One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

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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.


My Mom used to make our birthdays incredibly special.  She made pinatas, she decorated cakes, and she would put a big red rattan “throne” at the head of the table for the birthday girl to sit in, along with a silver crown to wear from a Halloween princess costume she had made.  There was always a special birthday breakfast that morning, even if it was a school morning, and sometimes I would come downstairs to find a florist’s box next to my plate with a fluffy pink corsage to wear to school.  Often I had a new dress or blouse to wear too, and at some point during the day she would  bring hand decorated cupcakes to my classroom (this was before schools were concerned about the cleanliness of student’s home food handling, and in a time where you never heard a grade school kid say, “Is that gluten free?” or “I’m lactose intolerant” or “I only eat organic”).  Dinner was the birthday girl’s choice (I frequently chose to go to McDonald’s, klassy!).  The year I turned seven, she made me an ice cream cake roll in the shape of the number 7, covered in pink frosting roses and powdered sugar.  The year I turned ten (my golden birthday, since I was 10 on the 10th) she went all out and made me a three tiered cake, like a wedding cake, with light green frosting and pale pink roses (interestingly enough, pink and green ended up being my wedding colors too).  It was all very elaborate, and made my birthday my favorite day of the year.

And oh, the presents.  I usually would get one big item (Barbie dolls, a bike, roller skates, a camera, a new outfit, a watch, etc.), and then tons of little surprise items as well.  In addition to the gifts my family gave me, I would also have a party with school friends, and a ton of loot would come in from that as well.

I am not a person who gets all shy and humble and “Oh you shouldn’t have I can’t accept this” about presents.  I love getting presents.  I love giving them too.  I never expect them, but when they are given, I accept them with love, gratitude, and joy, even if it turns out to be something I don’t want.  For me, it’s about the exchange of energy and goodwill, and that always feels great.

In recent years though, I have found that once the receiving glow has worn off, getting a bunch of new stuff all at once, whether it happens on Christmas or my birthday, has come with an under layer of anxiety as well.  I think a lot of that has to do with feeling like I have too many possessions already, so adding to the pile is really stressful (where will I put it all?  Do I actually need any of it?  Do I like it enough to keep it?  If it’s a duplicate should I toss the one I already have even though it’s still good?).

This year I had complicated feelings around the idea of getting gifts.  On one hand, I am very happy with the progress I’ve made on not bringing a lot of new stuff into my life.  But I am also in a serious state of withdrawal around not having a new stuff high on a regular basis anymore.  So I wanted stuff, but also kind of didn’t.  And I wondered – would my birthday feel forgotten and blah without presents?

But there was one thing I really did need – a new computer.  My old computer is from 2006, and its limping painfully towards its end.  I’ve killed the battery (it’s a laptop), I constantly get a “memory disk is full” message, it’s glacially slow, and there is some kind of problem with the power cord that causes it to suddenly disconnect without my noticing, until it suddenly shuts itself off in the middle of a project.  I have been living in fear that it will croak while I am in the middle of narrating an audio book, and I will lose all my recording.  I do a lot of my work on my computer, so it is not something I could live without – if I could only rescue a couple items in a fire, it would be my computer and my phone.  So it was clear to me that sooner than later, I needed to figure out how to get a new one.

I’d been saving money towards the cause since December.  I’d managed to amass over half of what I needed, and I figured my birthday could help me get almost, if not all the way, to my goal.  When anyone asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I asked for either money or a gift certificate to the Apple store.  And four days after my birthday, I found the the perfect computer for my needs, and paid 95% cash for it.

It was definitely a different birthday for me – no towering stack of presents to unwrap, just a handful of cards with money in them.  But I couldn’t have been happier.  The one gift I got was exactly what I wanted and needed, and I absolutely love it and will use it extensively every single day.  I don’t feel any anxiety around trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of new things I didn’t really need, and the lack of a bunch of gifts didn’t make things feel any less special.  I had a lovely birthday lunch and a birthday dinner with some of my dearest girlfriends, as well as a birthday dinner “date” with Ron.  I felt very special, loved, and celebrated.

It was, in every sense, “just right.”  It was lagom.  I hope to make a habit of it.

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Thanks to Ron, Mom, Dad, Lisa, Don, Aunt Diane, Lori, Kristen, Julie, Ed, Zorabelle, and Grandma. I could not be more happy and grateful!



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