My top 7 school organising hacks

I’m always fascinated by any back-to-school tips whether on blogs or podcasts because I love having a streamlined, well-oiled system where I can. There are so many things that we have to deal with on the fly so why not have a few solid systems in place that you don’t have to even think about?!

Here are our top 7 school organising hacks:

One calendar

We have a calendar in our command centre where we add any special dates from school. We receive a monthly school newsletter with upcoming dates. We add all the dates immediately and toss the newsletter into the recycling bag. If there are events we need to attend, either Dion or I will create a meeting in our calendar and invite the other parent to it.

Paper

We deal with any paper immediately so we don’t need a space to store paper. The newsletter gets read and tossed. The permission slips are signed immediately and placed on the kids’ bags. I write “R10 for civvies day” on the calendar and hand the money to the children two days before the event. Toss all the paper so you don’t have to find a place to keep it.

School supplies

If your school offers it, buy the pack. Or use a stationer who provides a shopping service, especially in the younger grades. Otherwise, buy the supplies when school lets you have the list – don’t wait for when school opens unless you like to be the frazzled mother in CNA looking for a specific size of glue stick. Oh, I completely ignore the list as far as brands are concerned and I buy what I like. After all, if the kids don’t use it at school, you’ll be using it at home so make sure you like the brands too 🙂

School fees

This is my favourite tip ever! Our school has a meeting in October of the one year to set fees for the following year. I am always at that meeting. Once the fees are decided on, I set up my scheduled payment with my bank (I use the turquoise bank!) for the 10 payments from January to October, and then…. I never have to think about it for a whole year! I do have to make a once-off payment for workbooks, T-shirts, etc. in January once the kids go back to school but I never have to remember to pay anything else and I also don’t like having a debit order going off my account. I trust my own financial systems more than the school’s.

School uniforms

When school closes at the end of the year, and then again a few weeks before the switch to winter uniform happens, I do a Big Fit-On of clothes to make sure each child has enough of each item. One of my children has to be bribed with Smarties so it’s not all smooth sailing. I take inventory of how many items of each thing they have, if it’s too small and they need a bigger size, etc. and write all the Clothes to buy on a Project Life card that I keep in my wallet. Then when I’m out and about, I know exactly what size shoe or socks I need to buy.

Homework spot

When we moved into this house, we imagined that our kids would do their homework in their bedrooms. That has never happened as the actual preferred homework spot is at the dining room table. So now we embrace that idea and I have paper, pens and pencils nearby. Here’s the key – the books are not allowed to wander around in the house (this is how things get lost). The minute they’re done for the day, the books go back in the bags and the table is cleared.

School lunches

This could be my rule for life but I’ll share it here anyway: start as you mean to go on. And if you want to change things, there’s no time like the present. Our kids take a sandwich, fruit and a snack to school if they have an extra-mural. If they don’t, they just get the sandwich and fruit.

Sandwiches are generally 1.5 – 2 slices of bread with cheese, ham, or peanut butter on it. Fruits are apples, bananas, naartjies, papaya, grapes, etc. If I send messy fruit like papaya, I send a little cake fork in the lunch box.

Snacks are whatever we have handy – muffins, peanuts & raisins, fruit roll (I cut one into 4 portions), yoghurts, etc. The kids drink water – I never send juice boxes.

Here’s the thing – if they bring lunch home, they eat that for their home snack before any other food. And if they eat the snack and not the sandwich, they don’t get a snack the following day. This is how we’ve trained the kids to eat their healthier food first before the more fun things. You can read more about our school lunch boxes here.

And that’s it – our favourite 7 ways to organise our kids’ school lives.

Tell me – what are your school organising hacks? Did you have any a-ha moments?

Why are you so busy?


Years ago, 10 years to be exact, my friend, Beth, asked me the question, “why are you so busy?”

You see, I’d cram my weekly goals list so full of things and it’s amazing to me to think about now, but I’d actually get them all done.

But one day she asked me this question and do you know what I said?

“I think I’m trying to avoid the pain”.

The pain of infertility, of trying and trying to have kids, and this thing feeling and being completely out of my control.

Once I had that realisation, I slowed down a lot. It wouldn’t appear so to most people because I’ve always been a very driven person from my childhood, but a lot of slowing down happened. I even chose a word for the year, simplify, to help me focus on slowing down.

I think my default for not dealing with things is to get busy.

I’m now very conscious that when I feel like I need to do everything, it probably means I’m trying to avoid dealing with something emotional.

I then stop and ask myself, what am I trying to avoid?


So I’m going to ask you the same thing if you’re filling your life with non-life giving activities.

What’s really going on? Why are you so busy?

Marie Kondo said in her book that once your home is “tidy”, you then have no more space to avoid your big life decisions. I agree.

Gretchen Rubin says something along the same vein about a friend of hers: “I organised my fridge and now I can look for a new job”.

Are you occupying yourself with busyness (or social media or comparison envy) instead of dealing with your own big life issues?

Have a think and maybe you’ll also find that you’re avoiding something you need to deal with. If you’d like to work through some of these issues, I’d love to work with you. Check out the coaching options and email me when you’re ready.

Do you want to share? I’d love to hear more in the comments.

Let’s talk about deep clutter

I finished Gretchen Rubin’s book, Outer Order Inner Calm, a few months ago and while there’s not much new under the sun about organising, I do love her approach that not one size will fit all.

A concept that has stayed with me for a while now is the one about deep clutter.

In the book, she mentions that it’s easy to see messy people’s clutter. That’s called surface clutter.

However, many of us (I include myself here) have deep clutter and we don’t even realise it because it’s tucked away in a cupboard, sometimes even neatly organised.

Just because something is organised beautifully in your cupboard doesn’t mean it’s not clutter; it could be deep clutter. I immediately thought of all the pantries on Instagram that are gorgeous, yes. But I often wonder if people really eat all that food on a regular basis?

Or the beautifully organised rooms full of clothes… if those 17 pairs of jeans are not being used, that’s deep clutter.

She also mentioned that your things should move around your house. Example – if your dishes are in the sink, and then on the table, and then packed away, they’re all clearly being used, so are not clutter.

The dishes at the back of the cupboard that never move? Those dishes are probably deep clutter.

I was immediately inspired to use the stuff I love and the next time I gave my kids a snack, I used my fancy tapas bowls so they’d get an outing 🙂 And last night I dug out some dishes I used  to use regularly a few years ago. I still love them so I fed the kids on them and they loved feeling special.

Here’s your organising challenge:

  1. Check the back of your cupboards to unearth all the deep clutter.
  2. Either start using those things (yes, your fancy things may break – it’s okay) or donate them.
  3. Take a pic and post on Instagram; tag me so I’ll come see them

PS if you’re interested, my life admin list still has 9 items on it. I remain hopeful that I’ll be able to cross off 5 in the next week or so!

5 things I’ve learnt in the first 6 months of 2019

  1. I really love going on holidays. As it stands, we’re only now on our second holiday of the year. Usually we’re on holiday for the first week of the year, and then again in April/ May. This year the school holidays didn’t work to our advantage so we stayed put, and I reallllllllly felt the pressure in May and June.

2. I’ve met my goal and run four Four Tendencies workshops so far this year. I always knew I loved running workshops because it brings together many loves of my life – teaching, people, connecting and connecting dots for others, organising and stationery 🙂 However, I had forgotten exactly how much I love running workshops. After every single workshop, I’ve been on such a high for the entire evening. My remaining two workshop dates are: 7 September for the Five Love Languages, and 2 November for the Four Tendencies. Take 10% off if you come to both workshops.

3. I’ve learned that boldness can increase the more you practise. My word of the year is BOLD because I suspected that if I wanted to run 5 workshops this year, I’d need boldness to put myself out there. Somewhere between workshop 3 and 4 I realised that I’m not scared to tell people about the workshops anymore. Not that I was scared, per se, but it felt a bit cringeworthy to put myself out there and say, “yes, come, you will benefit from doing this”. Honestly, a lot of it was reminding myself why I’m running these workshops. I actually sat with a journal and pen before workshop 3 and wrote down what people get from coming to the workshops. And then I think I spoke to people from a true place of wanting to help them. What is your word of the year, and how are you living it out this year?

4. I’ve also learned that I should definitely not tackle multiple house projects at the same time. In my defense, one went over by a month, one took two weeks longer than the other and the only one that worked exactly according to plan was the third one. Thank goodness those are all done, and now we save towards next year’s maintenance items. Isn’t it sad that house things are never done?!

5. My kids wrote their first set of exams just over a month ago. Well. As two upholder parents with questioner and rebel kids, I can say the entire experience has been a steep learning curve for all of us. We will definitely start setting clear expectations much earlier next time instead of leaving them to it for a few weeks by themselves. Upholders would take the exam timetable and work backwards and then diligently start studying; we’ve seen now that the other tendencies just don’t have that same way of responding to the expectation of studying. What’s your tendency, and how did you approach exams when you were at school or university?

What are some of the things you learned during the first half of 2019?

PS do you know, I’m still sometimes writing the year as 2018!

It’s half year review time!

Doing a review of the month, half year or year is a meditative practice for me because I’m so inclined to keep moving onto the next thing without stopping.

The half year, especially, is a chance for me to stop, acknowledge that I have accomplished some things and make some tweaks for the rest of the year ahead.

Let me do this with you, and then you can grab a cup of tea or coffee, and join me in your own half year review.

what went well?

  • I’ve run 4 X Four Tendencies workshops – I tweak a few things every time to make the workshop better – and I now have a kids’ quiz too. I also fully have my workshop mojo back.
  • We’ve waterproofed our roof and won’t have to think about that for 10 years. Our windows are sealed. We have blinds in our poolroom and bathrooms. We now have a slam-shut security door.
  • I’ve read over 50 books and we’ve had 6 fantastic book club discussions.
  • I’ve done some excellent work in my full-time job, had hard conversations that I needed to, and I’ve updated my CV (are you like me who keeps saying, “I really should update my CV” and then never do?).
  • Our kids have settled in nicely to grade 4. D and I are a bit more hands-on with the studying than we’d like to be as upholders, but we remain confident things will be better next time around.

what didn’t go well?

  • Too much money flowing out on all the house stuff. The money was there but too much makes me feel slightly anxious!
  • I would have liked one more family holiday but school holidays didn’t work in our favour this year.
  • I started caring too much about things outside of my control at work.

what do I need to let go of?

In an unprecedented twist (!), I am actually letting go of one of my #19in2019 goals. That’s because we did other (unplanned) house projects and so I’m letting go of one item on my list I had there instead. It’s all good because I exchanged one project for another.

what energised me?

I took a few extra dance classes when the opportunity presented itself. There’s an extra dance class on another weeknight. I can’t make it every week but when it works for all of us – kids and Dion – then I have gone, and it has been good to move more. Moving would be the fourth item on this list.

what do I need to change?

  • Be aware of upholder tightening, in particular with regards to my reading rules. If I want to read fiction during the week, especially during particularly stressful times at work when I need to escape, then I should do so.
  • Plan holidays more in advance.
  • Stop buying handbags! #sorrynotsorry

how’s my word of the year working for me?

Great. My word for the year is bold and it really has been a fabulous word for me. It is pushing me to say yes more and to step out when I feel inclined to retreat or take a back seat.

In a nutshell, my first half of the year has been a solid 8 out of 10. Much better in some areas but frustrating in others. Life, really 🙂 Much, much more good than bad.

Over to you! On a scale of 1 – 10, what is your rating for the first 6 months of the year? Care to share any of your high or lowlights?

My 5 best work hacks

Interestingly, I made a note in my bullet journal to write this post after hearing some work hacks on a podcast.

Of course, I thought that, as a full-time working mother, I should also talk about my own work hacks.

So here we go with mine, and I’d love to know about your own work hacks too.

  1. I hold fast to my end-of-work-week routines

I wrote a whole post about this year. If you haven’t read that post, give it a read – I’ve been following that new work routine for more than 18 months, and it’s honestly, changed my work life.

2. I make a daily to-do list (also known as my Eat the Frog list)

This is linked to number 1, but not quite. I started a day recently with 3 meetings and only got back to my desk after lunch. I realised towards the end of the day that I was feeling unproductive. Do you know why? I ended up working in my inbox instead of on my to-do list.

3. I reply to emails straight after reading if I can, and then file/ delete immediately

This is one of my best hacks. It’s like the one-minute rule but for your inbox. When you’re in email process mode (in other words, dedicated email time), read and answer, and then file or delete (I have always been in love with the delete button). Not all emails can get done quickly but if they can be attended to quickly, do so.

4. I make an agenda for meetings and circulate beforehand (preferably in the meeting invite notes), and I send out action points afterwards

It’s always useful to know why you’re attending a meeting and what you want to get out of it. Linked to that point, I try to make the meeting shorter rather than longer, and if I know a meeting is likely to run over due to chit-chat, I schedule it before another hard-start one, so I have a legit excuse to leave.

5. As far as possible, schedule days for deep work and days for meetings

I currently have the option to work from home occasionally and I protect that time for deep work. I probably get done on a work-from-home day what I get done on two days at the office.

It does mean that when I’m in the office, I usually have many, many hours of meetings, but I find that I’m more productive on a weekly basis than having meetings scattered on every day during the week.

I’d love to know what your best work hacks are so I can also add some tips to my arsenal 🙂

Do leave your comments, big or small, I want to hear them all.

 

My dreadful iPhone screen time stats

When Apple introduced the screen time monitoring stats on the iPhone, at first I resisted for a month or so. I always wait until the last possible minute to upgrade because I don’t like my technology to change!

When I received my first week’s usage, I was horrified.

A few notes and insights, if you’re interested:

  • My time usage per day averaged about 5 hours a day with most of that time being spent on… Instagram.
  • I knew that I received many notifications daily. It turns out that number was 90 a day. WhatsApp notifications were more than double the next category, my calendar. I have no problem with my calendar notifying me because all of those notifications are self-imposed and, as you’ve read in my upholder posts, I use scheduling to basically run my life. The remainder of my notifications are all useful.
  •  Turns out I pick my phone up on average 100 times a day. That’s terrible. When you break it down it’s about 8 times an hour which is still bad, but then when I see that the two apps I use after I pick up my phone are WhatsApp (probably things I want to see) and podcasts (stopping, rewinding, looking for the next, etc.), that sounds about right, and not something I’m going to change very much.
  • This leads us to my most used apps – Instagram, Podcasts and WhatsApp. All consistent with what I said above. The thing is Instagram wins by a huge margin. A whopping 53% of all my screentime is spent on Instagram. Granted, I manage two accounts and post stories and so on, but still. Those 20 hours a week could have been spent reading 2 – 3 extra books.

  

Immediately afterwards, I decided to do what I could to reduce those hours.

  • I got into a good habit of closing apps immediately after using them. That helped a lot and reduced the phone usage down to high 3 hours – low 4 hours a day.
  • I was very conscious of all my social media time especially after I put a 1-hour limit on social media. Every single day of my life I exceed this limit (except when on holidays) but every time I tap “ignore for 15 minutes” I’m conscious that I’m now choosing to ignore my own self-imposed limits. #upholder
  • My pickups are now 60 a day after I turned off my Instagram notifications. I now also mute WhatsApp groups if I don’t need to hear all the chatter, which is most of the time.

What’s happening currently?

  • I still veer between an average of 4 and 5 hours of phone usage a day. In the weeks when I post a lot of talking stories on Instagram vs just pictures, my phone usage shoots up but that is not a true reflection as my upload time is super slow and I have to leave Instagram open and on stories to upload.
  • My lowest weekly stats ever have been when we’ve been on holiday and that’s because I’m reading a lot and there’s no wifi 🙂 In that week I only used my phone for podcasts while getting ready in the mornings, and while cooking, and to take photos and send the occasional photos to family. I averaged 2 hours that week and I was very, very proud of that 🙂 It’s nice to know I can use my phone less even if forced to do so through no wifi.

What’s next?

I’m still interested in reducing my phone usage in theory but the only app I really have a problem with is Instagram. I grab and scroll when I’m lazy or while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, or while I’m thinking about an email… Mindless scrolling is so easy on Instagram.

I think I need to turn on my Downtime and make sure I adhere to it. It’s about getting more disciplined with Instagram, like posting my own photos early in the day, only checking at lunch quickly and then again quickly at night. Exactly as I do with email. It’s not like I do much of a “curated feed” so it should be easy to do once I decide what I want and how I will approach it.

We’re going on holiday in about 3 weeks which I think is the perfect time to break my bad Instagram habits.

Have any of you drastically reduced your Instagram or Screen Time usage? Please share your tips and tricks.

PS please note that I have no Facebook or Twitter usage. I feel very happy that I only have one vice 😉

 

 

 

The 5 love languages workshop – 7 Sept – or an online option

 5 love languages | www.organisingqueen.com  

Friends, I love running the 5 Love Languages workshop and now that my one #19in2019 goal of running 4 X Four Tendencies workshops is complete, I can focus on running this 5 Love Languages one.

Is it only me or do you also find it “interesting” that both these workshops I’m so passionate about start with numbers? Hmmm.

I need to find a new name starting with 3 ________ (currently called Let’s Do This) to talk about goals and living intentionally. Ha!

Okay, back to the topic.

If you’re local and keen to improve your relationships with kids, spouse, friends, family, then come along and join me for a fun Saturday afternoon of laughter and learning.

This one sells out fast – the first 10 people who pay get the places.

Here’s what Jodie had to say

I didn’t realise that instead of making things better, by not speaking my children’s love language, I was not getting the desired effect. I easily identified what love languages belonged to each of my children and, going forward, I’m definitely going to make a concerted effort to speak to these more. Marcia made us all feel comfortable and at home, and her knowledge of this area was really very good resulting in me learning so much.

Jodie Howe, Investec Bank

Johannesburg

 

Read more and book your place now. There’s a discount code on that page if you bring a friend or spouse along with you.

5 love languages | www.organisingqueen.com

New – for those not local to Johannesburg

I also offer one-on-one Love Languages coaching via Skype or Facetime.

Sessions are 45 minutes each. I will send you the assessment to complete beforehand and then we’ll discuss your results and go through each of the 5 love languages.

These cost R400 each or $29.

Email me, I’ll invoice you through Paypal and we can schedule your session.

 

How my bullet journalling has changed over the last 3 years

I’m always fascinated by how things change in my own life and in other people’s, especially with regard to how we do things.

Today I want to talk about bullet journalling.

Yes, I’m still bullet journalling and to be honest, even when the craze ends, I’ll still be using a bullet journal simply because I was bullet journalling long before it became a thing. In those days, I just had a notebook I carried around with me for my lists 🙂

I have noticed that the way I use my bullet journal changes according to the diary I have for that year.

This year I have a diary with lots of monthly goals space so I use my diary for my goals instead of the bullet journal. I still use my bullet journal for my monthly review though (you can download your monthly review free printable page here)

So which pages am I still using?

  1. Weekend to-do list
  2. WFM Daily to-do list (once a week)
  3. Podcast club notes (podcast club does not happen as often as it used to, though)
  4. list of blog posts to write (this is still a permanent page in my bullet journal)
  5. brainstorming specific blog posts or what needs to go in my monthly newsletter
  6. monthly project life photo planning (I do a mindmap and ask myself what happened that I want to remember, and then I look for a picture. It’s much less overwhelming than looking at 300 pics trying to whittle them down to 6)
  7. daily journalling from holidays, when they happen.
  8. People interested in the Four Tendencies workshop (I keep a list and update it after every workshop) – this has been a strange thing and I should write down some learnings after the workshop on 1 June happens.
  9. Life admin list – granted, at certain times of the year, this list is WILDLY busy but most months there are only one or two things on there at most, which is how I prefer it.

Are you still bullet journalling?

Which are your favourite pages in your bullet journal?

PS I have a separate bullet journal for all my reading. Read more about that one in this post.

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.

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