How to Prevent Overwhelm

Do you find yourself dreading your to-do list or constantly thinking about how much is on your plate? Follow these simple steps to reduce overwhelm, shift your habits, and get more done.

Start With a Thought Download

Get everything out of your brain and onto the page. Even if you just write down, “Oh my God, I have so much to do, what a mess, I feel like I am drowning…” it will feel like a relief to get it all out of your system. Take a few minutes to acknowledge your unproductive thoughts and then move into action.

Fact Check!

If you find yourself thinking stressful thoughts such as, “I have so much to do” or “I don’t have enough time,” make sure to jot down just the facts. What exactly do you have to do? What is urgent and necessary? Once you have made a specific, actionable list, you may find it helpful to break your list into two categories: Things you need to complete right away, and things you’d love to do eventually. When you try out this simple exercise, you may realize that you actually only have a handful of things you need to complete right away and the rest can wait. This will feel like a huge relief and help reduce your anxiety immediately.

Prevent overwhelm by following these simple steps to get everything on your to-do list done!Reverse Engineer Your Goals

Now that you have a list of everything you want to accomplish, break each major item into micro tasks. For example, if your goal is to plan and buy food for the week, get specific about the concrete actions you need to take and how much time each action will require. You might write down:

1. Make a meal plan for each day of the week – one hour.

2. Check fridge and pantry and make a grocery list – 20 min.

3. Shop for groceries and order staples online – two hours.

4. Map out time to prep and cook – one hour per day.

Repeat this process for each item on your to-do list.

Schedule Your To-Do List

So, you’ve got all of your micro broken down , now you just need to schedule them! Simply take each item and put it directly into your weekly planner. The key is to get things out of your head and onto your calendar. Then all you’ll have to do is honor each item on your calendar and your goals are as good as done!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent hours dreading something, that in the end, only takes me thirty focused minutes to complete.  My new mantra is “Less dreading, more doing!” Instead of spending our time and energy being overwhelmed, let’s commit to shifting to taking massive, focused action. Who’s with me?

Decluttering For a Cause

As I write this, the air is thick with smoke from the Napa Valley fires only an hour away. My oldest daughter was scared and couldn’t sleep last night. We’re all tired. With daily news reels filled with mass shootings, political strife, and natural disasters, it’s natural to feel increasingly anxious. It’s hard to know what to do at a time like this, so I decided to do what comes naturally to me. I decided to declutter.

My girls actually came up with the idea. I told them how families were evacuating their homes, leaving their cherished belongings behind, and they immediately started sifting through their toy bins, assembling makeshift care packages to give to the victims of the fires.

Professional organizer Shira Gill and her family clean out their homes for a good cause and learn something in the process.

I was blown away by how easy it was for them to let go of their tea sets, stuffed animals, and games when they had a mission, a clear purpose that reflected their values. By the end of the day, we had filled three huge bags with clothing, art supplies, and games. It felt good to declutter our home, but even more rewarding to make a contribution, however small.

Before bed, I asked each of my girls what they would want to take if we had to leave our home. After some thought they both had the same answer. They would take their cherished childhood bunnies and their treasure boxes filled with mementos, awards and photos. “Everything else is just stuff,” my eight-year-old shrugged.

During these dark times, my convictions about minimalism have only strengthened. When I look around my home and think of what I would grab in a fire, only a handful of things come to mind. At the end of the day, the things I truly hold precious are my friends, family, and community. The rest is just stuff.

If you’re looking to streamline your home and feeling stuck, try focusing your efforts on supporting a cause you believe in. You’ll be shocked at how much easier it is to make quick decisions and let go of things when you are helping others and donating for a good cause.

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I’d love to hear how you declutter for a purpose. Have you found any charities or non-profits that you love to contribute to?

 

 

Autumn Capsule Wish List: Cuyana Favorites

It’s my very favorite time of year! Cozy sweaters! Boots! I’m all in. Since I’m committed to investing in just a few things each season that fit into my wardrobe and lifestyle, I thought I’d share the pieces I’ve got my eye on this season. I went to the Cuyana fall launch party a few weeks ago and decided that I pretty much only need to shop at Cuyana from now on. Their line is composed of well-constructed pieces that are both stylish and timeless. These are on my wish list for sure:

Check out Shira Gill's favorite Autumn picks from Cuyana. 1// The perfect cozy, oversized sweater. Yes, please. 2 // I’d feel like a real fancy lady carrying this leather laptop sleeve. 3// Reversible. Alpaca. Cardigan. Need I say more? 4// Nothing like a little black bag to make you feel stylish and chic. 5// I’ve been eyeing these French-girl-cool boots for years. It may be time to pull the trigger. 6// The perfect oversized pouch for daily use or toting travel essentials.

Do you love this season as much as I do? What are your fall favorites?

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3 Reasons Why You Should Get Organized Now

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the many benefits of having an organized home. Since I was young, I’ve felt deeply how impactful it was to make my living space both streamlined and functional. Perhaps it was a product of being a child of divorce and frequently toting my belongings back and forth from house to house. Whatever the reason, I figured out early on that the effort and intention necessary to create and maintain a tidy and organized environment was well worth the investment.

After nine years of helping others declutter and organize their living and working spaces, I believe this more than ever. Here’s why:

Organization is a Form of Self-Care

Imagine how it feels to walk into a streamlined, organized closet each morning as opposed to confronting a dumping ground of random piles.  A tidy space sends a visual cue that you are caring for both your physical possessions and yourself. Being organized is a way of taking care yourself.

Likewise, think about how satisfying it is when you plan and organize your day ahead of time. Whenever I take the time to pack lunches and snacks the night before, map out my appointments, set goals, and prep for a busy day, everything feels so much easier and I am always so grateful to myself for that added effort. Whatever the space or context, putting in the time to organize your life and your physical surroundings is a way of ensuring that things run smoothly. Being organized is a gift you can give yourself.

Organization is a Form of Respect

When you are organized with your schedule, you show respect for your own time and for other people’s time. You can arrive promptly for social and business plans, and you can tackle projects more efficiently. By keeping your possessions organized and tidy, you are demonstrating respect for the environmental footprint of making the items, the money you invested to buy them, and for the items themselves. When you are careless with your belongings things will get lost or broken, and you won’t be able to use them, or pass them on to someone who could.

Organization Reduces Stress + Anxiety

Being disorganized by definition is stressful. I’ve had clients who have misplaced treasured family heirlooms, passports, important bills, even money. Being disorganized can also cause friction and resentment in relationships. By establishing organized systems for the things you use and care about, you will say goodbye to those panicked moments and frantic searches. No more late payments from misplaced bills or buying things twice because you can’t find the original. Simply put, being organized ensures that you will have more time and energy to invest in the things you truly care about.

Where are you on the organizing spectrum? Good or bad, I’d love to know how your living spaces are impacting your daily life!

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Embracing Good Enough

Do you ever feel stuck in your life because you want everything to be perfect? Do you get bogged down with goals or projects because you want everything to be just right? As a a card carrying member of the perfectionist club, I have decided to shift gears and learn how to embrace good enough. Here’s why:

It Will Move Things Forward

I can’t tell you how many of my clients have waited to donate things because they want to find just the right person to give that set of tools or leather jacket. Instead of getting things out of their homes, they hang onto them in dusty bags waiting for the right scenario. I say if dropping them at a local charity or giving them to a neighbor moves you closer to your goals, then let’s get on with it! Taking action of any kind will shift things and drive them forward. Action feels so much better than being stuck.

It Will Prevent Perfectionism

I’ve been thinking a lot about how minimalism can turn into its own brand of perfectionism. In my own quest to have fewer, better things, I have noticed some obsessive and perfectionistic tendencies emerging. For example, I decided I wanted to own less shoes and then started a mad hunt for the “perfect” boots, sneakers, and flats. The concept that each thing has to be the very best, can create feelings of anxiety and stall things from moving forward. Instead, I’m choosing to find the “good enough” shoes. If they are comfortable and feel stylish they’re going to get the job done. Same holds true for your quest for the perfect couch, perfect, car, perfect insert thing-you are-looking-for-here. 

You don't need to be perfect or do things perfectly to have a great life. Cut yourself some slack -- Professional Organizer Shira Gill explains why.

Average Work is Better Than Failing

If you are waiting for the exact moment or circumstances to organize your home, have a baby, start a business, lose weight, etc. chances are you will never start. Simply put, you will choose to fail ahead of time. By doing nothing you will never move closer to your goals. Choose to do average work and you can move bravely ahead. I know you’re probably thinking, “But I don’t want average!” I can’t tell you how many homes I have come across that don’t have basic things like couches or window coverings because my clients are waiting to find the perfect couch or curtains. When I point out that literally any couch would be better than having nowhere to sit down, it seems ridiculous! Average is always better than failing.

This is a hard concept to embrace, and one that I actively struggle with myself. But this year, I have made the decision to reject perfectionism in favor of good enough. I am choosing to seek action, movement, and progress instead of a futile journey towards the elusive “perfect.” I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and how you have worked through perfectionism in your own life.

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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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