September 20, 2012

Traveling, Business Woman, Packing Tips and other keywords I'm addicted to...

it has been 4 months and 3 weeks since we moved to our new apartment.  My husband's work area still needs to be organized as I have been focused on my own home office and closets...he rolls his eyes every time I get close to his stuff so it ain't lookin' good...

Japan has been really hot again this summer.  Humidity in the 60s in our apartment was kind of normal and the temperature was on average 30 degrees....IN our apartment...
Yesterday, we caught a cool breeze down here in south western Japan and today, miraculously it has not "rebounded" back to summer...looks like autumn is finally gonna start. (Knock on wood for me will you?)

So, why this post title?
The past 3 years on my current job I've been traveling quite often and already this year since I've moved I've been on some sort of business trip at least twice a month.


I've been organizing what's left in the aftermath of my decluttering...and a lot of things that have been helping me are the awesome videos on youtube and the blogs of some really dedicated organizers.   Some are professional organizers and some are not but I've been pretty successful with finding "help".
My favorite organizer at the moment is Alejandra. You can find her website here:


I thought maybe I could find some cool websites and people who travel a lot on business and will have great organizing tips.

I don't know if my kind of traveling is not normal or whatever...but I can't seem to find the right kind of website.  They are either more vacation oriented packing OR a little drab or basic that I get bored or don't learn anything new OR they are packing tips from guys...who,  no offense guys....pack their shoes WITHOUT putting them in bags...and I'm sorry but that just freaks me out...



that's why I have the weird blog title this time and this is my (lame, I know) version of trying to reach out to people who have similar needs....

Here is my version of packing for a 4 day business trip with one free day in the middle.

Point 1. Bags for everything!

Garment bags (or "packing cubes" depending on the brand you are using) are essential especially if you are traveling by plane.  In the event you have to open your suitcase at customs you DON'T want to have all your clothes POP out (or worse your undies!).  This is not only embarrassing but inconvenient as well because you know it ain't gonna fit back in!

In Japan, I haven't seen the Eagle Creek packing cubes (they might be available but I am too lazy to look) but here we do have MUJI and they have lots of great things for packing.

If you don't travel that much and don't want to invest in a garment bag then get  big plastic Ziploc bags or even a pillowcase will do!

Point 2. No wrinkles with crinkles!

That doesn't make any sense but I wanted it to rhyme so, by "crinkles" I mean Tissue Paper for your clothes that you don't want to get wrinkled. (Mine are crinkly now because I've been reusing them.)

When you fold a blouse or shirt (please do not roll) place a sheet of tissue (the kind you get when you buy a shirt) like so:
This will keep your shirt from getting too wrinkly.  I went on my last business trip via train.  My clothes stayed packed for only about 6 hours and they came out with hardly any wrinkles this way.
*I usually don't worry about my t-shirts and will roll them without tissues..the same goes for my PJs/yoga clothes which brings me to...

Point 3: If you need to take PJs with you have something that is compact!

Depending on the time of the year I will take a t-shirt and shorts or a pair of super thin pants.
Recently I found a super pair at MUJI (no i do not work for MUJI, I am just a little obsessed):
they are 75 percent nylon and 25 percent polyurethane (?!) and they are perfect for sleeping in and doing a bit of stretching/yoga.

I checked the global MUJI site but couldn't find anything that looked this pair...but any pair of yoga pants or that type of pants will suffice...the key is that they are comfortable and that you can roll them up reaaaaaally save space.  You don't want your PJs to take up space on a business trip, that's just silly.

Point 3: Use those nooks and crannies wisely!

My regular suitcase is 46cm tall 17cm "deep" and 32cm wide.  It is small enough to go in overhead compartments on the trains here in Japan AND of course small enough to be a carry-on on any flight.

The handlebars are built into the suitcase so the outside is smooth but the inside is not flat where the handlebars are:
So use those spaces by fitting in things that can be rolled, like towels, handkerchiefs, socks or PJs!

In the upper left hand corner I have a MUJI bag that has all of my on the go office supplies (tape, glue, paperclips, extra biz cards etc.)

going clockwise....the white and black plastic bag has a towel and 4 handkerchiefs.

the clear plastic bag has my t-shirt and MUJI PJ pants AND a scarf.

the colorful bag has all my cords and chargers for my iPhone, iPad and Blackberry
as well as my WI-FI and its charger.

the last baggy on the lower left hand corner is:

an extra pair of shoes...again....from MUJI but there should be other brands that do something like this IF NOT, then flats with their soles together IN A PLASTIC BAG will be fine.

I am not a major shoe person...I don't have a gazillion shoes although I understand why many people do...I generally go on business trips with my black or brown business pumps (well they are more like flats as I can't walk in high heels).  This pair was for a day I had to wear casual clothes to an event and my black shoes would not have gone well with the beige pants I was wearing.

Once you've filled in the spaces between the handlebars (if that's the kind of suitcase you have) then you can finally start filling up with things that you want to keep leveled, like papers and delicate clothes etc.

I forgot to take a picture of the "finished product" but I had another business trip in between my draft so here is what the second layer looks like:

This was on my way home when I wasn't going to need my scheduler and some papers.
The Cath Kidston bag contains all my toiletries.

Then in goes the garment bag with all of my delicates and slacks:
and on top are my papers and ANOTHER pair of the same pants from MUJI (because I just like them so much now) that I bought at the last minute... see how small it rolls up?!

Believe it or not it all fit, yes I was able to zip up my suitcase with no problem!  
The only other bag I carried was my business tote bag with my PC, a scarf, makeup bag, first aid kit, wallet and notebook.

OK...that was long and I apologize...I might think about becoming a "Youtuber" the next time to hopefully explain my packing system a bit easier but have no idea if there are other business travelers or vacationers out there that would be interested in that sort of thing...

And now for a quick look at my small closet and how I organize at home which actually makes packing easier for me too:

The stripes are from the curtain I put in place of the accordion doors that were just annoying...
I fold and place sticky notes so that I know from where goes what...(thinking about changing to pretty index cards).
The yellow and blue stripes on the right are my scarves.  They are on a rod that I also placed in my closet so that I could use every bit of space I have in there.

Scarves and pashminas are must haves when you are on a train or airplane because it can get chilly no matter what time of the year!

Maybe not a general topic about living in Japan but thank you for reading and
happy travels whether you are a road warrior or a commuter!

August 7, 2012

My first trip to China

I've finished moving to my new (which s actually my old) home town in Japan.  We've opened all our boxes and now our apartment  is just messy because that's the way things are sometimes...


I've been busy with business traveling every month, racking up (raking in?) those frequent flier miles...

This month I just returned from my first overseas trip of the year.  This was my first time in China.
I didn't go to the mainland so "technically" it might not count but I still learned quite a bit about the drinking habits, food, climate and architecture.

I was only 3 minutes away from a lovely beach but I did not swim nor sunbathe...Remember, this was for business and I didn't want to take my bathing suit...I am weird in that way...
The trip was a doozy from the beginning.  The day of departure "coordinated" with typhoon number 10 (Vicente). We still managed to land in Hong Kong and I felt like hugging the Cathay Pacific pilot for such a smooth landing.
I had no idea that the typhoon would be so devastating (my thoughts are with the people of Hong Kong). I am very glad that my colleagues and I were able to get to China eventually and most importantly, safely.

I spent a night in Hong Kong and the next day headed for the airport (in heavy rains) to catch the flight to Sanya, Hainan Island.  Our 3pm flight was moved to 6:30pm then 9:30 until it eventually left at around11:30pm.  We got to our hotel at 3AM. :-/

But the next day this was awaiting:

The pools were like lagoons!  (There was a regular pool too.)

The nights.

It's hard to see in the picture but there is a hotel staff member patrolling the beach.  The tides were high because of the typhoons so no one was allowed to swim in the sea.

After the conference, I went back to Hong Kong to stay a night...the flights were still delayed because of ANOTHER typhoon, so it was a good thing that I stayed.

Look at those lights!

I didn't have my tripod with me so I held my breath while taking this picture 
(so that the camera could soak in all the lights)...

Just for comparing, here is a similar shot I took with my iPhone:

                                                          Hong Kong in the daytime:
I didn't get to go shopping (no time) but the atmosphere was soooo different from any other Asian city I've been in that I am really hoping to visit again.

More posts to come on my new start in the south western part of Japan.
I hope you have a lovely summer!

April 7, 2012

Moving again!

This is just a quick note to let you know that I am still here and have not abandoned my blog!

I am in the process of moving and things have been hectic from the start of the year! It seemed like everything was going smoothly... and then... I will still be doing what I am doing now, but I will be mainly working from home.

My husband needed to change jobs so we are headed to a part of the this archipelago called Kyushu. It will be a challenge working from home since it is the first time for me! I think it is good training for my future dreams though...(you know, writing...a book....being my own boss and all...)

 So, that is why things have been real quite around here. It also puts a whole new perspective to my de-cluttering!

 Boy, am I on a roll now! 

I'll have to move things in my current office to my new home office as well. Looking through home improvement magazines for the perfect style of my own home office...any suggestions?

 I have decided that I want a dark blue look but how far to take that is another question...again, any suggestions?

 Oh, and amid all this, I have joined the KCRW Bookworm Facebook book club. If anyone is interested in reading Barth's "Chimera", do give it a think and look for it on FB!

I'll be back as soon as I can, to post pictures of my new "no-more-clutter" and very "organized" new apartment!

 It is April, and the cherry blossoms are blooming here in Japan!
But here are some plum blossoms that were blooming in March!

January 15, 2012

Coming out of my closet...literally.

My New Year Resolutions is:

Keep it simple.

There are many reasons why I have chosen to  keep things simple.

Here is one of them:


You have probably run away from the computer
and are trying to turn off your browser with a ten foot pole right now.
But wait....

Now, for the really scary part....that is actually an AFTER picture NOT a BEFORE!
We couldn't see the CD shelves AT ALL (nor the floor) the same time last year because there were so many boxes piled up!


A lot of people have been commenting in blogland about how we tend to show the pretty, perfect and peachy sides of our lives.

I am

Or now I can say...was one of them.

That room above is not supposed to be a closet, but it is, and we are changing that.
Finally...been sort of "working on it" for ages.

Thanks to  numerous videos on youtube and websites like flyladyzen habits (and his books) and for inspiration, better homes and gardens I have been able to stay focused.

One of the most helpful were books by Dominique Loreau.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anything by her in English (only in Japanese and French) but I did find this lovely blog by someone who has posted about reading her and decluttering:
I hope the blogger doesn't mind my posting a link....

so here are three steps I have taken so far:

step 1.

I went through my summer wardrobe and threw away everything I hadn't worn!


Then I went through my winter wardrobe and threw away everything I knew I wouldn't wear this season.

Now, I am only going to buy clothes when something gets old and even then it will have to be in one of these colors:
blue, gray, green or pink.

Why?  Because I use to keep buying shirts in outrageous colors that I could never match with my business suits etc.  (They looked pretty in the shops...)  If everything can be coordinated it makes it easier to pack for business trips etc.

Once I cleaned out my wardrobe I could feel the weight of my belongings lift up, rise...and...
fly away
Less clutter in your home means less vibes you are constantly getting from your "stuff".
(check zen habits again here:

Miraculously throwing things away started to get easier and easier.
I started to throw away a garbage bag a week just by opening up two or three boxes at a time.

step 2.
They key was to not overdo myself.  But since it was fun, I would clean out a corner of my apartment or 3 or 4 boxes every other week. (I had LOTS of business trips over the weekend last year, so under those conditions I think I did pretty well!  It actually takes only an hour or two once you get in the habit of
LETTING GO.  (You just have to give up playing computer games...or shopping...or couch potato-ing.)

step 3.  

When you notice something... just don't walk by...stop, consider  (if you don't need it, if it is redundant or you had even forgot you owned it) and toss!

If you don't have the heart to throw something away, but you know you don't really need it:

have a clean garbage bag or a cardboard box or even a suitcase you no longer need open, toss stuff in.
The next time you have a garage sale, attend a flea market or charity bazar, you are ready to go!


As you may have noticed from the picture, we have lots of CDs.
So this is what we have been doing:
repackaging CDs. 
Taking them out of the hard plastic cases and putting them in slim cases.
It saves a lot of space!
The CD shelves start to look like this:
We are putting them in alphabetical order.
Where there is a little bit if space, I have placed some of the stuff that came out of the boxes...
I know, I know...more stuff...but I am taking things one step at a time.
AND enjoying it!

Although we had to buy lots of plastic CD jackets, don't forget, I have found that the trick is not to buy more stuff to organize your stuff.  
Get rid of what you don't need first, then and only then, find the perfect place for what you have.
If you are like me, and like to collect boxes and bags, you already have lots of storage!

Thank you for reading this not so pretty blog but...

I am still on the path to clarity (mind and material).  
The art of living in Japan (and anywhere else) for me, is to:

Keep it simple.

January 9, 2012

Wow.  Three months went by fast...again.

I hope you have been doing well.  I hope you had an awesome holiday season and an exciting but not tiring New Year!

Too much has happened in the last three month so today I will focus in on Christmas and my New Year's holiday....

I use to love watching a Charlie Brown Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas on TV when I was a kid in the USA but this year in Japan guess what was on TV!

Although only about 1% of Japanese claim to be Christians, Christmas is none the less one of the most popular foreign holidaysin Japan with cakes and teeny tiny Christmas trees. 
(Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan.)  

Winter vacation usually starts from the 29th and goes on till about the 4th.  (It is a bit longer for students though.)

I took a pretty long holiday.
The 23rd to today!


Here's what else I ate during the New Year holiday:
in Nagasaki
"Osechi" is a boxed meal that is filled with dishes that are made to last for a few days so that housewives don't have to be constantly cooking...we are supposed to let the kitchen rest... but you know how things really doesn't end up that way!
The white bowls with the white round rice cakes on top are called "ozoni".  This is a soup that you put the rice cakes in.  Each region in Japan has their own flavors.  Osaka is miso based.  The city where my  mother is from (Fukuoka) has a clear fish/seaweed broth and in Nagasaki (where my husband is from) it is made with a seaweed and chicken broth and has lots of vegetables in it...which is actually quite unique in Japan.
I still have not mastered the Nagasaki style...

Rice cakes also show up as decorations with little mikan (like tangerines) on top.
The above are the decorations my mom had.
The flowers must include"sho-chiku-bai":
Pine-Bamboo-Plum blossoms (or Japanese apricot)
It is hard to see all three but they are there!

Speaking of New Year decorations, 2012 is the year of the dragon and this is my dragon at home!

This year I have made a motto:
Keep it simple.
and my NewYear's resolution is:

Combining the two means lots more de-cluttering this year!
I can't believe no matter how much 2stuff" I throw away there's still tons more.

Today I threw away old yellowed cards and envelopes and organized the ones that I have like so:
I had so many categories that I couldn't find the right cards when I needed them the most....I'd just keep buying and buying....
(the postcard with the girl in the kimono is something I bought in Kyoto but I do not know who painted it....)
If anybody out there would like to trade postcards please let me know!

Also, if you have any questions about my de-cluttering experience please leave a comment.  I will be posting more about my motto "keep it simple"soon!

Until then, I hope you have a wonderful January and a happy New Year!