It’s Like Losing a Suitcase, but in a Good Way!

imagesWhen Dave and I were packing up to come home from Taiwan, we faced a major challenge. Fitting six years of living into four 50-pound suitcases (two for each of us). And we each had a carry-on. OK, we cheated a bit and sent three boxes of stuff literally on a (slow) boat from China. (Actually, the boat isn’t that slow, but you have to agree to let your boxes wait until a ship is going to the same destination as your stuff.) Anyway, you get the idea, reduce, reduce, and reduce some more.

As you may or may not know, Dave and I did not travel together. Since he was going to Iowa and I was coming to Michigan, the flights didn’t line up very well. So I left Taiwan with my two suitcases on Monday, July 27, and Dave left three days later. Luckily, since I left first, Dave was there to help me with my luggage at my point of origin. But I had to claim those two 50-pound bags at LAX in order to go through customs and then recheck them. Not a huge deal, but I was glad I didn’t have to haul them any further.

Which brings me to my weight loss. Between November of 2013 and April of 2015, I lost 50 pounds–the equivalent of one of those suitcases I hauled around in the airport. It was a matter of doing it step by step (literally) and persevering in the face of the multiple obstacles that make any habit change difficult. But all the effort was totally worth it. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to get around. It even makes it easier to maintain my balance without as much to balance.

thumb_skirtAn added benefit: when packing my two 50-pound bags, I could leave behind the clothes that had become too large for me, which left room for other things that were more important to me. One of the most “fun” things to bring back were five skirts that I had purchased two years ago (right before the weight loss — or healthy living — project began. They fit the old me just fine, but as I went through those 18 months, the skirts started slipping. I had to eventually put them aside and not wear them at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn those last few weeks before we came back to the US, I decided to see if a seamstress could save those skirts. I hated to part with them as they were practically new. I had nothing to lose, so I took the five skirts to a seamstress located on route to my favorite coffee shop. Three days later I had skirts that fit me with the added benefit of very professional and finished stitching in the new elastic. I had one other skirt hanging in my closet that I really liked, and even though it was older than the others, I took that in as well. For less than the cost of one new skirt in the US, I brought back six skirts that I love wearing.

My new wardrobe is building gradually with items from second-hand and thrift shops, a few new items on sale, and some gifting from my mother’s closets. From the clothes standpoint, I’m all ready for school to start next week. My current goal during my transition back to living in the US is maintenance, but within a few weeks, I plan to step up my healthy living habits and lose some more “baggage.”

I know this is a frustrating topic for many people–hey, it took me nearly sixty years to really get it,I can tell you that, in spite of the difficulties–including medical restrictions for exercise, an attitude of slow and steady went a long way to keeping me on track. That and having a specific plan for establishing the habit of healthy living. If I can do it after all this time, anyone can. So if you have specific questions about my journey thus far, post them below and I’ll respond in a future post.

How Big is Your Suitcase?

Packing for a Trip

Brown & Red Duffel Bag

Brown & Red Duffel Bag (Photo credit: rebecca)

I do my fair share of traveling. Not as much as others, I’m sure, but over time, I’ve gotten lighter and lighter about the way I pack. I have special things I like to bring, like things to read, and journals to write in, but when it comes to clothing, I pack easy wash-and-wear items that mix and match. I can fit enough of these items in a duffle bag to last 5-7 days. Doing laundry once during a week-long trip is not a big deal to me. If it’s a longer trip, I just do laundry more often. Personal care items are kept to a minimum. I make sure hostess gifts and souvenirs on the return trip are lightweight and sturdy. In recent years, even the “project” items has become almost as easy as packing my netbook and an electronic reader. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it does make life simpler when so much of what I’m working on and reading can be carried with those two items.

Sometimes, when I have packed and unpacked for trips of 7-14 days to Philadelphia or Albuquerque, I felt like I was re-enacting the scene from Mary Poppins where Julie Andrews was pulling out all kinds of impossible things from her carpet bag. But this method of traveling served me well, and I was doing it long before the airlines started charging for checked luggage.

96 Leather Passport Airline Ticket Holder

(Photo credit: ExecGifts)

It’s only been in the last eight years that I started travelling internationally. Four years ago, when I came to Taiwan, I could bring two checked bags and a carry-on as part of the ticket. This was especially important when I first moved here. With two suitcases, I could bring enough things to get me started in my new home. When I travel to the US to visit in the summer, I sometimes packed my smaller carry-on in the larger one, and then had the second one to bring things back from the US, like my quilting fabric that was stored there.

Last summer things changed, and  I had a ticket that only allowed for one checked piece of luggage. Going from Taiwan to the US wasn’t too difficult, since I was already accustomed to going back with one bag, but it wasn’t as easy on the return trip to Taiwan when I wanted to bring a few things that I bought in the US. In the end, I paid for the second suitcase because there were specific things we had planned for me to bring back. But this year, I will plan my trip accordingly.

Making Connections

My duffle bag served me well for many years, but eventually it just got too tired to make the treks through those airports. But roller bags are great, and I love mine with its brown, pink, and white stripes. I didn’t think ahead, so I don’t have a picture to post of it, but it may show up some time. My roller bag is truly a carry-on size, so in some planes, it actually fits under the seat. But it holds a lot, and I almost can get that Mary Poppins feeling when I use it. Plus, she didn’t have wheels on hers, although she did have that great umbrella that made going through security a non-issue.

As I travel, I’ve noticed that some people seem to think the size restrictions for carry-on luggage don’t apply to them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has boarded a plane to find that the overhead bins are inefficiently utilized because someone’s roller bag is too large to fit front-to-back in the bin. But then, I have traveled with groups and seen people whose suitcases overflow with things that take extra attention and maintenance. When I travel, I don’t want to have to worry about stuff. I like the freedom of having less stuff to worry about. That’s why I was particularly fascinated by my daughter-in-law’s blog post about the preparations she and my son were making for their trip to Europe last September. She has gorgeous photos of the trip, but I was also impressed with the preparations she made for the trip. Talk about traveling light!

Speaking of Connections

Yup, it's February - How you doin'?

(Photo credit: Esther17)

You may wonder why I’m writing about travel and suitcases. I think about scheduling time the same way I think about packing a suitcase. And while I might say things about people who can’t seem to pack light, I’m totally guilty of overpacking my calendar.I want to somehow take what I know about traveling and bring it to my daily life. I’m sure some of the people who frustrate me with the over-sized bags are probably great with managing their time and packing their calendars effectively.

That’s actually why I’m writing about suitcases tonight. I was working on a post about my new work on scheduling as I focus on my keyword of clearing (see previous post). I discovered that my system was flawed in that it didn’t give me breathing room for a few major surprises that came along Tuesday night. I’m working through those now, with a planning system that uses index cards in a new way (at least for me). A post explaining this system is forthcoming–just not tonight. Stay tuned! I’m hopeful that the new system will be better suited for my journey to the clearing.