Baby Mama Drama


I can say with complete honesty that having a baby has been the most humbling experience of my life.

We can all say the things we’d do that would be best for our baby before actually having one. And, we can all criticize those for doing things differently; after all, they must not really love their baby as much as we do because we are the only ones that have our baby’s best interests at heart. And believe me, before Murphy came along, I had plenty of opinions of my own. In fact, I still struggle with passing judgment on someone who has done something differently than the way I think is best.

But guess what: IT AIN’T MY CALL.

I can’t possibly presume to know and understand the circumstances of every individual on the planet, so how could I possibly know what is best for each of them and their children?  I’ve even had private conversations with other women I had previously wanted to judge for a choice they made when it came to their children and was dumbfounded at the secret struggles they had that no one would have ever known about. 

My own child is only four months old, and the level of negative critique (often disguised as well-meant intentions) that I’ve witnessed and seen others experience is alarming.

You wanna find out the sex of your baby? Find out the sex. You wanna make your way through labor by means of self-hypnosis? Knock yourself out! You wanna schedule your C-section? Do it, sister! You wanna push that baby out drug and epidural-free? You go girl! You wanna birth that kid in a blow-up kiddie pool in your living room? By all means! (Just make sure to film the thing, ‘cause we mamas all love watching that sh*t on YouTube.) You wanna formula-feed or can’t breastfeed? Not only will your kid still live, they’ll still thrive. Wanna breastfeed your kid ‘til they’re in college? You do you, girrrrl! Stroller or baby-wearing?  Co-sleep or cry-it-out? Cloth diapers or disposable? Generic baby formula or homemade goat milk formula? Working mom or stay-at-home? Screen time or nah? One kid or 20? Store-bought baby food or homegrown organic? Take your pick.

IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Just love your kids, please. Love the hell outta them and cherish each moment, because, my God, they’re so fleeting!

Let go of all the judgment (on yourself and others), the mom guilt, the bullsh*t. Let it all go and use that energy, instead, on something great like teaching your kid to read, to be kind, to imagine, to think, to love, to have faith in something bigger than themselves. Because THAT?

THAT MATTERS.

Stop asking others how they’re mom-ing in hopes of feeling better about yourself, and stop posting articles on social media reiterating why the choice YOU made is, not only the best, but the ONLY sane choice one could possibly make.

Don’t lie. We’ve all done it.

Stop asking, and just make the choices that are best for your family. Just be informed about it, and know that what’s best in your situation isn’t always the most blatant, black and white answer. There’s so much grey.

SO. MUCH. GREY.

Support other moms out there, and encourage them when possible–or even just when the mood strikes you. Sometimes just a smile in their direction will make their day. And please, only offer your advice when it’s asked for. BE NICE and not just some arrogant, know-it-all, better-than-everyone-else mom.

This message is for me, too. I’m just as guilty as anyone. Maybe even more so. I’m working on it, and I hope this post will encourage others to do the same.

So, if you’re a Judgey McJudgerson out there reading this…..just think about it.

And if you’re a mom reading…..I’m proud of you! I know you love your baby more than life itself, and I know that you’re trying your hardest every. single. day.

Yes, even if you’re not doing things the way you always thought your would or the way others have told you you should. Give yourself a break, for crying out loud! You have, arguably, the hardest job on the planet, and you’re rocking it.

You rock star, you.

😉

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I Tried

I had to stop.

It wasn’t out of convenience. It was certainly not out of vanity. The truth is, I tried. I tried hard. It just wasn’t for us. 

I wanted it to be. God knows, I did. I neglected taking care of myself in almost every imaginable way to make sure she was taken care of first, and it still wasn’t enough. Her weight kept dropping. I kept getting more anxious, detached, weary. I was enjoying her infancy less and less in the name of getting her fed. Breastfeeding was sucking me dry and still not sustaining her. 

I only wanted what was best for her. 

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have taken breastfeeding classes and seen multiple lactation consultants. I wouldn’t have rented hospital grade pumps and tried every position imaginable. And I never would have continued to endure a shallow latch, after constant failed attempts at a deep one, despite my raw and scabbed nipples.  

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gone through such a challenging labor without medication. I chose that for her because I knew it was the absolute best. My personal comfort was of no concern to me. I was ready to face the pain for her. And I’m so glad I did. I felt everything. I experienced everything. I knew exactly where she was when she was there. I knew when she was ready to come, when I needed to push. I felt the moment she entered this world and the euphoria that immediately followed. I had the spiritual experience that I had read about; the experience they say only women who choose an unmedicated, natural birth can really know. And it was worth it. She was worth it all.

Maybe it would have one day leveled out. Maybe my body would have eventually stepped up its game and put out more milk for her tiny body. Maybe it would’ve gotten easier. But maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have. 

Maybe her weight would have continued to drop, and my headstrong desire to exclusively breastfeed despite all the red flags would have only brought her harm. Maybe my breasts, altered and scarred from reduction surgery, never would be able to keep up with her needs. Maybe the depression I was experiencing would have taken more than a few days of rest to overcome, robbing me of more precious time with her. Maybe I would look back on these days and regret not letting go. Regret not enjoying and soaking up every moment of this stage of life with her instead of running myself ragged trying to force something that just might not ever be. 

I know it’s true that breast is best when it comes to nutrition. I agree completely. But what about when it comes to a person’s emotional well-being? For me, supplementing with formula, and breastfeeding and pumping when I can, takes the pressure off. I finally feel like I am bonding with my baby instead of growing to resent her for how drained I feel. I finally see her for what she is; this perfect little miracle that I am so blessed to have been given during my short time on this earth. I finally feel like a mom–a mom who is stable enough to take care of her and love her like crazy. Instead of waiting for feedings to be over, wondering when (or if) I will feel the breastfeeding bond everyone tells me about, now I never want to put her down. 

What once felt like a darkness creeping in is now being overpowered by light. I can love her and enjoy her and miss her when I don’t have her with me. I can watch her get stronger every day and know that, even if my body will never be able to get the job done on its own, I can still feed her and care for her and help her grow. 

If it was my choice, I would choose to have had success with breastfeeding. I really did want that for her. But maybe it wasn’t entirely up to me. Maybe it was another test in my life, placed there to humble me and teach me more about relinquishing control–more about letting go. Maybe it was never really my choice at all.

Because after all, I tried. 

Big Changes and New Challenges

I haven’t written in quite a while, despite my constantly telling myself I will be better at it.  I enjoy it, and I definitely don’t make the time for it like I should.

That being said, I have had a pretty good excuse this time.

We’re having a baby!

I was almost 21 weeks along before we made it “Facebook official”.  We had planned to announce it sooner, but we actually very much enjoyed keeping it to our closer circle of family and friends for as long as we could.  With everyone putting every ounce of their business on social media these days, it was nice to know that we held this precious {almost} secret for a little while longer.

Now that it’s out, it feels so weird to say it openly to everyone or for them to notice and comment on my ever-growing bump.  The kicking is almost constant, which I love.  I like being reminded that this little person is there, and I’m never alone.  I know this will pass way too quickly, so I’m soaking up every drop that I can.

We’ve been diligently working to prepare for the little one’s arrival.  My parents have come to stay several weekends to help do some light remodeling to get the house baby-ready.  We’ve refinished our hardwood floors and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls.  Things are looking fresh and new, and it’s exciting.

The house is still relatively empty.  We chose not to buy much furniture until after the floors were finished so that we wouldn’t have to put it in storage.  All we currently have is our king-sized mattress (best money we’ve ever spent), our TV and entertainment center, our couch, 4 sitting chairs, and a cheap folding table and chair set to temporarily use for dining.  I’ve sold everything else.  And since the house used to belong to my organized hoarder grandmother, there was a lot to sell.

I can’t wait to get a couple of nice pieces for the nursery as well as an actual dining room table and chairs.  We still plan to keep the house relatively empty as we’ve grown accustomed to the open space.  We’ll stick with the essentials and just enjoy our breathing room for now.

Of course, our plan is to carry over the minimalist principles we’ve been living into parenthood.  I’ve been entertained with all the people who have expressed their doubts that this will be possible.  After all, babies need soooo much stuff! #sarcasm

All I can think is, you must not know how seriously we take our lifestyle!  Haha!

We probably won’t get it perfect every time.  In fact, I know we won’t.  But we do intend to try.  We’ve already been taking steps to ensure we keep our baby spending in check.  We knew immediately that we didn’t want to find out the baby’s sex.  So far, this alone has held us to our minimalist ideals.  You would be surprised at the amount of cute stuff I had to pass up at the store because I don’t know what we’re having!  I can see why people go a little crazy in the baby departments.  Everything is so cute, convenient, and eye-catching that it’s super hard not to!

Instead, though, I sat down at the computer and began listing things that I knew for sure our baby would need.  Basics like: neutral onesies, socks, diapers, wipes, baby wash, teeny nail clippers, a thermometer, soft towels and washcloths, burp cloths, a place to sleep, etc.  Then, I did research upon research on topics like, Do Babies Actually Need Cribs To Sleep InIs A Bottle Warmer Completely NecessaryHow Many Outfits Will An Infant Go Through In A Week’s Time, and so on and so forth.  Then, after slowly adding and removing things from my list over several weeks based on my findings, I started a registry online.  I only went into the store once to get a look at a few items in person and to add (or remove) accordingly.  The rest was done from my computer, further keeping the temptation to buy-all-the-stuff at bay.  What I’m left with is a list of things I will actually need and use for our new baby without getting bogged down in all the unnecessary, albeit cute, items.

Yes, my list may seem a little boring to some.  Yes, if I have a sweet baby girl, she will be wearing mostly whites, yellows, and greys for the first few months of her life (which, as someone with an aversion to pink, is fine by me).  No, we won’t be having some huge gender reveal party or some over-the-top gender stereotypical baby shower, but you know what?  We’re fine with it.  In fact, we prefer it.  Sometimes in the midst of all the cutesy pinks and blues and mountains of baby gear, we can lose sight of the miracle that’s right in front of us.  By keeping it simple, our attention will not be on all the stuff we’ll receive or think we’ll have to purchase.  Instead, it will be totally focused on the new life we’ll be bringing into the world.

And honestly, I don’t know of anything more precious than a cozy baby in a simple, white onesie asleep in your arms.

If decorating your nursery to the nines or monogramming ruffled, boutique rompers makes your heart sing, then go for it!  There’s nothing wrong with these things.  Just remember that they are babies, and the truth is, they don’t need a lot of stuff.  They don’t require it or ask for these things, and they’ll outgrow most of it in a matter of weeks.  They just need a lot of love, as cliche as it sounds, and that’s exactly what we plan on giving ours.

We want our children to have everything when it comes to what matters and to not get confused, bombarded, or even spoiled, by the things that distract them from it.  We want to teach them the value of relationships and the meaninglessness of replaceable possessions.  We want them to want to spend more time with the people that love and care for them than with the screens on their electronic devices.  We want to take them on trips and provide them with experiences they will never forget.  We want to instill these values in them so that they will one day understand the importance of passing them on to their children.

I’m so excited about what’s to come.  This new journey will be fun, challenging, amusing, comical, and sometimes heartbreaking, but I look forward to it all and hope to share pieces of it with you guys along the way.

Thanks for reading!

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All In A Day’s Work

When you run out of your own stuff to declutter–at least for a while–help someone else with theirs!

That’s what my mom and I did this past Saturday.  We went over to a friend’s house and helped her declutter and reorganize her closet, and I have to say, the end result was amazing.

Please don’t misunderstand me, though.  I’m not done with my own space yet.  There’s still more to work through; I just found myself at a sort of standstill after another layer was peeled away and decided to use my nervous tidying energy to help someone else who desperately needed it.  It was so great to see how happy she was when we had finished.  I think her husband was more than a little excited about it, too.

Even though the closet was overflowing with options before, she had such difficulty finding and deciding what to wear each day due to its lack of order.  Now, all of her favorite pieces are organized and easily accessible for daily use.

Hopefully the pictures below will give you a little motivation if you’ve been dragging on the minimalism front.

xoxo

Before:

V-Before

After (My favorite part is the empty upper shelves!):

V-After

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

As most of you know, I’ve been doing this minimalism thing for a while now and have gotten pretty darn good at it.  I’ve gotten rid of all except for maybe one fifth of everything I started with (maybe even less).  And, as always, it feels amazing!

You might remember me talking before about being a music person.  My husband and I are always trying to travel to see our favorite bands play.  We even timed our elopement to Ireland so that we could see The Felice Brothers three times while we were there!  Obsessed?  Probably, but we don’t care.  It’s the most fun we’ve had on all our trips!

Being the music enthusiasts that we are, I knew that my music collection would be the hardest thing to deal with in the decluttering realm.  It’s just such a huge part of my life that I didn’t think I’d be able to part with any of it.

But like I’ve mentioned before. . . .it’s all about the layers!  And I’m proud to say I finally got to the music layer!  Hallelujah!

I started with a binder book of mixed CDs, about 5 milk crates of vinyl albums, and an entire under-the-bed plastic storage container (you know the kind: HUGE, takes up half of your under bed space?) of even more CDs–all of which were perfectly lined up with side covers displayed by genre and artist.  I told you I was a very organized hoarder, didn’t I?

After throwing away dozens of mixed CDs (that I never listen to anymore as they aren’t really meaningful for where I am now in life), yard-selling mounds of what were more misses than hits (or collections I wouldn’t replace if they were lost or damaged), and selling the old vinyl–that I would have rather weightlessly carried around in digital form–to local antique stores, I feel LOADS lighter!  I can now proudly say that I only have one milk crate of albums, the one CD binder book (filled–yet not all the way so now–with purchased copies of the aforementioned under-the-bed CDs), and a very small plastic container holding only the few I didn’t want to throw the cases away for yet.

PROGRESS!!!

I hope to turn our small den into a music/reading/hangout room in the near future with a few books on the built-in wall shelves above a funky futon and a mid-century modern record cabinet holding only my favorite vinyl copies with a turntable on top.  I want it to be simple and uncluttered, yet warm and inviting for guests to linger.  I’ve always pictured this for the space, and am excited to see my visions becoming realities.

This was a very valuable lesson for me as I’m even more aware of the process than ever before.  I always thought: Well, ya know, I’m a music person, so I’ll probably never part with my music paraphernalia.  Wrong again.  I still love the scratchy pops peppered through the opiate hum of a record spinning on a turntable, and that will never change.  I just realized I’d rather enjoy this aspect with my favorite and most frequented albums than to be weighed down by every decent one I can get my hands on.  I mean, that’s how to always enjoy your favorite things, right?  To only own your favorite things?

Trust me when I say that there’s never an area you won’t be able to tackle on your de-owning journey no matter how attached you may be.  It just might take a little longer to get to it.  Or you might be surprised that it doesn’t take nearly as long as you thought it would.  The process is addictive; once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop!

The space you gain by giving up stuff is enough to get anyone hooked.  I try to think about my possessions like this: would I rather have this item here, or the open space it occupies instead?  For me, space almost always wins.  There’s nothing like the feeling of being able to breathe in your home without being weighed down by years of accumulation, most of which you forgot you even owned.

Anyway, just a little post to fill you in on where I currently stand with my junk.  I know I haven’t written in a while.  I’m hoping to change that over the next few months.  I’m even contemplating a video tour of our home.  We shall see!

Thanks for reading!

Have you triumphed over a seemingly difficult area in your own life when it comes to decluttering?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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4,600

4,600.

That’s a decent-sized number.  It’s one that I’m quite proud of, especially when remembering all the hard work it took to become acquainted with it.

Purge after purge after purge.  Less and less junk filling my home; bursting at my closets’ seams; invading, not only my physical, but also my mental space.

It wasn’t always easy.  Saying goodbye never is, I suppose.  There were times when it hurt. . . bad.  But only at first.  Each time I finally let go of one more piece of the anchor that clutched my ankles and bore down on my shoulders, holding me in one place, preventing me from living the life I knew I could live, I felt another burst of freedom.  Of air.

I could breathe.  I could do anything.

I was no longer tied to those outgrown possessions that tirelessly labored to imprint themselves on my identity.  Trying to figure out who I was becoming was already challenging enough without them.  They would only hold me back.

Some things got replaced with better ones, non-broken ones, more relevant ones, or more practical ones.  Then there were those who just made their exit, never to be seen again.  It’s ironic to think that those least used and least favored items were actually my favorite of all.  They, the ones that didn’t get replaced, were the ones that carried me that much closer to less.  To enough.

And I have to say, it felt good.  Every step of the way.

$4,600.00 is my current total of money made from letting go.

To think I was just sitting on items that could total a sum like that–stuff that I hadn’t used, or even looked at, in years.  Items that were forgotten.  Junk I outgrew.  Crap that I no longer wanted, but didn’t think I could part with.  The mental weight of that was unreal.  Something had to be done.

So I did it.

And, I don’t like to brag, but I think I’ve done rather well when it comes to this.  And the kicker is, there’s still so much more to be done!

I know some people think I’m crazy.  Heck, I probably would’ve thought that about someone like me several years ago, so I can’t say that I blame them.

Some people actually get angry at the way I choose to live, at my letting go.  Can you believe that?  Anger.  Over something that, in no way, pertains to or affects them.  It makes me sad that so many people fume and breed negativity–whether vocally or mentally–towards this lifestyle while it continues to bring me so much joy.  Maybe it’s because they assume I am judging them for choosing more.  I’m not.  I can’t.  Their choices aren’t up to me.

All I know is, the anger has yet to hold me back, and I’ll never let it.  I’ll just continue to be me and live the life I feel I’ve been called to live.  That’s all any of us can do.

We’re all different, and we all are called to different things.  This is my thing.  My life.  And I’m not so sure the rest of the world should, or even can, tell me how to live it.

The journey is different for everyone, and thankfully so.  How boring would life be if we were all the same?

Instead of breeding negativity and anger towards those who are different, let’s instead choose to celebrate our differences and learn from one another.  No one person has it all figured out.

I know I don’t.

To-Go Box

Just a quick post on this lovely fall day. . . .

I just wanted to take a minute to share one of the ways I keep decluttering on the brain.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your less-is-more focus when life starts happening around you. You’ve worked so hard and come so far on your minimalist journey, and then, before you know it, life butts in and stops your progress in its tracks. In some cases, it may even push you back a few steps.

It’s OK. This kind of thing happens all the time. We just have to be aware of it and keep pushing through the interruptions.

One way I do this is to always have a designated spot or box in my house–usually near the back door–where I can drop any item that no longer fits in my life.

I yanked that itchy top off just as quickly as I pulled it on while getting ready for work because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy wearing it all day? In the box it goes on my way out the door.

That annoying kitchen utensil got in my way again as I was trying to find the one I use for every, single meal prep? Toss it in the box!

Even though these unwanted items still remain in my home for a few weeks after I decide to purge them, I’m still steadily making progress. The decision has already been made, and it feels good to have a visual reminder in a forgotten corner in my mud room of my constant steps forward.

I have even found when I don’t have a box or area set aside for these cast-offs, I tend to not address them in those defining moments. I’m a firm believer that everything should have a place in the home, and knowing that even my unwanted items have a designated, albeit temporary, residence helps keep the decluttering process moving.

So don’t get bogged down by setbacks, big or small. Put little plans into place to keep yourself progressing, even when you don’t have the free time in your schedule to plan a decluttering afternoon or weekend.

Baby steps!!!

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Yard Sale-ing Again!

Call us crazy, but we had another yard sale this past weekend.

My brother just purchased a home, and the previous owner had left some things behind.  In an effort to get rid of the things he didn’t want of hers, and to make a little extra cash for remodeling purposes, the sale was more for his sake than anyone else’s.  However, I was beyond thrilled to cash out on a few more pieces of “junk”, as was my mother.

We took a couple of months to get everything together, as we weren’t sure if there would be another yard sale in our near future.  I mean, after all, we can’t have much left to purge, right?

Wrong.  Again, my mother’s dining room (the storage space for our to-go items until the day of the sale) was overflowing with our trash….er, treasures.  We couldn’t believe it!  The layers just keep falling away with each new purge.

In total, the three of us made over $1,300.00!  I pocketed $500 of that myself.  Not bad for the millionth yard sale we’ve hosted. Haha!

I’ve noticed this time around, I’m a lot less afraid of giving up the more sentimental items.  There are still a few things I will want to digitize for memory’s sake, but it’s becoming a lot easier to let the hard stuff go.  It feels amazing.

I had a few items out for sale that most people would probably never consider getting rid of, and someone even asked, “You don’t have a sentimental bone in your body, do you?”

Maybe, but it’s just a teeny one. 🙂

 

 

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Travel Tips (Packing Edition)

My husband and I love to see the world together.  It’s one of the most important things to us.  Forget the car payments, the fancy labels, the cable TV, and the high rent.  The open road will be all for us, thanks.

With all of our travel experiences, we’ve gained little bits of wisdom each time.  So, I figured why not share some of these discoveries we’ve made along the way.

For today, we’ll be sticking with the packing aspect of travel.  Nothing fancy–just a few pointers:

 

LUGGAGE

A carry-on plus one small bag is ideal.  If you can get away with only one or the other, even better!  The less luggage you have to haul around between destinations, the better.  Making the choice to only pack essentials is crucial in travel ease.  When we eloped to Ireland, my husband and I thought we were sticking to the bare basics, but quickly found out that we still weren’t wearing or using half of what we had packed!  Despite packing light compared to everyone else around us, we could have packed even lighter!

ESSENTIALS

If you must check a bag (which, as you already know, I’m against), make sure to pack 1-2 changes of clothes in your carry-on.  You will be thankful for this if your luggage gets lost or you spill something on your outfit between flights.  I also recommend including anything you absolutely wouldn’t want to be caught without on your trip: toothbrush/paste, deodorant, chargers, and of course money and travel documents.

LAUNDRY

Don’t be afraid to do laundry at your destination, especially when staying somewhere for longer than a week.  We planned ahead, staying in places with laundry facilities 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through our trip.  This was a lifesaver!  Knowing that we could wash everything we packed and start over after a few days gave us such peace of mind.  We just found a grocery/market type store and picked up a small container of laundry detergent once we arrived and let the clothes wash and dry while we slept or went out sightseeing.  Easy peasy.  Also keep in mind, most articles of clothing aren’t “dirty” after only one or two wears.  Get the most out of your pieces by re-wearing them when possible.  Hanging something up to air out at the end of the day while you sleep is usually just enough to make the piece feel fresh again.  (Note: quick-dry and wrinkle-resistant fabrics are your best option in travel scenarios for obvious reasons.)

VERSATILITY

Stick to a basic color palette with your clothing.  Try to stay with black or brown and not both.  This way, all your pieces (including shoes and bags) will match each other, giving you more interchangeable outfit options.  Believe me, this is important when packing as little as you can get away with.  Try to avoid anything overly trendy and stick to the basics.  That pair of jeans and solid top will be much more valuable to you on the road than a cute dress that only matches one pair of shoes.  We all like to be fashionable, but the truth is, on the road, you will probably be more excited about the day-to-day activities than you will be to get all gussied up.  To have a little fun with your wardrobe while traveling, pick a vibrant accent color to pair with your neutrals.  Game changer.  (Also, striving to not attract too much attention to yourself is a smart move.  Flashy tourists who stick out in a crowd are more likely to be pickpocketed, as it is known they tend to carry more cash on their person.)

DRESSES

If you’re a girl,  pack dresses!  Dresses were my life-saver on our elopement trip.  They take up very little space in your bag–not much more than a top–and they are a full outfit on their own.  You could almost pack a week’s worth of knee-length dresses in a medium-sized day bag.  Also, since they can be dressed up or down–for a night out or a day of sightseeing–they’re extremely versatile!

SHOES + ACCESSORIES

If you can’t help but want to feel super adorbs on your journey, pack a few pieces of statement jewelry in a Zip-lock bag.  This will keep your accessories contained, while allowing them to really help that dress go the extra mile for that fancy dinner out.  The same principle goes for shoes.  Try to only pack 1-3 pair of shoes, and wear the bulkiest ones on your flight if feasible.  This will help save your precious luggage space.  Keep the shoes neutral so they will match everything you’ve packed.  A pair of sandals or boots (depending on climate), walking shoes, and cute (yet still comfy) flats should be enough to get you through your trip.  Also, try to stick to one day bag/purse and a small night-out option, both of which should match everything in your packed wardrobe.  Don’t over-pack in this department!

UNDIES

If you’re going to over-pack anything, make it your underwear.  They take up almost zero space (especially women’s), and they definitely aren’t something you want to be caught without.  Stick to fabrics that dry more quickly (avoid cotton), so that if necessary, you can hand wash a pair or two in your hotel room sink.  Undies are not something you want to have to re-wear.  They’re not like your outer clothing.  Do yourself a favor and pack plenty.

PACKING CUBES

These suckers were lifesavers on our international vacation.  They help keep like items contained together for simple storage and stress-free retrieval.  You can find some like these on Amazon.com, or even pick them up at your local TJMaxx, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.  Another option is to separate each day’s outfits into separate Zip-Lock bags and label them according to your itinerary for a no-fuss morning routine.  It will allow you to unpack as few items as possible for the current leg of your trip.  (It is also smart to keep your shoes in plastic bags to keep them from rubbing dirt off onto your limited clothing options.)

PLASTIC BAGS

I’m a huge fan of extra plastic bags during travel.  You never know when you might have a damp or dirty garment (or liquid purchase–detergent or toiletry item) that needs to be secluded from the rest of your luggage contents.  Taking a few extra Zip-Locks, garbage bags, and/or plastic shopping bags can’t hurt.  They pack flat, weigh nothing, and may just save your wardrobe in a pinch.

WIPES

You never really know 100% what your accommodations will be like upon arrival.  There have been a few times on various trips, the cleanliness of the place wasn’t up to my germaphobe standards.  A simple  travel pack of Clorox wipes and/or Wet Wipes was usually just enough to put my mind at ease–along with my always-in-my-purse bottle of hand-sanitizer, of course!  Your surroundings can sometimes be messy, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for it.  Better to designate a tad bit of room for these little guys, just in case, than be caught without them.

BEAUTY

Really work on streamlining your beauty regimen for travel.  Can you just get by with a tube of mascara and lip balm?  Go for it!  If you’re comfortable going completely bare-faced, more power to you!  We actually found it easier to purchase a few toiletry items once we arrived at our destination.  This saved us the aggravation of trudging through airport security with all those liquids.  Then, we just left them behind at our last stop before we boarded the flight home.  Also, try finding ways to spend minimal time on your hair.  Letting it air-dry while allowing your natural waves and texture to shine through can not only be liberating, but also very beautiful.  A low, messy pony of partially air-dried hair was one of my faves on the road.  And remember, sunscreen should always have a reserved spot in your bag!  The more you take care of your skin, the less you should have to cover it up with all those layers of make-up.

TECHNOLOGY

Rethink your technology.  You can probably just get by with only your smart phone on a trip.  This one device is the Swiss Army knife of electronics.  With it, you’ve got your camera, your computer, your GPS, and your entertainment.  It’s all there.  Save space in your luggage or carry-on, and just take this one item with you.

CELLULAR DATA

To save on international data costs, consider purchasing a wifi hot-spot at your destination.  Most hotels will have wifi available to you, but sometimes this service can be shoddy and unreliable.  With a hot-spot, you will be able to use your phone wherever you are (minus the calls and texts).  We did this abroad and talked with family via Skype/Facetime and email, even when driving down the motorway.  If your friends and family have iPhones, you will be able to receive texts when connected as well, so long as the iMessage feature is turned on on all devices involved.  (When traveling abroad, make sure the hot-spot you purchase is international if you purchase it in advance.  If not, it won’t work once you arrive overseas.)

SOUVENIRS

Do you really need to purchase all those souvenirs?  A true minimalist knows that the best souvenirs are the photos and memories you take home with you.  I know people who leave open room in their ginormous luggage so they can bring back gifts for themselves and all their friends and family.  It’s a nice thought, but such a hassle and total waste of space!  Honestly, your loved ones probably don’t want all those cheesy knickknacks from all the places you saw, anyway.  Instead, if you must get them gifts, consider purchasing a bottle of wine or some other perishable item, save space in your luggage, and ship it to them.  Other than the photos and memories, these are our favorite types of souvenirs!

FREQUENT PURGES

If you visit multiple cities per trip like my hubby and I do, consider purging before leaving each location and heading to the next.  You’d be surprised at all the unnecessary, extra “passengers” you can pick up along the way.  Instead of loading everything up without a thought, do a quick run-through of your luggage and any bags/purses/pockets, and toss what no longer suits you for the remainder of the trip.  This can include local maps, brochures, airport paraphernalia, shopping bags, or any “freebies” you might pick up from your sight-seeing.  I even “purge” my receipts from my day purse, moving them to a designated pocket or Zip-Lock bag in my carry-on, so they’ll be out of my way until I get home to check my bank statement for all the cleared charges as well as any fraudulent activity.  Doing this simple act every time we changed locations kept the clutter at bay, making the transition to each new city a breeze.

 

Thanks for reading!  I hope this helps with your upcoming adventures!  If you have any questions on anything I didn’t cover, please ask below in the comments.

Happy trails!

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We Did It

When we pulled into the quaint Bed & Breakfast in the small coastal town at the base of northern Irish territory, I was already a bit frantic. We were running behind, had gotten a little lost, and I had driven the hour and a half for the first time on the opposite side of the car and road. Nervous was an understatement.

As we unloaded our luggage from the trunk, we saw him drive into view. Our photographer had arrived.

I had been hoping to have an hour or so to myself before we met up with him. After all, it was my wedding day, and a girl needs time to fix her hair and put on a touch of make-up. Even simple, low-maintenance girls like me.

We apologized, stating that we might have to get started a little later than we had planned. I, bare-faced, explained how we’d gotten lost and how the car rental company had not initially found our reservation in their system, setting us back another half hour.

He was so relaxed and assured us that we had all the time in the world.

I calmed some, but still didn’t want to keep him waiting. I am never late for anything.

I went upstairs, Gene not far behind, flinging open my suitcase, feverishly searching for my makeup bag. We had so strategically packed and repacked our belongings in our minimal luggage, that this was a feat in and of itself. Which bag is it in?!

I finally retrieved it and began the familiar motions of putting on my face. I tried to give my hair a tad more oomph, but quickly changed my mind, as I knew it wouldn’t make much difference. The air was so misty that day.

And there he was, buttoning his shirt so calmly, grinning from ear to ear. Why couldn’t I be more like him, even if just for this one day?

Gene went downstairs to check in with our photographer, telling him I needed a few more minutes, before returning upstairs to gently hurry me along. As unprepared and thrown-together as I felt, I told him I was ready for him to come up to get some shots of the final “getting ready” touches.

When they both entered the crisp, white room over-looking Carlingford Lough, Tim walked up to me and softly spoke, “Listen. You have nothing to be nervous about. This is going to be a great day. No pressure. No rush. Let’s just relax and enjoy it together.”

He also commented on how great I looked in my lacy dress I had so hastily thrown over my head while Gene went to fetch him. A peace suddenly came over me. What was I so worked up over? Everything so far had played out even better than we’d ever imagined possible. Why should I fear that this day would be any different?

Becoming aware of my nonsensical behavior, I decided to let it go. He was right. It was going to be a great day.

I began to actually enjoy myself. Tim snapped shots of Gene putting on his tie—the tie we’d just bought the night before we boarded the plane—and me putting on my casual jewelry. We didn’t worry about how fancy we would be dressed. We didn’t worry about traditions or things old, new, borrowed, or blue. We were just ourselves. True and simple.

Then she entered the room; a young girl with a pacifier in her mouth, not even waist-high. In her hand was one of the most gorgeous hand-picked bouquets I’d ever seen—another element I didn’t bother to arrange that day. She was the granddaughter of the B&B owner, and wanted to pick flowers for “the princess” on her wedding day. This was the sweetest of moments, in a way that could never be planned or manipulated. It was perfect in all its spontaneity.

We made our way downstairs and rode in the backseat of Tim’s car up to the woodsy car park at the base of the mountain. Our mountain.

Reuben, our minister, was not far behind. Introductions were made, laughs were had, and up we went.

The hike took about twenty minutes and was more difficult than expected. We were all breathing heavily by the time we reached the top, and nothing could prepare us for the view we were about to experience. All we could do was stand there in silence, in awe of the beauty on all sides and as far as our eyes could see.

Worth it. This moment, this marvel, made everything—all the planning, stress, nerves, questions—feel worth it.

We just stood in complete wonder for about half an hour before any vows were exchanged. Just being here with the person I loved so much, experiencing it all together, felt like our vow in and of itself. We both knew that to say those solemn words in this miraculous place would just be the cherry on top.

We turned to face one another, embracing in our joy and gratitude. This time was a gift, a gift that neither of us would ever take for granted. We thanked God with every fiber of our being, for each other, for this trip, for this life.

Then, in that voice that always steadies and comforts my soul, he spoke into my ear.

“We did it.”

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