10 days, 5 people, 2 carry-on bags

Over the past two months or so I have been on a journey to detox our home. To purge it from all the unnecessary stuff that fills my mind and clutters our space. It started with a few podcasts I’d been listening to, a book I’d been reading with a few friends, and then what sealed it was finally getting around to listening to the book called The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up. Friends. Can I just ask you, please read this book! It was a game changer for me. Seriously.

After listening to the book I proceeded to work through our house, starting with my own clothing, and working through the different categories such as books, papers, and kimono (miscellany categories such as bathroom, makeup, jewelry, cleaning supplies, toys, kitchen, etc.). The goal is to only keep the things that “spark joy” and to rid yourself of all the rest. It took about 8 weeks to get to a stopping point. I also worked back around to the kids clothes and John was willing to work through his closet and dresser as well. Here are some photos of my dresser and closet. These are all the clothes I own, and I’m pretty happy with that! I even have two extra drawers in my dresser now that don’t hold clothes, so I am able to use one to hold my purse’s belongings and one to hold a few gloves, hats and belts. My closet includes all season wear, even coats, scarves and robes.

We haven’t finished the house yet, as there are still about 3 major categories I want to tackle (mainly hobbies such as art, sewing, and outdoor/beach things). However, in the areas we have completed, I have filled upwards of 20 bags full of giveaway/sell and garbage.

We’ve been living this way for a few months now, and the amount of time I have back in my days is amazing. No longer  am I spending all my “extra” time tidying the numerous things in our home that weren’t bringing us joy. We have far fewer clothes, which means less laundry, less folding, and less stress for me. We have less toys, books and dishes, which means when I do need to clean up the house, it gets done much quicker than before.

What does this have to do with traveling? A lot, actually. As I’ve seen how little we actually “need” I’ve been challenged in packing, as well. We were going to be spending 10 days in Taiwan for a family vacation, but in two of the three places where we were staying we had easy access to a washer and dryer (we usually stay in AirBnBs which means you get the advantages of living in an apartment or bed and breakfast type situation). Taking that into consideration, I decided we really only needed clothing for about four days. On our trip to Hokkaido I noticed that the kids sort of wore the same few things over and over anyways (unless they got it really dirty, of course). Especially when layering, many items can be reworn for a day or two when it’s not very hot out. There were two main reasons we wanted to lighten our load for this trip:

  1. We were flying the Asian version of Spirit Airlines. It’s Peach Airlines in Asia, and it is NO-frills. You even have to pay extra to choose your seat (isn’t that what paying for a plane ticket is??).  They allow two personal items per ticketed person, with a total weight of 10kilos. That’s not much! But we were well prepared and packed into two small carry on suitcases, and our backpacks (I always carry one in place of a handbag and John carries one). The kids each had small backpacks that they can carry which holds their notebook, drawing pens, stickers and eraser toys (a favorite travel toy from the 100 Yen store in Okinawa), and also a pair of headphones for the special treat of watching a movie.
  2. The second reason was so that we can move around easier. We didn’t have a ton of suitcases to tote around, which was so nice! Especially since we were relying on public transportation (we took many trains, subways and buses). We already have three kids five years old and younger – trying to get everyone onto a train is pretty challenging (and a bit scary) even without luggage to contend with!

Ready to jump on the metro to Taipei City!

We visited Taiwan in the spring, so the weather was cool to slightly warm (55-75 most days), with minimal rain (the rainy season usually ends in mid-March and we left on March 26th). I packed the following for our kids, including what they wore (ages 4 and 5):

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pants
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 1 jacket/sweater
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 4 socks
  • 4 underwear
  • 1 hat
  • 1 swimsuit

Cliff’s clothing in a medium cube


Olivia’s clothing in a medium cube

For the baby I added an additional pair of pajamas and an extra pair of clothing, since she still needs to be changed fairly often. You can see this is a pretty bare essential list, especially considering the length of time. But it really worked out perfectly.


Violet’s clothing in a small packing cube

I packed their swimsuits and 2 swim diapers for Violet in a separate zipper bag, just so we didn’t have to dig past them every day. We would only need them the last two days.


Kids swimsuits

My clothing was the biggest challenge for this trip, as I realized that I really like having options. And I have always been a heavy packer (just ask my parents and grandparents, lol). But I tried to be ruthless and think of this as an experiment, and only take my very favorite of my already pared down clothing. It helped knowing that we were going to Taiwan, where they have plentiful shopping districts with discounted clothing, just in case ;). This is what I packed for myself, including what I wore:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pair of active/hiking pants
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 4 underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 4 socks
  • Toms
  • Tennis shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • Hat
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 raincoat

It felt really good to get all of my items into one packing cube!


My clothing in a large packing cube

As it was, I still could have cut out a couple of items without missing them. The extra sweater and long sleeved shirt didn’t end up being necessary, since it was much warmer than we had anticipated. I think I’ll do better next time 😉

I only had to wash one small load of clothes in Taipei and one in Taroko Gorge. And since it wasn’t much clothing, it wasn’t burdensome to just stick it through the wash and quickly fold it up again while the kids were going to sleep in the evening. I did something similar when we went to Sapporo, though I didn’t pack nearly as light, and we ended up having way too many clothes (it was 20 degrees there, so I was a bit nervous about keeping everyone warm enough!). I had to wash a pair of pants for Olivia and a shirt for Cliff the last night in the sink in Jiaoxi, but we dried them overnight and were good to go for our flight home. Overall, it was totally worth it to have fewer suitcases.


Waiting for our train to take us to Taroko Gorge (two suitcases, two backpacks, 1 baby bed)

I can’t wait to update y’all on our trip! It was such fun, and so nice to completely unplug for 10 days. I’ll be publishing new blogposts when I get the chance!


Feeding our kids real foods

This post is a little different than most here on our blog.  I’m deviating from the travel aspect of our lives and talking more about food for our littles since a lot of people have been asking me about this lately.  Feeding kids can be challenging. Feeding kids in a foreign country can be downright scary.

Eating choclo (Peruvian corn) on a trip

Eating choclo (Peruvian corn) on a trip

Thankfully, we had already committed to feeding our kids real foods before moving overseas, so that’s made things much easier while living in Peru.

We first started eating “real foods” back in 2012, before I got pregnant with Cliff.  We were finally in a home, after 6 months of moving around the country, and we just slowly stopped buying the boxed things we’d come to rely on…cereals, pastas, jarred foods, bread, crackers, baby “finger foods”, and so on.  As we cut these things from our diet we noticed we were all feeling much better.

Olivia eating plain yogurt at 10 months

Olivia eating plain yogurt at 10 months

It was a slow transition, but after about six months, we were mostly free of processed junk and were eating a lot more quality vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy.  Olivia was about 18 months at this point.  She had always been a little bit of a picky eater, but transitioned fairly well to our new way of eating.  Sometimes convincing her to try a new vegetable was really difficult, but we always offered her a little bit of everything we were eating even if we knew she didn’t like it.  I felt like that was key.

Snacking on an apple from our backyard apple tree!

Snacking on an apple from our backyard apple tree in CA!

For a while, our strategy was for her to clear her plate.  Except, since we were dealing with a strong-willed child, she often put up a fight and dinner would turn into a long drawn-out battle.  After reading the French parenting book, Bringing up Bébé, we decided we needed to switch strategies.  By this time, Cliff was just starting to eat solids as well, around 10-11 months old.

Starting solids around 10 months

Cliff trying out some squash around 10 months

Our new plan was to offer them everything we were eating, as before, but just require them to taste each thing – not necessarily clear their plates.  This took away the pressure that Olivia, especially, would feel when a new scary vegetable loomed in front of her.  It still takes some convincing sometimes, but they are both very good at tasting a bite of each food on their plate now.

Eating out at a sushi restaurant

Eating out at a sushi restaurant

We don’t force it, they know the rule, and usually do try everything, though some meals they skip over an item.  We just casually prompt them to remember to taste each thing before they are excused from the table.  Many times they are surprised by how good something tastes and end up asking for more.  Like the asparagus in our scrambled eggs the other morning, that Olivia assured me she disliked…but then she asked for thirds.

"I LOVE kale, mama!" (It was chard...but, cool!)

“I LOVE kale, mama!” (It was chard…but, cool!)

Something we’ve noticed is that as soon as we allow candy and processed junk back into their diets, they immediately lose their appetites for real foods.  This keeps us diligent in the quality of foods we are offering (though they do get their share of treats).

One vegetable that Olivia has detested for over two years, is tomatoes.  And yet, every time we serve food with tomatoes, I put a piece or two on her plate.  One day recently, she tasted it, looked up with a huge grin on her face and said, “Mama, I LOVE tomatoes!”  She still doesn’t eat them all the time, but it was a big victory just to have her try them and actually like them.  They both love salad if it’s got a little homemade dressing on it.

Eating salad for dinner

Eating salad for dinner – this was his third helping

 And broccoli is a favorite.  Cliff eats his weight in peas and sweet potatoes, and they both really like mashed cauliflower and fish.

Salmon with veggies - one of Cliff's favorites

Salmon with chard – one of Cliff’s favorites

I think it also helps that we’ve allowed each of them to “help” in the kitchen and be a part of the meal.  Olivia, especially, is much more likely to eat something if she has helped wash it or cut it up.  Cliff…he eats anything, the struggle with him is keeping him hungry for the meal!

Tasting some homemade marinara sauce

Tasting some homemade marinara sauce

 It’s been a long and purposeful journey, but we have been so thankful that our littles will eat more than the typical pasta and rice, especially since traveling around we often can’t find such specific foods.  They are adventurous little eaters now, and though they still put up a fight on some new things, it’s exciting to see them develop a taste for real foods!

Baked scallops at a restaurant in Paracas, Peru

Going for the baked scallops at a restaurant in Paracas, Peru