The Suitcase Challenge

August 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living

By: Shira Gill



I recently packed for a road trip to Los Angeles with the family. Our car has limited space once the four of us are packed in so I had to be selective. I packed carefully, choosing my favorite simple separates, a few shoe options, a mama bag and a hot mama bag, a few accessories, and called it a day. Everything I packed fit into one small duffle bag, and I spent the whole trip feeling like I had all I needed. Not only that –it was such a breeze getting ready each day because I only had a few options and everything went together!

It got me thinking, “what if I lived like this all the time?” When you have less stuff you also have less laundry, less time obsessing over what to wear, and less to store and organize. I encourage you to give this philosophy a try: Just for a week try living on the essentials that would fit in one suitcase. Live simply with less stuff and see how it feels.


You can find more on Shira Gill at Simply Sorted


How to Save Money on Gas

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern Living

By: Karla Wheaton


With the current tensions in Libya and other countries in the Middle East, the price of gasoline keeps going up and up. Gas prices near where I live are around $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon. This also comes at a time when many families’ budgets are already stretched to the max.

I don’t know about you, but this situation has me thinking. What can you do to save money on gas while also using less fuel to help the environment?

What can you do to your vehicle?

  • Minimize the weight you are carrying around in your car by cleaning out the extra clothes, kids’ sports equipment, and bags of items to donate to charity from your trunk.
  • Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires can increase your fuel cost up to thirteen percent.
  • Take care of your car by keeping up with regular maintenance and changing your spark-plugs.
  • Use regular gas instead of premium. There is little difference in energy content between the two, but the premium can cost twenty to forty cents more per gallon.
  • Don’t top off your gas tank at the pump and make sure your fuel tank cap is on tight and working right.
  • Keep your luggage inside your car if possible. Using a loaded roof rack increases fuel consumption.

What can you do while driving?

  • Drive as if you don’t have brakes and be gentle with the accelerator.
  • Avoid idling. If you are waiting for someone and you’ll be parked for ten seconds or longer, turn off your car’s engine. Turning off the engine and then restarting it uses less fuel than idling for any time more than ten seconds. For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Idling is also linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease, and cancer.
  • Go slower up hills and faster down them.
  • Park in the first spot you find rather than driving around for another one. Also park for easy and direct departure.
  • In a hybrid, pulse and glide. How does it work? Say you are on a road and want to go sixty miles per hour. Instead of driving along at a steady sixty, you accelerate to seventy (that’s the pulse), and then coast in neutral with the engine off down to fifty (that’s the glide.) This technique can save gas with a hybrid, because you are basically using no gas at all during the glide.
  • During the colder months, “warming up your car” really only needs to take thirty seconds rather than ten minutes.
  • Don’t drive too fast. One of the biggest gasoline wasters is excess speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly with speeds above fifty-five miles per hour.
  • Use the air conditioner less. It can increase fuel costs from thirteen percent up to twenty-one percent.

What sort of lifestyle changes can you make?

  • Limit your driving. Find more fun things to do closer to home. Use public transportation like the bus or a train when you can. Carpool, walk, or take your bike. Work at home if your boss will let you.
  • Find the best gas prices. The website will let you know what the prices are by town or city and then by gas station in your state. Fuel prices can vary ten percent within a few blocks.
  • If you have one close by, buy your gas from a discount store like Sam’s or Costco. It doesn’t make much sense to drive too far out of your way to get to one of these places, though.
  • Limit your purchases when prices are high. Only fill your tank up halfway when they are higher and completely fill your tank when they are lower.
  • Buy a different vehicle – a diesel, a hybrid, a smaller car, a motorcycle, a scooter, or alternative fuel cars such as those that run on biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electricity, or ethanol.
  • Instead of having two cars in your family, share one. My husband and I shared one car while we were saving up to buy our home. We saved money by paying less for insurance, car maintenance costs, taxes, and inspection fees.

Some of these tips may seem obvious, but let them serve as good reminders. Even if we can’t run out and buy a hybrid, at least there are some things that we all can do to save some money and help save the planet.

One last thought – in Europe they pay 5.64 Euro or about $7.85 per gallon for gas. Why so much? It is mostly because of taxes. Is that crazy or just really smart? Look how many more people walk, bike, or use public transportation in European countries than in the United States.



[Photo Credit: TahoeSunsets]


Modern Living: Simply Sorted

May 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Modern Living

By: Shira Gill, Personal Organizer

Modern living is hectic enough as it is, but once you introduce kids into the equation, keeping your life simple and organized can seem like an impossible dream.

As a new mom and a professional organizer, I have learned that sometimes it only takes a few minutes to see big results. Conquering the clutter will restore your energy and bring calm and balance into your life. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:

1. Refrigerator makeover!

First, toss anything that has expired or gone bad. Next, ditch the junk and replace it with healthful alternatives. Skip the soda and make spa water by filling a few glass pitchers with water, lemon and cucumber slices or fresh herbs. Instead of buying TV dinners loaded with salt and preservatives, try making a lasagna or turkey meatloaf that can be frozen in individual portions. Store nuts, veggies and fresh fruit in grab-and-go containers so you’ll have healthy snacks when you’re on the move.

2. Ready, Set…Clean!

Feeling short on time? Get the whole family involved by challenging them to a clean up race. Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes and use the time to toss stray trash and return misplaced items to their correct homes. When the timer “dings!” everyone will be shocked at how much they were able to accomplish in such a short time. Celebrate by playing a game or indulging in a yummy dessert.

3. Mail Overload!

Use a standing file with dividers to store all incoming mail. Designate one day a week for bill paying, scheduling, and responding to invites and you’ll never have to worry about overdue notices or overlooked obligations. Recycle the trash and junk mail right away. You can also reduce junk mail by canceling unwanted catalogs and opting out of unsolicited commercial mail for five years by contacting The Direct Marketing Association. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to

4. Important Everything Holder

Ever panicked because you can’t remember where you stowed the key to your safe deposit box or your child’s birth certificate? Take the guesswork out by creating an “important everything holder” and storing it in a safe place in your home. Mine has everything from family passports to treasured photos and my original wedding DVD. Any time I need to locate one of these crucial items, I know just where to find it.

5. Bedroom Bliss

Need a vacation but short on time and/or funds? Splurge on some fresh flowers and a scented candle and make the bed with your best set of sheets. Take a few minutes to straighten up, leaving the floors and surfaces as minimal as possible. Put on your favorite CD or iPOD play list. Your bedroom will be transformed into a chic retreat in no time. Now you just have to promise to relax!

Shira Gill is the founder of Simply Sorted and Simply Sorted Baby and keeps things tidy in the SF Bay Area. For information and to sign up for her free monthly newsletter please visit