How to Slow Down: 5 Simple Hacks

I was moving too fast as usual. Racing down a steep hill in San Francisco to go move my car, I tripped and badly fractured my foot. “No weight bearing of any kind for two months,” the doctor instructed following my x-rays. When I explained that I had a business to run, and two young kids to shuttle around, he was unmoved. “Figure it out,” he shrugged.

In retrospect, I had been secretly hoping that something would slow me down. My life had been moving too fast. I had created the life I had always wanted but left myself little time to enjoy it. For the past few years, I had been adding things to my life without subtracting. More clients, more meetings, more collaborations, more social plans, more travel. All of these were positives, but they cumulatively left me with little to no space to recharge, rest, or be present.

Learn to slow down and make your life easier with these great tips from Shira Gill.

During the past two months, I have had to dramatically shift my pace of life in order to heal and rehab my broken foot. It has been a huge challenge, and counter to my nature, but now, on the other side of it, I am grateful. I have been able to recreate my schedule, I have learned to delegate and ask for help, and I have had some of the sweetest moments ever with my friends and family who showed up big to help. Now that my foot has mainly healed, and I am getting back into my normal pace, I have developed a few simple hacks to ensure that I manage my speed better.

Hack One: Schedule Your Leisure Time

If you’re anything like me you will go, go, go until you drop, and then lament not having any down time. Believe me: It’s not going to happen unless you make it a priority and schedule it. Try scheduling consistent time each day to relax and recharge. Even a 15-minute break to take a brisk walk, or read a magazine, will leave you feeling refreshed.

Hack Two: Commit to Unplugging

Plan when you will unplug each day and commit to it. The stimulation of social media, email, and text alerts can be both addictive and draining. Be conscious about your usage, and try unplugging from all electronics at the same time each day so you can give your brain a well-deserved break. You can read about how to recharge with a full digital detox right here.

Learn to slow down and get rid of the unnecessary in your life with Shira Gill's advice.

Hack Three: Start a Morning Routine

Try starting your day with some sort of intentional morning practice before you dive into your day. I personally love stretching, or a quick AM yoga practice, paired with the Five Minute Journal which helps me set a few goals and intentions for the day. So much has been made of the power of a solid morning routine that this one is really worth investing some time and energy into. Check out this book for some great inspiration and ideas.

Hack Four: Delegate Like It’s Your Job

When I couldn’t walk or drive, I was forced to delegate like crazy. I had to ask friends and family for all sorts of favors and also find creative ways to outsource simple errands like grocery shopping and meal planning. This was not easy, but I quickly learned that people really do want to help, and we are living in the golden age of automating tasks. Another way to outsource is to trade offerings with friends or family. Try setting up a regular meal exchange or a childcare swap so everyone can take turns contributing and also get some time off.

Shira Gill provides inspirational advice on why it's important to slow down -- it's beneficial to your health!

Hack Five: Subtract the Unnecessary

My friend, Ariana, once told me she was eliminating everything from her life that wasn’t absolutely necessary. When I broke my foot I was forced to do the same. Once I started, I got increasingly comfortable with this exercise. I said “No,” to social plans and birthday parties and events. I declined work opportunities. I picked up baked goods for the school bake sale instead of baking them myself.  Luckily, you don’t have to break a bone to simplify your life. Try clarifying your top priorities and subtracting the things that feel unnecessary. Get real about where you want to put your energy and let go of the rest. I promise, it will feel liberating!

How do you carve out space to rest and recharge? I’d love to hear from you!

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Let’s Organize Your Tupperware

One thing I am often shocked by when I edit and organize a home is the sheer volume of tupperware and food storage containers I find in the average household. Many of you have asked how I wrangle these goods into submission, so I am sharing my best tupperware organizing tips below.

The “Less is More” Approach

In my house, we have one full set of glass food storage containers in a variety of sizes. We recycled all of our old and mismatched tupperware and invested in one set we liked. We rarely have lots of leftovers, so this approach works for us. I prefer glass over plastic because it doesn’t warp or get discolored, and it also doesn’t leech chemicals into your food. If you have a small collection, you can keep the tops on the bases and simply stack and store in a deep drawer or on a shelf. Easy peasy.

The “I’m Not a Minimalist” Approach

You cook a lot, you have a big family, you have that favorite one for your lasagne. Whatever the reason, you want to have more than one set. Fine! Start by recycling anything that’s damaged, warped, or stained, and keep only what you use on a regular basis. If you have enough space, stack by type with tops on. Otherwise you can nest from largest to smallest to maximize space, and store the tops separately in an organizer like this one.

The “Let’s Get Creative” Approach

Looking for some creative ways to tame the tupperware? You can use a letter organizer, a CD tower, or even a dish rack to “file” your lids and keep them tidy. A tension rod is a simple hack to separate tops from bottoms in a drawer.

The “Let’s Customize It” Approach

If you own your home, and are looking for a long-term solution to tame the tupperware, Shelf Genie will help you design and install custom inserts to suit your individual needs. Alternately, you can use these simple peg boards to secure containers by size and type so they stay neat and organized.

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Shira Gill x Sunset Magazine

Over the past few months I’ve been collaborating on written and visual content over at Sunset Magazine! It’s been pretty thrilling to bring my tips and ideas to a broader audience, and to be able to collaborate with some of my favorite local businesses.  A huge thank you to my loyal photographer, Vivian Johnson, who helps make everything pretty, and also to The Art Pantry, The Sustainability Concierge, and Blisshaus, who shared their insight and tips with me.

Please check out the stories below and let me know if there are other lifestyle topics you’d love to hear about in the future. Thanks for reading!

10 Simple Steps to a Streamlined Kitchen

Learn how to streamline your kitchen with Shira Gill's newest article on Sunset Magazine.

Click here to read the story!

10 Sustainable Swaps for Everyday Simplicity

Keep your home simple with Shira Gill's tips on Sunset Magazine.

Click here to read the story!

10 Easy Ways to Organize a Playroom

Click here to read the story!

10 Smart Ways to Store Your Kid’s Art

Click here to read the story!

Managing the Desire to Consume

Recently, I’ve been trying to pay close attention to when and why we have the impulse to consume. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a trip to Europe, or a magazine at the drugstore, our human desire to buy something seems to fall into a few categories. Below, check out the most common “spending triggers,” and learn how you can kick your impulsive shopping to the curb and make more thoughtful, intentional decisions in the future.

Trigger One: “I’m Bored”

You’re feeling a little restless. You’re looking for a little energy boost. Suddenly you find yourself browsing your favorite online retailer so you can cash in on that lovely little energy boost you’ll get when you click “add to cart.” I am certainly guilty of splurging on a handbag at 1 a.m. only to wake up and wonder, “Why on earth did I do that? I don’t even need a handbag!” The reason, of course, is that it felt good in the moment. What’s important to remember here is that the short-term reward our brain gets from shopping (in the form of a dopamine hit) pales in comparison to the long-term implications of making frivolous spending a habit.

The Solution: Healthy Energy Boosters

The next time you feel bored or restless, opt for one of the following activities to give your brain and body a quick and healthy energy boost:

• Make a to-do list of small tasks and check them off

• Take a brisk walk

• Try out a new workout class or activity

• Listen to music

• Engage in a creative hobby

• Do something that scares you (instant energy boost!)

All of these activities can trigger the same dopamine hit you get from shopping, minus the credit card debt and pangs of regret.

Check out some great tips for replacing those desires to consume, shop, or buy things you don't need.

Trigger Two: I’m Bummed

The urge to spend is frequently triggered when we are feeling negative emotion.  The thrill of a new purchase falsely promises to elevate our mood, and provide relief when we are feeling lonely, anxious, or down. The problem is, the relief is generally short-lived and then we are right back where we started. Not to mention that impulsive shopping can lead to other negatives like credit card debt, anxiety, and cluttered, stressful living spaces.

The Solution: Get to the Root of The Problem

Instead of medicating at the mall and pursuing retail therapy, focus on identifying why you are down in the first place so you can get to the source of the problem and solve it. For example, if you find that you’re feeling lonely or disconnected, you might try reaching out to a trusted friend or family member. Choosing to deepen your connection with others will ultimately be far more rewarding than that new blouse, (yes, even if it’s a really pretty new blouse!).

Instead of shopping for things you don't need, get to the problem of those desires and how you can battle them. Shira Gill explains all.

 Trigger Three: I’m Inspired!

Who hasn’t been inspired to start spending up a storm when browsing Pinterest, or a fashion magazine, or favorite catalogue? When you find yourself feeling inspired, try out one of these delayed gratification techniques so you can ensure your purchase is a good one:

The Three-Day-Rule: Simple as it sounds, if you see something you want, just jot the item down. If you still really want it in three days, you can pull the trigger. I find that if I tell my brain, “Yes, but not yet,” I am able to quickly move on without feeling frustrated. Goodbye, impulse buys!

The Inspiration Board Rule: If there is something I feel like buying, I simply add it to my Pinterest Board full of the items I’m currently coveting. Since I’m such a visual person, I love to peruse this inspiration board, but rarely actually purchase anything from it. Sometimes getting things out of your brain and onto the page quells the desire to splurge carelessly.

The Budget Like a Boss Rule: Try setting a monthly budget for non-essential spending. If you want something that exceeds your budget, save up until you can splurge responsibly. Delayed gratification does not come easy for most, but the deeper satisfaction associated with spending thoughtfully and responsibly will be well worth the wait.

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The Quick Clean Solution: Tidy Like a Pro

People often wonder how I have the time to clean, tidy, organize all the time. The secret is: I really don’t. My main solution has been living in a relatively small space, and minimizing my belongings, so that cleaning and organizing can be kept to a minimum. Below I will share my “secrets” for maintaining a home that looks fresh, clean, tidy, and organized with minimal effort.

Keep your home tidy and clean with this efficient and easy system -- and don't waste a lot of time doing it!

 

The Foundation: Minimal Living

Your home has to have a good foundation in order to make cleaning and upkeep quick and easy. Translation: you must put the initial work in to decide what you actually use, care about, and need in your home. Even when our house has crumbs and dust bunnies on the floor, it still has the illusion of being tidy and clean because our spaces are so streamlined. The decluttering process takes time, but the payoff of creating a streamlined home is well worth the initial effort. The less stuff you own, the less you need to keep clean. Studies show that people who have invested the time to de-clutter their homes spend 50% less time cleaning!

Order + Organization

Once you have put in the work to minimize, you will have much less to clean and organize. That being said, you still need to have a “home” for all of your things and put them away when you’re done using them. Create simple, intuitive systems that make sense to you and are easy for your family, or partner, to adhere to. Example: We own a nice camera and some equipment that used to get tossed all over the house. It drove me crazy, and we could never find it when we needed it. My solution was to buy an oversized basket to store the camera and accessories and place it in a convenient place in our living room.  Now all of us put the camera in the basket when we’re not using it and know where to find it whenever we need it. Simple, yet effective!

Upkeep

If you don’t have time to clean frequently, or the resources to hire a cleaning service, try my “quick fix” clean routine: Once every few weeks I’ll sweep the hardwood floors, vacuum the carpets and give the surfaces a wipe with an eco-friendly anti-bacterial wipe. If I have time, I’ll also wipe down the mirrors and throw some cleaning solution in the sink and toilet. The whole routine has never taken me more than thirty minutes and makes my house look and smell fresh and clean.

Additionally, we make the beds every morning and do the dishes right after we eat. I think of it like maintenance for a car. If you put in the minimal effort to routinely get your oil changed, tires checked etc. you can avoid the headache of major breakdowns and blowouts. If you pick up after yourself and put things away throughout the day, you never have to deal with a massive clean-up.

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What to Keep When Someone Dies

When my father died unexpectedly five years ago, I found myself faced with the daunting task of sorting through his entire home and deciding what to keep. As a professional home organizer, I coach my clients and friends on how to make these decisions all the time. I have the tools and the training to edit and organize any space, but tackling a project of this magnitude, compounded with the grief and shock over the sudden loss of my Dad, is not something I ever could have prepared for.

Here’s how I got through it:

Bring in Support

Deciding what to keep when a loved one dies can be incredibly overwhelming and emotional. Call on a little help from trusted friends or family members. Most people want to help but simply don’t know how. You can enlist your community to help with everything from dropping off snacks or supplies to  helping with childcare so you can dedicate your full attention to the task ahead. Even if they simply sit by your side and provide moral support, this is not a task anyone should have to tackle solo. I had a good friend offer to help me navigate through my father’s belongings just a few weeks after he died. She was able to be both completely supportive and totally neutral when it came to decision making, and I will never forget how much her presence meant to me.

Prepare + Plan

Before trying to make any specific decisions, plan to take a walkthrough of the space so you can get a sense of the size and scale of your project. How many rooms will you need to sort through? Will you need to plan an estate sale or coordinate donations? Are other family members going to help? What supplies will you need (storage or donation boxes, durable garbage bags, sticker labels, sharpies and post-its will help you stay organized throughout the project)? Make sure to create a timeframe so you can make a plan and map out enough time in your calendar. Working in 3-4 hour blocks of time followed by some well-deserved self-care is optimal.

 

Go with Your Gut

If you have to sort through an entire home like I did, it may be helpful to do an initial sweep, intuitively picking the items that feel the most meaningful and sentimental to you. My friend, Amber, walked me through each room and suggested that I simply pick my favorites instead of overthinking. I found that I was able to pretty effortlessly identify the items that stuck out and resonated – my Dad’s trail maps, his photographs from the Peace Corps, his handwritten letters, and his treasured recipe book. The whole process only took about an hour and helped me feel much less overwhelmed.

Pace Yourself + Prioritize

Make sure to pace yourself and work in small increments so you can keep your energy up and stay focused. You may find it easier to sort by category – i.e books, music, clothing or appliances so you can assess each category all together and select the most meaningful and precious from each group.

Remember Stuff is Just Stuff

When my father died he had a spacious three-bedroom home with plenty of storage. At the time I was living in a small two bedroom apartment with limited storage space. I was forced to be practical and remind myself that just because something belonged to my Dad, I didn’t have to assign it special meaning or keep it. I focused on only keeping the items that felt personal, meaningful, and irreplaceable, like photos, journals, and letters. Remember, you can always take a photo of something if you don’t have the room or the inclination to keep it.

Create Concrete Limits

Be realistic about your own storage constraints, and decide ahead of time what volume of stuff is realistic for you to take possession of, care for, and store. Try purchasing a set quantity of storage bins that feels reasonable and will fit comfortably in your own space. This constraint will help limit your choices and eliminate decision fatigue. In my case, I bought six weatherproof bins and focused on choosing thoughtfully since my space was limited.

Less is Always More

With few exceptions, basements, attics, and garages tend to feel like “stuff graveyards” to me. I believe in keeping things you can actively use, appreciate, and integrate into your home, not just stow away to collect cobwebs in a dusty storage space. I also believe that the less you keep the more meaningful it becomes. I had a client once who had ten different sets of her families china all boxed up in the basement. I helped her to create a curated collection that she treasures, consisting of one piece from each set that she now displays in her dining room. The rest was donated to charity to people who will actually need and use it.

Check In With Friends + Family

If you are charged with sorting through a loved one’s possessions, make sure to check in with any friends or family before you sell or donate anything. Since all of my father’s family was in NYC and we live in CA, I made sure to call them to see what might be meaningful for them to keep. I was so glad I did because items that did not mean much to me are now treasured by his East coast friends and family.

Have a Plan for Donations

Most likely, you will end up with furniture and other belongings that need a new home. Once you’ve taken what you (and other friends and family) want to claim, you should set up a plan for the rest. Options include coordinating a charitable donation drop with a local charity, paying for a donation pick-up with a third party, or holding an estate sale. In my case, since I was doing everything solo, the easiest solution for me was to hire a third party to hold an estate sale. Estate companies typically do all of the work and will even donate unclaimed items. This service was such a gift during a time when I was still grieving and overwhelmed with other important to-dos.

Banish Guilt

This is a complicated process and there is no right or perfect way to do it. Be kind to yourself, and do your best to banish unproductive feelings of guilt or obligation. Do your best to keep items that have positive associations and make you feel good. Guilt never got anyone anywhere. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what feels important and meaningful.

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A Speedy Dining Room Makeover

We live in a 100-year old traditional craftsman, and, while I appreciate the wood details and charm, I’m still partial to light and bright spaces. If it were up to me I would probably paint the whole house white and grey, but my husband is very attached to the wood, so we had to find a compromise.

We started out with a dining room with lots of wood moldings and panels, and also a wooden table, bench, and chairs. I brightened it up a bit with lighting and white curtains.  But, I still felt that the room lacked balance, and I wanted to find an easy and affordable way to transform the space.

Here is the dining room BEFORE.

A before photo of professional organizer, Shira Gill's dining room.

I started by selling our table and chairs and ordering a large, white, tulip table and a pair of stools from Houzz. With the money we made selling our furniture, I was also able to splurge on two Eames chairs from DWR. (Eventually I would like a complete set.) My friend, Hedy, let me try out her pale cow hyde and I couldn’t resist completing the transformation with some fresh blooms from Lidia, floral genius and founder of La Fleuriste. (I cannot emphasize enough how much greenery and florals can transform a space.)

Here is the dining room AFTER.

The After photo of Shira Gill's quick dining room makeover, easily done with switching out some pieces of furniture.

I love that just by switching out the furniture we could create a whole different look, and I’m especially loving having a round table since I am prone to crashing into sharp corners! What do you think? Is there a room in your home that you could update just by swapping out some furniture?

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How To Declutter Any Closet in 5 Simple Steps

I’m collaborating with my friends at Apartment Therapy again. This time I’m sharing how to declutter any closet in 5 simple steps!

Want to clean out your closet and keep it clean? Here are five simple steps from Shira Gill, professional organizer, on just how to do that!

If your small or cluttered closet is causing you stress, follow these simple steps to whip your closet into a stylish, functional, and organized space.

Prep

Start by removing everything from your closet. You can use a large table, a bed, or the floor as a staging area.

Next, set up a bag for donations and have trash and recycling bins easily accessible. You will also want to relocate any stray items that accidentally ended up in your closet. Finally, make sure to wipe down shelving and give your closet a good vacuum, so you can start fresh with a clean slate. This pre-work will help ensure that your editing and organizing steps are easy and efficient.

Sort + Organize

Once you’ve removed the contents of your closet, make sure to group similar items together in clear piles (i.e cleaning supplies, outerwear, bike stuff, etc.). This will make it easy to see if you have doubles or excess of some items in the next stage of this process. Being organized is as simple as consistently grouping and storing similar things together. You’ve got this.

Edit

Review the entire contents of your closet and do your best to keep only what you actually use, need, and love. This is the most important step in this process. If you get stuck, try asking yourself the following clarifying questions:

  • Does this item reflect my authentic personal style?
  • Would I buy this item for full price today?
  • Would it impact my daily life not to have this item?
  • Is this item really worth the space it’s taking up in my closet?

Maintain a clean and organized life by focusing on cleaning out your closest. It only takes one day and these five simple steps to get your closet in shape. Store

Now that you have thoroughly edited your belongings you can take an easy inventory of what products you’ll need to efficiently store everything back in your closet. Make sure to use what you already have, and buy only what you need (no more entering the Container Store without a list!).

Set Up + Style

You’ve made it to the fun part!

Before you put everything back in your closet, consider how frequently you use each item. Everyday essentials should be stored at arm’s reach for easy access. Set up seasonal and occasional-use items at the very bottom or very top of your closet to maximize vertical space.

You can also set up a basket or tote bag in your closet for storing donations as they arise so you can easily practice the one-in, one-out rule and stay clutter-free.

Make sure to check out the full story on Apartment Therapy + our really fun closet makeover video right here.

~

ps. Right now I’m giving away my new Closet Makeover planner which teaches you how to create your ideal wardrobe! Head over to sign up and get your FREE instant download.

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My Summer Travel Capsule: Ten Days, One Carry-On

So, I’m off with the family to London and Paris for 10-days and we’ve decided to do carry-ons only. I ordered this beauty which meets all international carry-on size requirements and even has a built in phone charger! Only issue is, when it arrived, I realized getting ten outfits in this one little bag would be quite the creative challenge. I decided to stick with very neutral basics which could be mixed, matched and layered to create multiple outfits…

These nine items are wonderful staple travel pieces for any vacation. 1.Madewell Blouse // 2. Lovely Bird Fedora // 3. Adidas Stan Smiths// 4. Everlane Tank// 5. Bryr High-Heel Clogs //6. J Crew Chambray Shirt// 7. Levis Jeans //8.  Clare V Cross-Body Bag  // 9. Elizabeth Suzann Reversible  Silk Top

Here is my full packing list which should cover me for our ten-day trip and fits perfectly in my carry-on!

In My Carry-On

x6 Light Tops/Tanks: Casual and light for walking around during the day

x2 Silk Blouses: For dinners out

x1 Chambray Shirt: For layering and wearing open as a light jacket

x1 Denim Kimono Jacket: This stylish, workhorse can elevate any outfit and is compact for easy packing.

x3 Jeans: White Skinny, Blue Skinny, Blue Boyfriend

x1 High Heel Clog: Stylish, yet practical.

x1 Toiletry Case: Stocked with my everyday essentials

Note: My good friend, Hedy, taught me the joy of packing cubes which keep your suitcase neat and organized and are a huge space maximizer. I ordered these and they worked brilliantly!

For the Plane

x1 Cross-Body Bag: Lightweight and can fit money, passports, gum, mobile, and a few cosmetics.

x1 Fedora: (Too hard to pack so decided to wear!)

x1 High Waisted Leggings – Obsessed with these!

x1 Cozy Sweater

x1 Sneakers: Comfort first!

x1 Tote: For books, journal, magazines, snacks and a few games for the kids.

Be sure to bring a cute and spacious duffel on vacation.

I love that we are traveling so light but also made sure to sneak in a lightweight duffle to take home gifts and maybe a splurge or two for me! Any packing tips or strategies that are working for you? Please share in the comments below!

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My No-Stress Travel Prep Checklist

I have loved traveling since I was a little girl. I love the anticipation of new sights and adventures, and I even love packing. But prepping a family of four for an international trip requires a whole new level of planning and organization. I believe that travel doesn’t have to be overwhelming or stressful. Follow my “no-stress travel checklist” below to ensure you can relax and enjoy your next adventure.

Get a Jump Start on Packing

I like to be completely packed up (including bags for both of my girls) at least one week before taking a big trip. Start by doing all of your laundry and pulling out all apparel and accessories you want to pack on your trip. You can maximize space by rolling your clothes and using packing cubes and I always use a few ziplock bags for storing lotion, perfume, and sunscreen. You can generally pack everything in advance with the exception of cosmetics, toiletries and electronics.  By tackling this major task ahead of time you will feel cool as a cucumber and ready to roll when it’s time to take off.

Make a List of Last-Minute Items

Once you’re done packing, jot down a list of last-minute items you don’t want to forget to pack when you take off. I write these down on a notecard and pin it on my fridge. Your list might include: Snacks and perishables, medications and vitamins, toothbrushes, toiletries and cosmetics, mobile phone, computer and charging cords and a favorite toy or stuffed animal for your little ones.Get rid of the stress associated with traveling by following Shira Gill's travel prep checklist.

 

Order Currency In Advance

While many people prefer the ease of using a credit card abroad, it is always helpful to have some foreign currency available for tipping and smaller purchases. You can order currency at your local bank and it generally arrives within a few business days.

Update Passports + ID

I’ll never forget when my good friend arrived at the airport only to learn that her passport had expired and she could not travel. Don’t let this happen to you! Make sure your passports and photo ID are up to date. You may also need to order or renew passports for your kids. Note: This took a long time and a lot of paperwork so best to map out a day to tackle this one.

Line up Pet + Plant Care

A few weeks before you depart, make sure you have lined up food and care for your furry friends. It’s also helpful to see if a friend or neighbor can stop by to water your plants a few times while you are gone.Pack well and stress-free for your upcoming vacation with these great tips and ideas from Shira Gill, professional organizer.

Make a Plan for Your Mail

Make sure to pause your mail delivery through the post office or line up a friend or neighbor to bring it in regularly while you are gone.

Confirm Flights and Accommodations

An obvious one, but it always gives me great peace of mind to double confirm my flights, transfers and hotel or AirBnB reservations a week or so before I depart.

Treat Yourself!

One of my favorite things about traveling is snuggling up with a good book and a stack of my favorite magazines. I also like to stock up on gum and some treats and snacks for the plane. Whatever your pleasure, make sure to load up your carry-on a few days before so you are ready to roll!

Stay tuned for next week when I’ll be sharing how I packed for 10-Days in Europe in this tiny carry-on!