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Ruthless packing

Before the busyness of the holiday season hit, I had made up my mind: I was going to leave Toronto. I had booked a plane ticket to Colombia and on the first week of December, I gave my landlord his two months notice. I had moved in as a university student in the summer of 2012 and after five-and-a-half good years, I was leaving.

I planned my year of work-travel abroad on the sly for some time but in the weeks that followed, I was putting my plan in action. My dream quickly became a reality and so, with two months to leave the city, I learned how to pack up my life, tie up loose strings and leave.

It was a steep learning curve for me. And, as it turned out, a lesson in ruthlessness both in getting rid of old things and also in slicing out the unnecessary schedule demands. When faced with a deadline to leave the city, I simply didn’t have time or physical space to accommodate the excess I had allowed into my life for years. Thinking back on that time, I see there were a lot of lessons that shook out of the clutter.

When I said my move was a lesson in being ruthless, I meant it. In the weeks of downsizing, I’d regularly block off short sections of time to toss out anything I didn’t see myself using in the future. That whole “If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it,” piece of advice from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is true. I know because I put it to the test. When packing up your whole life and leaving, I learned, there are some items you just can’t take with you: old university papers, doodles from five years ago, unused and unflattering makeup, the dozen t-shirts that are used only as pajamas, highlighter pens.

As I started to declutter, my ruthlessness gained momentum. The high-waisted short shorts that were just that bit too small became history. Those wedges I always regretted buying? Goodbye. The hand-me-downs I had half-heartedly accepted also went straight into my bag of to-be-donated goods. Know those desk drawers that seems to just collect unwanted junk? I tossed it all. Old bathing suits? Gone. Mismatched socks? Gone. The magazines I would one day read? The stationery from an ex-boyfriend? Non-functional pens? I ditched them all.

Slowly, I could breathe again. And my decluttering sessions became cathartic. I loved my apartment but now that I was abandoning so many of my things, I came to like it even more. So, I started to apply this attitude to more than just the material.

Like my apartment bedroom, my schedule was filled up with things I didn’t need – or want. I did to the flakes and the shouldvitation (read: a non-genuine invitation) culprits what I had done to my junk: I cut them out. We all have the folks who always, to no avail, suggest perhaps getting a drink or a coffee because “we should catch up!” Well, when left with eight weeks in a city that was my home for nearly eight years, the patience wears thin. It’s funny how once under pressure, I did the thing I always should have done: I stopped letting it all in.

Of course, I kept the clothes, the shoes and the books that I adored. I kept race medals that had special memories attached. I made one-on-one time for the people I am closest to whose friendships I value and I had a going away party where I invited all of my favourite people. I had less but I was happier. In Colombia, my possessions are the tip of the iceberg compared to before. It’s for the better. I knew I’d learn a lot from my year away, but as it turned out, that started before I even left.

5 tips to pack light on your travels

Travelling can be exhausting, especially if you are going on vacation solo. The biggest source of this fatigue is packing. You need a certain number of outfits for each day, and then you need options for if the weather is cold or hot, or if you are spontaneous and decide to go out for the night. And then there are the killer shoes — one is good for walking, one for dancing, one for rain, one for snow, and one for the beach.

It’s not just the act of packing either. It’s the weigh-in at the airport, baggage claim, lugging your suitcase around the city for half a day while you wait for your hotel room to be ready. And then there are the extra fees if you do any shopping while abroad!

Don’t stress too much. There are ways to pack light while travelling that will allow for plenty of shopping space and a lot less hassle. Here are five tips:

Pack outfits, not options: This will save you so much room in your suitcase. Do you need a pair of pants for every day of your trip? Probably not. Choose a minimum number of bottoms and one or two shirts per bottom. While packing, you can sometimes fall victim to the “options” mentality, in which you pack numerous tops with numerous bottoms so you have a lot of choice. While choice is great, it is not prudent for light packing. Outfits are complete looks, and therefore you only bring what you know goes well with other items in your bag.

Bring laundry detergent: Who says you can’t do laundry on your trip, especially if you are away for over a week? Bring some detergent that is sink-friendly so you can wash undergarments midweek if you need to. I travelled through Europe for three weeks and this saved me! It meant I just had to pack a few outfits, wash, and re-wear!

Sorry ladies, limit your shoes: Shoes are the hardest part about packing for a trip. On the one side, you want something practical and comfortable if you plan on doing lots of walking. But, what if you want to go to the beach? What if you want to dress up for dinner? What if it rains? This is a constant problem, and my only advice for you is to choose two, and then add flip/flops if the beach life is for your. It seems impossible, right? But honestly, no one is going to look at your feet while you are on vacation – so go with comfort first. Invest in good walking shoes that are waterproof. This ticks off two boxes. Then, choose a pair of nice shoes that you can wear with both jeans and a dress. My go-to is a cork-heel sandal, as it is relatively comfortable and works with everything.

Bare minimum makeup: Hair products, foundation, brushes, and jewellery are some of the bulkiest items you can put in a suitcase. Go minimal — either purchase mini bottles of these items or get a travel pack from the drug store for shampoo and soap. Think about what you will be doing. If you are spending time on a beach or in the water, you don’t really need much makeup to begin with. Bring foundation or concealer, some mascara and eyeliner, and a lipstick for the evening. Eyeshadow will melt if you are going somewhere hot and there is no need for blush if you are wandering through a cobblestoned town in Amsterdam. In terms of jewellery, pack easy to match items like stud earrings or simple necklaces. If you want something funky for a fancier night out, that’s fine, but limit it to one look.

Backpack it: If you plan on doing any exploring or long adventures, make sure to have a small backpack to bring with you. This way, you can pack a few granola bars or a bottle of water with you for easy travel. You can purchase small locks and use it for your big pockets so that when you walk through large tourist hubs, you don’t have to worry about theft. It’s a lot easier than keeping your passport or wallet in a purse that is easy to grab. Having a backpack also gives you a little more freedom if you, let’s say, want to ignore my rule on shoes and truly believe you need an extra pair. Simply put it in your backpack and when you get to the hotel, remove it. This saves on any extra weight limitations you may have and allows you to pack an extra towel or necessity in your suitcase.

Bonus: roll, don’t fold! You can fit more if you fold your clothing in half and then tightly roll them up. You can fit double the amount of clothing in your suitcase this way.

Remember, that if you don’t have enough of something, you can always go to the store!

Moving in the summer: how to do it right

Moving in the summer can be very hot and sweaty, but sadly it is the most popular time to change homes because the weather is nice — no one wants to move in the snow, right!? With proper planning, patience and a good attitude, moving can go from being a gruelling experience to a fun adventure to your new house. And Women’s Post is here to help you out with these easy tips.

The first thing you need to do is to plan how you are going to move your belongings from one residence to another. If you are moving cities, renting a truck and finding a driver is ideal. Don’t forget to compare rates of rentals ahead of times to save on costs. If you have fewer belongings and are moving a short distance, try asking a friend to borrow a car or a truck for the day instead. Don’t forget to be nice and pay for gas!

Once you have figured out how to get your furniture and knick-knacks from one home to another, the next step is to transfer services to your new residence. Call Canada Post and organize a mail forward date to your new home. Also, call your utility provider — Internet, cable, and hydro — to notify them of your move so that you aren’t paying bills for your house’s next tenants. If you are moving out of the city, ensure your Internet provider is offered in your new destination. Being without Internet in a new home is a pain and is easier when taken care of before moving day.

The next step is to make the ultimate packing kit of the century, which must include packing boxes and buckets, packing tape, markers, coloured labels, and scissors (or an x-acto knife). To make your move slightly more green, invest in recyclable containers that can be re-used after the move at your new home. Use dresser drawers as packing space instead of emptying them. It is a space saver in the moving truck and helps reduce the amount of boxes or buckets needed.

When you begin packing, remember to have towels and linens on hand to protect fragile items. Don’t forget to label each box of else you will have to go through every box to find your favourite mug (label: kitchenware). Organize boxes into different areas so that the movers (or your friends) will have an easier time loading belongings into the truck. Using colour-coded labels is an easy way to make sure each box goes to the right area in the house.

On moving day, leave out tools and allen keys to deconstruct furniture. Also have tape and ziplock bags on hand to attach the relevant tools and screws to the piece of furniture — no one wants an Ikea moment (I’m sure it’s fine with only four screws…). Load heavy pieces first while the moving crew has more stamina and then load the lighter boxes when everyone is beginning to grow tired and there is less room in the truck. Finally, purge any unwanted items. Moving is a great way to get rid of any extra crap in your home.

Most importantly — and DO NOT forget this — provide cold refreshments and a thank-you pizza and beer for your friends and movers. It is hot and heavy work, and no one will help you again if you aren’t courteous about their efforts. Other than that, enjoy your new digs and happy unpacking!

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