{mindset} The DREAM method of organising Christmas

Christmas cards

I see Christmas trees and lights up in the shops, and yes, I’ve already had two Christmas mince pies, so I guess it’s time to talk about Christmas.

For a change, let’s approach it another way by referencing my DREAM method to organise your Christmas.

D ream

What is your dream for Christmas? What is your vision? What do you envision when you think of Christmas? Be sure to include your family’s vision and dream too – it’s often a lot more scaled-down than we imagine.

R emove

Remove everything from your mind that does not contribute to that vision. What can you remove that you thought you couldn’t? Full-on decor? Lights outside? Too much cooking? Most of the gifts? All the cards? 🙂

Christmas decor

E liminate

Eliminate all but the necessary. If the kids don’t want to make cards any more (like my kids!), then don’t. There is no Christmas cheer from forcing anyone to participate if they don’t want to.

Last year I had on my list to get festive doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. The kids told me they actually only like the very plain glazed ones.

A rrange

Arrange all the elements you’re keeping in a way that works for your family. If you have a family of introverts, do not jam-pack the schedule because your introverts need time to relax, lots of time to relax. In the same way, do allow the extroverts time to get out, mingle, and see all the pretty lights 🙂

Do, however, put the things you’re keeping on a visible schedule to be sure you will enjoy those events. Now’s the time to speak up and encourage each family member to think of the one or two things they absolutely love about the season so that you can arrange it in plenty of time.

Christmas meal

M aintain

Maintain a good spirit through it all. The reason for the season is not to be grumpy because people only want to do 3 things versus your 10 things.

Often we have a not-so-enjoyable time because our expectations vary so greatly from those of our family’s. Adapt and remember it’s better to do less with a grateful heart than be running around, stressed about “getting it all done”.

And now, I need to start making my very short list of my DREAM Christmas. Usually my list only has the Carols by Candlelight on it, decorating the house while listening to Michael Buble and Mariah Carey, and reading plenty of Christmas-themed books.

What’s on your DREAM Christmas list?

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!

My dreadful iPhone screen time stats

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

What’s happening currently?

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Consider making a life admin list

On my #19in2019 list, I have a number of house maintenance items. I googled and had a number of people out to the house to see the work and provide quotes.

Do you know what a frustrating process this has been? You would assume people would want the work but I’ve had to call/ WhatsApp people three times to just come out, keep hounding them for the promised quote, and on and on. I’m much more bored by this state of affairs than you are, trust me 🙂

With all this back and forth, because I couldn’t keep it all in my head, I announced to Dion, “I think we need to make a Life Admin list”.

A life admin list is a fancy name I like to use for a master list that has all the things you need to get done listed on it.

So I made the list, took a photo of it and emailed it to my husband.

Interestingly, he said he felt overwhelmed when he first looked at it but I felt much calmer because the noise in my head was louder than the actual number of items on the page (only 10).

Does a big to-do list make you feel overwhelmed or calm because you can now see what needs to be done?

Here are some benefits to making a life admin list:

  1. you’ll get the noise out of your head
  2. you’ll easily be able to categorise items (phone calls, internet research, errands, etc.)
  3. you can prioritise and see which you feel able to attend to right now, both emotionally and financially
  4. you’ll feel able to tackle them in appropriate time blocks
  5. you can easily delegate/ make a separate Honey Do plea

I attended to 3 of those items fairly quickly: followed up on a start date for the one person who was actually professional in his dealings with us, sent a WhatsApp to another to say something like “thank you for your interest, but we’ve decided to go with someone else” and for the third, I emailed to accept the quotation and suggest a time for the work to happen. 

All that took about 5 minutes.

I share that not to wow you with my productivity, but to show you that we often make things much bigger in our heads than they need to be.

It’s exactly what a Power Hour could be used for. Just get on the phone and sort a few things out, or send a few quick emails. Once things are scheduled, that’s half the battle won.

I promise you – you can do it!

Hit REPLY and let me know when you make your Life Admin List. I’ve posted mine on Instagram; if you post yours too, use the #LifeAdminList and I’ll pop by to say hello.

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.

Let’s talk shopping lists

I run a home that’s mostly run like a well-oiled machine. All the people who live (and work) here know that when things run low, they have to write it on the list so that when we go shopping on the weekend, we can buy the item.

Oh, we only go shopping once a week because we both don’t like shopping. Life with two upholders 😉

I’m firmly in the “make do” camp so if we didn’t get something, we just have to get creative til we go shopping again.

Our shopping list is an actual paper list on a small clipboard with some regular items typed in permanently. I keep a toiletries list in my iPhone notes though.

So you can see I love a shopping list as much as the next person.

Which is precisely why I don’t understand these chalkboard shopping lists. Or the Letterboard ones.

  • Are these real live shopping lists? Or just set up for Instagram?
  • Do people take photos of their chalkboards and then go shopping?
  • And with the Letterboard ones, how long do those things take to assemble?

Seriously though, do you use a shopping list?

What do you use? Paper? App? Photos of your chalkboard wall?

I know friends who do a grocery run daily! Maybe you do too. I can barely even manage weekly!

How often do you shop? As and when? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

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.



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