Packing Light for a Month Long Trip

I’ve had some questions about how traveling abroad for a month with kids looked in regards to packing. As usual, I overpacked. I’ll breakdown both our carryons and the checked luggage. For about a year now I’ve been trying to pack light. It seems that with every trip I get better. This trip, however, was a different animal.


One area I continue to struggle with is my kids. My kids are not new to traveling. From the time Nadya was only a month old we’ve gone on long trips. I would say that they are pretty good travelers, better in fact, than some adults I’ve traveled with. All that said, I still feel like I need to have a ton of stuff for them to do and to cover any incidents that may happen. Couple that with an almost twenty-four hour travel time and you can imagine my angst, but I was determined to pack lightly.  So here goes: each child had their own backpack and would carry their own extra change of clothes tightly rolled and in a ziplock.  They also each had a pack of gum and tic tacs. Part of our schooling throughout the month was a travel journal so they had that and a zipper bag with crayons and a pencil.  Both children have a lovey, so that was their responsibility.  I did add the Busytown Airport book for Nolan.  Those books never disappoint. My mom gave him a set of small airplanes when we checked in so those were also put in his backpack. Nadya brought a magic clip doll in addition to her lovey.  Neither of their packs were too heavy, though Nolan did give me his a couple times when he was tired.

As for my carryon, I had my change of clothes, our liquids – one zip lock bag, Nolan’s meds, the electronics, fruit gummies, individual serving bags of almonds – I need my salty snacks, and my journal.  In the past, we had packed a small gift for the kids to open up half way through the trip or if we were in need of a change of attitude, so I had a car for Nolan and a magic clip doll for Nadya.  If I was not traveling with the children, or if Andrei had gone with us, I would have brought a book.  But I knew that IF I got time to read it would be short and probably better spent napping.  Plus I had a few books on the iPad if I was desperate to read. It was so nice to not be bursting at the seams. I had room for a bottle of water and a  souvenir I purchased in Paris.  I only had the carryon – no purse and it was so wonderful to only have one thing to worry about.  I carried money, passports and boarding passes in a small travel wallet that I would hold as we went through security or had to check in. It also made trips to the toilet easy!

Earlier this summer we took a week vacation to the beach and traveled light and it was glorious! I was determined to do the same for this trip. We had a few things going for us. First of all, when you go anywhere for a month, you obviously are going to wear outfits more than once. Secondly, we knew for the most part what to expect with the weather. Also, since becoming a minimalist, I’ve gotten much better at pairing clothing together to create multiple outfits.  Especially with my clothes I took tops and bottoms that would all work together, so I had a simple color scheme -reds, blues and browns and my Noonday Collection goodies to spice it all up.  Three pants, two button up tops that would layer, one open sweater, two t-shirts, one cami, one dress for the ballet (that I didn’t even wear because we didn’t go), and my TOMS and my cowboy boots.  Not to mention the underwear and lounge/sleepwear. Honestly, I still overpacked. I could have left one pair of the pants, some of the loungewear, and the dress.

As for the kids, I definitely overpacked. Partly because their grandmother wanted to buy them some clothes and partly because she did laundry almost daily.  I packed nearly the same amount for them as I did for me, maybe one outfit more each and again did the mix and match as best I could.

Just a quick disclaimer. I have nothing against fashion. If anything I’ve gotten trendier since becoming a minimalist (that and how can you not be trendy wearing Noonday?) I also do not freak out about how light can I possibly go. As if its a sin to overpack. There are many who can pack lighter than I do. I’ve just learned that I tend to overpack and its out of fear; fear of what other people think of me, fear of not being prepared, etc. The simple truth is I am not going to spend my time worrying about either of those. I will be prepared as sensibly as I can and know that most places will have what I need if necessary. The packing light is not some slavish mentality I have adopted, but rather its just the opposite. I am free to enjoy a trip with my children half way around the world without being weighed down by so much stuff. In shedding the stuff I have shed the fears and insecurities and hope to inspire you to do the same.


The First Steps to Minimalizing Your Home

Often times beginning something new, taking that first step, is hard. We want to do it but many things can hold us back. This is very true when it comes to minimalizing the stuff and clutter in your home. In recent months many people have asked about our family’s journey into being minimalists and I’m happy to share our first steps and a few tips for you if you are wanting to start.

Our journey began when I finally gave in to my husbands countless requests that we get rid of our clutter. Intellectually I had always agreed with him, but I didn’t know how or where to start. So, I got serious, read some of the Becoming Minimalist blog and Francine Jay’s book, The Joy of Less.  These both gave words to my feelings of being overwhelmed and desperate for change.  They also gave me the know-how to begin.  It was also inspirational to see how their lives had changed and I wanted that for mine.

I jumped in and began drawer by drawer, space by space and room by room.  I made piles to keep, piles to pass on.  I threw away bags of broken and no good stuff.  I let go of papers that we “might someday need.”  I trimmed down toys and clothes and kitchen utensils.  It was so incredibly freeing.  Each day our home and our lives felt lighter.  Each day everything got a little easier to manage.

This is not to say there were not some road blocks.  Having two small kids definitely proves to add to the task (ahem, Nolan that box is NOTmeant to be dumped out!) I found myself unknowingly attached to some of the clutter areas. I also would get frustrated when areas I had minimalized suddenly became cluttered or when “stuff” would so easily enter our homes.

But the peace and ease of cleanup  are just two of the benefits that have made this journey worth it.  I have earlier posts about what a wonderful ride this is that you can read if you need more motivation.  Before I share some tips I learned along the way, I will say that these will probably echo what other minimalist bloggers say, especially Joshua Becker and Francine Jay.

1) Knowing that this is not a quick and painless process is important.  You can easily get frustrated if you start in a fury and want to accomplish it all in one weekend. Which leads to…

2) Start small.  I know you want to toss 2/3 of the kids’ toys, but DO NOT START THERE.  Start with your desk drawer or one cabinet in the kitchen. Do one thing at a time and let that feeling of accomplishment feed to the good feelings!  It gets addicting after a few small areas are minimalized!

3) Whatever area or space you are working on, clear it out completely and ONLY put back the things that are going to “live” there.  For something like a room, know that you will need a few hours to do it.

4) As you’re clearing out, quickly throw out all trash and then have three piles. One is keepers, two is for things you will pass on whether its a yard sale or to Goodwill. But plan to pass it on soon or it will creep back into your living space! Three is for the “maybes.” But a word of caution with maybes.  You have to think very hard if this is really something that is worth the space it will take up in your home.  If you truly are not sure if you can part with it.  Put all the maybes in a box and see in 6 months time if you’ve pulled it back out.  If not, send it on!

Do a little bit everyday.  In my case, I couldn’t commit a whole day or weekend, or even a few hours to purging, but I was determined.  So little by little I did various areas and rooms.  You can even make a game out of it.  Commit to getting rid of 10 things everyday for a week and see if you can feel the difference.

I hope these few tips help those of you who are beginning. I’m actually beginning the “Pre-Christmas Purge” in our home.  If you have questions, I’d love to help and answer any of those for you.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in the living room floor of my in-laws apartment. The kids and I were working on some of homeschool work during our month long stay overseas. One of our most important pieces of school work were the travel journals where they recorded some of our big events of the trip.

Nadya, 2nd grade, who loves art, would mostly draw out her days. I did have her write about it a little just for the practice. Nolan, Kindergarten, is a bundle of energy, so you can imagine most of his schooling is done quickly and often with some movement involved. He does not like to draw or color. So I had brought a long some stickers I thought might be relevant and would ask him each day about what he had done or experienced. However, this one day he really wanted to draw about our time at the festival to celebrate the city’s birthday. We had watched knights do exercises and eventually a sword fight. He began to draw a sword. He was actually doing better and being more careful than usual. It quickly took a turn for the worse when he glanced at his sister’s work. Although drawing something different, hers had lot of detail. As you can imagine this led to tears, frustration, and even declaring that his was better and then ripping out the page. Trying to console him and encourage him one of the things I said was, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Later that day, I found myself thinking of how I could have done things better during the trip and just beingcritical. And then it hit me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” How many times have I told my children that? Many. Especially to my oldest as she is hard on herself. The trip had really been fantastic. The trip of a lifetime and yet I could find moments that I had misspoken or failed to react in the best way or opportunities I wish I had jumped on. That’s part of being human. We are not perfect so why do we make these demands of ourselves. My personal opinion is that we long for perfection because we were made for it.

Apparently I needed to meditate on this more because several days later I saw a link on Facebook to the blog of my pastor, Robert Cunningham titled “The Enslavement of All or Nothing.” He said, “Perfectionism, at its core, is the lie of all or nothing thinking. If it’s not perfect it’s worthless. The problem of course is that perfection, this side of glory, is unattainable, which then leaves us with perpetual worthlessness.” I see this in Nolan ripping out his picture, that honestly was one of his best ever. I see this in so many of my girlfriends who don’t like the image they see in the mirror. I see it in men who are driven to be workaholics. I see it in myself in so many ways and so many levels – be it motherhood, being a wife, having a small business, being a follower of Christ. I see it in my friends as they wrestle with issues in relation to their faith.

Robert goes on to say, “If you take the all or nothing paradigm of perfectionism and evaluate your faith, then you will never experience the joy and freedom that is yours in Christ….Life as fallen creatures in a fallen world will never be all or nothing. It is profoundly beautiful and profoundly broken and we need to be okay with that tension. We bless God for what He has done in our lives, we are quick to repent and receive His grace for the remaining hypocrisy, and we eagerly await the day of our perfection that is promised to us.”

My heart cries out that yes this is true.  All realms of life are messy.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Let’s live life to the full, follow hard after Jesus, take risks, ask the hard questions, love deeply, fight for justice and peace.