An organizer’s heart

I have an organizer’s heart. I know not everyone does. I dragged my best friend from college into a Container Store once and she almost hyperventilated. She goes with the flow and is fabulous at it. When I try to go with the flow, everything stops flowing because my stuff explodes all over the desk/hotel room/house and I have no sense of what I want/need to do.

So I organize, whether it’s getting ready for a trip or making it easier to use my kitchen. I love looking through Pinterest, though I get overwhelmed at the level of “pretty” some organizers do. I can admire it, but I have no desire to get that pretty. My focus is function and tidiness. When things are in containers, they are “contained.” When I have a designated place for something, I’m more likely to pick it up and put it away. When I have a system and that system is easy, things get done on a more consistent basis.

These are all things I knew, but Nony at A Slob Comes Clean articulates these points in such a clear and practical way. I’ve shared her ideas and experiences with Hubs, and these principles have become integrated into the way we think about our stuff. You’ll hear echoes of them in how I pack for trips, but I try to apply them to many areas of my life. I’m excited to have an upcoming guest post on Nony’s blog about my novel approach to the dreaded-but-oh-so-helpful meal-planning task. (Of course I’ll add the link in once it’s live!)

Anticipation

One thing I’ve noticed about blogging is that it inspires me.

I started this blog after I fell in love with the Aeronaut maximum carry-on. This big little duffel made me think of Hubs and I working ahead during the week so we could dash off to Boston or Baltimore over a weekend. I dreamed of us traveling light, zipping back to our hotel for mid-day naps, and growing chummy with city after city on the Eastern seaboard.

Just after I started this blog, I decided to take the plunge and get an Arc notebook from Staples.  I started small — just a soft-backed notebook and the hole punch (which was pricey, but I planned to return it if I didn’t like the system). The beauty of the Arc system is that everything flexibly works together. It combines the ability to move things around like a binder and to flip it around on itself like a spiral notebook. They sell full-size and half-sheet notebooks in a durable hard-back or a lightweight soft-back, and you can punch any paper to add in.

So with my mind on my new travel blog,I immediately thought of how I could use this as a travel organizer. Translation: I can start being organized about our travel. 

I’ll write more soon about my history with travel organization, how I like to plan ahead, and whether I use travel books. For now, suffice it to say that I want a planning system that is light and flexible. I want it to fit print-outs without being too big. I want to be able to move things around and empty it out at the end of a trip (after transferring some notes to my digital copies in case we want to go back…because in my imagination, I’m that on top of things).

I also want to start prioritizing more clearly. I don’t want to plan trips down to the minute; I’m way too poor of a traveler for that. (One of these days I’ll explain just how bad of a travel partner I am, so you can appreciate Hubs’s patience.) I need lots of flexibility, and we’ve learned that life is better when we schedule rest in the middle of each day. Having lots of options printed in one place, plus the ability to take out and put back individual sheets, would be a great solution. Add a couple zipper pouches for room keys, transfer passes, money, receipts, and maps, and some flags to remind you of not-to-miss activities or restaurants, and you’re ready to go!

This seems to a be first comes office supplies, then comes organization situation. Now that I have such a customizable system, I find myself wanting to fill it! And luckily, I have a trip on the horizon to occupy me. I just ordered a free travel guide from indiana Dunes. We started off saying we’d hang out at the beach, but really, we’re not beach people. We only went to the beach once in Miami, and that was for 10 minutes to say we’d seen it. I’m excited about their Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail, and if I let Hubs know there’s butterflies, he’ll sure as shootin’ want to photograph them. Once Hubs books our hotel in Pittsburgh, I’ll be excited to start looking for things to do nearby.

Today I realized that I have the same kind of excitement about building a travel notebook as I used to have for scrapbooking. I recently gave up most of my crafty supplies part of our effort to consume less and de-clutter our household. I love scrapbooking, but I’m such a perfectionist that it takes me forever (and my pages look good, but not that good) and I find myself putting things off. I also stopped doing it because we have no “out of the way” space and I frankly don’t like to clean up after myself mid-project. I decided to embrace another hobby, knitting, that takes up less space and mental energy than scrapbooking, but I missed that focused time on recapping great memories.

Building a travel binder is like doing that, but on the front-end instead of the back-end. As I assemble information and maps, I can dream about the experiences we’ll have. I can think forward to everything, instead of thinking back. My efforts will be useful for making memories, not, well, remembering them. The entire time I work on my travel binder, my anticipation for the trip builds.

And really, isn’t anticipation always sweeter than reflection?

What are your best tricks for building and enjoying the anticipation of an upcoming trip?

A room with a view…and a little flexibility

In May of 2013, we had a lot to celebrate. We had just marked three years of being contractually obligated to like each other. Hubs had just defended his dissertation and had a job all lined up outside New York City. I had gotten an internship outside Minneapolis. Time to celebrate! (And apartment hunt. But mostly celebrate.)

We divided the trip into two sections: apartment hunting and downtown Minneapolis. For apartment hunting, we reserved a really cheap hotel room and got what we paid for. (Our mantra of the evening: “This room cost less than fifty dollars.”) Going super-cheap for the first night let us start out where we were viewing apartments, and it didn’t matter much because we rolled into town late and checked out early the next morning. (OK, we checked out early because we didn’t want to spend extra time there, but whatevs.) That one night’s sacrifice also let us spend the next two days and nights in this room:

le meridien main

We stayed in the Executive Suite at Le Meridien Chambers in downtown Minneapolis. I loved everything about this room. (Ok, I didn’t love the bench at the end of the bed that claimed part of my leg-skin during a middle-of-the-night bathroom run, but I even loved the Cinq Mondes hotel soap.) And the room had a powder room. That officially makes it easier to live in than our current apartment. (At 600 square feet, it was about the same size.)

le meridien

My favorite memory from this room (other than how much I loved everything about it) was our first night there, hanging out on the balcony. We snagged an $8 bottle of red wine on our walk home from dinner (Black Sheep) and stuck my iPhone in a glass with Pandora going. Once we had a good buzz going, we walked up to the hotel bar, which had an even better balcony patio (seen below). We ordered a white wine and a beer, then nursed them for an hour on the patio. (Biggest disappointment? We were right across from a recording of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, but it was sold out. We checked. And we didn’t see anyone famous.)

le meridien bar

We travel on a budget…so how did this swanky room work for us? We made it a priority. I’m going to live near Minneapolis for a year, so we’ll have lots of chances to see the sights, but this was our only chance to stay downtown. For this visit, we skipped museums and instead explored the farmer’s market and had my first YLS (local yarn store) experience at Bella Lana. I ordered marches on foot until we both got quite grumpy, then we found that public transportation is actually quite affordable in that area (note to self–always research public transit). We ate some great food, but we limited soda to once a day and alcohol to one night above. Even still, this room is outrageously priced. Right?

Not if you’re as patient as Hubs is.

He actually picked the dates of the trip based on when this room was at a price we could afford. See, Hubs loves a nice hotel. And he loves getting a great deal. So he does a lot of research before he books. And after this hotel, I’m (a) spoiled and (b) willing to do all the rest of the research for the trip…IF he can get me rooms like this! And I’m definitely willing to be flexible on our dates so that we can get the best possible room.