching Feroz uncle’s porter unload three monogrammed trunks on to his cart, suggested we leave for the hotel—but he said we couldn’t because his shoe bag hadn’t arrived. He had a separate suitcase only for shoes, and that was so civilized. So now, whenever I have the luxury, I carry a separate shoe bag in his honour.

In Work Wise, actor Rahul Khanna talks about how to best lead life at work and outside it.

As told to Sandipan Dalal.