Where are your yellow flags showing up?

One Sunday morning a few years ago I was enjoying a mug of tea while reading blogs.

I happened upon a friend’s blog where she mentioned her hard drive crashed and she lost everything. Fortunately for her, her husband backs up weekly.

Right there and then (I didn’t even finish reading her post!), I got up, fetched my external hard drive and backed up my computer.

You see, my computer had been running a bit slow and that, for me, is a yellow flag.

The next thing that would happen is that programmes would stop responding and one day I’d find a blue screen or something similarly scary.

I’d be kicking myself then because when my computer completely stops working, that’s my red flag.

We all have yellow flags in our lives.

They’re usually about much bigger things than just a computer (although that’s big in my life – the thought of losing all my lovely photos makes me feel physically sick).

Things like our health, our relationships, our work, our finances.

Let’s talk about health.

Yellow flags are constant feelings of being stressed, headaches, pain, anxiety, etc.

They are indicators that we need to deal with something in our lives.

I was recently in a job that was very stressful for me. I knew I was feeling stress but a yellow flag for me was when my doctor picked up something in my bloodwork indicating the stress.

I tried to manage the stress as best as I could but when nothing had changed for me physiologically 6 months later, I knew I had to make a drastic change, so I left.

As a friend said to me, “you can always get another job – you’re smart and talented – but you can’t always get your health back”. Too true.

If you ignore these yellow flags, they could lead to a red flag where you’re forced to stop and take note of things, like a serious disease, an operation, and so on.

So have a think.

If you’re honest with yourself, are there any yellow flags in your life you need to deal with?

1. Constant feelings of stress and overwhelm?
2. An odd noise in your car
3. A relationship that needs tending
4. Finances that need to be looked at
5. Boundaries that need to be discussed

Can you identify any yellow flags in your life? How can you take a step or two to deal with it?

This is how I make my house run smoothly

Life is such a whirlwind, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it often seems like the weeks go by in a blur of activity…and then it’s weekend again. Or the weekends go by so quickly and when Monday comes around, you feel like you’ve just started to relax and the week is upon you once again.

The problem with this is that we never have a sense of peace, calm and control. A feeling that we are directing the course of our own lives.

I’ve been going through a really hectic couple of months so I thought I’d share some of the systems I’ve set up to make our lives easier:

Household calendar
We have one household calendar in our kitchen where we mark off any commitments like church, school meetings, book club, socials, and so on. I also mark off the recycling pick-up days, when we buy electricity, and when the gardener needs to be paid.

I couple this with weekly planning. I look at my diary on a Sunday and put in my appointments for the week. I also add any tasks that I need or want to work on, like writing blogs, the newsletter and so on.

When you write down everything, and you see your calendar full of events, it’s easy to see where you need to cut back.

Menu planning
I love menu planning because it saves me time. When I say this to people, they think I’m crazy because “how can all that planning save you time?” It’s quite simple – it takes me about 10 to 15 minutes every Friday (if I’m on the ball) or Saturday and that planning saves me time from Monday to Friday, when I need it most. No more standing in front of the open fridge wondering what to make for supper.

The great thing is you can still be spontaneous within the plan. I plan meals for the working week but if I don’t feel like a particular meal that day, I change it around and cook another day’s meal. Like if it’s very hot and I planned to have baked potatoes with a topping, I may postpone that to another day and make a pasta salad instead.

Here’s a detailed look at why you should consider menu planning and  how I do menu planning

Regular decluttering and organising
I tackle 1 -2 areas in our home every weekend. Let’s face it – if we are constantly buying things and bringing them into our homes and lives, clutter is constantly building up unless we get rid of some of it. I agree with Konmari (here’s my take on the Konmari method) that you do a once-off thorough tidy, but if you’re buying things regularly, you need to declutter regularly. I’ve even taught the kids this principle with a glass of water and how it overflows if we keep pouring water in.

It doesn’t have to be a huge exercise. While you’re busy cooking or baking, you can sort out a cupboard or two. I have a tendency of burning rice and carrots so I stay in the kitchen whenever I cook these and use the time constructively to sort out a cupboard or drawer, plan my menus, write out my shopping list, etc.

When you factor in just 15 minutes’ decluttering and organising per space every weekend, you can easily maintain your home if it is already organised. Of course, if your house is nowhere near where you’d like it, I would suggest 15 minutes every day. Download 31 days of easy organising solutions for plenty of ideas.

See the little nook next to the door?

Launch pad
Do you know the place in your house where you dump your bags as you enter? Flylady calls this a launch pad. I like that term because it reminds me of action. We have a little nook just inside our front door that I use for our launch pad.

Mornings are one of the worst times in most families – you can’t find your keys, wallet, bag, etc. Frantic running around and screaming happens and that is just not fun.

The point is that we use our launch pads to ready ourselves for mornings. Every evening I pack my handbag and laptop, and they are left here. In the mornings all I do is grab and go. Literally once I leave the bedroom, I walk to the fridge to get my lunch bag, grab my keys on the way to the launch pad, get my bags and I’m out of there. Two minutes tops!

Over to you. Which systems can you implement to make your life easier this month?

 

When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are the basics you rely on to get back on track?

What I want less of this year

Last week I wrote about what I want more of this year. Today we’ll talk about what I want less of 🙂

  1. Buying impulsively without first answering the “where will it go?” question

This is one of my self-imposed rules that has started slipping a bit. I need to get better with impulsive buying. I’m even considering doing a spending fast for a month or two. What do you think?

2. 3.Boomerang errands

When I listened to The Happiness Project last month, Gretchen Rubin mentioned the concept of boomerang errands. It resonated deeply because I’ve had so many boomerang errands of late. A boomerang errand is one that keeps coming back over and over, and can’t just be crossed off your list.

I’m a high J on Myers Briggs and I love to cross things off and get them done, so this feels doubly as frustrating to me.

Here’s to no more boomerang errands this year.

3. Internet problems

We are now on modem number 4. Enough said.

4. Children’s disorganisation

This year I told the kids that I won’t simply be organising their spaces but I’m going to teach them to organise their own spaces. I want them to realise that they have the power to create an organised space.

If you click through to my Instagram highlights, tap on the circle that says DREAM organising. You can see how I helped Connor to organize his underwear drawer.

Specifically, I want them to focus (a lot!) on the 1 in, 1 out principle, that physical space is an actual boundary, and how they want their rooms to feel. Kendra has mentioned when I tidy and chuck things out how “nice and calm” the room feels.

5. Scrolling mindlessly through blogs and Instagram

I wrote a fair amount about Instagram here. As for blogs, I’m still quite a heavy blog reader. But blogs have changed and I know that I need to declutter those that no longer align to my values. Otherwise there’s a ton of stuff I just mindlessly scroll through without providing any value.

What do you want less of this year?

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

You all know I’m a big fan of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

And I know exactly why she calls it life-changing – because then you start thinking of every area of your life in terms of sparking joy.

I have on my list to write about Konmari-ing your to-dos but for today, I want to talk about Konmari-ing your digital life!

Because we can’t see digital clutter as obviously as we can see physical clutter, we often don’t realise it’s there but believe me, it’s still affecting you, especially with distraction and overwhelm.

When you open your inbox, you feel drained at the sight of all those emails, your computer runs slow because there’s so many photos on there and when you go into Instagram, you can’t believe how much some people post because you were on just this morning and your feed is full again.

Sound familiar?

Let’s look at 3 places where you can Konmari digitally and then add some joy into your life again:

1. Free printable downloads

We women like free things, don’t we? As a result, we download anything and everything we can find that’s for free. If it’s free, it’s got to be good, right?

Actually, it’s not all good. Not only are you cluttering up your computer but you can’t possibly use all the things that are out there because we now live in an information-overload society.

I’m not immune. At one point I had about 6 different grocery shopping lists on my computer, all of them free downloads.

What I do these days is honestly ask if I’m going to use something. If not, I don’t even download. And when I clear out my document folders, I ask myself if that cute printable really sparks joy. If not, I delete.

Also, here is your permission to delete my free stuff too if it no longer serves you. I know it works for me but we’re all different.

2. Emails and email notifications

My organizing clients need help with email more than any other thing in their office, and paper’s a close second. That’s because email’s so fast and because we don’t use it correctly.

Get familiar with the delete key (my favourite key on my physical and phone keyboard) and start deleting. Delete immediately once you’ve replied to an email and don’t file unless you absolutely have to. Sometimes you need to keep an attachment but not the email.

If you’re trying to save money or (as in my case) not buy books, unsubscribe from all the deals emails. If you really need to know about something, trust that it will still come your way (like through Instagram stories, in my case!)

Something I personally do is delete from and send quick replies “thanks for the payment” on my phone, but I answer emails that need longer responses from a computer.

Disable all the notifications from Facebook, Instagram and the like. I only get friend requests, messages and notes on my wall in my inbox. The rest I’ll see when I log on once a week or so. I’ve long disabled Facebook and Messenger from my phone – best decision ever.

Here again, decide on your comfort level for emails and make sure you process until you feel joy again. For me at work, that’s when I can view all my emails on one screen.

3. Instagram

How many people are you following on Instagram? Are you aware of how long you take to read all of those posts every day? Do you set a limit for yourself or is it only the upholders among us?

I’m as guilty as you are even though my Instagram use has shortened dramatically over the last two years.

Just this weekend, the same thing popped up from a number of people in my feed.

Stop scrolling through everyone else’s lives and run the race set before you – Christine Caine

Take some time to go through and declutter the feeds of those you tend to skim over. Get to know your comfort number. I still try to create before I consume any content but yes, it’s hard, especially when you’re tired.

I read another great quote on Lara Casey’s site last year – “idleness … is different than truly resting”. Often we tell ourselves that we’re resting but really, when we’re done scrolling Instagram, do we feel truly rested?

I feel like this is just the start of an Instagram conversation because I have More Thoughts but please tell me how you feel about Instagram.

What are your biggest battles? Do you use it to escape or when you’re bored? Or is it true inspiration, connection time with friends, or build your business time?

Your coaching challenge for this week should you take me up on it is to work on one of these three areas, and come tell me in the comments which you’ll do, and give us feedback when you’re done.

What I want more of this year

This is always a fun post to mindmap and then to write. It’s even more fun when I ask friends and colleagues and I hear everyone’s responses.

This year in 2018, I want more…

  1. consistent sleep

I’m getting to my sleep goal but last year I’d skimp on sleep during the week and make up on the 3 weekend nights. This year I want to work on getting more consistent good sleep.

2. good, discussable books in book club

A good book is not necessarily a highly discussable book, especially if everyone liked all the characters. Some of my favourite book club meetings have been the ones where our ratings are all over the place 🙂 My favourite fiction book of last year was not well received by 60% of our members at that meeting.

3. recurring friend dates

I put the scheduling on my January goals list and have already scheduled some recurring friend dates for the year. This doesn’t mean I’m not open to spontaneity – of course I am – it just means I’ll at least have 4 times of connection every month.

4. to deal immediately with emails, decisions, etc.

In the name of crafting the most tactful email, I have been known to put off answering an email quickly. This year, I want to make sure I have a better balance of tact and speed 🙂

5. organisation at work

I’ve gotten a bit lax with some of my work routines that I know work wonderfully for me when I use them. This year, I bought myself a separate diary to use at work and I’m doing weekly planning (I’ve always done my daily to-do list) the same as I do at home, and even monthly goals 🙂

6. more going out of stuff than coming in

I listened to Lisa Whittle on the Jamie Ivey podcast and she said that she has a rule for herself – if she brings something into her house, she has to let go of 5 things. This means she has to really, really, REALLY love the thing that she brings in. I just love this idea so much and I want to adopt a looser version of it this year.

7. more family time

Always. I’m so aware that my kids are getting bigger and I want us to enjoy our times together even more. I usually tidy the kitchen and pack my lunch for the next day while Dion does bedtime reading, but I’ve started doing a quick tidy, joining the bedtime reading and then packing the lunch afterwards.

Do tell me at least one thing you want more of this year.

PS Here’s my what I want more of post for last year

Lessons learned while organising my photo albums

Recently I put an item on my to-do list which was to sort out my photo album drawer.

I honestly thought it would take about 30 minutes but it took forever, because photos! memories! Project Life! scrapbooks!

oh my word, what was I thinking? it always gets worse before it gets better

Granny and Kendra loved looking at the photo albums but how did all of that come out of just two drawers?!

 

This was part of the before. So not bad but I wanted full photo albums in one place and current ones in another space.

After – the complete photo albums

remember these?

After – the current albums and my “speciality” albums (my 40th, pics of friends, etc.)

Both drawers open …

So here’s the thing:

I thought I had excellent photo boundaries. I only print 4 photos per kid per month. And for Project Life, I print about 6 – 8 photos a month, which is really very little. You can read more about my process here.

Still…these children are 8 and my drawers are nearly full. And there’s a whole year – 15 months that is just missing. This is not a very big deal to me since that was actually our life at the time. I have very few pics once I went back to work after my maternity leave and then the pics pick up again later.

I’m now considering the number of photos I print and what I want to do going forward.

Something that I’m thinking of for next year is to just print the 52 project photos of the kids together – that doesn’t cut down on the number but once I have ONE a week, I’m good.

But I will admit it is getting harder to get 4 decent pics of the kids every month. Maybe now is the time to get just one or two a month instead?

I haven’t finalised my thinking on this but I do know I need to cut down.

What do you do? Do you have any ideas for me?

PS I am not a fan of photobooks because of the expense, the time it takes to make them (when you’re not talented with graphic design) and the fact that you have to wait til the year is done to compile it. This way, I can keep up with my printing every 2 – 3 months, and it’s a 10-minute task to put the photos into the albums vs this big task I’ll be dreading every year. I do have photobooks from some old photoshoots.

Readers’ favourite Organising Queen posts for 2017

This is a big post with lots of reading, guys. I love posts like this on other blogs and I usually stretch them out with numerous mugs of tea throughout the day 🙂

Let’s get to it – the favourite posts per month. And fun fact, each picture was taken in that specific month of the year, so enjoy Johannesburg (and Ballito, for July) through my lens 🙂

January

Word of the year recap and this year’s word

A bullet journal/ diary hybrid

What I learned in January

February

5 favourite posts about stationery

What I want more of this year

The annual filing that wasn’t 🙂

March

Free digital and audio books with Overdrive

How to write a friendship manifesto

Soul care vs self-care

April

My year of happy – April project goals

If it’s not serving you, let it go

 7 things about reading

May

Let’s talk about hygge (1)

My house has a to-do list

Your silent to-do list

June

Mental nourishment in the form of unplugging

What I learned in May

What’s in my handbag?

July

Getting motivated, Four Tendencies style

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

Half-year review of my word of the year (give)

August

Your amazing habits

Do you suffer from perfectionism?

Lovely things to do this year

September

My 5 favourite posts about the goal-setting process (this is actually the most popular post of the year!)

How I do menu planning, and what I cook for my freezer

Why you should menu plan

October

Choosing your 2018 diary

How my whole planning system fits together

Good news – you get to choose

November

Technology and your tendency – work

Technology and your tendency – personal

Switching up what’s not working for you

Did you agree with these posts? Was there a favourite post that you want to highlight? Let me know. All of this influences some of the editorial content for next year.

We all have 15 minutes

One of the biggest organising myths is that you need a big chunk of time to organise anything.

That’s simply not true.

I actually don’t know many people who happen to have hours and hours free for the purpose of organising.

The thing is, with anything in life that is important to you, you have to make time. I wrote a whole book about this concept – get it here.

One of the ways you make time is by using up all the little bits of time throughout your day.

Even if you think you have no time, I guarantee there are bits here and there.

If you start looking for those treasured moments, you’ll realise you can get a lot more done.

I remember when my kids were just newborns I thought I’d never have time to myself again.

Then I realised that I had 5 minutes here, another 10 minutes there and so on.

I could read one article in a magazine in those 5 minutes and maybe even churn out a blog post in the 10-minute stretch.

All that time adds up if you’re ready to take advantage of it.

It’s the same with organising.

You may not have an hour to organise a chest of drawers but if you find 15 minutes a day for 4 days, you do have that hour.

A change of perspective = opportunities

Flylady says, “you can do anything for 15 minutes”.

Here are a few quick ideas:

• Straighten your cutlery and/or utensils drawer
• Edit and delete photos (one of my ongoing projects to use a “spare” 15 minutes) from your phone
• Declutter a pile of paper
• Tidy your handbag or wallet
• Organise your spices
• Declutter your recipe folder

See? There are indeed 15-minute slivers of time all around us if only we’ll just look for them.

Make a list of 10 or more quick organising projects you can do in 15 minutes and get started today.

Are you an all or nothing person? Do you tend to look for the big chunk of time versus the little bits?

7 ways to use project life cards aside from project life journalling

If you don’t have project life cards, you could quite easily cut cardstock to size (4 X 6) and use these same tips.

1.Labelling craft kits

I have, occasionally, put together some beading kits and once, an easy craft for kids. I bought wooden letters and packs of buttons from a craft store, added a jar of craft glue, and gifted that to some of my kids’ friends.

The project life card is the perfect size for a label on the one side, and one or two sentences on the reverse.

2. Gift tags

They are particularly lovely to use as gift tags on presents.

3. Conversation notes

This might confirm that either I’m super weird or very intentional. Let’s go with the latter, okay?

I sometimes use PL cards to keep notes of things I want to remember to chat to friends about so when we meet for tea/ lunch, I have a visual prompt.

I’ve also twice had meetings with teachers and I use a project life card to write down my thoughts so I don’t get sidetracked in the meeting. I hope I look organised and invested in the meeting 🙂

4. Speech preparation

My kids have started to do little speeches at school.

They’re allowed to use a card with keywords, so they use a Project Life card.

5. Scriptures/ affirmations

One of my kids was quite fearful about going to bed for a month or two, so Dion wrote out a scripture to be kept next to the bed.

If I want to be reminded about something, like “I can only do what I can do; I can’t control other people’s work”, then I write these not-so-little things on a PL card.

6. Labelling shelves

I change things in my house all the time. Not furniture, but the way things are organised. For instance, when the kids were at pre-school, we had a lot more space dedicated to casual clothes, because that’s all they wore.

These days we have a shelf each for school clothes because of the uniforms. And they only wear casual clothes for 3.5 hours every afternoon, and on weekends.

PL cards are easy to use, change labels and just stick on the shelf with Prestik.

7 . Love notes

Kendra just piped up from the lounge that we also use them to write love messages for each other 🙂

How do you use Project Life cards for non-Project Life purposes?

PS I really like this lady’s idea for a running list!

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