Washing in the Woods – Review of Travel Laundry Soap

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Part of my Journey to Simple involves traveling light. This means that sometimes I wash my clothes in hotel sinks or plastic bins. I have tried a few different kinds of travel laundry detergent. Check out my review of Eucalan liquid detergent and Sea to Summit travel pocket soap in the following video:

Leave a comment about how you travel light.

Paper Trail #2 – 5 Lessons from Getting Rid of School Paper

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Tackling our piles of paper has been an organizing project that I have been putting off for years. My Paper Trail #1 post came out over a year ago, so the project has continued to be put off over this past year.

To be honest, the paper work is somewhat organized already. The issue is the volume of paper. I have a large binder of notes for almost every course that I have taken over two university degrees. I have made the odd attempt to get rid of these notes, but usually loose my courage when I remember how much work I did to get those degrees. It is as though the paperwork is the proof that I completed the courses and that no one will believe me (or I won’t believe me) if the paper trail is gone.

Near the end of 2015, I finally tackled the huge piles of paper left over from university study. I pulled two huge boxes out of the office closet and started what I anticipated to be a long, painstaking process. However, time is a funny thing. I have mentioned that I have made multiple attempts to get rid of my school paper in the past – without success. But I also live by the de-cluttering rule that I can always go back later. Well apparently I left enough time between tries to go back later with success. The process started slowly, but in no time at all I was throwing entire binders of paper in the recycling pile. I went from this:


To this:


Here are a few lessons that I learned:
1) Hold on to something you’re proud of, but not everything you’re proud of. This may have been what was holding me back in the first place. I would find a paper or test that I received a good grade on and I would remember how valued that made me feel. I had to remember that old school work is not where my value lies. In the end, I kept one test and one paper (and I am hoping to toss them eventually).

2) If I haven’t looked at it in the last five years, I am not likely to use in the future. I had been holding on to items such as a Calculus text book incase I ever wanted to re-learn Calculus. a) I will not be doing that and b) the public library does a great job of holding on to calculus text books for me.

3) No one else will need your old notes. Some of my old school work could be relevant to the work that my husband does. Ask me how many times in the last decade it has occurred to me to pull something out for him – exactly, zero times.

4) It is ok to let go when your interests change. For me, allowing old school work to take up so much physical space made it difficult for me to open up mental space for new interests. The boxes were a reminder of where I came from. Generally, that was a good thing. However, boxes full of never read paper was not helping me with where I was going.

5) I still have the education, even without the paper and books to prove it. No one will ever ask me to pull out an old assignment to prove I have knowledge. I also don’t need to have the physical copies to prove it to myself.
What’s holding you back from looking forward? What physical clutter is taking up precious mental space in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Simple Steps to Spring Clean Your Wardrobe

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Simplifying your wardrobe can seem like an overwhelming task. Our clothing has an impact on our self-image, our emotions, our bank account, and our home organization. If you live in a climate with 4 distinct seasons, a change in season offers a perfect time to think about your wardrobe and take action. Since spring has arrived, I decided it was time to take on my wardrobe. As opposed to a complete purge, I took a simpler approach. Here are the 5 simple steps I recommend when spring cleaning your wardrobe.

1) Decide on your goals:

Is this a quick sift through your clothing items or a complete wardrobe overhaul. I have been swept up with the popularity of the capsule or minimalist wardrobe. I had a go at Project 333 and the 10 Item Wardrobe. Even though these options still represent my ideal, I have found the changes too drastic and quick. For my 2015 wardrobe spring cleaning I decided on a more basic approach. I set two goals: a) contain all of my clothing to the storage space available in our master bedroom, and b) put away winter clothing and take out summer clothing. Your goals can be as small or big as you would like. Just remember to set your goals before you start pulling clothes out of the closet.

2 ) Take all of your clothing out and categorize:
This step is important because it can provide you with invaluable insight. It may be tempting to go through a drawer at a time, but spring cleaning is about going the extra mile. Take all of your clothing out and categorize it. This gives you a good understanding of how much clothing you actually have. As someone who has never paid much attention to what I wear, I was shocked at how much clothing I owned the first time I laid it all out in front of me. The experience was even more enlightening when I began categorizing my clothing. I had regular categories like ‘work’ and ‘casual’. I also had extra (potentially unnecessary) categories such as ‘house casual’, ‘nice t-shirt’, and ‘camping’. Step number two provides you with a necessary ‘big picture’ understanding.

My category piles.


3) Purge:
For many, this step may prove to be the most challenging. Many minimalists advocate shedding yourself of any clothing items you have not worn in the past year. Personally, I don’t subscribe to this idea. With limited space in my budget to purchase new clothing, I prefer to hold on to items for at least one additional year. The one question I do ask myself is ‘Do I love it’? If the answer is no, than I don’t keep it. This is my purging method. I rid myself of 12 clothing items during this spring clean. Minimizing visual and physical clutter is still a priority, so I will continue to purge throughout the year.

4) Shop your own wardrobe:
You’ve set a few goals, categorized your clothing, and shed yourself of unnecessary pieces. The next step is to ‘go shopping’. I am not talking about going out to a store. I am talking about looking ahead to the summer and shopping your own collection for your seasonal wardrobe. By taking this approach, I have been able to rotate through my clothing and avoid unnecessary purchases. One strategy I use is that I don’t pull out my entire seasonal wardrobe each year. This means that everything that is taken out is worn and that pieces will last for several years.

5) Organize and store remaining clothing items:
Now that you have selected your wardrobe for the next season, it is time to put it all away. Take time and care with this step. You will be more excited about your clothing if you organize and display them in a pleasing way. Also, taking care to store your winter clothing well will facilitate the ‘shopping’ process in the fall.

My closet organizing.

IMG_0208   IMG_0211

Following these 5 simple steps will help bring a renewed sense of clarity to your wardrobe. It may not be a complete and total overhaul, but it is a step on the Journey to Simple.

Tote Bag Traveling – How to pack for an entire weekend in your purse

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I recently went on a ‘girls weekend’ trip to visit a friend in Montreal. I was excited to spend time with my dear friends, but I was also excited about taking on another packing challenge. As I prepared for the weekend I thought to myself ‘If I can pack for two weeks in a carry on bag, I must be able to pack for a weekend in something even smaller’. Part of my excitement was the fun of the challenge, but I was also excited by the idea of jumping on a plane with only a purse.  There is something freeing about traveling light.

I started by making a list of all the things that I would need for our 4 day adventure. We were planning on doing some site-seeing, going out for dinners, and maybe even going dancing.  As usual, I separated out the heaviest and bulkiest items to wear on the plane.


Wear on the plane:
dark jeans
long sleeve shirt

Then I laid out everything else on my list that needed to be packed in my bag.


Packing List:
Tote bag purse
small bag for toiletries (doubles as an evening bag)
canvas tote for packing clothing (doubles as a second carry on when bringing home souvenirs)

two long sleeve shirts
one nice shirt to wear out in the evening
one dress to wear out in the evening
pyjamas (tights and tank top)
undergarments (enough for three days)
three pairs of socks
one pair of tights

dental floss
cell phone charger
cell phone
wallet (used a small card holder)
travel mug
ear buds

I put everything into bundles and small containers.  I used the same clothes wrapping method found here.


The dog helped.


I was all packed and ready to go in no time.


I had a wonderful weekend.  I didn’t even use everything that I had packed.  Packing light was the beginning of my Journey to Simple.  I’m sure this will not be the end of my tote-bag travels.

I’d love to hear your packing tips.  Please leave a comment.


The Paper Trail #1 – The Paper Monster Attacks

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I have a secret. Inside our office closet lives an untamed paper monster that has been growing (and moving around the country with us) for almost a decade. This monster has all of my notes from multiple university degrees for legs, eight binders of church music for it’s body, random paper from all types of life events for arms, and a filing cabinet of bills and bank statements for a head. The time has come to get rid of this monster once as for all.

To start tackling my paper monster (my #1 organizational goal of 2015), I decided to start with the lowest risk project. I organized the multiple binders of church music that my husband and I have accumulated over the last ten years. We were both members of a traveling Christian band and other church music ensembles for years. During that time we accumulated multiple copies of the same songs. This project was low pressure because I was not digitizing the songs and I did not need to make decisions about what the get rid of. I only wanted to remove the duplicates. For whatever reason, the perceived enormity of this task has meant that I have carted these binders through at least three house moves instead of taking the time to sort them. Now that it is done, I don’t know why I waited so long.

One evening, two glasses of wine, and 551 edited songs later, our music library has gone from two filing boxes to two binders. Here are a few take-aways from my paper organizing project that I will use as I continue to take on the paper monster:

  1. Keep track of what you are getting rid of. I have been doing this ever since taking the Edit-and-Forget It challenge. It feels incredibly good to complete a paper based project and know that I rid myself of 551 unnecessary items.
  2. Start with a manageable goal. I pulled all of the music out and realized that I could complete this task in one evening. I would have been totally discouraged if I had selected the filing cabinet as my first step towards taming the paper monster. If you need to, start with getting rid of old catalogues or phone books. Keep it simple.
  3. Have a plan. As I started alphabetizing my music, I realized that I needed a much larger surface area than anticipated. I ended up moving the entire operation part way through. Next time, I will make a more comprehensive plan before diving in.

The best thing about completing a project on the Journey to Simple is that it motivates you to take on the next project. I can’t wait to dive into the filing cabinet, my university notes, my accumulated business cards, and the rest of the paper pile. I am already feeling the freedom that comes from simplifying my paper trail.

What areas are you planning on simplifying in 2015? Please leave a comment below.

Top 5 January To-Dos for a Simpler 2015

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I am not in the habit of making new years resolutions. However, there are a few things that I will be doing this month to help simplify 2015. This is not a definitive list, but by adding these items to your January ‘to-do’ list, you’ll be on your own Journey to Simple in 2015.

Make your holiday gift list for 2015
I know this may sound like overkill, but take a moment to recall the busyness leading up to Christmas 2014 and you’ll be convinced. Writing a gift list early in the year will enable you to take advantage of sales throughout the year. You can also chip away at the list one gift at a time instead of the panicked shopping spree the week before Christmas. The greatest benefit for me is the early reminder to start making homemade gifts. I am the slowest knitter in world, so I better start knitting my Dad’s 2015 Christmas scarf now.

2) Clean out your freezer
Throw out the freezer burnt items, pull everything out, make an inventory, do whatever you need to do to make sure that you are eating everything that you have in your freezer. I live in such a cold climate, that I go a little loopy when Farmer’s Market season hits in June or July. I want to eat all of the fresh local produce I can, so I don’t touch anything in my freezer until the snow flies. Cleaning out your freezer now will help ensure that you eat everything this winter and will eliminate the waste that can come with leaving everything untouched during the summer months.

3) Plan your vacation days (for the entire year)
Yes, I am the person submitting an entire year’s worth of vacation day requests on January 2nd. Knowing that I can take time off when I hope to makes it possible to plan everything else that happens all year. I can go ahead and book my campground sites and buy my event tickets without any concern about whether or not I can get the time off. Also, requesting holiday days forces you to think about the finances involved in planning a trip, the family you may want to visit, or the home projects that need to get done. Do yourself a favour, and plan your year in January.

4) Pick an organizing project
A big part of my personal Journey to Simple is home organization. I may want my goal for 2015 to be a perfectly organized home, but I know that is unrealistic (that’s why it’s a journey). Remove the pressure for perfection and pick one big project. For me, 2015 will be the year of paper. I will prioritize the filing cabinet and boxes full of notes, projects, music, and bills. Pick one project and give yourself permission to break it up into smaller projects throughout the year.

5) Make a money date with yourself
For the third year in a row, my husband and I will be setting aside time on New Year’s day to talk about money. This fifth ‘to-do’ item will impact all other tasks that you accomplish this year. Some people find talking and thinking about money stressful and complicated. Simplify your life and your year by making some decisions about money in January. How much will my holiday cost? What will the new deck cost? How much can I save? How much can I give to charity? By setting aside a specific time (even once a year) to consider some of these questions, you eliminate the anxiety that comes with unspoken and unrealized financial goals and plans.

Take some time this month to simplify 2015.

I would love to hear what you are doing to make 2015 a simple year. Leave a comment below.

Who needs TV anyway?

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I love television. I get wrapped up in the story and I love the characters. If I like a show or a movie, I will watch them repeatedly (I have seen every episode of Gilmore Girls at least 4 times). I used to spend several hours a day watching TV. With that in mind, I can tell you that there has been no decision more difficult on my Journey to Simple than deciding to cancel cable.

To be honest, we initially cancelled our cable almost 8 years ago for financial reasons alone. My husband and I were both students and we wanted to cut out unnecessary spending in our lives. I continued to watch a few CBC and Food Network shows online, but my TV watching went from several hours a day to a couple of hours a week over night. I spent half of our family Christmas visits watching television and catching up on repeats. I considered the move temporary. I decided to spend my new found spare time studying (what I should have been doing in the first place), and planned on getting cable again as soon as we were no longer students.

After three years, a move, and new employment, we finally decided we could afford cable again. I was so excited. As you recall, I LOVE television. The cable company came over and we got set-up. Six months later we realized that we were paying $50 a month to not watch television. We had become so accustom to spending our time doing hobbies or doing outdoor activities, that we didn’t want to go back to our TV watching ways. I also realized how much easier it was to feel good about myself and my accomplishments when not being bombarded with television advertising. We cancelled our cable again and have never looked back. I spent 9 weeks in hotels this year and did not turn a TV on once. It doesn’t factor into daily life anymore.

I am not saying that everyone needs to go out and cancel their cable (for the third time – I love television), but I am saying that it might be good for you to think about what life would be like if you didn’t watch as much TV. I still watch TV, but I am selective about what I watch and how I watch it. I watch a select number of shows online to avoid advertising and I plan ahead to access live streaming for special broadcast or sporting events.

I can see the shock and horror in people’s eyes when I tell them that I don’t have cable and that our old TV is collecting dust in the basement, but I don’t plan on ever getting cable again. Cancelling cable has simplified our finances and helped me to reconnect with my hobbies.

Freeing up time and energy has made the hard decision (to head into a TVless future) one of the best decisions I have made on my Journey to Simple.

Traveling Light #3: Never Check a Piece of Luggage Again

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This is the third and final instalment of our Traveling Light series, where we have been talking about never checking luggage again. In the first blog/video, I talked about how to pick a carry-on bag. In the second blog/video, I talked about how to decide what to pack in your bag. Today’s video is all about how to pack that bag.

The question I am asked most frequently about never checking luggage is about how I pack my carry-on bag. Through trial and error (and countless google searches), I have come up with a system that works for me. I hope you enjoy this video and find some of the tips helpful when planning your next adventure. Traveling light is just another step on the Journey to Simple.

I would love for you to comment on how you are traveling light!

Traveling Light #2: Never Check a Piece of Luggage Again

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This is the second in a series of three blogs/videos about traveling light. Never checking luggage again involved making three major decisions. The first decision is what bag/suitcase will I use as my carry-on bag? The second decision is what to put in that bag. The third decision is how to pack that bag.

Our first blog/video in the travel light series covered some of the options for the first decision: What bag will I take as my carry-on? This post deals with the second decision: What will I pack in my carry-on. I have made a video that covers some of my thought process when it comes to deciding what to pack. I use the example of a two week trip that my husband and I took last summer to illustrate my packing list choices. A complete packing list can be found at the end of this post.

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your favourite traveling light tips!

Packing list (actual packing list for a two week trip to Newfoundland, Canada in June 2013)
ipad and case
ipad charger
hotel/car rental/flight information
collapsible backpack
3 pairs of wool socks
6 pairs of underwear
2 pairs of pants
1 dress
2 sports bras
3 shirts (2 short sleeve and 1 long sleeve)
1 cardigan
pajama pants
pajama shirt
map of Newfoundland
Toiletries (toothbrush, hair brush, small bottle of face wash, small bottle of sunscreen, mouth guard)
1 pair of shoes
1 pair of sandals
jewelry (2 necklaces and 3 pairs of earrings)
knitting project

Wear on the plane:
hiking shoes
rain jacket
lightweight wool jacket
tank top
long sleeve shirt
wool socks