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!

Three Easy Hacks to Keep Your Purse Organized

Purses tend to be a magnet for clutter. Even the most organized among us can end up with handbags filled with old receipts, loose change, gum wrappers, and business cards. Some of my dearest friends and clients won’t even let me peek in their bags because they are so embarrassed about the chaos lurking inside!

Maintain a clean and organized purse with these three tips from professional organizer, Shira Gill.

Fear not! Here are the three simple hacks I use to keep my own handbags organized and clutter-free:

Your Purse is Not a Storage Facility

Purses seem to become a convenient catchall for storing everything from work projects to toiletries and accessories. Not only can an overstuffed purse make it hard to find what you need when you need it, but heavy bags can also lead to chronic back and neck pain and who needs that?

Simplify your life by dumping everything out and relocating items that are not required for daily use. In my bag, I do my best to carry only my wallet, a small leather makeup bag, my keys and mobile phone (I have a separate work tote stocked for organizing and styling projects that I keep in my trunk).

Organizing your life includes keeping your purse clean and organized. Here are three tips to do so!

Group by Category

Once you have edited down to the essentials, make sure to group and store by category. All make-up, hair-ties, and beauty products should be stored together in a pouch or cosmetic bag. Money, credit and I.D. cards, cash, change, and checkbooks can all be contained in a wallet. Earbuds and chargers can be stored in a sunglass case or zip pouch for easy access. If you have young kids, try storing diapers, snacks, pacifiers, band-aids, etc. together in an oversized zip pouch like this one.

Pouches are a fantastic way to keep items organized in your purse.

The Daily Clean-Out

You’re busy, I know! But it will take you less than a minute to discard any wrappers, stray receipts, and trash that has made it’s way into your purse each day. A little daily maintenance will guarantee that you never have an overstuffed, disorganized bag to contend with.

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Video: How to Organize Your Under-Sink Storage

I recently was asked to collaborate with my friends over at Apartment Therapy on their new before/after video series. We wanted to make organizing fun, and accessible, and also provide you with all the tips necessary to transform your own spaces. Watch below to see how to transform one of the hardest working areas in your home: your under-sink bathroom storage!

So fun, right? You can check out the full story and all of my tips right here. This is one of those mini makeovers that will pack a major punch in your day to day life.

Next up: I’ll be sharing how to organize your entry closet and how to style your open storage shelves. Until then!

A Guide to Minimalist Style with Hygge

Erin Wallace is an Oakland-based designer and the founder of Hygge (with partner Lisa Fontaine). Hygge was built on the idea that an uncomplicated piece of clothing can be surprisingly modern and compulsively wearable. The company recently launched with only a single itemthis denim kimono jacket. My friend, Caitlin, who introduced me to Hygge, describes it as a magical cloak that can transform any outfit!

In this interview with Hygge founder, Shira Gill learns about minimalist style and how a single piece can change a wardrobe.

Erin and Lisa have since completed a trilogy of versatile pieces including the jacket, dress, and double gauze top. All garments are ethically produced in a woman-owned sewing studio in Oakland, California.

A talk with Hygge owner about minimalist styles and practices in life.

I was thrilled to be able to sit down with Erin and chat about her new brand, the convergence of minimalism and style, and her dramatically minimal bedroom.

Q // Why did you decide to launch your company with only a single item, the denim kimono?

Erin: I wanted a very specific jacket and could not find what I wanted in a textile I liked, or a reasonable price range, so I originally just wanted to make one for myself. It’s been really cool to see how my design has had a broader appeal than I expected. I love seeing how other women wear it – It seems to be a versatile enough garment for most shapes, sizes, and styles.

A great example of minimalist style with the Hygge kimono.

Q // You have developed a clearly defined personal style. Any advice for moms who are in a fashion rut or having a hard time knowing how to elevate their style in a practical way?

Erin: People get very used to a specific silhouette, and sometimes trying a new silhouette is a leap of faith and takes getting used to. It’s good to question your assumptions about what you can and can’t wear, and experiment with proportion, layers, and unusual combinations.  My practical advice would be let go of your old style and just move forward. Honestly, the best thing to do is not get stuck in the era where you felt most relevant. Step into your current body and situation and be open to that being different. Look around at other woman who seem put together and observe what they’re doing. Throw out the rules and try something new.

Keep your closet simple and minimal with these great tips from Hygge fashion designer.

Q// What inspires you? Favorite people or brands to follow:

Erin: Design, art, and architecture inspire my style much more than fashion. Current inspirations include this creative directorthis shop, and this blog.

Q // Any tips for maximizing a capsule wardrobe? How do you add variety and keep things fresh in your own wardrobe?

Erin:  It’s a bit of a cliche, but shoes. I’ll find a great pair of shoes and they will dictate how I will dress for an entire season. I also change my bag almost every day to add variety. I keep everything in individual pouches so I can easily transition from bag to bag. I also like to play with layers and proportions. A top layer like an open shirt dress, kimono, or jacket completes an outfit and makes it look polished.

Hygge talks with professional organizer Shira Gill about minimal pieces and capsule wardrobes. Q // Can you tell us about your very minimal bedroom? Why did you make the choice to go so minimal (Erin’s whitewashed bedroom contains only a bed and two small cubes that function as nightstands.)

My closet has always been in a different room, so my clothing was always separated from my bedroom. I wanted my bedroom to feel super calm and simple but didn’t want to do that through stuff. I like having almost nothing in my bedroom. I painted everything, including the floors, white, and my friend gave me a Tom Dixon light. The bedside tables are simple wood and acrylic cubes made by a friend. I use my phone as an alarm clock, but otherwise it’s a technology-free zone. I don’t think my laptop has ever been in my bedroom. I love it, and think my bedroom is an accurate depiction of where I’m at right now, but I know it will evolve along with me. I haven’t completely figured it out, and I’m pretty sure I never will, but I plan to enjoy it along the way.

Keep your closet simple and organized with these great style tips from Hygge.

Thank you, Erin!  I love the idea that you can completely transform and update your wardrobe just by playing with proportion and layering unusual combinations. You can check out the full Hygge collection right here. 

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Fewer Better: The Best Clean Beauty Products

I had quite the educational meeting with The Sustainability Concierge, learning how to reduce potentially harmful toxins from our home.  It was relatively quick and painless to replace our nonstick frying pans with stainless steel replacements, and ditch our plastic containers and water bottles in favor of glass and metal alternatives.

When it came to my beauty products, however, things were not so simple. I am very attached to my favorite makeup, body and hair care products, but after learning about the potentially toxic (!) and harmful ingredients that were present in many them, I decided to shop around for cleaner, greener alternatives.

I turned to Carolyn, a holistic oncology nurse practitioner and Beauty Counter consultant. Carolyn is on a mission to help people use safer, greener personal care products and learn what to look for and which ingredients to avoid.

The amount of information on this topic can be overwhelming, but Carolyn helped to keep it simple. Her key takeaways: Steer clear of  products that contain Phthalates, Parabens, and synthetic fragrances. You can also check out a full list of ingredients to avoid right here and look up any products in question on the EWG Skin Deep Database.

Shira Gill shares her favorite "eco-friendly" "green" beauty products for this summer.

Here is a round-up of my favorites so far:

(1) For super dewy, glowing skin // (2) So fresh and so clean (and a great hostess gift!) // (3) A healthy summer glow for cheeks and lips //(4) Organic infused coconut oils for hair, body, and everything else under the sun! (5) A hydrating pop of color// (6) The best multi-tasking soap for the whole family.

Want to makeover your makeup bag and help improve the cosmetics industry? Other helpful resources include:

Green Beauty Products: Beauty Counter // EO // Todos Organics // True Botanicals // RMS Beauty

General Resources: We All Deserve Better //Campaign for Safe Cosmetics //Environmental Working Group 

Books and Films: Not Just a Pretty Face //The New Puberty //Stink //The Story of Stuff

Facebook Groups: Breast Cancer Fund //Campaign for Safe Cosmetics  //Environmental Working Group 

How to Design a Timeless Kid’s Room

I recently spoke with online design firm Havenly, who asked if I could come up with some fresh ideas for designing a nursery that can easily transition into a “big kid” room and beyond. It’s tempting to design a nursery or child’s room around your child’s current developmental stage and interests. The challenge is that with constantly evolving tastes and preferences, frequent design overhauls can be both time consuming and pricey.

Kids’ tastes are bound to change, but with these simple tips, you can create timeless nurseries and kid’s rooms that can easily evolve as tastes change:

Stick With Neutral Walls

That “Friendly Forest Wildlife Wallpaper” may seem like a great idea when designing a whimsical nursery for your newest addition, but before you know it, your child will be complaining that it’s “too babyish” and you’ll have to redo the whole room! Instead, stick with neutral walls so you’ll always have a clean canvas.  If you want to add some whimsy or a pop of color, these wall decals are a charming (and easily removable) addition. I used them in the girls’ closet and love the pop of pink against the pale grey paint. (We used one of my favorite neutral grays, Benjamin Moore’s “Vapor Trails” for all of our bedrooms.)

SG Capsule Kids

Buy Furniture You Actually Like

What a concept, right? I love investing in timeless furniture that can easily transition from nursery to kid’s room all the way through teenage years and beyond. The bed shaped like a car will quickly grow out of favor, but a simple, well-made bed can be updated easily just by switching out bedding and pillows.  Think of your furniture as a clean slate which you can easily accent with accessories as age, taste, and style evolve.

Keep Your Storage Modern and Timeless

I have great news for you. You don’t actually have to buy plastic storage cubbies in primary colors if that’s not your thing. Wooden furniture and modern bins and baskets can easily transition from holding plush toys in a nursery to magazines in a teenagers room. You can check out some of my favorite storage options right here.

 Use Accessories to Update Your Space

Just because you opt for neutral furniture, doesn’t mean your child’s room can’t have personality. Swapping out pillows, wall decor, and accents is easy and costs much less than updating large elements such as furniture, lighting, and window treatments.

Open shelving can be accented with wooden blocks or dolls and then updated with Lego creations, trophies and collections to grow with your child’s interests.  Simply swap out the contents as interests evolve and change.

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Experiment with Unconventional Art

While it’s tempting to buy age appropriate art like ABC posters, try investing in more sophisticated options that can stand the test of time. I love these colorful paintings by Britt Bass and these gorgeous photos from The Animal Print Shop. Large vintage maps are also a great option for stimulating creative minds at any age.

Invest In Quality

It’s hard for furniture and decor to stand the test of time if it’s not well made. If you want to create a timeless room, it’s worth it to splurge on well-constructed, high-quality furniture, lighting and window treatments.  Err on the side of simple, clean design for these elements so you can easily personalize with bedding and accessories. For our girls’ room, I stuck with white furniture and simple white roller shades which can serve as a neutral backdrop for years to come.

shiragillhome_2017update_009So, think it’s possible to create a space that your kiddo loves, that can easily transition into a teenager’s room and beyond?

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How to Recharge with a Digital Detox

So, here’s what happened: My eight year old daughter recently asked me, “why are you always on your phone or computer?” I was stunned. It didn’t used to be like this. I was the last of my friends to get a cell phone and only bought a lap top computer for my business last year. Over the past few years I have become more and more chained to my phone and computer. The (seemingly) urgent buzz and ping of my devices has left me feeling alternately distracted, drained, and overwhelmed. My daughter’s innocent question inspired me to make a change, so I did a little research to find out the best strategies to help reclaim my time and detox from the digital world:

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Get Real About Your Usage

Most people are overtaken by the impulse to be both accessible and responsive all the time, and become unconscious of their amount of daily screen time. The app Moment will track how much you (and your family) use your devices each day, and help you set limits on screen time usage.

Make Rules About When to Unplug

It’s far too easy to be plugged day in and day out. Decide ahead of time when you will stow your devices away and take a breather. Our family has a rule that there are no devices or computers out during dinner time so we can be present and actually connect and engage with each other. I also make sure to put my computer and phone in my office by 10pm each night so I don’t have blinking lights or texts distracting me, or disrupting my sleep.  Establish clear boundaries for yourself about when you will unplug and make sure to honor the commitment you make to yourself – and your family.

Batch Your Emails

Instead of checking throughout the day, try picking a few times per day to read and respond to your emails. Incoming messages often trigger a sense of urgency. You can update your email settings to hold emails and send them out to you every few hours, instead of in real time, which can be both overwhelming and distracting. This kind of activity batching can help you stay focused and increase your productivity.

Turn off Notifications

Turn off distracting notifications that can make you feel like you need to respond immediately. With the switch of a button you can reduce stress by preventing those pesky email and phone alerts, reminders, and sounds.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Apps like App Detox,  Self Control , and Freedom can be set up to help monitor where your screen time is spent, as well as restrict your own access to social media, websites, mail servers, or anything else you find distracting on the internet. Author Zadie Smith credits the Self Control app with enabling her to focus when she needs to complete a book or big project. You can listen to her interview about it right here. 

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 Streamline Your Apps

Start by deleting all of the apps on your phone you don’t use and then organize the “keepers” by category on the second page. This only took me about fifteen minutes and I love seeing a clean home page and being able to find the apps I need easily.

Try a Tech Shabbat

Every weekend filmmaker, Tiffany Shlain, and her family practice a “technology shabbat” from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. During this 24-hour break, they stow their gadgets and completely unplug from all technology so they can be more present with themselves, and each other. During their tech shabbat, they get to spend time together and get back to simple pleasures like gardening, reading, cooking, and doing art. Tiffany says that the simple practice of unplugging once a week has completely changed her life, making her a better wife, mother, and individual. Interested in trying your own tech shabbat? You can watch a short video about it right here.

Are you on information overload? Tired of feeling chained to your mobile device or computer 24/7? By periodically unplugging, you can reduce stress, recharge, and focus on relationships, community, and real connection. How will you make space to unplug and recharge this month?

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Fewer, Better: Summer Faves!

Back by popular demand, it’s the Fewer, Better series: summer essentials edition! This summer, I’m focusing on taking good care of my skin by wearing hats and plenty of sunscreen. I’m also planning to add little pops of pink and peach to my otherwise grey/black/white capsule wardrobe. I have travel on the brain (two international trips coming up!), so I’ve included my picks for a lightweight travel bag and top-rated carry-on suitcase.

Fewer Better (1)  A chic peachy heel in a lovely neutral color. // (2) The perfect timeless summer hat.  // (3)  Skin protection on-the-go // (4)  The fanny pack is back! // (5)  For a healthy, summer glow. // (6) The perfect carry-on for summer travel!

I’m still fully embracing the concept of the French Five Piece Wardrobe System where you invest in five non-basic pieces each season to elevate your wardrobe and keep it fresh and fun. This concept has forced me to be much more intentional with my purchasing (fewer, better things) and I have also been able to save a lot of money. Win-win!

What about you? What do you have your eye on for summer? What are your favorite travel essentials you cannot live without?

5 Ways Less Stuff Will Improve Your Life

A friend of a friend came over recently and asked for a tour of our house. She walked around curiously opening doors and peeking into drawers before stating, “You have everything you need and nothing more.” I would actually argue that we still have much more than we need, but I took her comment as the highest compliment.

Like many aspiring minimalists, I have done my best to edit our possessions down to what we truly use and love. This includes reducing our basement to a bag of outdoor pillows and seven airtight bins filled with my late father’s belongings. (More on that in a future post). It has taken a lot of time and energy to streamline to this extent, but the return on investment has been beyond worth it. Below I have summarized some of the many benefits we have experienced from choosing to live intentionally with less stuff:

Here are great ways in which having less stuff and living minimalistically can help you live a fuller life.

Less Stuff, More Money

This goes without saying, but the less material items you buy, the more money you can save. This year I have made a concerted effort to splurge less on clothes, shoes, and housewares (my guilty pleasures!) so that I can invest more in other pursuits like self care, personal growth, and travel. My current goal is to save enough for our family to go abroad together this summer and I’m also saving for a solo trip to visit my brother in Japan. Every time I really want to buy a new pair of fancy jeans or a handbag, I think about these goals and how much more rewarding these experiences will be compared to the short-lived thrill of a new purchase.

Less Stuff, More Time

Consumerism is a major time suck. How much time do you spend in a given week shopping, trying things on, returning, or just thinking about what you want to buy? Oh, the countless hours I have wasted browsing online, shopping, and returning! When we take a break from shopping there is an opportunity to reclaim that time and invest it in other more important things. Who wants to join me for a spring spending-freeze challenge?

Minimalist lifestyles come with far more benefits and far less stuff. Find out how it can improve your life at Shira Gill Home.

Less Stuff, More Order

Guess what? When you have less stuff you also have less clutter. Less clutter means less dust, less cleaning, less chaos. For this reason, each of my girls only owns two pairs of shoes: One for school and one for parties. I make sure they really like their shoes and they are well-made and comfortable. We store them in an open basket by the front door and have yet to lose or misplace a pair. Generally, I have noticed that the less we have, the less we lose and misplace things and the less we have to clean, store, and organize. It’s tempting to get frivolous with purchasing new clothes, housewares and toys, but I much prefer investing in fewer, high-quality things and taking very good care of them.

Less Stuff, More Connection

Shopping is a major buffer for many of us when we are lonely, restless, or down. Instead of pulling out the credit card next time you feel low, try connecting with an old friend, pursuing a hobby, working out, or spending quality time with the people you love.

Less Stuff, More Creativity

Have you ever noticed that children can spend hours playing with an oversized cardboard box, or building a fort out of the couch cushions? I believe that creativity needs space and with less stuff, comes more creativity.

If you are interested in streamlining your belongings and simplifying your life, but don’t know where or how to start, start small. Clean out a drawer, donate an outfit you no longer wear, or pass on the toys your children have grown out of. The most important thing is just to start.

Need some support getting started? Drop me a line at shira@shiragill.com. I’d love to help.

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My 10-Day Bathroom Transformation Revealed!

Our super speedy bathroom renovation was prompted when our daughter, Chloe, accidentally broke our medicine cabinet and sink console one night. We had never loved the aesthetics of the bathroom so we took it as an opportunity to switch out the tile, lighting, and other elements we had never cared for at the same time. Here is a photo of our bathroom BEFORE the transformation.

Before photo of a bathroom remodel. Find out what the after photo of this bathroom remodel looks like on Shira Gill Home.

As you can see, the sink console had minimal storage and the tile had seen better days. Our goal was to maximize storage and update all of the other elements without spending a fortune.

Since our 100-year old home only has one bathroom, time was of the essence!

After a quick consult call with my brilliant designer friend, Carly, several mad dashes (with sick kids in the car!) to IKEA and our local tile store, and a speedy install from my amazing contractor, we ended up with a fresh and functional transformed space. This is the updated bathroom AFTER:

The after photo of a 10 day bathroom remodel by Shira Gill. Find out how you can update your bathroom spaces with a home remodel.

 

We love how crisp and clean it turned out and I especially love the deep storage drawers for stocking paper products, toothbrushes and toiletries. I am also majorly smitten with the schoolhouse hooks we bought which are great for hanging towels, robes, and my new shower cap!

Hooks in bathrooms are great tools to help organize. Check out how to remodel your bathroom in 10 days with these tips from Shira Gill Home.

If you are hoping to knock out a budget-friendly renovation with a quick time frame, here are my top three tips:

Shop Local

We were able to purchase the sink, console, and faucet from IKEA in a single day and pick up subway tile from our local tile store. The floor tile from Cle Tile was in stock and was shipped out to us immediately. Because we were able to gather all of the supplies ourselves, the contractor was able to dive in and complete the install in record time. A huge relief since we all share this one tiny bathroom!

Consult with an Expert

I have clear ideas when it comes to design but would never have known where to get the best tile, how big the shower storage nooks should be, or what dimensions my sink console should be. A consult call with designer Carly Waters helped me clarify and refine my vision and made the whole design process quick and painless. She also gets a huge shout out for helping me choose the graphic black and white floor tile which anchored the rest of the design.

Keep It Simple

It’s easy to get bogged down by all the choices out there (tile, fixtures, lights, etc.) so it’s best to constrain your options by selecting a few colors and a few places to shop. Once we pulled the trigger on the black and white floor tile, it was easy to stick to a black and white theme which greatly limited options for the remaining elements and made shopping much more efficient.

Want to see more? I recently shared the full makeover story over at My Domaine. Click here to get the full scoop and see more photos from the transformation!

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