Category Archives: Organisation

Travelling for control freaks

I posted ages ago about how I like to keep complete control over the contents of my handbag using pencil cases and mini versions of things ( This started when I was on maternity leave and I still think it’s a brilliant way of doing things, especially as I no longer have a titchy small, cute and manageable baby, I have a marauding toddler who thinks nothing of wiping his lunch casually around the inside of my bag. Wipe clean pencil cases saved the day when that happened, believe me.

I do the same thing when I’m travelling. I don’t get to travel as much as I would like, but I do get to disappear from time to time on business trips to hot places, and stay up late in hotel bars drinking gin. It’s quite a change from being a mum, and I like it very much, whilst also feeling desperately homesick and wanting to see my son and have him shout ‘MUMMY!’ at me. So a slightly conflicted thing-I have weeks where my son won’t sleep and is under the weather and teething and I yearn for a break from it all, a break from nose wiping, soothing, collecting abandoned bits of toast, changing nappies and tracking down missing socks. Then a trip comes along and I can feel myself trying to relax on the plane, thinking ‘sleep, you can sleep for THIRTEEN HOURS and the only person who wakes you up will be a stewardess who wants to give you breakfast!’ but also working out exactly what my son will be doing at any given point of the day or night and feeling a gut wrenching sense of separation that I just wasn’t expecting to come with motherhood. Tough, this parenting business.

I’ve found the perfect suitcase for me-a Samsonite case It’s hand luggage size for short European trips, and I can easily fit my laptop, three days clothing, my Kindle or tablet and airport security friendly toiletries and make up, and anything else I need for the trip (purse, small bag for evenings out). For long haul, it’s still hand luggage friendly (you’re usually allowed a case around this size plus a laptop bag or other handbag) so I pack my laptop separately with my Kindle and any other tech things I need, then up to five days clothing, toiletries etc in the case. Not having to wait for checked bags saves a huge amount of time, and I get competitive about travelling light, so finding the smallest versions of things/reducing the weight of my bag from trip to trip is weirdly satisfying. A couple of points worth mentioning: I don’t have to wear formal business attire, so clothing doesn’t take up much space (short sleeved silk tops/vest tops and cardigans on top, a pair of trousers and a skirt, in addition to the casual clothes I wear to travel in, with a spare pair of ballet flats in the case, a swimming costume and underwear. That’s it. If you are more interested in clothes/need to take three suits with you/have lots of formal dinners etc this is probably not the case for you). I also have no problem using hotel laundry services if I’m away for longer than I have clothes for, and am quite happy to buy extra stuff overseas if I need it (if I finish my mini pack of cleansing wipes/toothpaste/run out of knickers before the laundry is returned). I also never take chargers or adapters, as I can always find a spare charger for my phone or laptop in our offices, and hotels always have adapters you can borrow. And I very rarely buy gifts while I’m away, so I don’t need to have extra space available in my case for the trip home (don’t usually get much shopping time, and airport gifts seem a bit pointless).

So, shoes in first, then clothes arranged as flat as possible around them. My laptop goes on top of clothes if it’s a short trip, then I put all the other bits in pencil cases wherever they’ll fit, and my Kindle and phone go in the pocket at the front.

Make up: Travel pack face wipes, 4 x sachets of face wash and moisturiser from a magazine, cheapy Boots cucumber eye gel. Tiny pot (5ml?) with enough foundation for me to use it several times, concealer stick, mini eyeshadow, black mascara, eyebrow pencil, very thin flat pot of blusher and small blusher brush, lip balm

Medicines/emergencies: paracetemol, ibuprofen, sudafed tablets, Strepsils, immodium, senna tablets, Karvol, plasters, earplugs in a small case, antihistamine tablets (these knock me out on a long flight) single use twisty thing of saline solution, tampons x 2, mini tube of antibac gel, tea tree oil spot stick. No tweezers-they get confiscated…

Toiletries: mini Nivea deodorant spray, travel pack of baby wipes, magazine sachets of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and hand cream, Sainsburys basics toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste, travel dental floss

Other bits: small flat purse with foreign currency, debit and credit card, passport, work pass, comb and small mirror, pack of mints.

And that’s it! It works for me-what are your travel essentials, and how do you prepare for business trips, whether home or away?


Spring cleaning

The sun is out (for now) and the sky is blue, and it’s highlighted the many cobwebs and dusty areas of my house. Spring cleaning sounds old school, but it does actually make sense. After doing the rooms (top to bottom, left to right-if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it properly!) I like to have a proper bathroom sort out-toiletries and make-up need a good clean and tidy up too!

This takes a good hour or so, with some baby wipes, (for cleaning drippy bottles) at least one bin bag, (for lotions and potions that don’t make the cut) a notebook and pen so I can write down any products that I’m running low on. It works better if you can offload any small children while you’re doing your spring clean, or they’ll try to ‘help’/drink the shower gel, and it just won’t work.

I keep my toiletries and cosmetics in plastic baskets on shelves (not attractive, but functional). I do one basket at a time, and work top to bottom, left to right. Like products are stored with like (dental stuff, make-up, soaps/shower gels, moisturisers, baby toiletries, hair stuff-they all get separate baskets)-if you don’t have a system like this, it might take you a bit longer (and will be harder to see if you need to stock up on anything). Each basket gets emptied onto the floor, wiped or washed clean, and left to dry and air on the window sill. I check all of the products and decide if I like them, still use them, roughly how long they’ve been open (yes! make-up and toiletries have a shelf life too-look for a number in a circle, often on the bottom of the tub they’re in-a 6 means they should be disposed of six months after you first opened them) and keep or chuck accordingly. Anything being kept is cleaned thoroughly and put back in the clean dry basket. When I’m all done, I have a quick look and see if I’m short of anything (I like to have at least a couple of bottles/packs of shampoo, razors, soaps and moisturiser in reserve) and make a quick note on my shopping list. The basket goes back to its shelf, and I move on to the next one.

Makeup is slightly different-I like to move from using my winter foundation (latest favourite is Barbara Daly’s moisture foundation) to something with a bit more glow (I have just bought some Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, and have very high hopes for it!) so will swap them over in my basket. Benefit Dandelion blusher goes out, and Posietint cheek stain comes in instead, and neutral nail colours make way for something brighter.

It’s odd, but I genuinely feel lighter and happier once the spring clean is done, and I’m ready to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts