One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

Tag Archives: France

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:

  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • Phone & charger
  • Laptop & cords
  • Books (2)
  • Small makeup bag w/basic makeup items
  • Toothbrush/paste
  • 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
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys

(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: IMG_4111 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: IMG_4110 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:

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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:

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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.

Perfect, right?

WRONG.

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.

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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.


Happy 2015 everyone!!!!

I realize I have been absent for a looooong time.  I have good excuses though – I was in a play, then went to France for a couple weeks, came home to a ton of work due in a very tight timeline, and then the holidays hit and well, that pretty much brings us up to date.  I’m hoping to blog at least once a week if possible this year, but I know I’ve said that before and then…you know…life.

Another reason for the inactivity is precisely that – inactivity.  For the past few months I haven’t really done much cleaning, decluttering, or reevaluating.  It’s been all I could do to just be where I needed to be and make deadlines on time.  And while my house, purse, and car have been a MESS all fall and winter, I’m also happy to report I did very little purchasing either, so it was sort of a zero sum game on the whole lagom seeking mission.

I am proud to say that we did not go into credit card debt for our vacation, and while I did buy a few things in Europe, I didn’t go nuts either.  I bought a few, carefully curated, carefully planned items that I had done a lot of research on before our trip, and all in all, I spent VERY little time shopping – which was weird and great all at the same time.  Instead, we explored beautiful places, ate amazing food and drank tons of wine:

But for the most part, over the past few months when this blog has been silent, I’ve just been sitting with my stuff as it is, not really thinking about it one way or the other, and therefore have made no real changes.  With the launch of a fresh new year though, I have begun to feel a renewed sense of wanting to lighten my life.

For Christmas, Ron gave me a copy of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and reading it has newly inspired me to think about what I truly need, use, and love, and what stuff I’ve just grown accustomed to seeing in my space.  Ms. Kondo is a bit more of an extreme minimalist than I aspire to be, and I’m not 100% sure I subscribe to everything she suggests, but I still really enjoyed her book.  It’s made me start looking around with a keen eye again, and let me tell you, when that happens…nothing in my path is safe.

Even though Ron did not read the book and I haven’t really talked to him about it,  he seems to be on the same wavelength as well.  Yesterday morning, as we were putting away all the Christmas decorations, we were moving the armoire that holds our tv, stereo, dvd player, cable box, phone, etc. back into place, and he asked me how I would feel about getting rid of the stereo, since we never really use it.  We own a couple high quality smartphone speaker docks, and we just tend to plug our phones into one of those and listen to our music that way – I can’t really remember the last time I got out a CD and used the stereo.  So I agreed, and from there we also decided to get rid of the dvd player we have upstairs (it’s fairly old and had not been working properly, and we still have another one that does work in another part of the house, and I can’t say I’ve been missing the broken one since we usually watch movies on cable anyway).

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Then we went through the rest of the armoire, clearing our dvd collection of any movies we no longer cared about, our cd collection of music we no longer listened to, and I tossed about 60 (seriously) empty cd jewel cases I had been saving for oh, NO APPARENT REASON.  I even found a small stack of old VHS tapes that somehow survived the last purge, despite the fact it’s been about three years since we’ve owned a TV with a VHS player on which to use them:

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I particularly love the two that are titled “Laura – Misc. Tape”, with no further indication of anything else that is on them.  Especially since I don’t own anything to play them on in order to find out.  Genius decision making right there, folks.

And when I went to get a couple bags to hold the stuff we were getting rid of, I found myself plowing through a bunch of those well intentioned reusable shopping bags that multiply like rabbits in the closet because I always think I’ll use them, and then, of course, don’t.  Ron and I picked through them and each chose a couple to keep that we liked best, and the rest we got rid of.  In the process, I also I found not one, but TWO lost scarves I’d been searching madly for over the past couple weeks tangled up in the mess.

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As anyone who has been reading the blog for a while knows, I have been at this process since January of 2013, and with each area of my home I’ve decluttered, I’ve always gotten to the point where I’ve thought “That’s it – I can’t pare it down any less.  Everything that’s left is something I need, use, and love.”  Fascinating how time can change that perspective, isn’t it?  I think I maybe needed the past few months to just sit quietly with some of my decisions, before I could revisit them with a clear head.  If the first day of 2015 is any indication, I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m excited to discover what’s important to me in the new year.


Though there are several areas in my home that still need a good decluttering, I haven’t been up for taking them on lately.  Part of it has been my desire to soak up the last of the late summer weather, but as I listen to the wind and rain outside today, I’m thinking it won’t be long before I pick an area and dive in – stay tuned.

In the meantime, in a much less organized fashion, whenever a stray item crossed my path this week and I didn’t  immediately know it to be beautiful or useful (or both), I questioned why I was keeping it.  Most things did not make the cut.   Here are some stray items that got their walking papers this week:

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This is a large -and I do mean LARGE- chunk of fancy French soap that’s been in our medicine cabinet for about three years now.  Our friends from France gave it to us when they visited, along with a bottle of fancy liquid soap, which unfortunately shattered on the journey, leaving tiny shards of glass imbedded in this big square of soap.  It seemed a shame to waste it, so I scraped a layer off the surface, hoping to remove any stray pieces of glass.  But I cringe every time I think about rubbing that bar on my bare skin and maybe, just maybe, having a piece of glass still be there to leave a nice bloody scrape in its wake.  As a result, it’s never been used.  Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

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This weird little thing is a massager called “Love Fingers”.  I bought it from a vendor at a fair somewhere – I think I was just bored and wanted to buy something that day.  I’ve used it exactly twice.  I am happy to say that today, unlike ten or so years ago, I could walk through a fair or festival and not walk out with something like this (although I WOULD probably still get a deep fried Snickers bar).

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These are just a few of the small pins and buttons I’ve tossed this week – somehow, despite never wearing something like this, EVER, I’ve managed to amass quite a collection of them.  I don’t really like “collections” of things, so I tossed them all, along with this…

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The container that I was keeping them in.  I know I got this as a gift from a good friend in college.  I think it was designed to hold potpourri, but I’ve always used it to hold jewelry (or you know, a bunch of useless pins).  It makes a crappy earring holder, because you have to dump them all out and dig through to find a matching pair.  Good thing I’ve held on to it so long, right?  SO USEFUL!

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I also got rid of three pairs of sunglasses that I never wear, because the lenses are too wide for my face and make me look like a giant bug.  Sexy.

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And nothing is more useful than an expired international driver’s license, right?  I actually never even used this, because the car we rented in Europe was a stick shift, and I only know how to drive an automatic, so Ron had to drive the whole time.   Glad I’ve kept it for a whole year past it’s expiration date.

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These are just two of the probably fifteen empty jewelry boxes I had in a drawer.  I have a jewelry box that I keep all my treasures in, so I have never used these once the jewelry was taken out.  But I kept them because I thought I might need them for…okay, I don’t know.  I have no idea why I kept these.  Stupidity?  Maybe.

And then of course, there was this:

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Someone brought this to me as a souvenir from Mexico.  I think that might be a snake on his (her?) head.  I don’t need any further reason than that to toss it.

Dumping these things isn’t as satisfying as doing a whole organizing project where you can really see the difference in the area you’ve cleaned.  But I feel just a little lighter having let them go.  Try it!  The next time you see an item in your space that you’ve kept forever but never use and don’t find particularly beautiful, decide if you really want to be keeping it.  Share what you tossed in the comments if you’re so inspired!



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