Back in November, when I went to France, I wanted to make sure I packed a good carry on for the long flight. I wouldn’t say I brought an excessive amount of stuff, but I wanted to bring enough items to keep me happy for about ten hours of plane travel, as well as a few necessities in case my luggage got lost. For me, that meant packing the following:
- Phone & charger
- Laptop & cords
- Books (2)
- Small makeup bag w/basic makeup items
- Scarf (in case the plane ride got chilly)
- Extra pair of jeans/underwear/t-shirt in case my luggage was lost
- Small jewelry pouch
- Reading glasses
(I also ended up cramming an extra pair of shoes in my carry-on that wouldn’t fit in my checked bag – don’t judge.)
The night before I left, however, I found myself in a quandary about which bag to pack it all in. I own several bags that work as a carry-on, but unfortunately, I’ve always felt they were all slightly lacking in one way or another. For instance, I have this gym/overnight bag: It’s comfortable to carry, and even has a great waterproof pocket for a wet towel or swimsuit. But the compartments are kind of long and narrow, and won’t accommodate a laptop. It also doesn’t fit well under an airplane seat, which means either unpacking a bunch of stuff before you sit down and then repacking it when you land, or making sure you sit on the aisle so you can keep getting in and out of it. Blech.
I also have this computer bag that I bought in Barcelona a few years back: It’s made out of those vinyl banners that you see on lampposts to advertise special events. I love the company, Vaho Trashion, that makes the bags, and appreciate that they use reclaimed materials. However, the bag isn’t padded, so it requires me to also use a protective case on my laptop, and while it’s fine when using it around town, I did worry about it getting knocked around too much during extensive overseas travel. It also doesn’t hold much more than a computer and a few files, so there was no way I was going to get all my other crap in there.
I own this small carry-on bag from an old set of luggage I bought at Costco a million years ago:
It’s easy to carry, and fits well under an airplane seat, but after multiple attempts to pack all my stuff in it, I had to admit it was just too small (especially with that extra pair of shoes).
I finally settled on this bag:
In the end, it won because it was easy to carry, and big enough to hold all my stuff. I also figured because it was so unstructured, I’d be able to cram it under the seat in front of me. It had a little extra room in case I were to buy anything on my trip – but not enough that I’d be tempted to splurge.
Carrying this bag made me miserable. Because it has absolutely no padding or structure of any kind, I was super neurotic about my laptop getting damaged. The lack of structure also meant that all my stuff clumped up into a pile inside, so finding anything in it was really difficult, and then trying to shove it back under the seat in front of me was almost impossible. The structure issue also meant that the weight inside the bag was frequently unbalanced, so it felt like I was schlepping around a large bag of rocks, and my items would shift into odd angles and poke out the sides, so at one point I found myself running through the Amsterdam airport to make a connecting flight while being repeatedly stabbed in the ribs by the sharp corner of a book. I tried balancing it on the handle of my roller bag while walking along the cobblestoned streets in France, and within seconds it would slide off with a thunk and topple my bag over. In short, it sucked.
When I got home, I decided to casually start perusing options for a good replacement carry-on. I didn’t have another trip planned, so I wasn’t in a hurry, but to my surprise and delight, I almost immediately stumbled across this incredibly great company called Lo & Sons.
What makes Lo & Sons so wonderful? Their bags are smart, sleek, lightweight, and beautifully designed. They hold a TON of stuff. They look classy and stylish. They are designed to conveniently, and firmly, attach to your roller bag. Most of them are made to fit under an airplane seat. They come in a lot of different designs and color options, and all of them are lovely. I could go on and on. (And no, Lo & Sons did not sponsor this post, I am just truly a huge fan now). They also did one of the smartest things on their website that I’ve ever seen a bag manufacturer do: They made a video for each bag, showing someone packing it, and exactly what they were able to fit into it. So even though I was purchasing the bag online, I was confident it would work for me – without the video, I’m not sure I would have ventured to try it.
Their bags are not dirt cheap, but after owning one, I can tell you I have absolutely no regrets (I also got mine on sale, and I had Christmas gift money to spend, so no debt was incurred). This bag is PERFECT for me. I took it with me on my recent trip to Hawaii, and I carried all of the same things I took to France (including an extra bikini and some fashion mags for poolside reading), and it worked like a dream. I especially appreciated how thoughtfully designed it was in terms of the interior and exterior pockets, and how easy it was to access my stuff during the flight. I got the OMG in navy, and I couldn’t be happier.
Click on over to their site and watch the videos for each bag – they do not misrepresent. I got rid of three of the other not-so-great carry-on in my collection (believe it or not, I kept the bag I took to France, because it’s a good around-town tote. But I won’t be taking it on any more flights, ever). I have a feeling I won’t miss any of them a bit.
When I was working in the corporate world, I had two very distinct selections of clothing: “work” clothes, and “weekend” clothes.
If you opened my closet, you would have been easily able to identify which items belonged in which category. Work clothes consisted of lots of dry-clean-only type of stuff from Gap, Banana Republic, and Nordstrom in shades of black/brown/gray/cream– things like slacks, pencil skirts, suits, button down blouses, blazers, nice dresses, nylons, and lots and lots of high heeled boots and pumps. Weekend clothes were comfy and colorful things like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, socks, flats, and sneakers. Having two totally different styles of clothing for the work and non-work parts of my life were part of the reason why my closets and dressers were so jammed full of stuff–the other part being due to my unfortunate shopaholic tendencies.
I recently got an email from a clothing store advertising a sale on “weekend wear”, and it occurred to me that I no longer have a wardrobe that distinguishes between the two styles – pretty much most of my daily wardrobe is weekend wear, with a few slightly more dressed up options. As a full time actor, there are some mornings when I have to get up, dress presentably, put on makeup, fix my hair, and either go to auditions, a recording studio, meetings, rehearsals, or other events that put me out in public. But there are more mornings where I get up, put on workout clothes, walk Stella, eat breakfast, work out, answer email, and then start working from home on recording/auditioning/reading scripts/memorizing lines and before I know it Ron is almost due home from the office and I’ve yet to shower or officially get dressed or even stop to eat lunch. I may talk to a lot of people via phone or email during the day, but no one actually SEES me, so I don’t spend much time worrying about what I look like or how I’m dressed, especially if I’m on a deadline.
This means that things like my slippers get a ton of wear. I used to have (unsurprisingly) about four pairs of slippers, but in one of my early decluttering sessions after I started this blog, I got rid of all but my one favorite pair. They aren’t particularly expensive or fancy, but I really like the style and how comfortable they are. I’ve had them for easily 10 years, and have worn them a LOT (I am one of those people whose hands and feet are often cold – just ask Ron, who has to endure me getting into bed at night and putting my icy fingers and toes against his perpetually heat-radiating body to warm up). Last year, while we were still in debt-pay down mode, I was sitting on the couch with my feet propped up facing Ron, and I saw him stare at the soles of my slippers and then gently say, “Uhhh…honey, I know money is tight, but I’m sure we could figure out a way to get you a new pair of slippers.”
I knew why he was saying it. From the top, my slippers looked totally normal:
But from the bottom, they were definitely looking a bit worse for wear:
And you have to see the side view too, to really appreciate how
gross loved they were:
The thing was, I knew I could have afforded a new pair – Fred Meyer, Kmart, or even a Walgreens sell slippers very inexpensively, and often offer coupons as well. But since my mission has been to buy fewer, better things, and because slippers are something I knew I would wear really often, I wanted them to be a high quality pair that I LOVED.
Which made the process of finding a new pair become way too important and painstaking. It took me MONTHS. Well, to be fair, some of those months were in the summer, when it’s way too hot for slippers, but I cannot tell you how many online and in person searches I did to find a good replacement. I scoured countless websites, read hundreds of reviews, stalked various shoe departments, and still couldn’t find anything I felt was right – or more accurately, “perfect”. I was even wiling to shell out a lot of money for them – I saw some really similar but ridiculously expensive ones by Ugg, for nearly $90, and was seriously considering them, until I noticed that most of the reviews said the sizing was consistently either too big or too small if you’re a half size, like me.
And then, I finally had to remind myself that no matter how much I loved my new pair, or how much money I spent on them, much like my old pair, the new pair would wear out someday, and I’d have to buy new ones. And while I was wasting all this stupid time fretting over finding something “perfect”, I was spending every day of my present life walking around with holes in my soles.
A day after I had this thought, I happened to be walking past J. Crew, and they were in the midst a huge sale. In multiple baskets on the display tables were pretty pastel piles of cozy slippers. Next to the baskets were signs that said, “Additional 40% off.” And in the lavender color that I liked the most, they had exactly one pair left in my size. So I bought them – for a very reasonable $27.
I LOVE my new slippers. They are cozy, pretty, and sooooo comfortable:
And even better, they have non-slip rubber soles, with no holes in them:
And even better than THAT, I have them right NOW, and I am wearing them every day. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did throw the old ones away).
In the end, of course, we’re just talking about a silly pair of slippers. But the experience was a good reminder for me that if seeking perfection becomes your entire focus, you’re a) probably never going to achieve it, and b) you will spend way too much time during that process living with circumstances or things you really need to release.
What about you? Is there an area in your life where you are seeking the perfect something, to the point where you’re living without something you could really use right now? Share in the comments if you feel so inclined!
I keep a suitcase in the basement that I fill with clothes that are headed to resale. With as much closet purging and as little clothes buying as I’ve done in the past year, I have been consistently convinced that each trip to resale will be my last for at least the next 6 months, if not a year. Because if I’m adding very few new clothes, and each time I’ve purged my closet I’ve gotten it down to just my favorites, how is it possible I could still have more stuff to get rid of so quickly? Well, apparently, it is possible, because look:
I sold back clothing about two months ago, so this new pile-up was a surprise. The suitcase was so full of clothes that I felt compelled to take a look at what I was getting rid of and why, since obviously a mere two months ago I loved these very items too much to part with them. Here’s is a brief sampling of some things that went from my love it list to my loathe it list in just a few weeks.
Three pairs of jeans. I wear jeans most days of the week, so I’ve always kept a lot of them in my closet – like up to 12 pairs at times. But I’ve been steadily decreasing that number, because I’ve noticed that while yes, I always want to wear jeans, I also always want to wear the SAME jeans over and over again. So why should I keep so many? These three did not make the cut.
Two summer dresses. The striped on on the left is very cute and I did wear it a lot, but I got it at Target so it wasn’t the most well-made garment I’ve ever bought, and after being repeatedly laundered it’s starting to look a little shabby and slightly shrunken. I definitely got my use out of it though, so I feel good about letting it go. The pink dress is an inexpensive one I bought at Gap, and I wore it a few times, but it fell victim to the “one in one out” rule (I talk about letting it go in more detail over on the Tiny Homes site). I was very tempted to say screw the one in/one out rule and keep both dresses, but I’m very happy with my new dress, and in just a month I have already worn the new one more than this old one, which has been hanging in my closet for nearly three years.
These shorts make me feel fat. Therefore, I feel irritable every time I put them on and end up taking them right back off. I have another pair of green shorts that don’t make me feel fat, but I kept these because….yeah, I don’t know.
This shirt, cardigan, and blazer are all from Anthropologie. I kid you not when I say that close to 70% of my wardrobe used to be comprised of items from Anthropologie. I haven’t been able to afford to shop there in the past year, and cutting my Anthro habit made a big impact in stemming the flow of clothes into my wardrobe, since I rarely walked out of that store without buying something. I currently have about 10 items from Anthropologie left in my possession, which for me is a little weird. I think I hung onto to these three more out of nostalgia for my favorite store than any real desire to wear them. But a whole spring/summer went by without me wearing the shirt or cardigan, and while I still like the blazer well enough, I’ve slowly gotten rid of most of the other items that I used to wear it with, so now it feels like odd man out. It was time for all of them to go.
I actually wore this halter top from the Banana Republic outlet store a lot, and I remember buying it on a whim and it being on such a great sale I thought “If I wear this five times I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.” I definitely got my money’s worth, but the last couple times I tried it on I felt like it looked too boxy and ended up changing into something else, so I feel like my infatuation has ended. But no guilt on this purchase at all!
I do, however, have guilt over this black Diane Von Furstenburg dress which I held on to for YEARS, because it was very expensive, and well, because it was DVF. But I rarely wore it. I’ve never been a big fan of shirt dresses, but I’ve tried valiantly over the years to try to like them by purchasing various incarnations of the style. I saw a picture of myself wearing this dress shortly after I’d worn it to our Godson’s christening, and I looked like a total frump. After that, I never really wanted to wear it again. My Godson is now seven years old. Time to let it go.
I have a LOT of guilt for getting rid of these boots. Not because I like them, but because a) I spent waaaay too much money on them, and b) I purchased them while on vacation in Vienna, and made poor Ron go into store after store one day for HOURS while I searched for the perfect black boot (important side note: I already had three pairs of black boots at home, and was wearing a fourth pair that I really liked while I was on this stupid quest). I wore them only a handful of times, because holyhelllookattheheelsonthosethings – I’m lucky I didn’t fall down and break/sprain something/everything. Every time I wore them I was worried I would catch that open heel on something and trip, so needless to say, I was not the epitome of graceful when I wore them. And therefore, I never wanted to wear them. And every time I looked at them in the closet, I was reminded of my bad judgement. It will be nice to be free from their mockery.
I could go on with more pictures and stories, but it’d be more of the same, and this post would take an hour to read. In addition to the items I’ve specifically shown here, I also sold a bunch of t-shirts, sweaters, work out clothes, and a few more pairs of shoes – and walked out of resale with $204. If I had any nostalgia about letting these items go when I went in, I can assure you I didn’t have any left when they handed me the money.
And here is the pile of stuff that didn’t sell that I will be taking to Goodwill:
I guess the lesson I learned from this little exercise, and will probably still be learning for a while to come, is that I still have a lot more than I actually need, and much of what I am still clinging to is for reasons other than “I love it”. I’m still finding my lagom.
Last year, when Ron and I were deep into the weeds of trying to get out of debt, we started making lists for ourselves–lists of what we would do when we finally had some financial breathing room. Our lists ranged from big goals (traveling, finishing our basement, building our savings account, making extra mortgage payments) to the little luxuries we would splurge on every month when every dollar wasn’t so precious. Nothing on our “little luxuries” list was all that expensive or glamorous (it ranged from things like being able to afford fancy cheese to going to the movies once a month), but they were all things we had cut to save money, and I really did miss them.
Last week when I went to the grocery store, I needed to buy hand soap for both the kitchen and the bathroom. I headed to the soap aisle and reached for the “10 bottles for $10” store brand soap I’ve been buying for the past year, and then stopped in my tracks. Because while there is nothing wrong with that less expensive soap (it kills germs and gets your hands clean, so who’s complaining?), I suddenly remembered that on one of my “little luxuries” lists I had said I would love to be able to buy fancy soap again once we were out of debt. And it hit me, that on this unremarkable Wednesday in the middle of the month, I could afford to do just that.
Let me clarify, that this “splurge” I’m talking about cost $4.89 a bottle- about $4 more than I usually would spend. That’s not a ton of money. But a year ago, that WAS a lot of money to us. And I needed to buy two bottles since for some odd reason our kitchen and bathroom soaps always run out at the EXACT same time (does this happen to anyone else? It’s uncanny), so I was really talking about adding close to $10 more to our grocery bill. But we could afford it, and it made me so stupidly happy to be able to go over to the organic section of the store and get two deliciously scented bottles of my favorite brand, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day. It’s great quality, we will use all of it, and I truly do love this product – in every way it meets my criteria for a worthy purchase.
We still haven’t achieved any of our big goals yet, and I know we can’t go nuts on little stuff, or we never will meet the big goals. It’s not our plan to suddenly start dropping tons of money on little luxuries all the time, but we are carefully allotting two or three of them every month, and when we do, I feel like a millionaire. And this time through, we talk about the splurge and weigh our options instead of just heedlessly spending like we did in the past. But it’s nice to know something so small can add such a big boost of happiness.
I’m curious – what’s on your “little luxuries” list?
In my last post, I talked about the gifts we exchanged for our anniversary, but I neglected to talk about the celebration itself. We didn’t do anything elaborate, just a nice bottle of champagne at home, then dinner at a nice Italian restaurant we wanted to try, and then we stopped by Papa Haydn’s (VERY popular Portland restaurant for decadent desserts) and got a couple pieces of cake to go, which we demolished along with the rest of the champagne when we got home.
The restaurant we went to was Mucca Osteria, and I have no beauty shots of the meal, because we were too excited to eat our food to take time to photograph it. But it was delicious – we shared a fresh burrata and heirloom tomato caprese salad, then we each had the seared sea scallops appetizer with truffle parmesan fondue, and then Ron had the steak with pancetta kale and green beans, and I had the wild boar ragu pasta. We knew we wanted to go to Papa Haydn’s for cake, so we didn’t order dessert, but when the server realized it was our anniversary, he brought us a complimentary glass of a grappa type dessert wine to share and two little biscotti to dip in it. The portions were perfect and the pacing of the meal was leisurely enough to keep us from eating before we knew we were full. We left completely satisfied but not stuffed – in other words, it was lagom ; ).
But the best part? We had the satisfaction of knowing we could completely afford it, so every bite was guilt free (well, maybe not calorically, but let’s not even get into that). We did not have to go into debt for it, and that made it all the more delicious. The restaurant was not outrageously expensive – I think we spent about $100 before tip (which included all the food mentioned above plus a glass of wine each), and then I think the cake (which is kind of ridiculously expensive) came to about $18. Totally within what we had budgeted for the evening.
This is also the first month since we’ve gotten out of debt where we have actually felt the difference. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that in both June and July we still had some big enough expenses that we were having to come up with close to what we had been paying monthly on our credit cards, but this month we were finally able to breathe a little. And so breathe we did.
And let me tell you, it felt gooooooood.
Last week Ron and I celebrated nine years of marriage. I still can’t believe it’s been that long! For the first time this year, we exchanged gifts to celebrate an occasion. As usual, Ron’s gift was easy- I gave him wine for his collection. This time, however, it was an extra special bottle, because we got it while wine tasting in Napa Valley at Groth, his favorite winery, and the owner happened to walk by while we were there and not only did Ron get a chance to chat him up and take a photo with him, but he signed the bottle. I have a feeling that’s one bottle of wine that will never get opened.
Also as usual, I picked out my own gift, which I really have no shame about. I would much prefer to get something I really want or need than be surprised with something that I would potentially end up returning. And this year, I did specifically have my eye on something I needed – a new wallet. I’ve been window shopping wallets for months – my old one was getting pretty worn, and I was interested in experimenting with a new style.
My old wallet was a traditional trifold style:
with a coin purse on the outside:
I initially bought it because I loved how much stuff it held. Look at all the credit card slots inside:
there were even two pockets behind the credit card slots where you could stuff even MORE cards, and believe me, I did:
Which adds up to a fat little wallet that weighs a ton, especially when I have a lot of pennies in the coin purse.
The new ones I was considering would require me to manage my wallet very differently, and I have to admit that made me nervous. I had it narrowed down to two styles, both of which were zipper enclosed all the way around. One had a center coin purse with a fair amount of slots for cards flanking the coin section on both sides, and the other wallet opened like a little book, with a TINY amount of slots for cards and a small coin/currency section on one side, and then a compartment to hold a cell phone on the other side.
For months I had been vacillating between the two styles mentally, and then it was suddenly the day before our anniversary and Ron said, “Uh…were you going to go pick out your gift?” Both wallets were at Nordstrom, so that afternoon I decided to go in and try to fit some of my actual crap into them and see which one might work best.
When I arrived I headed over to where I had seen them on display, but on my way I passed a discount table and the saleslady chirped, “We just marked down a ton of stuff so you might want to take a look!” And lo and behold, both wallets, in the exact colors I wanted, were on the markdown table. Fate.
I took the wallets over to some free counter space and began fitting my various cards into the slots and comparing the two. The wallet with the middle coin purse and the larger amount of card slots definitely fit my stuff better. But…I hated the way it functioned and how I would have to dig around in it. The wallet with the phone holder was a much better, much sleeker design, and I knew in my gut I loved it more. But it didn’t hold even a quarter of what I was used to carrying.
I started to sort my cards out on the counter, trying to figure out which ones were essential, and which ones weren’t. I was able to immediately put aside about five cards that were expired or for businesses I no longer frequented, but that was about it. It’s not like I use a ton of cards on a regular basis, but there were things that I knew I would want on me if were to need them – things like my library cards, a couple store credit cards, member/rewards cards from various stores, and some partially filled punch cards. As much as I often WANT to live a sleeker, pared down lifestyle, I am frequently faced with having to honestly admit that some of my clutter is useful to me. And the thought of buying a new wallet in a style I didn’t love that would help me continue to haul a bunch of crap around was…depressing.
I was dejectedly stuffing my cards back into my old wallet, starting to wonder if I should even bother with a new wallet until I learned how to travel a little more lightly, when the saleslady came over to see if she could help. I gestured helplessly at the mess of cards and coins all over her counters and explained that I while I loved the smaller phone wallet, I didn’t think it would go with my lifestyle.
She regarded my scattered items and then suggested kindly, “You know what some people do? They just keep their most important, most frequently used cards in their wallet, and then they buy something like a little business card holder for all their extra, less frequently used cards. You can keep that in your purse as well so you always have it, but it will allow you to have a much smaller and tidier wallet that you use every day.”
Why. Didn’t. I. Think. Of. THAT?????
So thanks to the nice saleslady and her excellent suggestion, I bought the sleek phone wallet that I really wanted. It’s lovely! Look:
And here is the inside:
A lot less room than I’m used to, but I’m actually looking forward to the change and seeing how I do with it. Not to mention, I love that it holds my phone, and because of the little wrist strap, I could even carry it as an evening purse. And it makes a PERFECT travel wallet. Lovelovelove it.
I had to go through all my cards and figure out what would make the cut. Truth be told, it was not that hard to isolate what my most frequently used cards were: driver’s license, personal debit card, personal credit card, household debit card, household credit card, a rewards card for the grocery store I shop at most often, and two health insurance cards. The money compartment on this wallet is also pretty small, but since I almost never have cash anyway, it shouldn’t be a problem. I will have to carry much fewer coins, but I am totally fine with that – I decided to start a penny jar with Ron and we’ll both unload our pennies into it every day, and use what we accumulate to go to the movies or do something fun.
The remaining cards I tucked into a little pouch which I used to use to carry my foreign money when I was touring a lot, and it’s the perfect size for them:
I’ll reassess how often I use some of them after a few months, and will pare down accordingly. I just made the transfer, so I’m still unsure how the new system will actually work for me, but I really hope it does. Much in the way I initially never thought I could live without all the clothes I’ve gotten rid of over the past year, I have a feeling once I’m used to it, traveling with a smaller wallet will feel totally lagom.*
*And if it doesn’t, I’m returning the damn thing. If you look close you can see I’ve left the tags on it for now.