3 of my favourite organising mantras

I know I sometimes sound like a broken record, but in my defence, there’s a reason I say these things so often – because they work.

I know the blog is called Organising Queen but I also don’t always feel like being organised so I use these mantras as much as anyone else.

1. Don’t put it down; put it away

I got this nugget from my friend, Suzanne, and it is the best thing for when you’re feeling lazy.

I literally chant to myself – don’t put it down; put it away – as I walk upstairs with an armful of things to return to their rightful places.

Try it next time you have lots of items to pack away because it’s soooo tempting to just plonk it down on the nearest surfac

2. One in, one out

This might be my favourite organising mantra ever. And better still, one in, many more out.

I heard a podcast a year or two ago where the lady had been on a no shopping project one year. When her project ended, she then resolved not to get into the same situation again and told herself that for every one thing she brought in, three things would have to go. She said this ensured that she really, really loved the thing she wanted to buy.

3. A place for everything and everything in its place

There is nothing that makes me more cross than searching for things. I cannot stand it!

That’s why it’s so important for me to have a place for everything.

This is also one of the cornerstones of organising. If you know where things belong, you won’t just open a drawer and shove things in. Your home will then stay organised and tidy.

Just today I asked Kendra (10) to fetch me my watch. I said, “it’s in the spotted pink bag in the top drawer of my bedside table”.

Do you know where you store the scissors? Where you can find a spare pen? Where you can find plasters?

What is your favourite organising mantra? I’d love to know.

PS if you’d like to see more of mine, I shared many more on Instagram here.

 

 

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?

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 to keep in mind when organising your space

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

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

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

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

Which do you need more? Inner or outer calm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completely true for me.

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

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

Wow – such a different take on the process.

Does this resonate for you?

Not?

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

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

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

Outer order, inner calm

I think there’s a lot of truth to the statement “outer order, inner calm” which I first read about in Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project.

Outer order, inner calm

The idea is that if your outer environment is ordered and organised, so too will your inner environment be.

I’ve seen this concept play out both in my own life and in the lives of my clients. This is often how I’ve seen it show up:

– I’m more inspired to cook or bake if the kitchen is sparkling clean.
– When my photos are in order, I want to play more with my photography. On the other hand, if I’m behind on photo organising, I often feel reluctant to take photos because I know it’s just adding more work to my backlog.
– When my desk is neat and tidy, or at least organised, I feel like my mind is more organised and I can be focussed and productive while tackling my Eat the Frog tasks.
– When my house is organised and in order, I’m more able to relax with a book.
– My creative clients have told me that when they take some time to sort out their environment, they are more creative.

How have you observed this concept playing out in your own life?

organised wardrobe

Wardrobe in old house

I’m not for a minute suggesting that you’re not productive, effective or creative if your environment isn’t tidy and organised; I’m just saying that I’ve seen this in a lot of people and in my own life. I think it’s because 65% of people are visual learners.

If you’re also very visual, here are a few tips to maximise your effectiveness:

  • Reduce the flow of paper into your life and have a system to contain it.
  • Have a place for everything and don’t just put things down; put them away. It takes just a few seconds longer but it’s so worth it.
  • Build in a 5-minute desk tidy at the end of your daily work routine
  • Declutter regularly and as much as you can manage.
  • Stop bringing things/ stuff into your home. One of my friends has a no gift policy for birthdays but they gladly accept cards.

Your coaching challenge

Which of the five points above do you most need to implement? Number them from 1 – 5 and try working on them with the most important one first.

What’s the best way to sort your stuff?


Is it best to sort by colour? By category? By frequency of use? By function?

The short answer is that I can’t tell you the best way to sort your stuff.

I can tell you that you should sort so that it is easy to find and manage your things when you need them.

Let’s talk through some examples:

Colour vs Function

Bookshelves – if you can’t remember what colour your book is, there is no point in organising by colour. But if you remember what your book looks like and would be able to retrieve it quickly, this is a good way for you.

Clothes – if you reach for a specific colour pair of pants or shirt, then perhaps store your clothes by colour. However, if you make decisions based on what you want to wear, like a dress vs pants and a shirt, for example, then consider storing your clothes by type, with all pants, dresses, or tops together.


Category vs Frequency of use

Makeup – when you’re doing your makeup in the morning, do you like all your lipsticks together, or do you like your daily makeup together (lipstick, eye-shadow and blush) and the rest in one section? If you have no problems retrieving a specific lipstick, then perhaps store by category. Otherwise, store your daily makeup together and your special occasion makeup together.

Bowls in the kitchen – do you prefer that all your bowls are stored together, or do you prefer to keep often-used ones in one location that is easier to reach, and special occasion bowls on higher, difficult-to-reach shelves?

In writing this blog post, I realised I almost always store by frequency of use and with my clothes and books, by colour.

Please share some examples of how you prefer to sort and store your stuff.

{2018 Annual review} What energised me in 2018?


  1. Zumba class every Saturday morning. I won’t lie and say my barre180 class energised me because often the only reason I dragged myself was that I knew missing it would mean I’d be so sore the next week.
  2. Kids book club. I wrote on Instagram recently that the best thing about kids’ book club is hearing these kids talk about books they love. It is the actual best.
  3. My book club. You know you should expect this of me so here goes: I keep a spreadsheet of the books we’ve read and the rating I’ve given each of those books. Last year’s average rating was higher (3.91) to this year’s rating (3.65) but this year was so energising for me due to the fantastic discussions. So even if I didn’t personally enjoy a book; I loved the discussions.
  4. My work relationships also energised me this year. Our team is in a good place where we’re all getting along well and enjoying working with one another.
  5. The Enneagram. I wrote about this earlier this year but I also took the personalised coaching and it was fabulous. I can now see when I’m in a good place by how I’m displaying the healthy parts of a 7, and how self-critical I become when I’m stressed.
  6. Walks in nature. I still hate being outside in summer but I have LOVED taking walks and chasing down beautiful things to capture in autumn and spring (jacaranda trees).
  7. Connecting with my friends. One of the best things I did as an upholder last year was to set up recurring friend dates.
  8. Last but not least, the Four Tendencies continue to energise and fascinate me. I will be running regular 4T workshops this year so put yourself on the list if you’re local. I have seen the benefit of knowing your tendency personally, and in my family, and also with clients and colleagues, and it has made my life so much easier with knowing how to approach someone and get my meaning across but also meet their needs. And best of all, I’ve successfully used the strategies for my tendency to create and build good habits 🙂

Bonus – I did a ton of decluttering and organising this year, both during Spring into Organising, and throughout the year. Getting things done always energises me and it’s been great.

What energised you in 2018?

{2018 Annual review} What went well this year?

This is part one of my annual review, where I start with the question I always use:

What went well this year?

  • I read a lot of books (the year is not over and I think I’ll end on around 110). In fact, I read more than I thought I would read, especially since my Goodreads goal was only 80. Many of them were great books, but that’s another post.
  • Book club was so much fun this year. This is year two for us and I think we’ve ironed out almost all of the logistical issues around choosing books, deciding on hosting, bringing eats, and so forth.
  • I had great work rhythms. I should write a post about my end-of-week work routines, but it’s in my Instagram Story highlights if you want to take a look. I’d venture to say if I didn’t have good work habits, things could have been even more overwhelming.

  • The kids were happy at school and with their teachers, and they both still love being active and reading. I also started a kids book club which has been one of the most fun things I’ve done this year.
  • We had 3 family holidays which is perfect. Dion and I would obviously prefer 4; – in 2014, we managed to go on 4 holidays and that was the absolute perfect rhythm…. and was also the last year we didn’t have kids in Big School.
  •  I did awesome with my sleep. This is a strange thing to put down but it’s something to celebrate for a night owl like me. I’ve been tracking my sleep since 2015 and it’s now a reliable 7 hrs 40 ish with good, uninterrupted, restful slumber.
  • I had a great week of prayer in October. Prayers that were answered (that I know about) – jobs!
  • I did all my 18 in 2018 goals. I did scrape in those last two but there you go.

  • I’m up to date with my photos. I also devised a system for school (see Instagram Story highlights) and holiday photos. A project for holiday photos will go onto my 19 in 2019 list because I’m only up to 2017 with regard to holiday photo printing.
  • I took an Enneagram coaching course which was amazingly insightful and best of all, I think it brought me closer to God.
  • I also took the Four Tendencies deep dive course which was so much fun I will be taking my accreditation early next year to run live, in-person workshops. Isn’t that fun? If you’re local I’d love to have you.
  • As far as the house is concerned, we painted three of our rooms upstairs, one of them navy. We also bought two new couches and a new armchair (these were so overdue – we replaced furniture we’d had for 15 years, and we received those as hand-me-downs from an uncle who was upgrading). And we put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom which was probably the best money decision since we now have our own bathroom completely to ourselves again. It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in this house 2.5 years.
  • I exceeded my personal savings goal (I just throw a stretch number out at the beginning of the year and see if I can hit it).

  • My system for tending close friendships is also working great. This is also for another post.
  • I took more than 60 photowalks this year and many drives to look at autumn leaves, winter branches or jacaranda trees.
  • I also decluttered another big stash of books I don’t plan to read and donated those to our local library, I decluttered bags, shoes and scarves (but I know this is ongoing) and gave away more than 60 notebooks. I was not allowed to buy more than 10 – readers, I confess I failed!
  • I put myself out there and ran two blog projects – Spring into Organising and this current project, to write for 15 minutes every day in November.
  • My core is stronger because I’ve now been doing my barre180 class for 16 months.

Over to you.

What went well in your life this year?

What I learned from Spring into Organising

I ran (or tried to run) a Spring into Organising challenge during September.

It was mostly a failure in terms of getting other people to play along, but I thought I’d share what I learned from personally doing the Spring into Organising challenge for the 5 weekends in September.

  • Konmari has served me very well. I did the full Konmari in August 2014 and while I believe that you do have to do a little refresh now and again, it has been life-changing for me. Spaces are super quick to sort when you mostly have things that spark joy in your home.
  • I am happier with a leaner, streamlined home. I am not one of those people with a “we’re making memories and that’s why we have a messy house” mindset. I fully own that I like clean, orderly, clutter-free spaces because this is what brings me peace.

 

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A post shared by Marcia Francois (@organisingqueen) on

  • Dedicated projects motivate me. I made a plan at the start of weekend 1 and I did all those spaces and then some. I ended up sorting out 17 spaces and it felt wonderful.
  • It sucks when you feel like no one else is doing a challenge along with you, even if they are. Just being honest.
  • Things are coming into our homes all the time (gifts, updates to clothes, etc.) so they need to leave all the time too. Someone asked me once on Instagram why I always have a couple of areas to sort, and my reply is still the same – I live with other people (D, the kids, and the nanny is here 4 days a week) and so even though most things just take a 5 – 10 minute tweak every couple of months, it’s still necessary. Just last night, I returned medication to our medicine cupboard and it was messy so it needed a sort. Popped on a podcast and got to it – 20 mins later, order was restored, old meds tossed out and all was well again.

It occurred to me that spring is not over yet so I’m continuing with organising bits and pieces around my home.

The printable is still available for free here – please do avail yourself if you want to get your home in order.

How do you tackle spring cleaning/ organising? On a schedule or as the mood strikes you?



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