This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? 😉

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

My favourite things about my 2018 diary

As I transition into the new year… and my new diary for 2019, I thought that I’d take a few minutes to note down and review my favourite things about my current diary.

 

Colour. I love the turquoise colour with the gold foil lettering and embossed feel. The pages are white with grey and turquoise shadowing.

Feel. It is gorgeous to the touch.

Zipper. I carried my bullet journal and other bits and bobs inside, and because it zips up, nothing has ever fallen out.

Paper. The paper is thick, smooth to the touch and is lined with a width that is perfect for my size handwriting.

Month at a glance page with a separate goals page

Weekly planner.  It is horizontal which is possibly the only thing I didn’t love at the start of using it but I have had no trouble adjusting at all.

Special sections: prayer list, priorities and notes for the week

There are more things but I don’t use the rest 🙂

They did not import the 2019 version of this diary to South Africa but a reader (hi Michelle!) let me know that she got one in Germany. If you’re lucky enough to get one of these, enjoy it.

We have had a great year together 🙂

Tell me your favourite thing about your 2018 diary.

PS if you missed it, I showed you all my diaries from 2007 in my Instagram story highlights. I’m happy to add them to the highlights again – you need to just tell me to do so in the comments.

The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k

Despite the title of this book (I’m not a fan of sensational titles), to my surprise, it was a really good book.

If I were asked, I’d say that it’s a book about boundaries… and you know how much I love talking about boundaries. But if you’re super sensitive to swear words, I’d give this a miss because you won’t get her message. That said, I don’t like a lot of swearing too and I found I became numb to it after a while.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

In this book, Sarah Knight gives her readers permission to stop wasting our time doing things we don’t want to, without feeling guilty about it. And without being that rude person no-one wants to be around. It’s about being firm, polite but being honest.

The nice thing is she gives lots of examples about places in all our lives where we do or pay for or attend things due to obligation without questioning, when in fact, the world will continue just fine if we stop doing these things we hate.

  1. like responding to rude people’s obnoxious questions (whether they be complete strangers or family!)
  2. attending baby showers and other social norm events
  3. doing things at work that no one cares about

Some of my favourite quotes:

“when I stopped giving a F about going to baby showers – an activity I positively loathe – I gained untold Sunday afternoons of freedom” (I had no idea anyone else in the world felt the same as I do about baby showers!)

… it’s all about prioritizing. Joy over annoy. Choice over obligation. Opinions vs feelings. Sticking to a budget. Eyes on the prize”

and my favourite

“Your time, energy, and/ or money spent should result in greater happiness for you.”

One thing I really LOVED in the book was the concept of a personal policy. E.g. you get asked for a loan from someone. You just say, “I have a personal policy that I don’t give loans. So sorry” (polite, firm and they can’t argue – it’s your personal policy)

You can do this for many things…. go wild 🙂

The overarching theme is that we all think other people care much more than they do (so true). And so we do things to make people happy when they really don’t/ won’t care that much.

So stop twisting yourself in knots, just be honest about your feelings in a kind way, and you and they will be much happier.

I think I have good boundaries but I also learnt a lot from this little book. If you need a little kick-in-the-pants (especially for the obligers and then upholders), grab a copy from the library and get reading in preparation for your Christmas events… or for a New Year refresh 🙂

Do you need a boundary refresh? Where do you need to set a personal policy?

If you didn’t know, I coach women just like you to live more intentional lives. Contact me to arrange your coaching session.

How to get out of a reading slump

I shared in my newsletter and on Instagram Stories a few weeks ago that I’d been going through a reading slump.

What’s a reading slump?

It’s when reading feels more like a chore than a pleasure, and when you would rather do anything else than actually read.

What brought on my reading slump?

  • My standard reading life looks like this: a work of fiction started and finished on the weekend, an audible book in the car to accompany me on my daily commute, and a non-fiction read for weeknights.
  • I had a string of fiction books that I was not finishing in time so it was stretching into the week. My pace became really slow (5 – 6 days per book instead of 3 days) and my reading rhythm was thrown. Some of these books were book club reads that because of the internet noise, I’d been looking forward to, and were therefore disappointing (The Almost Sisters and Eleanor Oliphant). One was a book about a woman dying of cancer which was beautifully written but still, a difficult read.
  • In typical upholder fashion, even though I could have stopped when I saw that people weren’t joining in with Spring into Organising, I carried on relentlessly organising my home, going harder to try and inspire, but instead just burning myself out by doing more, more, more (17 spaces instead of the 9 planned). By the way, if you have suggestions for future endeavours, please let me know in comments what would work better in terms of getting people (or you) to play along. I have many ideas but I’m (honestly) scared to even try again.

I then heard an episode of the Currently Reading podcast where reading slumps were discussed, and when they asked readers to let them know how to get out of one, suddenly I realised what was going on with me and I was full of ideas.

Here’s how I got out of my reading slump:

  1. I decided to read one or two authors that I always enjoy reading (like Cathy Kelly) because I knew I’d read and not want to stop reading.
  2. The weather helped as we had one cold and rainy weekend, perfect reading weather.
  3. I chose a mystery book to increase my pace. I always read mysteries faster and I needed to feel like I was immersing myself in books again.
  4. I picked some fun audiobooks to keep me company on my way to work, not the “next thing” on my to read list, but just books that stood out to me. And yes, I flew through them.
  5. I chose to put down my phone. This was fortuitous as I upgraded and the iPhone helpfully told me exactly how much time I was spending on Instagram. 14 hours in one week is easily 2 – 3 books read, so that was an easy decision. This is not entirely accurate but I will write about this some more once I’ve gathered more stats.

Over to you.

When was your last reading slump? Do you remember what led to it? And more importantly, how did you get out of it?

And then, let’s talk about the books I read last month.

I read three physical books, my first in 3 months 🙂 and I’ll admit, readers, that it is really satisfying to occasionally hold a real book.

  1. I finished 10 books and I’m now over 100 for the year (101).
  2. Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 3/3/4

I read some great non-fiction books this month.

The ministry of ordinary places – Shannan Martin

Shannan is an enneagram 8 which means she’s challenging in a good way and in this book, makes you think about what the definition is of widening your circle and doing ministry right there in your small, ordinary world.

I loved each essay and screenshotted (since I read on overdrive) many, many pages to remember some of her words.

The 360 degree leader – John Maxwell

Maxwell is the king of leadership books and this one was published in 2006 yet everything he says is still completely up to date, probably because leadership and interpersonal skills are timeless.

I was in a bit of a funk when I borrowed this one from Overdrive and listening to this book sorted me right out. I can lead right from where I am, no matter my position or title.

This really was a great book to inspire me for the last month of the work year.

I also have two fiction reads that stood out to me this month:

Rainbows never end – Cecilia Ahern

Coming out of my reading slump I was fully prepared to abandon this book if it was in any way weird. I say that because Cecilia Ahern’s books are a hit and miss for me – some of them are exactly my thing and then others (like The time of my life) are just too weird/ “imaginative” for my liking.

This one had me glued to the couch for two days. I remember picking Kendra up from a party and saying to her, “come on, hurry, I’m 20 pages away from the end of my book”.

This year it will be different – Maeve Binchy

I don’t usually like short stories but Maeve Binchy does short stories very, very well. Each story can be enjoyed with a cup of tea or over breakfast and this one is now one of my Christmas favourites. I’d been looking forward to a Christmas read that would leave me feeling warm and hopeful, but not too soppy, and Irish fiction is just that. Real, relatable, flawed characters with stories that have satisfying but not cheesy endings.

Tell me about some of the great books you read this month.

What I learned through writing every day in November

Many of you know that I chat to Beth, my accountability partner and friend, every week.

On Thursday 1 November, I’d only completed my personal goals from the previous week and no blog goals, which all involved writing.

On a whim, I mentioned to Beth that I wondered if I could still actually write every day. And right there and then, I decided to try.

You see years ago, for five years in a row, I blogged 324 or more times every year. For two of those years, I blogged every single day.

Also, here on Organising Queen, I’ve twice participated in the 31 days series – once I wrote about easy organising solutions, and the other time I wrote about having enough time.

It is never hard for me to write, especially if I know what I want to write about, so I thought I’d give it a bash again.

So what did I do differently and what have I learned?

  1. I set two daily reminders in my phone – one at 6 pm and another from 8 – 8.30 to come write. The 6pm reminder was to start thinking about what I want to write about. And the 8pm reminder was to actually sit down and write.
  2. I used a habits page (I have no idea where I found it – I’d printed off a whole year long ago and not used all of the monthly pages) to cross off my progress daily. I also recorded my progress on my Instagram stories every 3 – 5 days, or thereabouts.
  3. I was conscious about my “difficult days” – weekends when I’m too relaxed, and Tuesday nights when I’m exhausted from my two dance classes, and so I made sure to have something easy to write about on those days. This was a great idea.
  4. I brainstormed some topics at the start of the month. I ended up with 17 topics but as is often the case, I’ve since deleted about 5 that sounded far too boring even to me, and added a couple of others. I scanned my book notes from recent non-fiction I’ve read to see if there was anything I really wanted to blog about.
  5. The point was just to write, not to create beautiful blog posts. Some nights I just wrote; most of them I also added photos and tags for a blog post. Having my standards low meant that I actually got things done instead of obsessing about perfection.

A few notes:

I’m an Upholder on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework so strategies that work REALLY well for me are clarity, scheduling, pairing and monitoring.

Clarity – I very clearly defined what “success” on this project would look like – actual writing on a keyboard for 15 minutes, and having my blog post ideas list

Scheduling – reminders in my phone

Pairing – I knew that at 6pm I’d be home from work but low energy, so the first reminder would go off while I was cooking or otherwise having a cup of tea with the kids (I could start thinking about my topic) and the second reminder was just after the kids went to bed (well, in theory)

Monitoring – I was checking off my list of blog post ideas as I completed writing, and also the occasional posting to Instagram stories, and my weekly accountability chat with Beth.

Any upholders out there? Did my approach resonate with you too?

How about the other tendencies? What would your approach have been for creating this new habit.

You can do the same for any habit you want to create either now or in the new year. I will help you clarify your tendency, and put structures in place during our coaching session.

Please contact me as soon as possible to schedule your coaching session as I only coach a limited number of sessions weekly.

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

Introducing my 2019 diary

my current diary

When I started looking for a 2019 diary, I fully intended to either get my current diary again, or go for a Moleskine or Legami weekly diary planner as I’ve had in previous years.

But alas, my current diary format was only available in a cover that did not feel very smooth to touch. I’m a very tactile person and I like a diary that feels good to touch, or at least doesn’t irritate me.

I’d just about eliminated everything and was ready to order my Moleskine online as I didn’t see any Legami diaries in store when something quite serendipitous happened.

Typo had a sale and I had a voucher!

I’d not been intending to buy a Typo diary because the standard weekly diaries have no lines (I need lines!) but when I went into the store, I saw 5 weekly diaries left (2 different covers) at 50% off, and my decision was made.

They were not my first choice but as I mentioned before, they did have my non-negotiables:

  • pretty cover that is lovely to touch
  • weekly format – horizontal preferably
  • lines and big enough for my handwriting
  • month to view with notes paper

And since I’m such a practical person, I couldn’t justify spending double that on another diary when this would work perfectly well.

Interestingly, once I brought my diary home, I now love it and can’t wait to start using it 🙂 It’s actually a 2018-2019 diary so I could technically start using it right now. If you’re curious, I’ll use the extra pages in the front for my bullet journal lists.

Here are some photos if you’d like to see inside:

Do you have your 2019 diary yet? And have you declared and scheduled your planning day?

No-fail menu planning

Last year I wrote two posts on menu planning that were two of the most popular posts on my blog the entire year.

If you didn’t see them, here’s post 1 and here’s post 2.

The reason I go on and on about this is because it is such a game-changer when you make it part of your weekly routine.

Today I want to give you two methods of menu planning that are truly very easy.

Base your meals on the protein. E.g.

Monday – legumes like lentils or kidney beans (chilli con carne using just kidney beans served over rice or baked potatoes)

Tuesday – chicken (chicken breasts, chicken a la King, chicken curry)

Wednesday – fish (grilled fist in the oven with chips or mashed potato)

Thursday – chicken again (add a second night of the protein your family likes the most, and if it’s chicken, choose from the list above)

Friday – cheese (pizza)

Saturday – eggs (breakfast for dinner, or quiche)

Sunday – beef (stir fry, steak, etc.)

(of course, I only plan for 5 nights and there’s usually enough in the fridge for the other two nights)

OR

you could do the same as above around the carbohydrate

Monday – rice

Tuesday – potatoes or chips

Wednesday – pasta

Thursday – wraps

Friday – pizza or bread-based

(this is mostly how I menu plan because I get bored eating the same carbs two nights in a row)

OR

you could plan meals around the type of dish

  • Oven bake
  • Casserole
  • Slow-cooker
  • Stir-fry

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas.

But even if you have a good system going, try planning using one of these 3 plans occasionally to jazz things up in the kitchen.

Will you let me know in the comments if you give it a bash? I’d love to hear.

But also, as we’re in summer in South Africa, please let me know your favourite meals to make in summer.

Book bossy and my October reads

I learned of a delightful  little phrase, “book bossy” this month.

It turns out I am book bossy.

Friends, I was quite taken aback because I don’t see this book bossiness as a negative at all; it’s just who I am. I am a person who is passionate about books and reading.

And honestly, I’m only book bossy when I think it may matter to you too. There are some friends I never talk books with; granted, these are probably not my deepest friendships 😉

I am book bossy when I really love a book and want to press it into everyone’s hands (or ears), or because it is universally loved. Or because I know that the person will, in fact, love the book.

So in honour of my book bossiness, these are some books I am decidedly and unashamedly book bossy about:

The happiness project – Gretchen Rubin

Perfect as we go into the new year. I plan to listen to it in January again – it’s just the perfect start to a new year, or even around your birthday.

Boundaries – Cloud/ Townsend

Still the best book on boundaries out there.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

Look on my sidebar. I’ve written many posts and it is truly life-changing.

The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

Listen, read and then if you’re intrigued like I was, take her deep dive course too. Or come coach with me and I will take you through it.

And now, let me show you all the books I read in October, among them the book that taught me about my book bossiness.

I read four fiction and five non-fiction; 0 physical books (!), 6 Kindle and 3 Audible.

My favourite fiction read was the Cathy Kelly – Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

I have three favourite non-fiction reads to talk about. It’s actually a pity of sorts that I read them all in the same month; they each deserve their space in the spotlight.

Off the clock – Laura Vanderkam‘s new release. I enjoyed this book so much and am planning to write a few blogs about it. It’s more philosophical than her previous books, and is my favourite by far.

Dream more – Dolly Parton. This was a short read and I actually listened on audio. It was so fun to hear Dolly singing a verse here and there. I believe that a memoir-ish book needs to make you like the person more than you did before, and this one did. She is utterly delightful and I am so impressed with her work ethic and attitude towards life.

I’d rather be reading – Anne Bogel. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did because (confession!) I don’t usually like books about books as I find them either too cheesy or trying to be too clever. This one was neither. It was relatable and endearing, and I found myself wanting to either wake my husband to share things with him, or Instastory everything and put polls in my stories to talk about it all.

What was your favourite fiction, and non-fiction (if you read – I realise more and more that I’m in the minority with my 40% on average non-fiction reads)?

And more important, are you book bossy?

Declare a day for annual planning

I read on Sarah’s blog where she said she wished we could have an International Planning Holiday where we would all take out our new diaries, transfer information and get all transitioned out of the old and into the new one.

Well, I was agreeing with her as I read and then I realised… I already do this!

My international planning holiday is not on a specific day, but does fall within a specific week of the year – the week between Christmas and New Year.

I love this week and have referred to it in the past as the best time of the year.

This is how I do my annual planning day:

  1. I choose a day during that week (26 – 31 December) where I do not have any socials planned because there’s nothing worse than feeling rushed. It’s usually on the 27th or 28th, but has been as late as the first week of January some years.
  2. I ensure that I have a good block of 2 – 3 hours to work on my diary. I have, in the past, gone to a coffee shop to do this planning work uninterrupted.
  3. I make sure I have all my gel pens and highlighters handy, as well as post-it notes (the proper stuff, not the cheap sticky notes) and washi tape.
  4. I write all the important dates in my new diary, and transfer in any other important information, like passwords. Don’t judge – it works for me.
  5. I write in all the school terms, both in my monthly view, and during the actual weeks.
  6. I get January all set up with scheduled dates, friend plans, etc.
  7. Lastly, I move some lists to my new bullet journal (like life admin, blog post ideas, etc.) or the notepaper in my diary, if there is notepaper, like the years I’ve bought an 18-month diary, but only started during the actual calendar year.

Important to note:

I may not have set goals by this time, or chosen my word of the year, but I do think it’s important (for me, anyway) to at least feel somewhat in control by having the week-to-week aspect of my life set up.

Do you declare a day for annual planning? Why don’t you block out the two hours right now to prepare your 2019 diary?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...