You’re not alone when you ask this organising question

There’s one question I get asked by clients, friends and readers more than any other question.

It’s a question that makes me empathise with them so much because I know exactly where they’re coming from.

Marcia, I want to get organised but it’s all so overwhelming.

Where do I start?

There are different ways to approach this question but before we even start with the practical aspects, you need to do this:

First of all, relax and take a deep breath. Then get your mind in the right space.

Realise that organising is a process and that you won’t have a totally organised home in one hour, despite what you see on television.

Remember the home makeover shows have many organisers and stylists behind the scenes making the space look beautiful. You only have you (or if you’re really blessed, a friend or family member to help you).

Now that we’ve got that part settled, let’s talk practical.

1. Start with the area of your home that bothers you the most.

This is usually a space that you see when you first walk into your home, or it’s a space that you use all the time. If you feel drained when you enter your living room, start there. If you can’t bear to choose clothes every morning because your wardrobe is too cluttered, then that’s probably a good place to start. The benefit of choosing this area is that when you feel overwhelmed by the rest of the house you can go to this one space, look at it and feel inspired.

2. Decide what you want to have happen in that space.

Do you only want clothes in your wardrobe, or do you want shoes and handbags in there too? If you’re not sure what you want, it’ll be easier to let your standards and boundaries slip and, before you know it, you have a disorganised space once again.

3. Declutter

You can’t organise clutter. Get rid of everything that shouldn’t be there. You may need to move some things to other rooms and some things may need to move right out of your house!

4. Organise what’s left according to your personality and style

Not everybody is a minimalist. Some of us need to surround ourselves with our treasures. It’s all okay.

Your system works as long as you can find what you’re looking for relatively quickly (within a minute).

5. Maintain

Last but not least, do a quick, 5-minute maintenance session in each major space every week so that your space remains organised.

So tell me, where do you think you should start?

The week that was…weekly reflections 9

Well, that was the first week of March and our first week back in the office since November.

Jhb doesn’t look like this… yet… but I can’t wait 🙂
  • It’s been tough… already… trying to juggle Teams meetings, in-person meetings and office conversations.
  • People keep saying, “oh, it’ll get better” but I keep thinking that we need to create better structures otherwise people will continue to be frustrated. It won’t just get better.
  • One of my goals for last week was a smooth work-from-office transition and I failed spectacularly. I don’t like feeling behind on all counts and I currently feel that way. I didn’t connect properly while in the office and I’m still very behind with emails and real work.
  • However, I’ve put travel time in my diary for all the days in and out, and I’ve determined that I just cannot be at all the meetings I’m invited to. So I’m declining meetings with abandon because I haven’t yet figured out how to be in two places at once.
  • I did end off this weird week with an amazing friend date. I hadn’t caught up with this friend properly (aside from voice notes) in 8 months, and it felt so good to talk properly and look into each other’s eyes. She also told me something really affirming which I needed to hear.

Here’s to a new week and a fresh start!

Are you working from the office yet? I hope to report a better balance next weekend!

Monthly goals review – Feb 2022

Let’s walk through my monthly review together, shall we?

Here are my standard monthly review questions:

  1. what worked well?
  2. what’s not working and why?
  3. what energised me this month?
  4. what are my in-progress projects?
  5. how’s my word of the year working for me?

What worked well?

  • Reading – I stopped my Scribd membership for a month which means I used Libby and the actual physical library (4 books). I also read books on my Kindle (another 3 books) and two of the books on my bookshelf. At the time of writing this post, I haven’t finished the second physical book but I’m not rushing because I’m enjoying reading about personalities so much.
  • I did a Valentine’s supper for the family which they seemed to like, or maybe that was the chocolates for dessert 😉 I also saw my father in the flesh for the first time since Dec 2019.
  • I finished Project Life for December so last year is wrapped up but see in-progress projects below.
  • My work balance is holding surprisingly steady at not-crazy levels even though this was a hard month at work with lots of deadlines and staff off on extended sick leave.

What’s not working well, and why?

  • I still don’t feel like I have a good rhythm on the laundry situation. It feels like we need to do a load most days which I am loathe to do, but maybe that’s how we have to keep on top of it.
  • Our once-a-week cleaning service is still settling into its groove. I wouldn’t say it’s not working well, but maybe the rhythm needs to be more… clear. I should probably map something out on a big A4 piece of paper. It’s probably because I clean certain areas regularly and others as they need it 😮

What energised me?

  • Time spent with people – the client event last week, book club friends, other friends.
  • Listening to excellent audio books. This month I re-listened to Daisy Jones and the Six and it was 9 hours of pure delight. I want to listen to something truly outstanding every month. So far, 2/2 (Mary Jane and Daisy Jones).

What are my in-progress projects?

  • As I was wrapping up my December photos, I realised I am once again “behind” on my holiday collages. So I’ll be working on a collage every month besides my usual photo editing and Project Life. This will take me nearly the whole year to catch-up because I plan to go on 3 holidays this year too, but it’s a lovely “problem” to have as it helps me to remember happy holidays, play with images and listen to audio books or podcasts, all things I love.
  • Project Upgrade is going well and I finished three more upgrades for Feb – facecloths, kitchen cloths and the electric plug point in the lounge. I will only choose two for March because I’ll be back at the office two days a week and we’ll be on one week’s holiday – yay!
Delight

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

In a nutshell, really well so far. It’s helping me choose books for pleasure over obligation, and also stop things that are not at all delightful, like walking out of that Zumba class.

How was your month?

What worked, what didn’t work, what energised you and what are you working on?

The week that was…weekly reflections 8

sunset leaving gym

Hello friends!

Do you know what this blog post means? I’ve been carving out time and writing for at least an hour and 15 minutes every single weekend for the last two months.

I’m so proud of myself!

It’s what I wanted when I started off this year and it’s helpful to know that after two weird years, I can still create a weekly writing habit and stick to it.

This week is also the week…

  • I walked out of a Zumba class after only 20 minutes (unprepared instructor and way-too-loud music) but I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunset (yes, that’s the one in the pic)
  • I attended a conference where I once again realised that all across our industry we are facing the same stuff but handling it in different ways. At that same virtual conference, I vowed that I will definitely not attend a virtual event again because, as an extrovert, I was exhausted.
  • I finished the book club book, Friends like these by Kimberly McCreight, which was not great. Too many unlikeable characters and way too many things going on. I also finished Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, which was outstanding. Do give it a listen.
  • we visited a school for Kendra and were given a tour by an amazing young lady, a grade 10 learner, who taught me so much about optimism and resilience. Some kids really have an amazing mindset at such a young age.
  • that was full of hard things in the world – wars, deaths of too-young children, anniversaries of deaths – and I am thankful that I was able to rest and rejuvenate, and be out and about to counteract two days of staring at a screen with very minimal interaction.

How was your week? And, dare I ask, how was February?

I’ve chosen a word, now what? 5 practical ways to make your word real.

It’s all very good and well to choose a word of the year but sometimes I ask people a few months in, “how’s your word of the year going?” and they can’t even remember their word.

Don’t feel bad if this is you; it is very normal but that’s not to say we should accept that, throw up our hands and just leave it be.

My 14 words from 2009 to 2022

  • 2009 – simplify
  • 2010 – consolidate
  • 2011 – courage
  • 2012 – create
  • 2013 – trust
  • 2014 – shine
  • 2015 – enough
  • 2016 – joy
  • 2017 – give
  • 2018 – fun
  • 2019 – bold
  • 2020 – light
  • 2021 – play
  • 2022 – delight

After 14 years of me choosing and living with a word, I’d like to share a few things that work for me:

  1. Set your word as your screensaver/ password or desktop wallpaper on your laptop or phone

Out of sight means out of mind. If you have to type in that word as a password several times a day, it will stick. If you see it as your wallpaper on your phone when you reach for it 80 times a day (or so the stats say), you’ll start to remember it.

2. Make a policy for yourself around your word

E.g. if your word is connect, then maybe you’d say, “every time someone asks me on a friend date, I will say yes”. When my word was fun, I weighed up every commitment with “does this sound fun?” If it didn’t, I declined. My policy this year is to stop and take the picture (a sure source of delight to me afterwards even if I don’t feel like it in the moment)

3. Set goals for your word

Ask yourself monthly, “how can I _________ this month”. Where do I need a reminder that I am enough? Where can I take delight? How can I be brave? What needs to be nourished and how am I going to do it? Who can I connect with? What can I create?

4. Review how you did at the end of every month

On a scale of 1 – 10, how much did I move? Did I take enough action? Did I rest enough? is there enough balance? And so on. Use your word and make changes for next month if what you were doing wasn’t working.

Set a reminder in your phone otherwise you will most likely not remember. I call the last day of every month Goals Night for this very reason.

5. Stay open to your word

Yes, I just said in 3 above to set goals, but also stay open. Sometimes the need for your word will appear in unexpected ways. Last year my word was play and I have not worked as hard at my job in many many years. There was a need for me to remember to play. See? My 2016 word was joy and that was the year we bought this house and struggled to sell the previous one. I had to choose joy in those 3 months!

Bonus – buy a piece of jewellery or art

I have many necklaces and rings that remind me of my words through the years. I also bought a piece of art off etsy one year for courage.

What are the tips and tricks you’d like to share?

The week that was… weekly reflections 7

Alto 234 – the highest urban bar in Africa

  • Valentine’s Day seems so far away and yet it was only six days ago. I set a nice table, served red and pink food and bought everyone a chocolate that said “you’re awesome” 🙂
  • One of my team is booked off sick for a month. It is serious so the time is absolutely necessary for recovery but I’ve had to step back in again when I’d just got used to letting go completely a month ago. One step forward, two steps back.
  • I am still on my self-imposed Scribd ban – 20 days and counting – I want to make it at least a month. During this time I’ve been reading library books, Libby books and books on my Kindle. It is always nice to get books read that are on your physical or digital shelves.
  • Speaking of books, this week I read E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton (the Kinsey Millhone series) and Everything happens for a reason by Kate Bowler, both of which were excellent. Connor read A Painted House by John Grisham. What are you reading?
  • I spent Friday afternoon with clients (an invite I accepted months ago) and it was just So Lovely to talk to people face to face, catch up and connect. The photo above was taken from the restaurant’s rooftop – gorgeous! Shout-out to the very enthusiastic and passionate parking attendant. I still smile thinking of him direct me to the correct parking area. What would the world be like if we were all so passionate about our jobs?!

What have you been up to this week? Did you do anything out of the ordinary?

It all started with a facecloth (more about my latest project)

If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you know I love a project. I don’t know what it is but I think it’s that I like something with clearly-defined rules, and a very clear start and end date.

Aside from my annual goals (which I’ll review end of March as I checked at the beginning of the month, and nothing could be crossed off yet ;)), #rest22in2022, I am also doing what I call Project Upgrade this year.

Really, it’s Project Upgrade, Fix or Declutter. Let me explain.

I’m an under buyer with most things in life so I will use things until they’re completely done. I do declutter regularly as I am very partial to the one in, one out rule, but I very rarely upgrade things just because. And I’ve been thinking that I need to do that; I don’t have to be the only one to use up things.

It all started with a facecloth. I went to Cape Town on the 30 November last year and forgot my facecloth at home. The hotel provided me with the softest facecloth ever that is now my “travel facecloth”. After I’d used this facecloth for 3 days, my current one suddenly felt too rough and I started pondering.

If this exists in one area of my life, where else is it happening?

So I made a quick list and decided to adopt it as my house/ personal project for the year.

Declutter

These are for things need to go but I’m still hanging onto them. Why? (gym pants and gym t-shirts)

Fix

Some things really just need a quick google, a couple of phone calls and arranging a date for the service provider to come and do their magic. E.g. the pool cover that needs replacing, there are some chairs that I’ve wanted reupholstered, and so on. They’re all “fine” but “fine” is not delightful and they can all stand to delight me again.

Upgrade

I batch-cook almost every week but I only have one very big pot, one saucepan the same diameter and a medium pot. I’ve wanted another big pot for months. Why don’t I just go buy it?! I think because it feels like there are so many options and everything comes in sets and I don’t want a set. If you can recommend a good big pot, go ahead – I’m listening!

My plan is to tackle 2 – 3 of these little projects every month, seasonally where possible (pool and windows in autumn once the rains stop).

So far so good. January’s three projects were done successfully and this month, we’ve had an electrician out to sort out the plug points in the lounge, I’ve decluttered and bought nice new kitchen cloths and after visiting 2 – 3 shops, I finally found new gym shoes yesterday.

Of course, I fully expect to have to move things around and delete some because this house is 45 years old and things constantly need fixing or upgrading. But I definitely want to sort out all my personal upgrades.

What do you think? Would a project upgrade, fix or declutter work for you or your home?

The week that was…weekly reflections 6/22

Gosh, what a week! I was so glad to see the end of it on Friday 🙂

  • This was not the greatest workweek of the year thus far – someone said to me that in other weeks, one or two of those things could have happened and they would be dealt with, but this week it felt like everything conspiring to complicate things. Nothing felt easy. I even asked, “is there a full moon?”
  • So I increased my listening of my current bookish delight, Daisy Jones and the Six. It is my second time listening (my first listen was in November 2020) and if possible, I’m enjoying it even more this time around (and last time it was already a 5-star read for me). If you haven’t yet read the book, I highly recommend the audio version – it is pure delight.
  • I also tried a new dance class this week. It was lovely but I’m going to have to put boundaries in place and just leave. I said to D, in a standard dance class, I stay for exactly 45 minutes and then leave. This time it felt… awkward… because there were only 8 of us and the class was about 70 minutes, so the last 20 minutes had me twitching to leave!
  • A previous purchaser of Break out of overwhelm contacted me to resend her the links as she’d bought the course many, many years ago and wanted a re-listen. What a great idea. Thanks to my previous self, I was able to retrieve it and re-upload to the site for her to listen. I think I also need a re-listen 🙂 If you would like to check it out, here’s the link.
  • Applications for high school continue to progress – it is like a second job at this point and all the open days kick off this Saturday!
  • Another delight this week – I took a chance and drove to the library and they were open. I got to drop off two bags of books so my entrance table is now blessedly empty again. It’s the small things. I also borrowed two Sue Graftons (I’ve been working my way through them, bit by bit, for the last two years) and my favourite John Grisham, A Painted House, for a re-read.

What’s been happening with you this week?

Weekly reflections 1 and a writing practice

First sunset of the new year!

I really want to get back to enjoying writing and blogging like I used to, so hopefully in addition to “proper” posts, I will also get into the swing of some fun posts like this one.

  1. Happy New Year! We were away from home for New Year’s which was different but also surprisingly relaxing. I did exactly what I do on a normal evening, which is go to bed and read, and fall asleep when I’m tired. I looked at my watch and it was 10:30 🙂
  2. I had a stomach bug when I got back to Joburg that knocked me out for two days. Annoyingly, I kept saying for days afterwards, “it’s so nice to eat food and have it stay down” but it really is good when bodies work how they’re meant to.
  3. Our dance classes are not fully back yet so I had to cobble together a dance class yesterday. On the bright side, I have already booked my classes for the week ahead. Yay!
  4. The minute I was better, I had three long and lovely friend dates – a two-hour chat with a neighbour, a four-hour chat with a friend (we usually meet on her birthday but I was away so said, “I’m taking a rain check because our date is always a highlight during the end-of-year period” and another two and a half hour phone call with yet another friend. As an extrovert, it was glorious!
  5. Our kids are now 12.5. Some of you will remember me doing half birthday celebrations in the old days when they were small. Since there have been no parties for two years, we took them for cake as a half-birthday treat.
  6. I’ve spent some good time in the last week putting away 2021 and refreshing my desk and notebooks for 2022. What does this mean? Putting up new calendars, my “22 for 2022” list and my “rest 22 in 2022” tracker. I also looked through my old bullet journal to see if there were any lists I needed to transfer to my new bullet journal (there were!) and set up my 2022 diary.
  7. The kids are back to school this week and… they did their own sorting out of stationery. I love pretty stationery, of course, but checking 8 ballpoint pens off against a list is something they can do for themselves. I delegated, handed over the labels and wished them well. The only things we had to buy were glue sticks (always glue sticks!) and reams of paper. I can’t promise that I’ll be hands-off with the wrapping of the books in plastic covers but this part felt good.

How was your week?

A tribute to my friend, Suzanne

Outside the Old Town Jail in Stirling, Scotland

On the night before we went on holiday last month, I saw an email linking to a Facebook status update.

I tapped through and read that my friend, Suzanne, had died. Of course I couldn’t believe it – we are the same age and she was SO full of life. How can this be? I kept asking myself.

Suzy’s mom and I are instagram friends so I sent her a direct voice note to check my understanding because the message was (typically) Suzanne and maybe (hopefully) I’d misinterpreted the odd message. But indeed, Suzy had died from the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Instead of wallowing in the sadness that is the enormous loss of her life, I thought I’d write about the Suzanne I knew.

  1. Suzanne was one of my first real friends that I made on the internet in the good old days of blogging when we would actually reach out to strangers after commenting on each others’ blogs.
  2. She was a veteran podcaster and her first podcast was called Let’s Talk Organizing (in the old days, we listened on our computers).
  3. One day I sent her an email, announced that Dion and I would be visiting Scotland and if she was ready for her next visit, maybe we could spend a few days together. She crunched her numbers and we made it work. We met up in Stirling, Scotland for 3 wonderful days in 2008.
  4. We wrote a free ebook together with Beth Dargis and Ariane Benefit, 100 Surefire ways to organize your busy life, and Suzy and I wrote a course together too, How to be a professional organizer.
  5. My favourite piece of organising advice from Suzanne is “don’t put it down; put it away”. I wrote more in this post.
  6. Four years ago, she interviewed me for her new podcast, So Suzy. Here’s the post. Fun fact – after I appeared on the podcast, she sent me a thank-you pack of so many pens and that is how I was introduced to Papermate Inkjoy gel pens 🙂 🙂 I still have a few of the pens from that original pack.
  7. I also had the opportunity to give her some advice. Here’s her desk after she took up my challenge.
Typical Suzy 🙂

More than all that, I knew Suzanne to be a happy, optimistic and extremely fun person who always made me think I could do things and encouraged me when I wasn’t sure. She also taught me through her own life that changing your mind and moving onto new things don’t have to be scary but are often necessary actions for growth.

We had some hard conversations too but she always had a can-do attitude and was a great problem-solver.

I am so glad and honoured that I had the opportunity to meet and know Suzanne, and I’m thankful that I can still connect to her through her mama!

Thanks for reading, friends. Do any of you remember Suzanne from the good old days of blogging?

Loch Lomond – so cold and so beautiful
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