Friday, 29 April 2016

Carrying on with my carry-on: Results

So I've gone through a whole month and a few days wearing only the clothes I took with me to New York City, with one exception: there was one day (a spring cleaning day) where I wore a t-shirt that wasn't part of the wardrobe. I didn't want to wear my nicer shirts for this heavy duty cleaning. 

I'm glad the month is over because the weather is getting warmer so it will be nice to be able to wear lighter clothing. That being said, I was totally fine with my limited choices. As you'll read on most other blogs where they discuss capsule wardrobes, we do experience decision fatigue in our every day lives. Being able to simplify (even if it's just your wardrobe), and therefore limit the decisions you have to make in a day, makes a difference.

I don't think anyone noticed that I was alternating between two pairs of pants and the three shirts, two sweaters and two tank tops. No one commented. (I didn't wear the skirt.) I think people really don't care what you wear as long as it's appropriate. Even if they did care; what does that say about them that they give so much importance to what you're wearing? Seriously!

There were only two times where I was slightly inconvenienced because I had to do late night laundry to have something to wear the next day. It wasn't a big deal though. I have a washer and dryer in my condo. I just put in a load before going to bed. In the morning, I put my clothes in the dryer before taking my shower and then I get ready. By the time I'm done, my clothes are ready.

What now? Well, I'll give myself permission to wear the other things in my closet. I'll still only bring over to the right side what I really want to wear after I've worn it and washed it. After a while, what's left on the left side of my closet will be donated.

I'll post more details about this in an upcoming article, but I think I've figured out what my capsule wardrobe items should be. However, I'm still looking for better quality versions of these items. That's the challenge nowadays.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The kitchen island

I don't like the kitchen in the condo I'm renting. It looks nice enough, but it doesn't have enough counter space for me. I've watched many tiny home shows where people have maybe two to three feet of counter space for food preparation, and they seem fine with it. At least, on camera...

Well, Madam, Mister, that's not for me! Despite not being a foodie, not having a work space I enjoy makes the task of cooking that much less enjoyable for me. So I haven't been cooking much in my kitchen. Which is really unfortunate because the more home cooked meals I make, the better I eat. The better I eat, the better I feel. Anyway...

It turns out that before I moved in, the landlord removed the wall that used to separate the kitchen from the dining room. This leaves me with a decent open floor space. So, I figured I'd just get a kitchen island to add more counter space and storage.

There was a kitchen island I really liked at a certain store. However, it was about $500. I don't have the funds to pay for that right now, nor would I want to for a space I'm renting for two to three years at the most.

So I thought of finding something I could convert into a kitchen island. But everything I found would have required a lot of work and some money to buy the materials needed to turn it into something I would like.

Well here comes Mr. Romantic to save the day! As he was looking through the flyers he gets every week, he saw a few kitchen islands he thought I might like. One in particular looked very similar to the $500 one I really liked. It's not as nice, but it's very close. Also, it's half the price when it's on sale. So I bought it last night.

You see, I did settle for something that's not exactly what I wanted, still, it will serve my purpose. Also, it's a piece I won't mind leaving behind if I can't use it wherever I move to next. With taxes it was a little less than $300. I figured approximately $150 per year for the convenience of having a better functioning kitchen is worth it for me. Besides, after a month or so of home cooked meals, it will be paying for itself.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Oh no, not bed bugs!!!!

Ugh! One of the things that creeps me out the most: bugs! One of the creepiest ones in my opinion: bed bugs! Those little pests feast on human blood and are becoming harder and harder to kill off.

Why am I talking about this? Let me back it up a little...

Before leaving for our New York weekend, Mr. Romantic and I saw a video on how to look for bed bugs in hotels. Oh man! I never thought that this could be an issue! So when we got to our hotel room, we did a quick inspection of the bed to see if we could find any traces of these little critters. We didn't see anything. However, we still kept our backpacks in the washroom, just in case. But I think I could have been a bit more careful because I did leave some clothes lying on a dresser in the room. I should have kept them with my backpack in the washroom.

When we got back from our trip, my daughter informed me that there's a bed bug infestation at her boyfriend's house. YIKES!

Since then, I've been a little paranoid about having bed bugs. I actually woke up at 2:30 Thursday morning with a bug crawling on my neck. I was half asleep and panicked. I crushed the bug and threw it out without really inspecting it assuming it was in fact a bed bug. But it could have been a ladybug. We have a bit of a problem with those.

After that, I couldn't get back to sleep. So I started researching what to do if you have bed bugs. Well, if you do, you need to call a professional pest controller. And even they have a hard time killing them off. And when you live in a multi-unit building, the other units will have to get treated also.

From what I read online, anyone can get bed bugs. It's not limited to those with cluttered and dirty homes. However, cluttered and dirty homes are fantastic for bed bugs, giving them tons of hiding and nesting places.

I wasn't going to take any chances. So that Thursday, I started cleaning out everything in our rooms. I bagged several items. I put all the clothes and curtains through the wash and clothes dryer (because apparently 30 minutes at high heat in the dryer kills bed bugs). I also washed and inspected all of my bedroom furniture. I took out all the drawers and looked in every nook and cranny. I've NEVER inspected my belongings as well in my entire life.

I went out and bought mattress and box spring covers for our beds. These particular ones are apparently dust mite and bed bug proof. I also bought bed bug traps to put under each bed post that's supposed to trap bed bugs trying to come in or out of the bed, and I got a power bar that traps the bed bugs because they're attracted to sources of heat so they actually go inside electronic equipment and electrical plugs. Yuk!!

Silver lining
Yeah, even though I did freak out at the thought of bed bugs, I actually do see a silver lining to going through this.

I am SO thankful for minimalism! If I hadn't gone through my big purge of 2015, this whole situation would have been much more overwhelming. However, as I was bagging things I realized (again) that I still own things that are no longer useful to me (if they've ever been). So guess what? I'll be getting rid of those things and downsizing my belongings even more.

Going through this forced my daughter to finally take care of her room. She's also realized that she owns way too many things. In fact, she mentioned that the first night she slept better than she had in a long time in her almost emptied out room without posters on the walls and without the black black-out curtains on the windows. She's now motivated to get rid of more things and lighten up her d├ęcor a little.

We found, what I think, is a rogue bug in my daughter's backpack after she came back from a visit at her boyfriend's. But besides that, I'm happy to report that so far, we haven't seen any other evidence of bed bugs.

I will continue to monitor for them, of course. If we do have them, I'll have to notify my landlord and the superintendent. But hopefully, there'll be nothing to report.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Carrying on with my carry-on

When I took my Easter weekend trip to New York City, I brought very few items of clothing with me. They were:
  1. blue jeans (wore on the flight over)
  2. black jeans
  3. black skirt
  4. flowery shirt (wore on the flight over)
  5. black cardigan (wore on the flight over)
  6. green sweater
  7. black t-shirt
  8. teal cardigan
Obviously I haven't listed the shoes, jackets, scarves, underwear, socks and nightgown here. They're irrelevant for the purpose of this post.

So for the whole month of April, I will try to make due with the above items, adding only these two items:
  1. black tank-top
  2. white tank-top
This will bring my total to ten items of clothing. Everything else I will put aside for now on the left side of my closet. A ten-piece wardrobe sounds super appealing to me!

Why? Why not, right?! I want to see if these items will be enough for me. I may have been overthinking the whole minimalist wardrobe thing. Let's see if I'm right.

This is what I've been doing since I got back from my trip. Basically, I've made due with what I brought on the trip, including my toiletries. Everything else I boxed up. So far, so good.

At the end of April, I'll reassess. Maybe I'll keep going and just get rid of everything else. Maybe I'll miss my other items too much. We shall see...

So, at least for April, I'll carry on with the things in my carry-on!

Friday, 1 April 2016

My journey to New York City

For Easter long weekend, Mr. Romantic and I took a trip to New York City. It was my first and his second time there.

My expectations
I have to admit that NYC wouldn't have been my first choice. I'm not quite sure what would have been, but Mr. Romantic was talking about going and I figured it would be nice to travel with him, especially for my first "real" trip. He took care of everything. All I had to do was follow and I was definitely willing!

My expectations were that NYC would probably be a very commercial looking/feeling city. Movies are filled with images of the exaggerated extravagant advertising in Time Square, super high rises, a plethora of stores and restaurants. I expected a lot of noise and pollution. Maybe a little chaos. And I expected Central Park would be a lovely little nature oasis in the middle of a busy city.

Overall, it didn't seem like the most appealing place for me. Although I thought it probably wouldn't be so far out of my comfort zone. It is in North America after all.

My packing list
This is the fun part of a minimalist's blog, right? What does a minimalist bring on a trip to NYC?

“Can you pack everything you need for 4 days into a carry-on bag, or will you need to check luggage?” Mr. Romantic asked me when he was booking our flight. “I’m a minimalist, I can do it! ;) ...... How big is a carry-on?...”

The day we left, I wore:
  1. blue jeans
  2. flowered top
  3. black cardigan
  4. light infinity scarf
  5. sports shoes
  6. winter jacket
  7. simple gold coloured hoop earrings
In my purse, I had my:
  1. wallet
  2. passport
  3. e-reader and charger
  4. cellphone charger
  5. clip-on sunglasses
  6. make-up (mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner and lipstick)
  7. apartment keys
  8. small notebook and pen (I didn’t want to bring my laptop with me, but I wanted to be sure to capture my thoughts during the trip.)
In my carry-on (which was a backpack), I brought:
  1. toothbrush and toothpaste
  2. deodorant
  3. make-up remover wipes
  4. pain relief ointment and over the counter pain relief medication (which I was grateful to have packed)
  5. 3 days-worth of underwear and socks
  6. nightgown
  7. slippers
  8. black jeans
  9. black t-shirt
  10. teal cardigan
  11. army-green sweater
  12. black skirt, pantyhose and “dressier” shoes (in case we did something fancy)
  13. rain jacket
  14. lighter jacket (because NYC is a little warmer than Ottawa)
The hotel provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, so I didn't bother packing those. I could live without my preferred brands for a weekend.

How we got there
This was my first plane trip ever. We woke up early and excited Friday morning. We grabbed our carry-ons and took the bus to the Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.

I wasn't particularly nervous about travelling by plane. I found that the take-offs weren't as intense as I expected and the turbulence didn't feel any worse than driving down some of our potholed filled streets around here. The landings, however, I didn't enjoy so much. They weren't that bad, but they made me a little nervous. I took four planes in total (two there and two back), and I would have to say that it was the third landing that bothered me the most. But hey! I survived and I'm writing this, so all in all, successful flights.

Were my expectations right?

As soon as we got out of Penn station to walk towards our hotel, I was shocked to see how colossal the buildings were. I mean, I expected big buildings, but I didn't expect them to be so humongous! Movies and TV shows and photos don't prepare you for the in person experience. I loved the mix of very modern buildings with the older more ornate ones. 

Central Park was as pretty as I expected, but it was way bigger than I thought it would be. It really was quite something to behold the colossal buildings surrounding the beautiful park. We saw dancers and singers, and beautiful architecture. Trees were already in bloom.

NYC is much cleaner than I expected for the amount of people there. It was also not as chaotic as I expected. There were many people and plenty of noise and visual distractions, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I also felt as safe/unsafe as I do in my hometown. I never felt like I should be clutching my purse or feared for my life. However, we didn't go into the parts of NYC that are notorious for their crime and violence.

NYC is more beautiful than I thought it would be.

What we ate
Out of all the places we picked to eat, only two were actually very good. The other places, in my opinion, were mediocre to bad. I found it weird that you couldn't get yellow mustard at hot dog carts; only spicy brown mustard and ketchup were available. By the last night we were there, I was yearning for my mother's cooking.

Where we stayed
Mr. Romantic booked us a room in a beautiful hotel right on Broadway between Time Square and Central Park. In my opinion, it was a perfect location. We could see a sliver of the signs of Time Square from our bedroom window.

What we did
We walked. A lot! So I was happy that for the past month I've been walking pretty much every day. Mostly to relieve stress and get healthy, but I also did it so that I could train to better keep up with Mr. Romantic. He's an avid walker.

When I couldn't walk anymore, we'd either take the subway or a cab. It was a little tricky to navigate the subways because many lines were either cancelled or re-routed due to construction. But Mr. Romantic was pretty awesome at getting us to where we wanted to go.

We visited Central Park, Time Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grand Central station, SOHO, the Evolution Store, the 9/11 memorial (from the outside), the Empire State Building (from the outside and the lobby), the Chrysler building (from the outside) and Rockefeller Square. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge and took the Ellis Island ferry from where we saw the Statue of Liberty. 

What I wish I knew before
I wish I knew that most people wear running shoes in NYC. You just walk so much that you need to make sure your shoes are particularly comfortable. If I'd known that, I would have bought a good pair of running shoes. The ones I own are not especially comfortable so I ended up with sore feet and ankles before the end of the day. If it hadn't been for that, I could have kept going and seen more than I did (even though I was told that we crammed a lot in on our short trip).

I didn't use most of my make-up, my notebook, the light jacket, the "fancy" clothes or my e-reader. I could have left them at home to make for slightly lighter luggage. I could have done without my black t-shirt and teal cardigan, too.

What I would have done differently
Nothing really. My first experience of NYC was perfect! Great accommodations, great location, great travel companion. 

Final thoughts
Using money for experiences like this is way more meaningful to me than owning a bunch of stuff.

By the end of the first day, I could completely understand how people fall in love with NYC. I'm not quite sure I'd want to live there (though perhaps in SOHO), however I definitely would like to go back. There's still so much to see. Perhaps a longer trip would be better for me so that I don't get as tired. But in all fairness to myself, I did have a cold and my shoes weren't so great.

Even if I do go back for a longer stay I would probably bring the same amount of clothes (except for the things I said I could do without). The hotel where we stayed had a laundry facility. At worst, I could do a wash or two.

Mr. Romantic is definitely a very good travel companion! He's considerate and patient. He was up for anything I wanted to do and never made me feel like I was holding him back. He was calm (or at least looked calm) while he was navigating through the city and to and from the airports. That made for a more enjoyable trip for me.

In my opinion, the amount of money and stuff in NYC is somewhat obscene. I saw many homeless encampments along the streets. You know, the stereotypical people laying atop cardboard boxes in dirty sleeping bags eating their food in take-out containers on the street in front of these super expensive mammoth business towers. How can these extremes coexist? How can we let this happen? But perhaps this is too big a social problem for me to tackle on my journey to simplicity blog...

Anyway, I'd definitely do it all again!

A view from the Brooklyn Bridge
A view from our hotel room