More Shiz Gone!!!!—Nov 9


November 9 — Five things I got rid of today (and why)

  1. Toiletry bottles—last night I went around the house and collected all my travel bottles. 72! I had 72 toiletry bottles. Now I have 50. That is still too many, but tossing 22 is a big step forward.
  2. Wire tree—it’s cool! I wasn’t using it. I just kept moving it around and hanging different things off it. It kinda stressed me out.
  3. Misc bathroom stuff—plastic cups that came with the house (I’m not touching these. Why did they take me four years to trash?), hair brush (I have about six more to figure out), unopened blotting papers.
  4. Expired meds—more than one thing expired in 2007. We moved in 2010. Yup, that means I packed this junk.
  5. Big plastic wine glass—I thought was going to artfully display cute soaps in the bathroom . . . huh? I dunno. Anyhow, the cup is in the donations bag now, ready to move on.

Well, that’s today’s purging effort (looks like I knocked out 31 items). It is rewarding and pretty overwhelming at times. That’s why I began experimenting with the limit of 5 items/day…but what I’m discovering is that opening your eyes to clutter awareness is like exerting force on a huge boulder. It’s just not simple to stop or control.

Curious about what this is all about? Here’s my November pact to purge

Travel Essentials, Part 2

Travel Essentials, Part 2

The lighter the bag, the greater the freedom!

This was taken towards the end of 10 days in Spain (fall 2013). Other than bringing 5 pairs of shoes, I was pretty happy with how minimalist I was able to get. I highly recommend reading other travel blogs and watching YouTube videos on packing/traveling. There’s a lot of great tips out there. (Here are two good ones to start with: How to Pack for a Year Long Trip: Minimalism for Women, PhotoEx trip to London & Paris)

As an add-on to 8 Travel Essentials, here’s are three new travel tips — Tried and true! (mostly about bags and shoes).

  1. Neutral palette with the the clothes. Colorful with the accessories. Keep in mind, neutral can mean a few things. It can mean beige, white, black (as I’ve done) or it can mean brighter combos like corals, navy and yellow! The idea is any top, jacket, pant and skirt can go with anything else. It makes getting dressed so easy. It also really helps with the overwhelming first question to packing “what should I bring?”
  2. Bring 4 Bags. The cluster is shown in above pic, top left. The breakdown is:
    1. Carry on wheely bag—for gettin’ there.
    2. Back pack —for hiking around. Such as an all day hike from old-city to Sangrita Familia, up to Parq Guell and back.IMG_1011
    3. Satchel—for an afternoon out. Just the right size to carry: travel book, wallet, camera, sunglasses and thin sweater. It is hot and humid, but I’m happy! I feel the freedom. (I’m not knocking down priceless artifacts with a clunky backpack either).IMG_0804
    4. Mini bag/wallet. Worn cross body and under jacket. Barcelona crowds can get thick! And, just before the trip I came across the documentary of Bob Arno and a group of professional pickpockets in Naples, Itatly. Watch it. Good general awareness tips.

My mini bag/wallet.

Also of note: My mini bag/wallet has a removable strap for converting into true wallet for use with another bag. See how it can play with satchel so well! This is what was going on in that museum shot a couple pics up. Thus, the happy dazed look ;)


3. The multi-purpose wardrobe. That black tank dress (first photo) can be simple on the beach, breathable for a hike, classic enough for an evening meal. The long-hoodie sweatshirt can be used as a robe, a jacket, and a sleeping cocoon on the plane.

Here’s some shoes that are great for walking, from beaches to cobblestone streets.


I hope you find this helpful. I relied on the power of the internet to get this far with my travel-supply strategy, so wanted to pay my lessons forward. Hardest part to get over, the what-iffing! Don’t do that when you pack. Just don’t. You’ll thank yourself. Also of note. Most expert packers pack very few clothes. All can be sink washed (with Dr. Bronner’s for example) and dried within a few hours.

8 Travel Essentials — For Easy-Going Leisure Trips


1. High-Performance Ballet flats

Shoes, like hair care stuff, are the thing each of us must be particular about. Our feet shapes, like our hair types, vary greatly. For me these Patagonia shoes were an incredible find! (REI). When shopping for your ideal travel shoe, think of your comfort objectives. Looks do matter! Here’s a summary of why I fell in love with these shoes . . .

  1. Casual yet polished look for urban sightseeing. I brought these as strolling shoes – something fresh to change into for the evening after being in my Asics Tigers all day (the ones by Serrano, another incredible hot weather travel shoe).
  2. Unlike flip flops and sandals, ballet flats cover feet. Heat and walking make my toes puffy and red. I like a non-flip flop option to cover up the uglies. Clever use of mesh here.
  3. Very comfortable. More support than most flats I’ve tried. A nice balance of squishy and structured. Water resistant. Traction soles. Seemingly blister proof! All the edges mind their own business. Never a sore spot.
  4. Ideal for packing — They don’t take up much space. They weigh nothing.
  5. A neutral color and versatile look. Dress up or dress down.

2. Convertible Pants

  1. You can wear these in four ways. Full, Full leisurely (sides unzipped to mid calf), Shorts long (lower half of leg removed), Shorts shorter (leg removed, side button thing buttoned). Bandita by Kuhl. Find at REI and Zappos
  2. Breathable in heat, warm enough to wear when departing your cold city.
  3. Dirt repelling, wrinkle resistant, easy to wash and quick to dry.
  4. Pockets!!! Well placed and flattering. Two side ones have button closures.
  5. They fit my body! I could bend over without my ass falling out, yaaay!!!!
  6. Prepping for my trip I found the blog Travel Fashion Girl. I never would’ve even thought about convertible pants if she hadn’t brought them up. She’s an awesome resource! Read her blog.

3. A Big Sarong

As in the height and width. Quite the contrary when speaking of volume. This thing is compact! Purchased in 2006 at the gift shop of a resort in Costa Rica. Cost, $15! I genuinely felt I was severely overpaying. Ug! So silly of me. This sarong is beautiful, durable, soft, comfortable, easy to wash, fast to dry, versatile color. . . it’s all good!

Use your big sarong as:

  1. A scarf to keep warm . Essential for departing from your cold city.
  2. A shade cover to keep cool. Lightweight means the breeze travels through.
  3. A shawl for covering up—a requirement for touring churches.
  4. A color, another accessory to help vary your limited-wardrobe look.
  5. A beach cover up. It’s weird how big this thing can get.
  6. A beach blanket — I’ll never stop being amazed by my sarong!
  7. A lap blanket on the plane, or draped over your head for some sleeping privacy. This was a lifesaver on a recent red eye when I was surrounded by a few people that sounded sick! Nothing I could do but cover my head (mouth and nose) for some peace of mind and get some sleep.

4. A Wheely Bag

  1. I tried the duffel. While I can get the volume of my pack down, still struggling with the weight, so the duffel was not a good choice for me.
  2. Wheels are helpful
  3. A structured bag is good if you plan to bring back native liquor or wine. You won’t need to check your bag if you go straight from duty-free to your final destination. But, if you have a transfer city after customs, you will need to check your bag. So, you might as well purchase your liquors for less in the town and check a bag on the way home (you’ve gor your backup bag, #8). Items will be safely secured, wrapped up in the structure of your wheely bag.

5. A Small Camera

We all have dreams of being amazing travel photographers. But, two things always get in the way, skill and time. I’ve wasted so much energy focusing on finding that feature I knew I had, just to grab a stunning shot. The cost is I’m taking too much time. My husband stands by looking increasingly impatient as we travel like snails to our lunch spot—40 pics to document the five-minute walk. I grow as a photographer, but not as a vacationer. Vacationing is my true objective.

Unless you’re a photo expert, carry a fast and lightweight simple camera. Last year’s model of the Canon Elph on Amazon for $120. Perfect for the night time too. Takes solid low-light pics and has a very simple auto-focal point feature for off-center framing. Starts up super fast and quickly responsive too.

Canon Elph

See my Cartagena post, most pics are from this Elph. For many of the street shots I snapped as I was still walking.This thing fit in the tiny pocket of my pants without feeling bulky too—motivated me to see if I could ween off the purse. Loved the hands free, quickly transitioned into feeling carefree.

Recently started striving for this since I always feel like I’m digging in my bag for something! I get to the point where I’m muttering “ya know what bag?!?, next time why don’t you just stay home.” It’s weird, when you decide you don’t need stuff, you really don’t. A camera, a lip gloss, a few bills. That’s all I ended up needing. No phone!!! I was on vacation after all. I was in a walkable city and with my man. What do I need a phone for?

6. Pack Cubes

  1. When I first heard of these things I thought they sounded like a complete waste of space. My suitcase was already tight, why would I add more stuff? Especially stuff I couldn’t wear? Then I began to notice how I spent my time with my stuff when traveling. I was always digging! Always flinging stuff around, always disrupting my once neatly organized supplies into a mess of wrinkles and confusion.
  2. Pack cubes solve this problem. There’s a new variety by Eagle Creek. They’re thin and strong like a windbreaker.
  3. Use a small one for electronics — things like back up camera battery, SD cards, phone charger. Medium for swimsuits and undergarments. The big garment envelope  to neatly fold and secure all your clothes.
  4. The best part, when you unpack at your destination just unpack the cubes! Leave them unzipped with the lid rolled back to expose what’s inside. They work like storage bins. Your brain doesn’t have to re-learn where everything is. It already knows the categories and how things are grouped.
  5. Even better, get each in a unique color. You’ll find your shiz that much faster!

7. Fun Recovery

My travel health enemy is hydration. I seem to need two days of acclimation in order to regulate what the airplane did to me. But I’m on vacation, I’d like at least a Pina Colada or something. My system getting so wigged out has led me to locate some remedies. Luckily, they’re pretty simple and readily available on Amazon. Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, MA is a great place too. They stock Party Smart.

  1. Oral hydration packs. It’s like a powdered Gatorade full of electrolytes. Pour one into a glass of water if you’re feeling like your body isn’t quenching easily and drink it down. Great for travel dehydration, travel sickness and a hangover. Cons – full of Dextrose. Potential for packet to pop open with cabin pressure (1/5 of my flights caused this. So, put in a baggie or other container). This stuff saved me from developing headaches a few times. A common occurrence previously.
  2. Party Smart pills or Forget Hangover patches. I like both. Both seem to really help me be able to process alcohol. I’d like to say we’re talking 3 to 4 drinks in a 6+ hour stretch. 1 sunset cocktail, 1 drink with dinner, 2 at the club. Normally I take it easy and listen to my body, but when I’m on vacation I use these. The Party Smart pill works as an absorption device, diverting toxins from being soaked into your system. The Forget Hangover patch is a slow release B vitamin. You wear it for 24 hours. It feeds your body with a constant supply of B. Apparently alcohol depletes you of B, so this patch is just designed to counteract that.
  3. I use Airborne as a bounce back if I’m just feeling drained. Also a nice boost-up pre plane boarding.
  4. Arsenicum Album — Haven’t tried this one yet. Was just reading about food-based illnesses (travelers diarrhea, etc) and apparently this is the thing to combat that. It’s a low-does of arsenic of all stuff! Goodness! Supposedly it works great on bad bacteria in your gut brought on from the wrong food. I carried as insurance. Buy on Amazon or health food store.

8. Emergency Carry On

My flight/carry-on strategy is based on being one of the first three groups to board. But, this can’t always be counted on.

To ease my mind from the what if’ing (what if all the overheads are full? What if my bag has to be checked? What if they lose my bag!?!) I pack a solution—a tiny backpack. This works great in tandem with those pack cubes (#6). If you’re asked to check your bag, you can pull out your critical pack cubes (the one with your chargers, the one with your swim suit and undies, the one with your toiletries). Stuff them into your reserve bag, wedge under the seat. It’s a solution that’s rapid to execute, takes one small-hand-full of extra space, mission complete.

Hope you found that helpful.

Find more packing tips under 4 tips for an efficient travel toiletry pack

4 Tips for An Efficient Travel Toiletry Pack


For me the personal-care product packing is the hardest part about travel. I’ve learned (sort of . . . relatively speaking) to keep the clothing part light and versatile. It’s always the products that stump and frustrate me. My packing objectives are advancing. I used to focus solely on volume (cramming as much into the one bag as possible). But honestly, that’s a crappy way to travel. You take one thing out and then you’re playing Tetris for 10 minutes trying to get it back in . . . that’s not a vacation! That’s not relaxing!

My obsession is now distilled down into 4 handy-dandy tips anyone can use for getting their travel-sized bathroom in order.

1. The right containers

I used to be devoted to the GoToob. A great product but far too large for most trips. That’s my beef with the bulk of travel containers. I’m typically going away for 2 – 10 nights. I don’t need 2oz of anything. But, finding tiny travel containers isn’t easy. Sephora used to (haven’t been there in a long time, not sure what they do now) give you samples of anything in the best tiny containers. There’s a couple in the pic above (Face moisturizer and Antiseptic Tea Tree). They’re a strong plastic, easy to clean, refill, and lightweight. I saved every single one. I even asked if I could buy some. Stumped by how that would work, a wonderful sales associate gave me a handful in a a variety of tiny sizes.


In early Jan I scored at CVS. I found a pack meant for travel that didn’t hold the standard four bottles but something like 10 tiny containers including a spray bottle.

Before that I found a trial size travel kit by MyChelle. This thing is awesome! I’m especially thrilled with the teensy weensy cap-sized thing filled with eye cream. It means I can bring eye cream! (ok, forget about section 3, this section and section 4 are really just enablers for that).

2. Be Proactive

Pack now, not when you’re rushed. For a couple years I’ve actually been recording what I travel with as well as what I return with. What did I use? How much of it? Which containers were full, which were empty? Go from there. Yeah, I’m obsessed with this.

Making your pack now means you’ll also benefit from having a grab’n’go for a weekend away or using at the gym.

To help remind yourself what’s in each of those tiny containers. Use a label maker to mark them, and take a pic of which products are in which, it’s simple see . . .


Print the pic, stick it in with your pack or in whatever suitcase you tend to use most. If you’re digitally organized, just save it there.


3. Eliminate the “what ifs”

It helps to think about stuff that’s easy to buy anywhere, just incase you get into a jam, you won’t feel so pickled. An example of this might be sunblock. If you aren’t picky about brand, and you’re not sure how much time you’ll be spending in the sun on your trip. Just buy it at your destination. Sometimes I’m chemical obsessed and I don’t want to buy drugstore junk. Then I remind myself it’s just for a week, and the world is full of toxins! Ha! It’s like fighting fire with fire, I guess. Another great thing about sunblock is it’s a product most people at the beach have, and unlike chapstick, it’s not gross to ask to borrow.

Additionally, if you aren’t picky about shampoo, don’t bring it. Use the hotel’s or your Dr. Bronner’s (section 4.)

I used to pack a ton of what ifs! Bandaids (for what?), Mole skin for blisters, sewing kit . . . ok, none of these are liquids. Well, perhaps I’m masking my “what if” thoughts with the use of . . .(next section) Multi Taskers!!! Yay.

4. Multi Taskers

  • Jojoba Oil — Moisturizer (even great on sensitive facial skin and doesn’t cause blemishes). Soothes inflammation from sunburned skin.
  • Tea Tre Oil — I’ve packed the ointment kind. Like the toothpaste, this is also a nice blemish soother. Additionally it soothes startled cells after too much sun exposure and can help heal bug bites and blisters.
  • Toothpaste — Pack the paste kind, not the gel. Dab it on a blemish before bed. It shrinks those zits fast! (I always get a zit when I travel)
  • Dr. Bronner’s Soap — This product has long boasted 18+ uses. The balance to strike here is comfort level.  I love Dr. Bronner’s for sink washing my travel laundry as well as a body wash in the shower.  I’ve also used it to clean the water glasses in the hotel room (if they smell funny). And, if you’re super brave and not travel-zit prone, use it to replace the toothpaste.
  • Too Faced Beauty BalmSPF/Moisturizer and coverup all in one . This stuff is a dream cream, and it goes a long way.

And there you have it. Hope it helps!

Full list of What’s & Whys, liquids in my pack:

  1. John Master’s Sea Mist spray — adds texture, volume, shine and manageability  Smells nice, yet very subtle
  2. Shikai Color Reflect Shampoo & Conditioner — my hair doesn’t seem to tire of this one easily, making it a reliable choice for travel
  3. Dr. Bronner’s pure-castille soap — for cleaning clothes, dishes, hair and your skin
  4. Jojoba oil — Make up remover, cleansing properties, healing, moisturizing, smells wonderful!
  5. Tea Trea ointment — for an antiseptic, great sunburn relief
  6. Kiss My Face toothpaste — Clean teeth, zap zits!
  7. Aveda Hydrating Masque — Air travel, sun exposure and drinking all deplete moisture. This hydrating mask is the best! Your look will bounce back in 10 minutes.
  8. Cleansers and moisturizers — Pricey (but fun) Travel/Trial pack from MyChelle. My skin looked great! Really nice stuff.
  9. Room. Yup, space for more stuff in my 1 quart, see through, zip-close bag. No tetris, and I can still add a lip gloss, mascara and maybe a small sunblock if I choose.