Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tropical Storm Cindy

    We had Tropical Storm Cindy roll through here this week. It actually hit the area where Texas meets Louisiana, but we got all the rain and wind.

    Living on the gulf coast of Mississippi there are reminders of Hurricane Katrina everywhere. All of us residents are acutely aware of the potential for a repeat sometime in the future. I have done some hurricane prep in the past, most notably to back up all my photos both digital and physical. I also photographed all my postcard collection as a backup as well. I recommend Dropbox for this. One of the added unexpected benefits of cloud storage is that I can pull up any photo I ever had and show it to someone right then and there. For example our eighth graders that were graduating in May were asking about our own middle school years (I am a teacher at a middle school). I was able to pull up a photo of my own graduation, they went gaga over the awesome 90’s style I sported. Pretty cool!

     While work was cancelled and I had the day to spend with my dog at home, I decided to try one of my favourite things to do, time for a "mental exercise". Only I decided to go one step further and instead of writing it down I actually pulled and packed stuff. The theme, so to speak, was "if we had to evacuate what would I pack to take with me". The rules I set for myself was everything had to fit in my Tom Bihn synapse 25 and my Tom Bihn sidekick (purse). Another rule was if I would buy the item again (i.e. if it was important enough for re-purchase) then I had to pack it. I did not pack any work stuff, work clothes, work bag, work supplies. Only what I personally needed and wanted. There is definitely a difference between my needs and wants, this was discovered real quick as I began packing. Really I only needed 2-3 outfits, but I found myself thinking about the long term practicality. I realised long term I would buy more clothes thus defeating my second rule. So I packed more than I would travel with.

     I suppose the A-type personalities out there would have made a list first, but I wanted this be as authentic as possible, as if I really only had so long to pack before evacuating. I did not set a time limit, but I'd did act as if there wasn't much time. The feeling was helped by the constant tornado warning beeping through my cell phone and having the weather channel on in the background. I tried not to really think, but go with gut instinct and see where I ended up.                         

    The above photo was my first round result. I won't bore you with a list of the items, but as you can see I was unsuccessful in fitting it in my synapse and sidekick. Two of my packing vehicles (laundry stuff sack and travel tray by Tom Bihn) did not even make it inside. Also I realised aftewards that I neglected to pack ANY toiletries. I don't know if you can see it but I couldn't even zip up my bag, it was that overstuffed!

    Round two involved me dumping everything out on the bed and analyzing what I had grabbed and what the motivation behind it must have been. I then began systematically replanning and packing with careful thought and precision. The caveat being I couldn't go back and take things from my room, it had to be a re-pack from round one. I figured if I went in depth with the exercise then should the need arrive where it was no longer a drill, but reality, then I would be better prepared. Having mentally rehearsed ahead of time, the decisions will come easier and with more rationale. I am happy to say that at the end of round two everything did fit in the synapse with room to zip up. The only thing I would be buying would have been toiletries!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Still Learning

Just a quick post. As I am sitting here on this beautiful little outdoor deck area at my college waiting for my first graduate school class to start, I have my Tom Bihn sidekick with a few extras inside, a legal pad and a can of Sunkist (don't ask, I just had a weird craving for one this afternoon). I am laughing at myself and the fact that even after 3 years of minimalism I will overpack without thinking. In fact I have to think hard to remind myself to pack light and for the best case and not the worst. Why is it in our nature to do so? There may be a blessed few of y'all out there whom naturally and instinctively pack light, but I am betting it is not the majority. Once again I shot myself in the foot and packed my beloved Tom Bihn Synapse 25 with everything I could possibly need for school and for work (I am working at a summer camp). Brainiac me, decided it would be very minimalist just to have one EDC (every day carry) bag for all my activities this summer. It was fine wearing it for 2 minutes from parking lot to classroom at camp, but walking around campus this afternoon? No ma'am! No, siree, I tell you what, it's hot! And it ain't light weight! It's not literally sliding-out-of-my-shoes-in-the-middle-of-Hong-Kong-dragging-a-heavy-ass-suitcase heavy, but enough for me to laugh at myself. If nothing else, I do learn from my mistakes. I went back out to my car, added a few things like glasses, a pen, a snack and a pencil to my sidekick and grabbed a notebook on my way again towards growing my future. What better place to learn from a mistake than at a place of higher learning during a return to school 12 years in the making.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Minimalist Jewelry

Minimalist Jewelry

As with clothes you probably wear 20% of your jewelry 80% of the time. In fact unlike clothes it is probably an even smaller percentage. I know I wear the same bracelets every day, I may add one or two more on the weekend. I typically wear the same two necklaces. I have five or six pendants that I just switch out on the same chain.

At work I have a security badge that I wear, it is on the Vera Bradley safety lanyard in a slim ID case. I have had the same one for three years now. I have to say I am super frustrated with Vera Bradley’s quality. While the patterns are pretty the are expensive. They get dirty easily and will fray. I have tried washing them over the years but they never seem to look clean. I have worked for 3 school systems and their rules for wearing an ID badge vary. I started wearing mine full time my second year teaching. Since I am short (5ft) and look young I find it has helped with establishing respect in the classroom. It also helps with substitutes and parents who may not know my face.  


Over the last year I made a concentrated effort to sell the jewelry I seldom wear, to pay attention to the ones I favor (i.e. why do I tend to reach for that necklace almost everyday?), and to invest in versatile higher quality pieces that match the “color theme” of my wardrobe when I do purchase new jewelry (which i seldom did even when I was a hoarder).

For about 3 years I was a big fan of the Alex & Ani bracelets. Trendy, yes, but bracelets are my weakness and I did wear 2-3 everyday. Something I noticed was they seemed to be silver plated and not sterling silver. No matter how carefully I stored them or wore them, they always seemed to tarnish and chip at the 2 year mark. I hated wearing them once them were noticeably damaged. Reluctantly I sold them all on poshmark. Due to the tarnish and wear on them I was no longer wearing them and they just sat sadly in my jewelry roll. Luckily they all found new homes.

Using the money I got for the sales on poshmark, I invested in a pandora sterling silver bangle. I wear it everyday on my right wrist. I have a pandora chain bracelet I wear on my left. I prefer it with no charms at all, it is so pretty on its own. I have a leather bracelet I also wear on my left that I received from a community member while I was working at a local youth club. I have one other Pandora bracelet, it is a pink leather double wrap, I mostly wear that one on weekends. I have 2 necklaces, both with a longer length, I have found that I like the necklaces that rest just above my stomach. One is a LOFT owl necklace I got 6 years ago when I worked there. The other was acquired this past winter after saving up. It is the long beaded Pandora Essence necklace. I switch out the beads to make a “new look” every time I wear it and for it to match my outfit. At $110 it is hands down the most expensive piece of jewelry I have ever owned. I timed the purchase to coincide with a spend $125 get a free bracelet sale, which is how I got the chain bracelet I wear on my left wrist.

Lastly earrings. I have always worn a pair of earrings until I lose one by way of it falling out. Most of the time I wear a pair for 2 years minimum. The set I have in my second holes I have had for 5 years. The primary set were a pair of turquoise ones from Aeropostale from 3 years ago. I just happened to loose one last month while in a changing room. I have very sensitive ears, even nickel free will get them infected the first time I put them in. After deliberation it seemed stainless steel might be the way to go. I love Fossil jewelry for this reason, most of their jewelry is stainless. I like it even a bit more than silver, never tarnishes. I bought a set of silver tone stainless steel love knot earrings from Fossil last month and am in love! That’s it, I don’t have any other earrings.

Last bit of jewelry I is two stainless steel bracelets from Fossil, one silver toned with a heart charm similar to the Tiffany one. The other is a gold tone chain one. I don’t often wear gold toned jewelry, but have increased its use in the last 3 years or so with the advent of mixed tone stacking jewelry. I love that the rules of fashion have changed and one doesn’t need to wear monochrome color.

Jewelry

Double wrap pink leather Pandora bracelet

Pandora bangle

Pandora heart chain bracelet

    Brown leather braided bracelet

    Loft owl necklace

    Pandora essence beaded necklace

    Assorted Pandora and Hallmark stainless steel chams ~15

    Pandora pink ring

    College class ring

    High school class ring

    Fossil steel bracelet

    Fossil gold tone bracelet

    Assorted pendants ~5

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pensacola Pack List April

Pensacola Pack List

We spent the weekend in Pensacola, FL so my bf could run in the Fiesta Five Flags 5k/10 run. When I stayed in Pensacola in January swimming was not possible. While it is much warmer along the gulf coast in winter then much of the rest of the US, we can usually get away with shorts at best. There are those intrepid few that swim, but as I grew up in New England and have had more than my fair share of cold in my life, I am not one of them. I loathe cold weather. Actually, cold weather is not the problem, it is slushy snow, black ice, cutting winds and months of zero sunshine that I despise. Funnily enough I believe it is mostly out-of-town visitors, tired of cold themselves, that actually swim here in the colder months.

    April, however, is a great time to be at the beach. Warm to hot days with little to no humidity, longer days with the time change, off-season pricing and almost no tourists. You can find whole stretches with not a soul for solo time. The water is warm enough to swim in. I could go on and on. Therefore my packing list changed from our trip in January to this last weekend of April. I almost forgot, there is one caveat to spring visits. The rain. You could find 10 days of nothing or 3 days of thunderstorms. I packed keeping this in mind. One more nugget, I have a 5 year-old chihuahua named Indiana Jones “Indy” for short. He always goes on vacation with us unless we are flying somewhere. I am including my packing list for him too (yes, he is a bit of a diva, and yes I am a first time dog mom, so I overpack).

Clothes

1 swimsuit

1 coverup

1 pair jeggings

1 linen shirt

1 pair capri yoga pants

1 tee

1 tank top

1 pair athletic shorts

1 long sleeve tech shirt

1 dress

1 denim jacket (my go-to when I wear a dress)

1 pair flip flops

I was wearing work clothes when we drove over, since we left straight after work. Work clothes were 1 pair of khakis, 1 work tee and I wore my tennis shoes.

Toiletries

Hairbrush

Deodorant

Toothbrush/paste

Travel size baby powder

Sunscreen

Travel size shampoo/conditioner combo ( I don’t like hotel shampoo, dries my hair out)

Hair clip

Misc.

Ipad/charger (could've left it behind, didn’t end up using it, I usually don’t so I am actually not sure why I did pack it)

Headphones (my nice bose ones, again, didn’t need, not sure why I packed them)

Camp/sport towel

notebook/pen

Sarong (yeah I finally got one!!!! And as in the past, it is super useful for everything)

Sarong clip

Spork

Passport

Wool buff

Headlamp

Combo lock

Face mask

Beach chair

Swim noodle

Beach umbrella

Tom Bihn  Synapse 25

Tom Bihn Sidekick

Ultrasil sea-to summit backpack

2 Lewis and Clark featherlight packing cubes

1 Lewis and Clark featherlight packing cube

Things I would do differently next time

I definitely should have left the Ipad and headphones at home. When it is only a weekend trip they are really not necessary.

I forgot my earplugs! Of course the air conditioner was extremely loud.

I usually put a couple unused dryer sheets in my bag to make it smell nice, I didn’t this time. They really make a big difference.

Laundry bag, I really haven’t found a good one yet, but every damn time I travel I wish I had one.

I have also been toying with the idea of using shoe bags. I just toss them in now, but they can smell and in this case were covered in sand. A good set of shoe bags is most certainly on my radar now.

I also recently ordered the Matador Mini Pocket Blanket. There are several end of the year school events happening where it would be useful. In addition I used my sarong as a beach blanket this weekend because red flags were out and swimming in the ocean was banned so I did not need it as a cover-up. Normally I don’t need a beach blanket because of the chair, but our dog does need one as the sand gets hot. On our next trip I will use the Matador for him and my sarong as my cover-up/towel The sports/camp towel was for him, he likes to swim (He is a Chihuahua and gets cold easily if not dried).

One last item, not really an item, but act. I will change into my loungy clothes next time before leaving on a trip. The three hour car ride would have been way more comfortable in yogas and a tee.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Minimalism Sundays

Minimalism Sundays

About a year ago I started watching minimalism YouTube videos on Sundays as I folded laundry. From there it grew to include reading minimalist blog posts. Eventually I started listening to Theminimalists.com podcasts on my iPad. Now I call it Minimalism Sundays and I devote a good chunk of the day to it. I find it refreshes me for the week ahead. It gets my head back in the game so to speak.

    Having this set aside time also allows for reflection on any mistakes I have made during the week and to formulate a game plan for better decision making in the future. I still slip up and shop without a purpose on occasion. Sometimes I don't even realize I have done so until I am listening to the podcast and mull over their words. I have learned to forgive myself, move on and definitely to return it!

  All this came about when I read Marie Kondo's book The Japanese Art of Tidying Up. I typically do laundry on Sundays. I wanted to try out the Konmari folding method but I couldn't quite understand how it was done in the book. Naturally I turned to online sources and there was a YouTube video (there is a YouTube video for EVERYTHING). That led to more videos on how other people did the Konmari clean out. Which in turn led to videos on minimalism, then one-bag-living, then travel, nomadic living, digital nomad, build your own tiny house, capsule wardrobes, and oh my! I just loved it.

   I never noticed how bombarded we are with advertisements until I started to pay attention. We are hit with the message to shop constantly. Even while watching Tiny House Nation, a show specifically​ on downsizing and culling “stuff" on the first commercial break there are handsome people dancing around buying things on wayfarer with free shipping. They show them clicking the purchase then bam! It is in their living room perfectly set. During my YouTube videos on minimalism and nomadic lifestyles the commercials were on Carmax Superstore and Macy's one day sale. Ever notice Macy's has a one day sale every weekend? And they always have a “preview day” the day before. Anyhow between the side adverts on your work email, the radio ads on the way to work and the cute outfits your coworkers are sporting it is easy to be sucked into the consumerism vortex. And if you do, forgive yourself and move on, we are only human, with each new mistake we add a new lesson to our menagerie of experiences. Have a most wonderful day 😀

Thursday, April 6, 2017

My "Always Pack" list

My “Always Pack” List

    There are a few things that get packed up every time; no matter where, when, or how long a trip may be. There is a small black mesh bag that normally stores my electronics, it does double duty as my “always pack” container on trips. Items that are always packed are: wool buff, spork, headlamp, eye mask, ear plugs, sarong clip (sarong too, but I do not currently have one and have been on the look-out), notebook/pen and passport. You may or may not be surprised to know that only one of those things actually gets used in my day-to-day life.

    Each of my “always pack” items is invaluable when needed, serves multiple purposes and has saved my bacon on previous trips. My wool buff was a hat, a face mask, glove and pot holder on a camping trip in the Smokies. It was a scarf, headband and hat on my trip to Europe. It was a scarf again during the snowpocalypse in Jackson, MS this past January. In the year I have owned it, it has time and time again proved to be one of most useful clothing articles.

                 <wool buff in action!

    The spork, once scoffed at in the cafeteria in high school is now used with triumphant gusto. I also newly acquired it last year at REI in Knoxville, TN when I got the wool buff and Dr Bronner’s soap (2 oz.). In the year I have had it, it has not been used too often. My best guesstimate is 20 times or so, but when you need a utensil, you need a utensil! It got the most use on my camping trip of course. I used it in the airport a dozen times or so. In Europe it was mostly used in Germany and the Negev desert. I cannot stress the point enough tho, that when you need a utensil, you need a utensil! Then when you pull out the spork with glorious relish it may as well be gold.

       

    Next item is the headlamp. Not too much to say about it other then I love the hands free feeling of having an adjustable flashlight. It almost never gets used, except for camping or the rare moments down south when we lose electricity. I walk my dog every night using my boyfriend’s regular flashlight and it is only just now dawning on me that I should use the headlamp (I can be a dunce at times). Again it is one of those items that while not in use too often it proves itself worth a million dollars when you need one.

    The eye mask was a freebie given out by Delta on our flight to Europe. I didn’t think I needed it but the packet came with earplugs which I had forgotten and knew I would use those. Since I hate throwing away items I kept the eyemask in my bag during the trip. It became a wonderful tool for sleeping. It usually takes me a day or two to get accustomed to a new environment to sleep well. With the sleep mask I sleep like a baby every time.

    I am currently without a sarong. Usually the one I have operates as a throw blanket, beach blanket, dressy skirt, swim cover-up, loungey dress and serves a multitude of other various uses. During a clean-up over a year ago I donated it thinking it wasn’t truly adding value at the time. Since then I have not found a good replacement and since I have been making due without it for so long now I hesitate to buy another. I guess I am waiting now for one that was ethically made, in superb colors that match everything in my wardrobe and at a good price. Basically the shangri-la of sarongs. It could be awhile.

With the ever expanding assortment of electronics available out there I am still old school when it come to taking notes. My notebook and pen are invaluable to me. All the information will typically be transferred to an electronic system, but I still like the feel of writing and the freedom of spacing it gives me on the page. I tried using a moleskine as most digital nomads raved about them, I found a cheap spiral bound small notebook was more conducive to my style. I also use either a purple pentel pen or a bic 4 color multi-click pen.  

Lastly, my passport is always by my side because you never know! I would never want to miss out on an opportunity just because I didn’t have the most important tool in a travelers kit with me. Also, if your wallet get stolen or lost, how happy will you be getting to the airport with a backup? ‘Hey, let’s jet down to the Bahamas!” will probably never happen when I am in Orlando, but you can’t blame a girl for dreaming!

    What do you “always pack?” I am curious to compare notes! Oh and by the way, it’s earplugs that get used everyday!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Let go of the Guilt

Let Go of the Guilt

Upon re-reading my previous post on the Sentimental Items I Kept, there was a realization, nay an epiphany, there were still belongings that I didn’t actually care about. After some self analysis, the reasons they were kept was out of a sense that “they should mean something to me”. I was building a sense of obligation to these items. In part because after ridding myself of 90% of all I owned the few tchotchkes that remained intimated they must be the most quintessential to my “collection” of knick knacks. Obligation is a heavy word. It weighs you down. Just pondering on the word obligation, a feeling of stress settles on one’s mind. The crazy thing is, I was the only person expecting myself to keep these items.

    Please, do not feel bad if you do not care about some sentimental items and heirlooms. A valuable lesson I learned from Courtney Carver (bemorewithless.com) was to let go of the guilt. Not just guilt from spending all that money when the initial purchase was made, but the guilt from not using it. There is guilt in money spent to store stuff, organize stuff and move stuff. Hanging on to the stuff will just cost even more resources and money. Forgive yourself and move on.

A large part of my hoarding issue was knowing the money I spent was wasted if I never used it. I never saw that holding onto it was costing me even more, not just money, it was taking away happiness, causing stress and alienating me from people. How refreshing to come home every day to be surrounded by only possessions that truly spark joy! “Use things love people, because the opposite never works” (theminimalists.com).

The following is a list of things I got rid of just this weekend.

1.Stormtrooper action figure

2.Han/Chewy action figure

3.Luke/Leia grappling hook action figure

4.Lego Millennium Falcon

5.Lego Ti fighter

6.Lego AT-AT

7.Lego x-wing fighter

8.Lego cloud city car

9.Red sox Fenway Park dirt

10.Red Sox ticket stub

11.Stainless steel funnel and cup

12. 2 comic books

13.NYC name sign

14.A few extra postcards (mostly if I got more than 1 or 2 per trip)

15.Pledge book

16.Hogwarts run medal

17.Convention patch

18.High school patch

19.3 graphic novels

20.Chopsticks wedding favor

21.Columbia black fleece jacket

22.Gray Loft leggings

23.Spandex shorts

24.Linen tank top

25. Canvas field jacket

26. 2 fossil necklaces

27. Duster Sweater

I am thinking next week of putting everything I own on the floor of my living room and taking a picture so y'all can see what I do have.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

You Might be a Minimalist if: (my attempt at humor)

You Might be a Minimalist if: (my attempt at humor)

1. Everything you own could be replaced in a 2 hour Amazon spree.

2. You have two cups, one dirty and one clean.

3. A full size jug of laundry detergent looks so big you go to the dollar store for the sample size.

4. HGTV looks like the maximalist channel.

5. You only watch HGTV at a friend’s house, you don’t have cable.

6. Work shirt has a hole, where is the needle and thread?

7. Backpack has a tear, email the company, “we will give you a free replacement”, no, how do I fix it? “Fabric tape”, fabric tape it is.

8. The dog’s 10 Star Wars sweaters are now 5, he looks fabulous.

9. After 10 years you begrudgingly replace the pillow that has tripled in weight (eww, gross).

10. The phone with a completely spidered screen, which crashes and shuts itself off, whose battery barely makes it a half day and runs hot, is your phone.

11. The library is like Cheers, all the librarians know your name.

12. Your idea of fun on a Saturday is helping someone clean out their closet or watching someone clean out their closet on youtube.

13. You are constantly tetrising your things down to a smaller space.

14. There is no need for renter’s insurance.

15. And lastly, you hesitate the buy that awesome green PBS nerd tee shirt because you already have 2 tee shirts at home.

(Yes, these all pertain to me, lol)

   

Sunday, March 12, 2017

End of 30 Day Challenge

End of 30 Items Used Challenge

    That’s it, I am throwing in the towel. The time to end the challenge is now, because frankly it is annoying. After three weeks of counting and recording all items used there is enough data to analyze. While this started out as a fun mental endeavor it has gotten tedious. Six more days will not make a difference.

    How are the results? There are a few things that surprised me. For the most part It was entirely predictable which items would be used the most. The more surprising for me, was the items I thought I used regularly were not as often as I supposed. I went on one weekend excursion, which may be thought of as skewing some of the outcome. Since I do travel frequently, especially for weekend trips, this actually was a favorable measurement. Listing clothes is too laborious so I will stick to objects, shoes, and coats/jackets.

    Items I used every day; well duh, you probably could guess that one! Bed, pillows, blanket, sheets, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, phone/charger, electronic picture frame/charger (it is set to go on automatically everyday in my living room), black mesh organizer bag, metal valet tray, earplugs, dog’s leash/harness, nightstand, hand soap, and hand towel, were literally used every day.

Items used most days (like 80% of the time); couch, ipad, headphones, tv, tv remote, polar pop cup, bamboo utensils, work bag, name badge with lanyard, school coffee maker,  purse, car, car keys, car phone mount, tupperware, moisturizer/sunscreen, hair brush, towel, robe, shampoo/conditioner, body wash, loofah, razor, bobby pins, nail clippers, nail polish, tweezers, pandora ring, alex and ani bracelet, silver necklace, owl necklace, coffee table, slanket, germx, paper towels, word search book, sudoku book, lamp, glasses, sunglasses, and my notebook/pen.

Items used less frequently (1-2 times per week); colored pencils/sharpener, coloring book, Tom Bihn packing cube backpack (holds coloring and craft supplies), sketchers athletic shoes, bobs shoes, flip flops, sanuks, rain jacket, fleece jacket, wooden letter holder, pot, frying pan, glass baking dish, whisk, bottle opener, drink cozy, spatula, serving spoon, mug, measuring cup, dish soap and sponge.

Items that I used infrequently (1-2 times in the whole month); laptop/charger, external mouse, thumb drive, Tom Bihn synapse 25 backpack, sleeping bag, canvas field jacket, selfie stick, tripod, make-up (mascara, cover-up, face powder and tinted lip gloss), packing cubes (2 Lewis and Clark medium ones), corkcicle, travel micro towel, folding toothbrush, spork, headlamp, sarong clip, wool buff, sleep mask, passport (didn’t use it, but whenever I travel anywhere even within the US I always bring it just in case something happens to my primary ID), stainless steel heart bracelet, kindle fire/charger, pencil by 53, bluetooth keyboard, laptop bag, c-swing hammock/stand and my baton (twirling kind not police issue).

Whew, that is quite the payload. It’s very interesting that in 30 days we do utilize a great deal of possessions. What is even more compelling is the gear that did not make the roster. Colorguard pole and flag, sentimentals stored in a under-bed container, camping hammock, camp tarp with tent stakes, a 2nd camp towel, wash n’ wear clothes bag, a large Lewis and Clark packing cube, 18 liter hiking backpack, coach clutch, denim jacket (although I did wear it today to work), 2 more pandora bracelets, 2 gold alex and ani bracelets, gold watch necklace, 3 rings, white shell necklace, visor, swim gear (well yeah, it’s not summer), camp pad/trail chair (2-in-1), camp hammock/straps, survival whistle, knee brace, candle w/holder, beach chair, beach umbrella, swim noodle, boogie board, tin camp mug, books (4), graphic novels (3), sharpie, calligraphy book, and I am sure a few more items I am not thinking of. On paper it seems a large volume of items, but every item I own fits into the trunk of my Hyundai Elantra. I can definitely do some trimming. Already the cogs are whirring and a mental list is being compiled of superfluous trifles that will not be missed.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sentimentals, How I Decided What to Keep

Sentimental Items

    When cleaning out and decluttering your home, sentimentals are often the hardest thing to let go of. In Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up she keeps the category of sentimentals last, that way by the time you get to the subject you have perfected your inner sense of what “sparks joy”. Upon cleaning out my own (I didn’t use Konmari method, didn’t learn of it until I had already cleaned out about 80%), it seemed that I was attaching sentimental value to useless items. Adding value because I happened to purchase them the day something momentous happened or because someone gifted it to me was causing an influx of pointless items.

    To solve the useless-yet-meaningful dilemma I took a picture of the item. Therefore I have a way to remember that summer at the cape with a picture of the pilsner glass and not yet-another-pilsner glass. Sometimes I would have something else like a postcard (I LOVE postcards for souvenirs and as sentimentals) and I can get rid of the other items from an event and keep the smaller reminder item. The beer cozy from your Aunt’s wedding 5 years ago is way more useful than that sparkle light candle holder centerpiece that is 2 feet wide.

    Gifts, what a nice thing! However, most people gave you that gift with the intention of it “sparking joy”. If it no longer does so, get rid of it! The gift giver did not want the item to feel like a burden on you. If you enjoyed it for a little while and no longer have use for it, it’s ok to donate it to someone who will enjoy it. Then it is the gift that keeps on giving.

The same can be applied to family heirlooms. You’re family’s ancestors want you to enjoy the item, because it was originally acquired for them to be useful or pretty or to enjoy. If the old dining room hutch is a drag and you sigh with frustration when you think about it ask another family member if they would like it. Or sell it at a consignment shop and use the money for a fun experience with your family. Holding on to it because your kids “might” want it one day is just passing the burden along.

While I am thinking of it, let’s talk yearbooks. Don’t hang on to them just because your kids “might” one day want to look at them. If you haven’t cracked it open since the last day of school when Jimmy delightfully inscribed “stay hot” and Brianna wrote “Let’s meet up at the beach”, then let it go. Most likely your old Alma Mater will eventually have digital copies of yearbooks soon enough. I took a few pictures of the pages I had photos on and stored them in dropbox, but I seriously doubt I will even look at those.

In case you are wondering what sentimentals I did hang on to, I would love to share it. See a list and description below. If I had a hard time deciding if I did want to keep something I put it into a box as a trial. If I didn’t think about it for 30 days (90 days, 6 months, a year, you pick your timeline you feel comfortable with) then the box went straight to goodwill. One of the most difficult sentimentals is photos, in fact I devoted an entire article to it, see “Backup Your Photos, You Never Know What Life Will Bring” from last fall. Now, a list of my sentimentals.

High School Diploma

College Diploma

Alpha Phi Omega membership card and certificate of acceptance

Pledge book

High School graduation tassel

College Graduation tassel and fraternity rope

College Graduation portrait (framed with another tassel)

APO glassware flask

Pledge paddle

Postcard collection (ones people have sent me and ones I have acquired and journaled a sentence or two on the back about the event/occasion/trip) High School Band/Colorguard patch

High School culinary arts patch

APO patches (member patch, coat of arms, national convention)

APO 75 years anniversary coin

APO pins (member pin, forget-me-not pin)

Chinese red envelope with gold peach gift (from one of my best friend’s parents when we went to Hong Kong to visit and celebrate her Dad’s 60th birthday)

Ticket stub to Red Sox game from the year after they won the world series in 2004

A small St Thomas novelty license plate with my name (6 inches long)

Small 1 ounce baggie of Red Sox Fenway dirt

6 or 7 Disney Parks ticket stubs

Every running bib I have ever gotten

Run medals (12 I think) also each medal has a pin on it from the race (most were Disney races)

Harry Potter 3d glasses from the Deathly Hallows Part 2

National Park system passport (stamp collection book the size of a passport)

New Hampshire patch

Flattened penny collection (about 50)

1996 Atlanta Olympics collectable coin

2012 Bacchus Mardi Gras collectable coin

New York City sidewalk art of my name from 2003

Wood Camel from Israel

Chopsticks from a friend’s wedding

Spock action figure (6inch)

Luke x-wing fighter action figure (4 inch)

Stormtrooper action figure (4 inch)

Han Solo frozen in carbonite action figure (4 inch)

Han Solo and Chewy A New Hope action figure (4 inch)

Luke and Leia repel over the bridge A New Hope action figure (4 inch)

Leia on Hoth Empire Strikes Back (1980) action figure (4 inch)

Lego mini x-wing fighter

Lego mini Millennium Falcon

Lego mini Tie fighter

Lego mini AT-AT walker

Lego mini cloud city ship

BB8 bobble head

British telephone tin filled with lego star wars figures (maybe 20)

Darth Vader 12 inch technix

Yoda 12 inch lego


    Wow, when I type it all out it sure does look like a large collection. All of it fits into a plastic 15 quart rubbermaid that slides under the bed. I have the action figures and legos out on display in the living room, but they would pack up easily back into the rubbermaid. I made a rule for myself that if the items I treasure so deeply are not out on display then they must not mean that much to me. Therefore over the last 3 years I have weeded the collection down and made sure it is out for enjoyment. As I am writing this I am already realising that this can be pared down further. Always a work in progress!

    As a mental exercise I am asking myself what are the first 5 things I can think of that I can’t live without. Spock, Chinese envelope with gold peach, National Park Passport, APO paddle, run medals. No Star Wars? What a surprise to me! I would have assumed right away that at least one thing would be from my beloved Star Wars haul. Saying run medals is a bit of a cheat since there are so many, for technicality if there could be only one i would say the Castle to Chateau medal. I earned it by running a half marathon at Disney world in Florida and a half marathon at Disneyland Paris in the same calendar year. They were my first and last half marathons I ever ran. I earned that sucker dag nabbit! As a side note, item #6 would have 1980 Hoth Leia.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Life Without a Computer

Life Without a Computer

    I have never been one to spend a lot of time on a computer and up until 2 years ago I did not have internet. I got a smartphone 3 years ago and an Ipad 2 years ago. In a conservative estimate I can say I do 85% of all my computer needs on my smartphone. I do 10% on my ipad and the other 5% on the laptop. That’s it. Only 5%. In fact I use my laptop so infrequently that I have to set an alarm on my phone to remind me once every 30 days to turn the computer on and update it. Between apps and mobile friendly websites, most everything can be done on a portable device. There are exceptions of course and that is why I do still have a laptop. There are just a few things left that either cannot be done on a portable or it is too difficult and not worth the time to try to do so.

Applying for jobs. Most companies take a long time to catch up with the times. While almost all have you apply on-line initially, they still have not embraced any word processing program besides windows office. I have drunk the koolaid and do EVERYTHING in google, including storing my resume on google docs. Try uploading that sucker, I dare ya! Maybe 20% of online applications let you do it.

Sorting through and deleting and uploading photos to the cloud. Yes, if you have a smartphone it is pretty easy to straight upload those into storage. If you have a vast collection of digital photos from 2005-until now, that you need to sort, label, delete and observe the quality of, then a computer is still a must. I had 400 gb of photos. Thats right 400 gb, jeez, what was I doing? I got caught up in the hole “it’s digital, it doesn’t take up much space and I can delete them later” thing, yeah right. Who actually does go back through them again? Especially since they were all taken with a digital camera and not a smartphone. That took fully 6 months to work through. In the end I had 4gb of good photos, just 10 % the original amount. They are safely stored in dropbox. This was a project I had put off for years since I knew it would take a vast amount of patience and time. I also photographed all my film photos and backed them up as well. I have put myself on a photo budget of sorts, I try to keep each trip to 25 photos or less, seems like a high number, but you would be surprised.

Adding and removing music and video to my smartphone. While my ipad has all of its purchases in the cloud and I can download them from wherever my ipad is. My smartphone needs the items off my thumbdrive. Technically I could also put these things on my ipad, but I find I really don’t use my ipad in that way. It is mostly an internet surfing tool, I use youtube, netflix and pandora on it.  Whereas my smartphone is my ereader, mp3 player, gps, video viewer, notebook, camera, video recorder and gaming system. I have a 64gb micro sd card in it, which means I am not switching content too frequently (maybe 5-6 times a year). I do upload my photos onto my computer, delete, edit, sort and then add them to the cloud.

Write my blog. Yes, I have written my blog posts through my phone, but I get them done faster and more frequently through a computer. Mostly they are written on the library computer. Then I email it to my smartphone and upload it from my blog app. Adding pics to a blog post on your phone is nigh impossibly difficult, much easier from a computer. I have a bluetooth keyboard that I use to occasionally write a blog post with onto my ipad, mostly if I am writing at home.

    Can I live life with a computer? Absolutely, especially as I am gainfully employed and have completed my monumental picture project. In theory, I could use any computer to do these few things. I do not have “own” one. I could utilize a work computer or the library one for those few times in between when I need to. I could definitely make do. However, since I am fortunate enough to have a computer why not use it? So I do.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

New Orleans weekend pack list

New Orleans Weekend Pack List

    Hello all, hope you have enjoyed the weekend. I had an extended weekend due to Mardi Gras festivities here in the south.  I spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the weekend with a friend in New Orleans. Great fun was had and by being a minimalist I naturally did not care about the throws. All that I caught I gave to the two kids and grandmother standing next to me. They kindly gave me stuffed animal for my dog in turn, which he absolutely loved! Here is my pack list for the weekend. To give a frame of reference the temperature varied from low 60s to mid 70s.

   

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Lewis n’ Clark Medium expandable cube

Mesh Tech pack cube

Sea-to-summit ultra sil backpack

REI evrgrn sleeping bag

Travelon XL camp towel

Spork

Headlamp

Sleep mask

Ear plugs

Bose headphones

Cellphone/charger

Hairbrush

Sarong clip

Pen/notebook

Deoderant

Face moisturizer/sunscreen

Toothbrush/paste

Hairclip

Sanuk rosie shoes

Sketchers athletic shoes (was wearing, not in picture)

Purple tee shirt

Green tech shirt (was wearing, not in picture)

Long sleeve black yoda tech shirt

Gray linen shirt

Blue denim jeggings

Black denim jeggings

Capri yoga pants (was wearing, not in picture)

Gray yoga pants

Scottevest black fleece jacket (was wearing, not in picture)

underthings

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Four other Mistakes I made while Living Out of a Backpack for 5 weeks

My Other Four Mistakes While Living out of a Backpack for 5 weeks

    Apologies on the shoe tirade. I actually meant to write a post just on the 5 mistakes. Somehow it grew into a monster on the folly of shoes. Ever will I strive to redeem myself in a shorter article on my other four mistakes. There were admittedly a few more “inconveniences”, things I would do differently if say I was to live out of a backpack indefinitely. Since that is not currently in my life plan I won’t bother with boring details.

Apologies for the poor quality, but these are the H&M striped shoes that saved me!

Washcloth

    Yes, everyone, every blog, even french youtubers themselves warned of the lack of washcloths in Europe. Having traveled before this was dismissed as bearable and not too important, a minimalist detail one could survive without. Survive? Yes. Thrive? No. After 2 weeks it was annoying not being able to scrub my skin and difficult to shave. After 4 weeks, I gave up on shaving and embraced the layer of sunscreen/sweat that became my eau de toilette. After 5 weeks, I dreamed of my loofah and was happy for the extra layer of body hair to keep me warm in Denmark. Most happily, did I take the longest shower ever, once I got home. Lesson learned. REI’s mini multi towel is on my list for next time I travel anywhere that is not in a hotel or anywhere in Europe or the Middle East.

Facial Moisturizer

    Doesn’t seem like a big deal does it? I know I didn’t treat it as such. I did pack some in a small tube, maybe about 1 ounce worth. I sincerely thought it would last for whole trip. Nope, gave out 2 weeks and 2 days in. Again, I didn’t see it as such a big deal, I was wearing sunscreen every day anyways. Well, facial moisturizer and sunscreen work very differently on your face. I started to break out and my skin seemed like it was always dry. I think I have fixed this problem pretty easily in both my regular life and for future travel. I bought a nice neutrogena facial moisturizer with spf 35. 2-1, multipurpose, the minimalist way. Next time the entire 3 ounce bottle goes with me.

   

Daypack

    I may have briefly mentioned in my post Backpack vs. Messenger Bag, that even though I did all kinds of research and bought a travelon backpack as my daypack, I ended up using a Eddie Bauer packable tote for most of my daypack needs. I mostly used the backpack when I was in Denmark/Germany/Sweden. I used it one day in Paris and like 2 times in Israel. The biggest disappointment in using it is when it was packed away in my Osprey Porter 30 on travel days, it fully took up ⅓ of the available space. It made the bag fuller, heavier and seemed like I had brought more than was in there. The bag itself was thick, cumbersome, had all these clever zippers for keeping out pickpockets which I did not need, but made it difficult for me to get things out. Lastly, I felt like tourist using it. It was a waste of space and money. Selling it on poshmark was the first thing I did once I got home (after that long shower).

The Pink Shirt/A Third Shirt

At the last minute I added a 3rd shirt to my travel bag, it was a polyester blend thing from Kohls, a store which I never shop at and never will again. It did not match my color scheme and it was “untested”. Untested is a term I like to use when something hasn’t been worn or used before. For the record I NEVER take untested items with me traveling, for some reason I took this anyway. I don’t know if it was while I was panicking the night before or worrying the next morning, but it was there. I wore it twice. It had no flexibility or give, the color was not great on me and after washing it it looked like it had been stored for 20 years in a ball. I air dried it, washed it in cold, but it came out all misshapen (I did follow the tag’s laundry instructions). I sent it home with the bf after my first 2 weeks and brought it back to kohl’s when I came back. I will say this for kohl’s I explained everything that had happened, I still had the receipt and tags and they took it back no problem.

Taking a third shirt is a must. After wearing the pink one twice I had only my black a gray one to switch back and forth with, it worked out fine, just wore them every other day. After 2 and a half weeks, my brother’s girlfriend took me to a store for a pair of shorts (we were swimming in the dead sea and doing some hiking, rolled jeans were just not great for that, and I used them to sleep in instead of my yoga pants after I got them). While we were there (shorts were $4) they had shelf of just basic v-neck tees. Deciding to pick up 2, since I was sweating a lot in Israel and doing laundry every night was annoying, I grabbed a purple and olive tee. These were colors that would match every else I had with me. When I woke up the next morning and realized there were 4 shirts to choose from I practically wept with joy. Ironically, when I got back to the US I got rid of the gray and black tee, but I still have the purple and olive, they just got incorporated with my 4 shirts at home into the regular rotation. At $3 a pop, totally worth it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

First of five mistakes living out of a backpack in Europe for 5 weeks

The first of five mistakes I made living out of a backpack in Europe for 5 weeks

SHOES

Even after researching for this trip for close to a year I will be the first to admit, mistakes were made. Firstly, I am stubborn, therefore hard-headed, no one can give me advice, I like to learn the really hard way. Between vlogs, blogs and whole websites devoted to long travel I still did not heed what was excellent advice. If you are like me, then you won’t either. But if you are like me, than you never make the same mistake twice. That hard won lesson sticks like nothing else, because you went thru it, you have the sight, smell, sound and touch of a palpable life mistake.

Shoes. Oh yeah, shoes. Elementary my darling, that one should take well worn, broken in shoes. No my friends, I got caught up in the whole “Paris is high fashion, if you look like a tourist, you will be a target of scammers, beggars and pick-pocketers”. Not to mention the “Paris is high fashion, no one wears tennis shoes, only heels, ballet flats and boots”. Well you know what? They do wear tennis shoes, not athletic ones but like the vans, toms and converse we have. And even if they didn’t, who the f%$# cares? Comfort is king! This was a lesson really, really hard learned (literally and figuratively).

Let me tell you about my shoe conundrum. I packed athletic shoes (we were running a half marathon first weekend of the trip) and I planned to wear boots for the airplane and once we got to Paris proper. I live on the gulf coast and it was hot, like 84 degrees the morning we were leaving so at the last minute I decided to pack the boots and wear flip flops to airport. I was going to Israel after France and I knew I could use them there since the temperature is similar to the gulf coast. I put a thick pair of smartwool socks in my bag for the plane since I get cold easily and was wearing the flip flops. That actually worked out great.

After we landed in Paris I take the socks off and stick them into my bag, sporting the flip flops off the plane. Woh, it’s like 34 degrees in Paris at 6am. My feet froze! We went right to our hotel in Disneyland Paris, I figured I could tough it out until we got there and then put on my boots. We get checked in, I change to thick socks and boots and we head to the park. It warms up. And gets warmer. And gets warmer. It’s now 70 degrees. I am sweating my bum off in boots and thick socks. I tough it out the entire day, exhausted, hot, sweaty and happy all at once. When we back to the hotel I decide to wear my running shoes in the park after the 5k and half marathon. Not a great decision, you should keep your running shoes separate from your everyday wear, but frankly I had little choice. I needed the support of a shoe and boots and flip flops just weren’t going to work. There was no main stream shopping in the parks.

After 3 days of running and spending 8+ hours in the parks on our last day, I beg my boyfriend to go get dinner outside the park somewhere where I can pick up a pair of shoes. We navigate our way thru the subway system and find we only have to go one stop over for a mall. After getting some fantastic food (even cafeteria style is delicious) I find an H&M and pick up a pair of tennis shoes and half socks. I debated between a black and beige striped Toms looking ones and a heavier pair of white van looking ones. BF suggests the striped ones, I pig-headed as I am figure a heavier shoe would be better, NOPE!!!

Since I am so confident in my new shoes, I get rid of the running shoes (had always planned on ditching them after the races), then in an effort to lighten my pack I decide that the boots really aren’t needed either, tho it may be cold the white tennies would keep me warm and no snow or rain is planned for our time in Paris (completely did not think about the fact I would be in Copenhagen in 4 weeks). I had bought to thick warm half socks to go with the tennies, they were partly wool. With that I left the hotel confidently. On the train I thought, “man, my feet hurt like hell, stupid half marathon”. Then once we got to our airbnb apartment in Paris, I told my boyfriend I needed to rest for the rest of the day (It was Sunday most everything is closed). He agreed. Next morning I took ibuprofen and we hit up the louvre.

2 days is all I make it in the heavy white ones. Then we are back at H&M buying the striped ones which saved my bacon. The trip got so much better after I procured the better shoes.

It does not stop there, no my friends, I still had more to go. In Israel I broke out the flip flops, wore them around everywhere. I went hiking a few times, in these cheap H&M striped shoes, the glue separated the insert from the shoe so that it would makes its way around during the day. I couldn’t take it out, the shoes hurt without that insert. They got disgusting dusty and worn, unlike the TOMS we have there is no elastic triangle at the top of the shoe for maneuverability, it got so the tops of my feet were always achy.

Next leg of the trip, Copenhagen. It is cold, really cold, and wet, and rains off and on. Now my feet are damp, muddy, cold and achy. We pop into a second hand store and I buy the first pair of boots that fit. Luckily they were only $8 US. I wear them the rest of the trip and ditch them in Hotel on the last day (no boots needed at home). They were cute brown short boots and were very warm and comfortable, eternally grateful to whomever donated those babies. And thanks to my always being cold on the plane I already had a pair of smartwool crew socks with me. When I came home to the US I had just the flip flops.

In all I spent, $20 on the white tennies, $15 on the socks, $8 on the striped canvas and $8 on the boots. Money extremely well spent, I don’t regret it all. In the end besides transportation and  food, that’s all the money I spent, exceptions being, $25 on a coat in Denmark (resold it when I got home), $20 on hat and gloves (resold them when I got home), a few postcards and the stamps to mail them, €0.30 on a keychain, and a $3 Bremen Germany tote.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Daily Essentials, My List, Definitely More than 15!!!

  I wrote out what I think would be the most essential things I would need in my life, Keep in mind this is for everyday, go to a job and live in one place list. If I were traveling it would be a bit different. I am extremely interested to match it to my items used over 30 days at the end of the month. (see my precious post on my 30 day "items used" challenge. Keep in mind I have combined some things together, like toothbrush and toothpaste and my shampoo is a shampoo conditioner 2-in-1. I did the final count and it came to exactly 50! (*clothes are not included, I am working on that list now).

toothbrush/toothpaste
shampoo/conditioner
bodywash
moisturizer/sunscreen
razor
neutrogena cover-up
hairbrush
hairclip/ties
powder compact
chapstick
washcloth/hand towel (2-in-1)
towel
phone/charger
memory stick
ipad/charger
bluetooth keyboard
selfie stick
tripod
micro sd card adapter
glasses
sunglasses
Tom Bihn sidekick (purse)
Tom Bihn wallet
medications
nail clipper
tweezers
band aids
corkicle
spork
woolbuff
headlamp
headphones
sleepmask
earplugs
sarong clip
pen
sharpie
coloring pencils/sharpener
utility knife
Tom Bihn Synapse 25
hammock/straps
campchair pad (REI trail chair)
pack cube
tech pack cube
notebook
merino travel sheet
sea-to-summit ultra-sil backpack
sea-to-summit ultra-sil tote





Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 3 Update on Item Usage

Day 3 Update
 Today is Thursday February 16th and I am on day 3 of recording everything I use. It has been interesting, sometimes I record things as I use them, sometimes I get some down time and recount what I have used since last recording. I have tried to be completely transparent, but I am including some exceptions. Over the last 3 days some issues became blatantly obvious that of course I did not think of at the start.
 Exception number one, not listing the foods I eat. Food comsumption is irrelevant to my item usage and way too much to record. If I were doing a healthy lifestyle issue it would be perfect. Frankly y’all don’t care what I eat. I will be listing the items I use to eat with like, plates, utensils and such.
 Not listing the things I use at work. I am a teacher, there, done. Y’all can imagine the things I use. These are sometimes provided by the state sometimes I have purchased them , but they are for work only. If I was not a teacher I wouldn’t have them. If I ever get a new job I would be leaving them. When I moved from Alabama to Mississippi I left all my teaching supplies at my old school. If I am doing something personal at school like eating or making coffee then I will list it.
 Instead of making a tally mark next to each item I use and then adding new things to an ever expanding list I decided to just do a new list every day.  Then running an analysis at the end of 30 days to observe the amount of usage.. I believe it will be more fascinating to look back at weekend use versus weekday and such.
 My last exception is that I will record if I use something down only one time. If I use my bathroom hand towel 6 times, it just gets written once not 6 times. It was too much to keep track of every time I use germx or hand soap etc.
 Just looking back on the 3 days I am already noticing a trend. I am a creature of habit and so far on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I pretty much use the same items. On a side note, so far only a few were on my 15 items list…
 One more thing I want to leave you with today is a list of the most basic things I think I need. The number is definitely more than 15. I was just thinking this morning and thought it would be way more fun to analyze my usage against my “minimalist basics list”. *Update, my most basics to live list will be in it's own blog.
 On my next blog I am going to count everything I own and list a majority of it to you. (Curious to know what the actual number is?).

Monday, February 13, 2017

My 30 day "items used"challenge

My 30 day "items used" challenge

 My next little mental/active exercise is to record everything I use over the next 30 days. I am curious as to what I think I use and then to measure that against what I actually use. This will include any kind of activity, if I happen to go away for the weekend or dress up for a Mardi Gras parade (its that time down here) it will all be jotted down. I will also put a check mark against it every time I use it to measure the extent of its everyday use/occasional use/very limited use.

 My predictions:

It will mostly be the same 50 or so items

I use less clothes than I think

There will be at least 10 things I use regularly that I would never have thought of

Only 3 pairs of shoes

After 30 days, i will have a lot of surprises

This will help me learn more about myself

Rules: (for myself, do what feels right to you)

I will write down everything I use, this includes furniture, transportation, all little accessories

I will carry a notebook around with me at all times to record

I will not leave anything out, no matter how insignificant it may seem

I will start tomorrow morning when I wake up (2/14/17, 6am)

I will end it on 3/14/17 when I go to bed

If I miss a day, I will fully disclose that information

I imagine the list will initially be quite long as I record that I am using a remote, a spoon, the refrigerator etc. It will be absolutely fascinating to see what exactly one uses in a first world economy. What are your predictions?

15 items or less, extreme minimalism?

If I could only have 15 things

 Last year I read a blog where the author only owned 15 items. That seems an insanely small amount. I don’t have a lot of items, but I sure have way more than that, in fact if I had to guess I would say at least 10 times that much. It got me thinking, what if I followed suite and parred down to 15 items? What would they be? As a mental exercise I decided to write down what I thought my 15 items would be. I love these kinds of thought provoking mental exercises. I actually was writing the list while I was at work one day, (last school year in the spring semester while the kids were having snack) and while I was writing two fellow teachers asked what I was doing. I told them all about the author’s blog and the were so interested that we had a long discussion throughout the day, off and on, about minimalism.

 I wrote my list, here it is.

    toothbrush/toothpaste

    hairbrush/hair ties

    shampoo/conditioner/bodywash (it is an all in one)

    Spork

    Face moisturizer/sunscreen (it is an all in one)

    Nail clippers

    Tweezers

    Chapstick

    Sunglasses

    Glasses

    phone/charger

    Bag

    notebook/pencil/pen

    Clothes

    Shoes

 Yes, I took the liberty of pairing a few things (the author had as well). I am still missing so much! 15 just seems impossible unless two of you are doing it and you can share some of the items. Also, where would you sleep? If you are staying at a hotel or airbnb that it is a bit of a cheat. If you are camping then you need sleeping bag and such. It just blows my mind that some people are tha zen. Me, I need deodorant and floss and that had to sacrificed for the list :-)

 What are your 15 items?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Backpack vs. Messenger bag

Backpack vs. Messenger bag

 Ahh, the age old conundrum, a backpack or a messenger bag? I suppose it mostly depends on the user’s preference. Nonetheless I thought it would be fun to break out a pro/con list. Feel free to weigh in below, in the comments section.

 A backpack always feels like the most ideal. It frees up your hands for maneuverability. An even amount of weight is equally distributed, with the load being divided between your two shoulders. It has lots of room. The size variances can go from a tiny purse backpack to a full 65 liter pack. The double strap provides more comfort to your shoulders, also you can usually get a backpack with a waist and sternum strap for more weight support. As a petite woman I try to always purchase backpacks with a waist strap, I usually like to carry the weight in my hips. It is one of the reasons why I initially got the osprey porter 30 instead of the Tom Bihn synapse 25. Tom Bihn has since come out with a padded waist belt for the synapse and I made the switch a few months ago, yeah!  

 The pitfalls also depend on the user but these are the ones I feel are universal. There is no quick access, you have to take the bag off and often put it on the ground to get things out/put things away. They are not as secure as one cannot see what is happening behind them, theft and damage can occur without awareness especially in certain cities and during high traffic times. You look like a “traveler/tourist”! Not many working professionals use a backpack, it can be more obvious you don't belong (there are exceptions of course) And last, but not least, a sweaty back! Not all bags are ventilated, most certainly not the ones that aren't hiking packs.

 Messenger bags have been apart of my “edc” (every day carry) for a long time. In high school I had an Adidas messenger that I used for school.

 

 In college I did switch back to a backpack since the University of Massachusetts has such a large campus, but my purse has almost always been a crossbody/messenger style. I have tried a few purses with regular grab handles and tote style, inevitably I always go back to the crossbody. I don’t know what it is about it. It is just the style of purse for me.

 The big benefit to the messenger is it frees your hands up. It is easy to access anything you may need. Putting away items is a snap. There is security in being able to have the bag hang in front where you can be wary of thievery, damage and not getting caught on things (short person problem, I am forever getting caught on doorknobs!). By not having your load carried by your back there is no back sweat, no damp shirt, no embarrassing watermark.

 Generally speaking you have less choices in size, anything bigger than 19 liters is going to be too big to carry messenger style. Having all the weight rest on one shoulder can be painful, there is the option of switching it to the other shoulder, that can get tedious. Finally a messenger bag is a more noticeable weight, at the end of the day you will feel the pressure more distinctly.

 When it comes time to pick out an EDC or a travel day bag it is the user's preference and it is not always the same bag every time. I use an llbean boat n’ tote for work, a Tom Bihn sidekick for my purse, and I have used different bags for a travel day pack. In the past I have used an 18l llbean hike backpack, a travelon 15l backpack, an Eddie Bauer messenger, a harajuku crossbody and nothing at all! (For Disney I hate carrying anything). What is your go-to?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

taking tips from tv

    One of my favorite shows to watch is “Hoarders”. Besides always feeling like I need a shower after I watch an episode, I am always inspired to once again look around and sort. I find there are three categories, need, want and clutter. I am not entirely sure what the statistics are in this country for hoarders, but I believe it is safe to say it is becoming an epidemic.     
   Chances are you are one or you know one. Most likely it is a grandparent who survived the depression or an aunt or uncle or parent who grew up in their household. For me it is second generational. One of my parents was and is a hoarder, although it was not so bad when I was kid, it got much worse after my parent’s divorce.
     I fully credit “Hoarders” with helping me on my path away from hoarding. In the beginning I would watch it and say to myself “well I am not that bad”. Then I would begin to see a distinct parallel between me and the active hoarders. Suddenly it dawned on me, “maybe I do have hoarding tendencies... no, it is time to admit it, I have a problem, I am a hoarder”. That led to the ultimate light bulb moment of my life, “that is your future if you don’t change your ways!”. My name is Mel and I am a recovering hoarder.
    I decided to take lessons from it. Both the psychiatrists and professional organizers had wonderful words of wisdom. They had helpful tips, and healing suggestions. HGTV network had a show a few years ago called “Clean Sweep”. I found their 4 pile suggestion priceless, donate, sell, keep and throw away. Another priceless tool for me was Marie Kondo’s book “The Japanese art of Tidying Up”. Lastly, Courtney Carver famed creator of “Project 333” had a Facebook meme which was so simple and yet spoke volumes to me, “If you have to buy stuff to store your stuff, you might have too much stuff.” Whoa, am I right? The one I try to take to heart the most, “experiences and people over things, always”.
    The biggest crime in hoarding is choosing things over people. Across the board in every episode are the nameless victims of hoarding; friends, family members and pets. Time and time again the show shines a spotlight on the damaged relationships. This is especially so for children and pets who are subjected to live in these conditions with no voice, no place else to go and no “room to grow”. Many stop living with their primary parent for the safety and security of a real home somewhere else. It so sad to see clearly as bystanders the justification and blame the hoarder bats around to shy away from taking responsibility for the damage both literal (to the physical home) and figurative (the shattered relationships). Hoarding is such an unusually interesting mental health disease in that one can see the physical manifestation of their inner psyche and turmoil, physical depression and repression.
    One thing I most identify with the active hoarders on is the total anxiety around getting rid of the item. I grew to hate my stuff, I would come home overwhelmed at the sheer amount of useless things I owned and resolve to clean and get organized, but when I held the items my anxiety skyrocketed. It still does, I have just learned that getting rid of things feels better than the anxiety over initially letting it go. To this day, I can only remember a few things I got rid of, I have not replaced any of it, I have not regretted any of it. The more I get rid the lighter I feel both physically and mentally.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Moving in one car load

 Back in September, 2 days before I left for Europe, I moved to Mississippi...with one car load. I officially own less stuff then when I went off to college in 2001. Wow. What a journey!

 In 2010 I moved from Boston to Florida with a Dodge Ram 1500 towing a 6 X 12 Uhaul trailer. The bed and interior of the truck was filled as well. And when I say that the Uhaul was filled, it was FILLED. Floor to ceiling with? Who knows. All I remember is it costing over $1000 between the one way rental, gas and extra tolls. Then, I PAID TO HAVE IT STORED. I rented a 5 X 10 climate controlled storage from Uhaul for about $110 a month. I was in Florida for 10 months, so there goes another $1100. Then In May of 2011 I packed my car with what I thought I would need for 3 months and moved to Alabama, leaving my things in storage in Florida. I didn't have enough money to move them, that's right. I didn't have enough money to move them so I continued to pay to store them.


Hindsight being 20/20 I realize now that it would have been the perfect time to go through and donate or toss out those things, but they defined me, they defined what home was for me, because I let them. I hated that stuff, but I hated the anxiety and fear of loss over them more. I got stuck on "just-in-case". I got stuck that since I was out of work and didn't have a permanent place to live yet there was fear of not having the money to buy anything I got rid of that may turn out to be needed. So, no job, no clear plan on where I was living, no incoming income and I continued to PAY TO STORE MY STUFF. And, omg, to buy new SHIT. That's right, to spend money I didn't have. It is so embarrassing to admit. It was a painful, expensive lesson to learn and I didn't learn it for a few more years.


 At the end of August I did find a place to live and a job (which I loved). The first thing I did? PAY TO MOVE MY STUFF and then PAY TO STORE IT ALABAMA. Geesh, I am one hard-headed chick. I borrowed my friend's truck which needed suspension to haul a trailer and needed the wiring to tow, I paid for it. Then I had a different friend go with me to get it. 12 hours later in Miami the Uhaul guy tells me that the tow system built into my friend's truck doesn't have the tow capacity to pull a 6 x 12 trailer. The biggest it will do is 5 x 8. PANIC. SETS. IN. Whats more my friend while trying to be kind has put a time limit on our stay in FL We can't work on it for 2 days, we have 2 hours before we have to hit the road. Again in hindsight this was the best thing that could have happened. Unfortunately I did not take a lesson from it. The next 2 hours were a whirlwind. As I sit writing this I can only think of one thing left behind (shot glass collection, good riddance). I can only think of a few things that I actually took with me that I still have. 99% of it was donated over the next 3 years.

 It was an expensive lesson that took years to take hold, but I think was ultimately the most vivid imprint on my mind when I think of the cost of "stuff" beyond its initial purchase. Keep what you love and use if it serves a purpose for you, but don't be like me, wishing for a disaster to take my stuff away so the decision could be taken out of my hands and the anxiety wouldn't be standing in my way. Not a wonderful way to live life, having your stuff own you.

Jackson, MS pack list

Hey ya’ll! I went to Jackson MS this past weekend to visit with a friend from Boston who was down for the Mississippi Blues ½ Marathon. Unfortunately Jackson experienced a rare cold snap which resulted in an ice/sleet storm. We southerners, not being used to this weather, can not drive in it AT ALL. It shut down the highways and all of Jackson for 24 hours. Most distressingly for my friend they cancelled the race. So we spent most of the weekend eating at waffle house and watching a Wonder Years marathon on Netflix. I am so not a Winnie.




First off, all hail Tom Bihn! This is my first Tom Bihn bag and it is truly amazing. This is the synapse 25 in French Blue with northwest halcyon lining. I feel like a proud new parent who waited years for the arrival of this bundle of joy. The only accessory I have for it is the padded hip belt. I am a very short person so most of the weight I carry I like to center it at my hips. I will dedicate an entire blog to my years long research into the perfect bag (no such thing but TB come pretty close). 

Next is a medium sized expandable lewis and clark packing cube. I had been using travelon brand but the stiff piping makes it tough to place in a bag or suitcase at times. L&C allows more flexibility. I also have a no name black half mesh half canvas small pack cube for my toiletries. It used to be an art bag from my scrap booking set.

The rest is as follows:

Toiletries:
toothbrush/toothpaste
deodorant
hairbrush
floss
allergy meds
ibuprofen
(airbnb so no need for soap and shampoo)

My updated "will always take things with me list"
sleep mask
ear plugs
spork
headlamp
passport (you never know)
pen
small notebook (I still like to write things out old school)
wool buff
Random item-sachet packet, I like my stuff to smell nice :-)
Also, I try not to go anywhere without my slanket (all hail The Slanket)

Clothes:
Boots
athletic shoes
yoga pants
leggings
jeans
Sweater
2 tee shirts
1 long sleeve tee
sleep shorts
gloves
hat
scarf
jacket
Under things

I took my dog with me, so he had a bag with his bed, blanket, food, toys, jackets (he is a Chihuahua), leash, harness, dog bowl and chew bone. He did not appreciate the weather either.

Last, but not least, I am a tea aficionado and am super picky on the brand and flavor, since I knew it would be cold I packed lots of tea, hot chocolate, coffee and sugar in the raw.

Luckily it has been in the upper 60's and 70's since then and I am a happy Mississippian.

PS sorry about the quality of this photo, I do everything on my samsung note 2 which is an ancient brick, but I like it.