About Me

Traveling Lite

I like to travel, though I loathe airports and flying.  That being said, I have found some things to make traveling less painful.

  1. I never check a bag.  This makes packing…interesting.  I always have a rolling bag to fit overhead.  Now, occasionally the bag will be checked at the gate depending on the size of the plane and bins overhead, but that’s never been a problem.  By never checking a bag, I never have to worry about losing something, which has happened to friends of mine in the past.  Even for my trip today to Florida for 6 days (which includes two wedding ceremonies so two different outfits), I still only have my large hand-bag and my rolling luggage.
  2. TSA Pre-Check.  If you fly, this is CRAZY helpful.  It costs $85 and will practically let you “bypass” security, at least as we have come to know and love.  Yeah you still have to stand in a line but it’s currently Memorial Day weekend and I’m in Charlotte, NC and was in line for 5-10 min.  Judging by the number of people waiting I think the regular security line would have been about an hour.  It means that you do not have to take off shoes, take out liquids, take out electronics/laptops, and more.  I only had to walk through a metal detector (no crazy x-ray machine) and my phone and everything was able to be kept in my own bags and not placed into individual plastic bins.  This goes for you families out there too!  Helps out when traveling with kids.  It’s how flying used to be prior to 9-11.  The good ole’ days…  Here is the link for those interested in learning more.  https://www.tsa.gov/precheck
  3. Wear your thickest/heaviest items on the plane.  This will save space in your bags and will provide layers if you need them on the plane!
  4. Either clothing cubes or vacuum bags are really helpful.  Not only do they help to compress items so you can take more, but they also double up as dirty clothes bags too.  And when I unpack into drawers, I can reach straight for a bag and know what’s in it.
  5. Multi-use items are crucial.  This means pre-planing your outfits as much as possible.  If you use a capsule wardrobe now then you are all set.  Things like a long black sleeveless dress that you can dress up with accessories and nice shoes, or down with a shirt on top and maybe tie a knot on one side.  Also doubles as a nice outfit to wear over swimwear to the pool, etc.  My black dress goes everywhere and will be greatly used.  When it comes to shoes, the same thing applies.  I have a pair of black flats by Tory Burch that are made for travel.  They fold onto themselves and include a small bag for storing.  Tieks is another brand that has something similar.  These shoes will work with both dresses for the wedding this weekend, are comfortable, casual yet chic, and go with everything (except maybe work-out gear). If it weren’t for the two ceremonies I wouldn’t even have brought as many clothes as I did.  One easy way to spice up outfits is with accessories: jewelry, shawl/scarves you can tie and wear in different ways.
  6. Make use of what the hotels have!  While I am partial to my own shampoo and conditioner, I never bring stuff to wash up with.  I always use what the hotel has.  and 9/10 I use their hairdryers and other toiletries.  Forget your toothpaste?  No problem.  Just call the front desk and you’re set.
  7. If you DO have to bring some liquids, make sure to get travel friendly sizes.  And when it comes to my makeup, I will either have small containers or go to my fave makeup counter and get samples of my foundation/lotions to take with me.  Other stuff you may need, like sunscreen, you can buy small sizes at your destination, which is exactly what I’m going to do.
    1. Take as many solid items as you can.  One company, Milk Makeup, makes many items you might use as a liquid at home in a solid formula.  Cleanser?  Check.  Facial toner?  Check.  Handy, small, travel friendly.  What more could you ask for?  And if you do have to go through regular security, this helps out a lot.

Step 3: Pull out hair due to stress. Step 4: Declutter that too.

I am anxious.  I am a mess.  I am an anxious mess.  How do I know that?  Never mind the sinking feeling in my stomach that shows up spontaneously, or the procrastinating as a form of coping.  How else do I know?

Look around my home.

I currently live in a 1 bedroom studio loft (there is another room with a door (that does not go to the ceiling which is 15′ high and is lacking a closet).  It is beautiful.  135 year old hardwood floors.  Brick walls 20″ thick, exposed to the interior.  Windows so tall that I have to have two levels of blinds and I can’t reach the pulls for the top ones.  Exposed pipes original to the building, a converted textile mill.

Oh, wait.  You can’t see that??  Well, that’s probably because of all of the junk on my dining room table.  There’s also the boxes on the floor.  Surfaces covered with clutter that could easily be put away but, wait, no, I don’t want to deal with that, I want to binge Hulu instead.  If I focus on The Handmaid’s Tale then all I will see is the beauty on screen and not the horror behind me.

I keep putting off dealing with these things because Hulu is easier.  Take-out is easier.  Confronting the clutter is actually confronting myself, and THAT is never easy.

My apartment was beautiful at one point, and then my life started going to pot one bit at a time.  I also do not hold myself accountable.  The thought of “I won’t watch La La Land until I get this dining room table cleared off” just won’t work.  This literally happened today and as soon as I got to my front door with the disc in hand, I thought “you know?  You should just watch it now.  It’s easier”.

Luckily I’ve been meditating and I was able to notice that thought.  It is probably a thought I have had numerous times in my life but never noticed.  It caught me off guard.

My anxiety level has been a roller-coaster, and I find that writing it down in here helps.  Putting words to wordless feelings and emotions, just like when I note things as I meditate, is helping me to recenter myself; to focus.

So now that the anxiety has temporarily abated, the work begins.


Step 1: Accumulate. Until reality sets in. Step 2: Begin to declutter.

As a child I loved everything I had and couldn’t have enough.  I was the only child in my nuclear family, and I was the only grandchild until I was 10.  I remember getting MOUNTAINS of presents at Christmas, and even more 1 month later for my birthday.  Over the years it actually grew because my parents each split and re-married (though to split again…) so I had multiple families.  Once I get some images scanned, I’ll show you just how much stuff I would get.

I also understand why I got so much.  Sure, I was the only child.  Sure, when you’re little the presents are less costly so you can have a larger number of them.  But really I think it’s that my family tried to show their love for me with items.

Case in point: we went to either Roses or Wal-Mart when I was maybe 5 and Papa (mybmaternal grandfather) said I could have one thing.  Well, I picked up a coloring book.  Reasonable choice.  But, I also had crayons in my hand too, because, what good is a coloring book without crayons?  Then it turned into a Barbie doll as well.  I don’t remember how many items I had but it most certainly was not one.  I remember roaming the aisles with him, knowing I had pulled over some sort of scheme.  I was already conditioned.

I have countless stories like that.  Another one that is particularly telling explains my relationship with money.  Again I was at a big store with my mom or Papa and there was something I wanted.  Somehow not having money came up and I said something like “well just write a check!”.

I also remember as an older child having my own room at home, with a toy box in the closet.  Over the years the contents of that box would change, but it would always spill out into the room.  Every drawer I had would also be over-flowing.  I have a distinct memory of having so much stuff that I literally could not see the floor.  It was an everyday occurrence to me, invisible even, but one day I would just notice it.  And whenever that would happen I would clean.  It was almost like a binge-purge cycle.  It would take hours, days even.  I would take all of my clothes out of the closet and drawers.  I would put everything back either hung or folded neatly.  Some I would even get rid of.  Then I’d move onto the next thing…maybe it was my nightstand drawer(s).  Then my cd collection: I would either organize them by artist, or genre and then artist…(I sorta liked organizing.  Maybe I just really liked organized chaos).  I remember going through items in that toy box and later it would turn into a collection of papers from school, not just currently but also from when I was younger.  Yearbooks.  Notes from friends folded into origami-like shapes.  Everything I wanted to keep would be put up neatly into stacks, only later to topple over themselves with the weight of other items being thrown in too.  Then I would re-arrange the furniture.  I don’t really know why…maybe I was always in search of the perfect arrangement.  Maybe I just wanted a change.  But this became routine.

One day when I was a teenager I was able to get control of the hoard but I was still a purveyor of clutter.  And lets get something straight.  I was not a “pack rat”.  I was a hoarder.  I cannot tell you why though admittedly it was at least partially due to laziness and not wanting to clean.  I was too young at the time to self-reflect so I won’t even attempt to do so now.

I will say that my school notebooks, however, were always meticulous.

When I moved to England after high school these tendencies followed me.  And again when I moved back to NC, then when I lived on my own, through college.  In medical school things got a little easier, mostly because I was always studying.  But I would get lazy because of all of the stress and things would quickly pile up.  I still have that problem today.

Along the way I did declutter.  I would toss out elementary papers.  Multiple copies of photos.  Movies I thought I’d no longer want (though now I REALLY wish I had kept my VHS tapes of the original Star Wars trilogy before “he” attempted to…ahem…improve on them with digital technology.  Possibly my only real regret).  Clothes would go.

In residency I really started to get into the tiny house movement and dreamed of it.  I even looked up companies that I might be able to use to build a house.  I downsized my DVD and CD collection extensively.  My closet morphed into a capsule wardrobe.  When I moved to my current apartment my dad literally said “so where are all of your clothes?” and was dumbfounded when I told him that this was it.  I still thought it was a lot.  He saw practically nothing.  I would also take little challenges or breaks from social media, and delete Facebook and Pinterest, huge black holes of time, until I no longer felt the twitch to check them and waste hours.  Needless to say I became more productive.

I also found Marie Kondo and the KonMari method of decluttering which is what really helped.  I never made it all the way through my home but I was able to significantly downsize what I did own.  Along the way, of course, accumulating more items at holidays and on my own.  Makeup was a particular problem for me as I loved it, the creativity it allowed me, and the fun I got from making blog posts and YouTube videos.  Oh, and did I mention picking up stuff that my mom had saved of mine for years and taking it home since she didn’t really want to hold onto it?  Baby blankets my grandmother had made.  Crochet items my great-grandmother had made.  Cards.  Photos.

After moving to a new place with no-one around that I knew, and having a greatly increased income, I began to re-accumulate.

The unthinkable happened during medical school.  First Papa died, followed swiftly by Grandma.  Then my mom got sick. Months later she too died.  We had to stay in Durham to pack up some of the stuff at the temporary apartment and take it back to the house, but once there, her husband made me go through her closet.  I was devastated.  It felt like he was trying to get rid of her.  I could barely process what had just happened, but for him the decluttering couldn’t happen fast enough.  Literally, the day after we got back to their home, I had her closet and bathroom cleared out thanks to friends of hers and family members.  It was heartbreaking.  My thought was, maybe it was just too hard for him to be around all of her things as well as the house that they had built together.  The rational part of me thought that, and that she was not her things, but the emotional part was…broken.  I don’t like to dwell on this because it still feels so acute, not even two years later.

Now I had been trying for years, and over several attempts, to help mom declutter her closet and we were never able.  Every time we moved, we would do this.  Even on summer trips home she’d want to tackle the closet in the guest room that held her dresses since the one in her room was already overflowing with shoes, purses, and other clothes.  I would beg and encourage her to get rid of this dress that doesn’t really look good on her, has been out of style for years, and that she hadn’t worn.  Her reaction was “but now I have this new job, not a lot of money, and may need a dress”.  She gave a lot of ‘what if’ excuses, but it wasn’t “a” dress.  It was 10 or more.  Now I look back and smile but still feel a twinge of torture because she would literally have to try on every. single. item.

After she died I ended up slowly accumulating more things that were found later and boxed up for me.  Her antique china tea set.  Photos.  Stuff from her work and home office.   I also accumulated some old VHS family tapes.  3-4 plastic bins worth of Christmas decorations (which was our special thing, decorating during the holidays, watching The Grinch and reciting every line).  I had a bin of her old photos.  A set of china.  Another set of crystal antique glassware.    If you’d ever like to discuss or read about how I dealt with, and am still dealing with these items, I will write about it.

After my employer was bought out by a rival hospital system and I was laid off, I had a lot of free time on my hands.  My anxiety level had slowly but steadily been ratcheting up, along with the small items in my apartment.  I had also taken on a side business selling clothing and wold have those items strewn around the place as well.  It just seemed like a depressing place to come home to.  Then, one day, I looked around.  Instead of seeing the stuff, I saw myself.  My own emotions and problems had literally spilled onto my dining room and coffee tables.  I knew that buying more boxes to store things in was not the solution.  Ikea was no longer a viable option.

The solution came in the form of iTunes and YouTube; a documentary called Minimalism and a channel by Rachel Aust.  That lead me to a website, http://www.theminimalists.com, then The Minimalists podcast, and then books and even more YT channels. I devoured the audio books.  I also began to meditate again, and binged in a single sitting on a book by Dan Harris.  I began to declutter my home.  Knowing that I am going to have to move is also GREAT motivation by the way.  Want to clear out stuff?  Move.

I am still struggling.  It never fails that things get worse before they get better.  I have small items all over my dining room table and coffee table still.  This is why I am sitting in a Starbucks instead of at my desk or dining room table; seeing all of the visual clutter stops me from being productive.  But, I have donated two bedside tables and a kitchen rack to a friend who is getting her first home.  I have consigned some clothes and accessories.  I have simplified my iPhone and the apps I use and donated books to the local library. I am still attempting to make changes daily to make my home cleaner, tidier, and simpler.

I am not perfect.  I still have loads of items, and I am seriously considering a packing party (future blog post to come on just what that is).  I am also considering getting rid of the internet at home, at least for a time.  I know that if I sit down on my couch and just turn on the Apple TV to watch one episode of The Daily Show, that will then turn into “what’s that new show on Netflix? 13 Reasons Why?  Oh, and that other one, The Handmaid’s Tale, oh and I have all of these other shows I need to catch up on too like Scandal”.  As I type this I am made even more aware of just how much television is taking over my life and holding me back from being able to move forward.


Reality set in.

What Minimalism Is Not

Some people that come across the term may find themselves wondering, ‘what is minimalism’?

Short of looking it up in Webster, minimalism can actually be impossible to define, as it means something slightly different to everyone.  So in an attempt to explain, I thought it best to view it from the perspective of what it is not.

It is not…


Yes, minimalism has become trendy, mostly for the aesthetics of it.  White walls, black and white photos, clean crisp lines, empty surfaces.  The full concept, however, is a lifestyle.  It is not something to adopt for the season only to become a Maximalist later.  It does take work, but the rewards (or return on investment for you business-type folks) will reflect the amount of effort put in.


It isn’t something you can tackle overnight, no matter how hard you may try.  It is a process, sometimes tedious, but worthwhile.  Clichés come into being because they’re true…the good things in life are not easy.  The same can be said for minimalism, though with time it does become easier.  It becomes habit, “the norm”, instinct, and freeing.


If you’re looking for a rigid set of rules, this may not be for you.  While some may believe otherwise, I believe that people can grow and change over time.  As you grow, your lifestyle should shift to fit you, not the other way around.  If you find one aspect doesn’t work, ditch it.  If you want to experiment with parts of your lifestyle and find something that works, perfect!  Minimalism can be as fluid as you need it to be.


Technically you could call pretty much everyone before the 1950’s a minimalist.  They had what they needed, and not much else.  Having it be turned into an aesthetic, however, has become new.  Want a great example?  Look to the Danes and Scandinavia.  Or to Japan.  The space is limited but what they do with it is a whole other matter.  In fact, the Danes are repeatedly viewed as the happiest people in the world yet often times live with FAR fewer items than even the average American teenager.


It does not seek attention.  It is not gaudy, nor in your face.  It is easy to maintain, full of joy and love.  It can be a source of inspiration.  It can also allow you to live your life as you see fit.  It is just enough…and in that, it is everything.