Organising Queen’s best books of 2018, just in time for summer/ winter reading


I thought I’d go ahead and post my best fiction and non-fiction books of 2018, just in case you want some backlist titles for summer/ winter reading.

Just like in the Northern Hemisphere, I also read a lot during our winter because I completely indulge myself in all that is good about winter (reading with tea under a blanket).

So here we go, first my top fiction reads and then my top non-fiction reads.

Fiction

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Still Alice is 10 years old this year! If you get the physical copy, you might find the lovely 10th anniversary edition.

I loved this book so much but I’ll confess because I lean to the dramatic (!), it made me super paranoid that I was getting Alzheimer’s. That’s not a spoiler – it’s in the book blurb that it’s about a woman who gets early-onset Alzheimer’s. To this day, if I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I freak out a little inside. 

I gave this book 4.5* because it was so uncomfortable to read in places, but it is my own issues. It’s actually a 5* read.

The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

This was a debut novel spanning about 20 years in the lives of a string quartet. It is beautifully written, has interesting, compelling characters and still moves at a good pace. You don’t need to know anything about music (I don’t!) to appreciate and enjoy this book.

I still can’t believe this is her debut novel – it’s so, so good and was my absolute favourite book of the year (5*). I loved it so much I plan to listen to it in June on audio. And….  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book, 

As an aside, Beth also read this book (the only one of my friends SO FAR!) and loved it, and we generally read completely different genres, other than psychological thrillers which we both enjoy. 

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Like Still Alice, this was also a book club pick. I loved everything about this book and I loved the mom character too, who I am sure is an enneagram 1.

This was a 5* read but I chopped off 1/2* due to a small detail near the end.

If you’ve read any of these three books, do let me know what you thought in the comments.

Non-fiction

How not to hate your husband after kids – Jancee Dunn

I know this is a clickbaity title but the research is so solid, and this is a fantastic book. She covers all the important parts of marriage – especially the ones that cause… disharmony…. and I loved every single chapter.

Lab girl – Hope Jahren

This was the book that made me see nature in a different way. I wrote so much more here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

And I wrote more about this book here

And if you want to get inspired to get organised and nest, I’d love you to grab a copy of one of my books here.

Do you have any great backlisted titles to recommend to me?

PS These are affiliate links – it costs you exactly the same price and I get a few cents on each title for recommending it to you.

How strong are your foundations?

Often when it feels like things are getting a bit out of control, I find that it’s useful to stop and take stock of my foundational basics:

1. Sleep
Are you sleeping enough? I’m constantly surprised by just how many people don’t sleep well and expect to function at top productivity. Our bodies weren’t designed to go on and on without enough rest. 

If you’re feeling sluggish or like your mind isn’t 100% sharp, try increasing your sleep by just 30 minutes a night. If you’re currently sleeping 5 hours a night, get to bed 30 minutes earlier. Don’t try to remember; use your phone and set a daily reminder. Once that new sleep number is your normal, increase it by another 30 minutes, until you get to at least 7 hours every night.

More tips: here and here

2. Food

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve shared pictures when I pack my lunch bag at night. I might have mentioned this but I seriously hate packing my lunch. And no, I have no idea why! 

A few weeks ago, I said to Kendra (9) that I was dreading doing my lunch. She said, “but you don’t hate packing our lunches” and I said, “no, I don’t. I love doing yours“. You know what she said?

“Then just pretend you’re packing our lunches”.

Simple but profound. I’ve been pretending ever since and it is a game changer. It feels more fun and it’s getting done quicker 🙂

If you’re not yet sold on menu planning, have a read here. I love menu planning because I love knowing what I have available in the house, and when we *actually* do eat all those meals in the same week, I do the metaphorical happy dance 🙂

Thinking about food and what to cook/ eat/ prepare three times a day is exhausting (and mind-numbingly boring for me) so automate the process in order to free up your mental load.

3. Energy

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

This might seem like a “nice to think about” but I think it’s essential. Often in the past when I’ve mentioned to Dion that I feel like I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not getting as much people time that I need as an extrovert.

I’ve since found that I need 5 one-on-one friend dates besides my two book clubs every month for my tank to feel full. I spread out those friend dates, at least one every week, and that works beautifully.

My husband is an introvert and if I see his energy flagging, I’ll rescue him by taking the kids to do something so he has alone time at home, or let him go do grocery shopping by himself. Granted, there are still people at the shops but he doesn’t have to talk all the time to two very chatty nine-year-olds.

These are foundational issues that, if attended to on a consistent basis, will definitely increase your happiness levels.

Leave a comment and let me know which one of these three foundational basics you’re going to prioritise for the next 1 – 3 months.

If you’d like to work with me, I do currently have 4 time makeover coaching spots available every month. Send me an email and let’s get you started.

It’s time for the Mother’s Day talk

I like to give myself a pep talk every year and I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you too.

This is my 10th Mother’s Day and I’ll be completely honest with you – I have not had 9 fantastic Mother’s Days because I expected Dion to be a mind-reader.

Here’s a post I wrote when my twins were just under two.

I want you to have a great day, so here are 5 things I’d like you to consider in the days leading up to Mother’s Day:

  1. Get clear on your expectations

If you don’t know exactly what a good day looks like for you, think about it and get clear on exactly what you need/ want.

When my kids were young, there were a couple of years when I just wanted a 3-hour nap in the afternoon. No, it’s not selfish to ask for some time to sleep.

2. What are your love languages?

If you’re not sure, have a look at www.5lovelanguages.com and take the quiz. If you want to delve into the Love Languages some more, and you’re local, join me for a workshop on 7 September. Register and book your place now. If you’re not local, contact me for a Skype session.

If you think about your love languages, you’ll get a very good idea of what will satisfy you. My love languages are acts of service and words of affirmation, so I like tea in bed (so I can read for 30 minutes) and cards from the kids. And, of course, a clean kitchen once I get up. This year, I’ve asked them to come on a photo walk with me.

3. Ask for what you want

Your husband and kids are not mind readers. If you don’t ask them for what you want, don’t be surprised if you feel resentful during the day.

Some will say, “how boring to be so explicit”. That may well be but better boring and content, than surprised and resentful.

This might also be a good time to say what you don’t want. I said to my husband to please not buy me more pyjamas – I love pyjamas but all mine are still good 🙂

4. Lower your expectations

I know I just said to ask for what you want, but still, lower your expectations. If you usually decorate the tea tray and make it beautiful, don’t expect that level of detail from your family.

Same with gifts – it will not be wrapped like you do, so relax about the details.

And last, but definitely not least…

5. Stay off social media on the actual day

Facebook and Instagram are good for many things but one thing they’re not good for are these sorts of holidays.

You don’t even like perfume but I promise you’ll get jealous of someone else’s perfume, etc. And don’t get me started on the “to my wonderful husband” posts 😉

So… remember, stay off social media and you’ll be much happier.

Which tip resonated most with you?

Also, do share your love language(s) with me in the comments below.

Credit: Photos in this post were taken by Jeanette Verster in 2011 🙂

Consider making a life admin list

On my #19in2019 list, I have a number of house maintenance items. I googled and had a number of people out to the house to see the work and provide quotes.

Do you know what a frustrating process this has been? You would assume people would want the work but I’ve had to call/ WhatsApp people three times to just come out, keep hounding them for the promised quote, and on and on. I’m much more bored by this state of affairs than you are, trust me 🙂

With all this back and forth, because I couldn’t keep it all in my head, I announced to Dion, “I think we need to make a Life Admin list”.

A life admin list is a fancy name I like to use for a master list that has all the things you need to get done listed on it.

So I made the list, took a photo of it and emailed it to my husband.

Interestingly, he said he felt overwhelmed when he first looked at it but I felt much calmer because the noise in my head was louder than the actual number of items on the page (only 10).

Does a big to-do list make you feel overwhelmed or calm because you can now see what needs to be done?

Here are some benefits to making a life admin list:

  1. you’ll get the noise out of your head
  2. you’ll easily be able to categorise items (phone calls, internet research, errands, etc.)
  3. you can prioritise and see which you feel able to attend to right now, both emotionally and financially
  4. you’ll feel able to tackle them in appropriate time blocks
  5. you can easily delegate/ make a separate Honey Do plea

I attended to 3 of those items fairly quickly: followed up on a start date for the one person who was actually professional in his dealings with us, sent a WhatsApp to another to say something like “thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to go with someone else” and for the third, I emailed to accept the quotation and suggest a time for the work to happen. 

All that took about 5 minutes.

I share that not to wow you with my productivity, but to show you that we often make things much bigger in our heads than they need to be.

It’s exactly what a Power Hour could be used for. Just get on the phone and sort a few things out, or send a few quick emails. Once things are scheduled, that’s half the battle won.

I promise you – you can do it!

Hit REPLY and let me know when you make your Life Admin List. I’ve posted mine on Instagram; if you post yours too, use the #LifeAdminList and I’ll pop by to say hello.

5 things to keep in mind when organising your space

A few bullet points of encouragement for your organising projects this Spring/ Autumn:

  1. Small spaces count. Your one drawer matters as much as an entire room. Start small to motivate you to keep on going. I also suggest starting with a small space that will make a difference to you mentally or emotionally.
  2. Declutter first. I’ve been saying this for years and it’s still true. Any space is easier to work with once you get rid of stuff.
  3. Just start. Don’t overthink things – it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you do.
  4. You can do anything for 15 minutes – Flylady. You can. Set your timer and start with one drawer, one pile of paper, one shelf. If you feel like continuing after the first 15 minutes are over, great. Go ahead. But if you want to stop there, that’s also good. You can start again tomorrow with another 15 minutes.
  5. Use what you have. This is my favourite thing about Marie Kondo – she’s not about buying pretty containers and storage boxes, but recommends shoe boxes or whatever you have laying around.

And finally remember, there’s no perfect time to get organised – now is a good a time as any.

I created a printable last year when I did Spring into Organising. It’s still available for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere. Download the attached printable and print it out. If you liked this post, please feel free to share it on your social media or with a friend.

Update on The Four Tendencies workshops


Well, friends, I’ve now run 3 workshops and I’m enjoying them so much. My last workshop was a full one with 10 participants – 7 obligers, 1 questioner and 2 rebels. I also had my youngest participant who was only 19 years old. Don’t you wish you’d known at 19 what you know about yourself today?!

I’m also keeping a careful eye on the stats because so far, my stats are different to Gretchen’s survey. I wonder if that is due to the South African slant? 🙂 I have had way more than the 41% obligers but interestingly, my upholder % is far less.

As you know, one of my #19in2019 goals is to run 4 of these workshops, so that’s 75% done. 

Registration is now open for the next Jhb workshop on Saturday, 1 June. Check out the testimonials and reserve your place.

Use code FRIEND to get R50 off each of your tickets when you register two or more people. Bring a friend, spouse, sister, mom…

Here’s the link to read more to see if it’s something you’re interested in, and then to reserve your places. Space is limited to just 10 people, and this is the last in-person workshop this year – don’t miss out.

Let’s talk shopping lists

I run a home that’s mostly run like a well-oiled machine. All the people who live (and work) here know that when things run low, they have to write it on the list so that when we go shopping on the weekend, we can buy the item.

Oh, we only go shopping once a week because we both don’t like shopping. Life with two upholders 😉

I’m firmly in the “make do” camp so if we didn’t get something, we just have to get creative til we go shopping again.

Our shopping list is an actual paper list on a small clipboard with some regular items typed in permanently. I keep a toiletries list in my iPhone notes though.

So you can see I love a shopping list as much as the next person.

Which is precisely why I don’t understand these chalkboard shopping lists. Or the Letterboard ones.

  • Are these real live shopping lists? Or just set up for Instagram?
  • Do people take photos of their chalkboards and then go shopping?
  • And with the Letterboard ones, how long do those things take to assemble?

Seriously though, do you use a shopping list?

What do you use? Paper? App? Photos of your chalkboard wall?

I know friends who do a grocery run daily! Maybe you do too. I can barely even manage weekly!

How often do you shop? As and when? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

Word of the year – quarterly review

I find it very useful to review my word of the year at least quarterly to make sure the word is still serving me and that I’m still using it as a guidance point in my life.

If you haven’t read my post where I announced my word and why I chose it, here is that post.

So how am I doing after 3 months?

workshops

Well, I picked this word because I needed to be bold in order to start running regular workshops again. Interestingly, it wasn’t the workshop delivery I was concerned about because teaching is my sweet spot, especially when paired with personality frameworks and how we are all created unique and special.

It was the marketing. The whole “will people get tired of me talking about the same old thing?” and unfollow (perhaps and yes). But I got to a point with my very first workshop this year where the workshop was not full, and yet I knew I’d asked and reached out to everyone I could. I’d done my bit and that was enough. And there was a peace about it.

Interestingly, that very same Monday morning, one of the people I’d reached out to said she couldn’t come although she’d love to, but would I please put together a proposal for her team at work. I did, and that led to my second workshop, this time a corporate one.

The boldness was working. And here I am, 10 days before my third workshop, but feeling more and more bold every time I talk about it.

I know and have personally seen 18 people leave changed in their work, in their understanding of themselves, in their relationships, in their level of freedom to be exactly themselves. It’s so great to see. I need to post more of the testimonials I’ve received but here are the first two testimonials that were sent to me.

work

Bold has also seen me speak up more about difficult things. Sometimes there really is no point to raising something but if I’m honest with myself, that is not really me. So, I’ve had two hard conversations and no, nothing will change, but I do feel better and more authentically me for having spoken up.

personal

In some of my personal relationships too, I have been bolder about what I want, and don’t want, reaching out even though it’s vulnerable to say things honestly….and the world has not fallen apart.

In summary, I’m about 4 out of 10 on the boldness scale of where I want to be, but I am realising that it’s a muscle that has gone unused and I need to awaken and strengthen it through regular exercise.

How are you settling into your word of the year? Is it working for you? Do you need to revive it again? Do you need to change it? Let’s talk in the comments.

My end-of-work-week routines

My end-of-work-week routine is encouraging, motivating, intentional and lets me completely unwind every week.

Interested? Keep reading.

I’ve been doing this same routine for about 18 months now and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

  1. Make a ta-da list for the week that’s just ended

I first heard of the concept of the Ta Da list on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. I tried it that week, it was fabulous but it took me a few weeks to make it a habit.

I have a job with lots of constantly moving parts which can make it feel like nothing is ever done. As a high J on Myers Briggs, I love the feeling of completion.

Writing this list makes me feel accomplished because I’m focussing on what did get done instead of what’s still up in the air.

2. Write down my goals for the week


This part helps me be intentional about what I want to get done in the week ahead.

We all know that you can get swept away by all the emails and requests from other people. This is not wrong; however, as an upholder, I also want to accomplish things that I decide are important.

Writing down goals for the week helps me keep the big picture in mind and keep moving on those important, but not necessarily urgent things. In time management literature, it’s the Quadrant 2 items.

3. Write Monday’s to-do list

Remember the Eat the Frog list?

This is typically a shorter list than my weekly goals because I’m focussing on the things that have to get done on that Monday.

I like to write this list after I’ve consulted my calendar for the day so that I can also prepare for any upcoming meetings.

The best thing about this list is that once I make it, I can completely unwind over the weekend and forget about work, knowing that I know exactly what I need to do once I flip open my notebook.

Which weekly systems have you put in place to help you with your work?

Which do you need more? Inner or outer calm?

I’ve written on the blog before about how, for me, outer order leads to inner calm.

To quickly give you a few examples, I feel like I can relax when my house is ordered and everything is in its place.

I feel like I can settle down and do good work when my desk is in order and there’s not a lot of stuff laying around.

I heard something on one of my favourite podcasts, Personality Hacker, a few months ago that I want to run by you.

I’m an ESTJ on Myers-Briggs. That J means I like order, structure, things in their place.

What they said was that for Js, outer order equals inner calm. That means a J’s environment must be sorted and orderly for their brains to feel calm.

Completely true for me.

And for Ps, their thinking needs to be orderly and sorted for them to feel calm.

They don’t need their environment to be completely orderly to feel calm.

Wow – such a different take on the process.

Does this resonate for you?

Not?

Nevertheless, most people do say that they feel better if their environment is orderly.

Where do you need to create some order in your home? Is it in your bedroom, living area, kitchen, kids’ room?

Which small steps can you take over the next week to create more order in your life?



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