Quiet your house and your life

Many of you know that one of my teeny-tiny habits is that I tidy or clean something in the kitchen while I wait for the kettle to boil. You can do a lot in 2 – 3 three-minute stints daily.

One day I looked up at the mugs and things felt too busy. I then did what The Nester recommends and I quieted the space by removing all the mugs from the shelves. I had rainbow mugs up here for much of the year because they made me happy. I then swopped out the bright colours for the more muted tones above. They still spark joy but they spark quieter joy.

You know how this goes – when you start one thing, you start thinking about the rest of your life. I felt so calm with the mug shelf that I noticed my calendar felt too full.

It’s understandable that things have started to feel a lot busier for me due to the opening up from the intense lockdown to our current level 1 lockdown in South Africa.

I started going back to Spanish in September and went back to the gym last week. We’ve also been told that we’ll be required to come work at the office twice a week from November. From a schedule with no leaving the house to leaving five times a week is a big change.

It all feels a bit sudden while at the same time getting out is also welcome. I realised that I need to close all my open loops so that I don’t enter this busy season collapsing every night when I get back home from overwhelm. This is why I wrote this post talking about first doing something about your physical space and then considering what’s hampering your mental space too.

Which of your physical spaces do you need to quiet? And your mental space?

{goals} 2020: let’s talk about the last quarter

This year’s felt like the newborn stage for me – in parts it’s flown and yet I have many times had to take it day by day to stay sane.

I see many sentiments like “let this year just end” and “can we please just get on with next year?”, and I get that. We all want to escape a year absolutely none of us expected and move on with our lives.

A lot of us are also exhausted from working too hard, or worrying too much, or having too many bills and not enough money, or a combination of all of the above.

So I think it’s time that I had a reframe. I’d love if you’d join me too. I’ll share one thought for each question to give you an idea. Write out the prompts in longhand, use the notes app in your phone or maybe talk it through with a friend.

  1. What do I want for this last quarter of the year?

I want to continue with my reading streak (I reached my goal on the weekend), I want to eat better again so I can get to a certain number (nowhere near my actual physical goal, just a mental goal) and I want to start slowly integrating back into the “new normal” of getting out and about.

2. Is there anything I want to start doing?

I had these two things on my original 20 in 2020 list and I can do them so I should. I have started just one session of Emily P Freeman’s Discern and Decide course (it was a pre-order bonus when her book, The Next Right Thing, released last year) and I want to finish that. I also want to read The Path Between Us, an enneagram book on relationships by Suzanne Stabile, that I also bought last year.

3. How do I want to feel at the end of the year?

Like I survived this period with grace, determination and my sanity intact. If my relationships are as good as they were or better, I’ll consider that a bonus.

4. Are there any projects I’ve started that I can finish well?

Yes, I want to run two sessions of a new workshop I’m yet to name but will help us all end this year well (whatever well looks like for you) and prepare for next year. It’s going to be the equivalent of a large part of my end-of-the-year coaching sessions but so much cheaper.

5. Is there anything I need to finalise or end for my own emotional and mental comfort?

Well, had I written this blog last week, I’d have talked about ballet. I did it though – I’ve been dithering and yet I knew I was not comfortable going back anytime soon (in fact this revelation came to me while doing session 1 of Discern and Decide). So I wrote the owner an email last week and formally resigned. I can always go back but at least she’s not left wondering about me.

Bonus – if it feels right for you and you want to make a list of 3 for the next three months, go ahead. I wrote more about quarterly goals here.

And remember, it can be as small as drinking 2 L of water a day or reading for just 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be “write a book” 🙂

Who of you are joining me for the workshop on 21 November? Book your place now. It’ll be $29/ R450 but there’s be a discount for the early birds until 7 November!

If you prefer to work through these things privately in a 1:1 session, I’m offering the same content in a 75-minute coaching session for just $50. This will be for a limited time only until mid-December.

PS this is post number 2000 on this blog! Wow! 😮

{organising} for spring according to your personality

It’s spring in Johannesburg and many of us like to do some spring cleaning. I like to do cleaning throughout the year otherwise the thought of all that deep cleaning will probably drive me deep into a book never to emerge.

I do love organising though and there’s a bit of cleaning involved there.

But whether you prefer cleaning or organising, there’s a way to approach it to suit your Tendency.

Let’s go through the Four Tendencies. If you’re not sure of your Tendency, take the quiz here.

Upholder

Think about your home. What do you want to do and why? Make a list of the things that you feel like tackling over the next month, keep it visible, schedule a couple of tasks into your diary/ calendar (actually, block out the time in your weekly schedule) and attack your list as planned.

Obliger

Which areas are important for your family to function well? If you’re not sure, ask them. Then announce your plans to them and to a friend who will hold you accountable. Block out the time and go for it. Bonus tip – follow a few cleaning accounts on Instagram (@jottiesjournal and @lynsey_queenofclean) for inspiration but remember that watching Instagram stories will not get your own house organised.

Questioner

First figure out why you want to do what you want. If you want to declutter spaces, first ask yourself why a space matters to you and what is important to you about that space. Once you get really clear on your why, you’ll be able to start and stay the course. Questioners get demotivated when they can’t see the point of doing something.

Rebel

If it’s important to you to have a clean and/ or organised home, then go for it in your own way. Do not follow any of the plans you see on Instagram or Pinterest. Definitely don’t sign up for one of those monthly challenges with a different section every month, or if you do, jump around and do as you feel like you want. Perhaps have a cleaning caddy handy and, as the mood strikes, clean or organise whatever you feel like doing, in your own way.

I would love to know what your Tendency is and if this helped you in getting your head into spring cleaning/ organising gear.

I also offer 1:1 Four Tendencies coaching sessions where we talk about your Tendency and more importantly figure out how to harness it to address any challenges you currently experience in your home, personal or work life. $60 for a one-hour session. Book your session now.

{organising} How to store and organise your masks

What a strange world we’re living in where I’m writing a post about how to organise and store your masks!

In my mind, there are three steps to this mask-wearing business:

  1. storage of clean masks
  2. where to put dirty masks before laundry day
  3. having a mask ready to wear

Let me tell you what we did before and then what we currently do because the first way was driving me crazy. Hopefully you can get a few ideas by thinking the flow of masks through in your own home.

Before

We had a pile of clean masks on the sideboard in our dining room which is about 4 steps from the front door.

The idea was to wear the clean mask and walk straight into the house to put the dirty mask in its place. I set out a lidded plastic container on top of the washing machine labelled “dirty masks for washing”.

Very soon I noticed that only the adults were observing the rules; the kids would toss their masks anywhere once they entered the house. Soon I didn’t know if a mask was dirty or clean and if I wasn’t sure, I tossed the mask into the wash.

Currently

  1. The masks are now stored in each person’s bedroom in a pouch (this is my pouch) . A big, deep pencil bag also works very well. Dion has a drawer for his masks because he has the space.
  2. The dirty masks still go into the plastic container on the washing machine (it’s nothing special but it works). We each have at least 5 masks so we should be able to wash them once a week as none of us leaves the house more than three times a week. We leave the elastic as is once we find a good fit and wash them exactly as tied.
  3. When we’re ready to leave the house, just as we’d grab a sweatshirt/ handbag/ wallet from our bedrooms, we now grab a mask too. I keep a mask ready in my handbag and replace it before I put my handbag back where it belongs.

From these photos you can see how we fold them, and then I face them towards one another so the bigger sides are spaced out. The pouches we use can each easily hold 6 masks.

Once the laundry is done, each person takes their pile of masks and puts it back in the pouch.

The kids went back to school on Monday and part of getting ready these days is having a mask next to the school bag so they’re ready to go.

Do tell me – what’s your process for storing and cleaning masks?

{mindset} What are the three things you need right now?

It’s already starting to feel like spring in Johannesburg and as we approach the new season, I thought this might be a good time to remind all of us (I love seasonal reminders) to think about 3 things daily, 3 things weekly and 3 things monthly that we need.

3 things daily

Every day I ask myself, “which 3 things do I need to or want to get done today?”

On Sunday, my three things were to update the budget, cook two meals and finish reading my book.

On a workday, it’s usually the most important work tasks and will sometimes include a load of laundry or making a phone call.

Is there a habit you want to build in daily? Name it and write down just one.

3 things weekly

Those of you who’ve been here a while know that I’m a weekly planner. I love weekly planning because if I have one terrible day full of work surprises or an unexpected headache, it doesn’t derail my entire week. I can get back on track and will usually get those things done another day.

I usually have 3 main weekly tasks – this week that was to 1) write a newsletter, 2) write a blog (this one!) and to 3) send out a final note to all the people on my interested list of the last EVER Four Tendencies workshop.

What are your weekly tasks? Is it to make a menu plan and shop for groceries, to make sure there’s enough clean clothes, to make a weekly phone call to a loved one?

I usually have house tasks, personal tasks and work tasks on my weekly list.

3 things monthly

I want to talk a little more about this because it’s about being honest with yourself. I’ve been working too much and I realised that I don’t seem to have an off switch, because the laptop’s right there….

 1. I need to consciously work at shutting off and not popping into my email to “quickly check things”. I’m going to have to set a reminder on my phone to stop working and perhaps pack the laptop away until I break the habit.

2. I also need to move more regularly; I do have my regular Zumba classes but I could easily add another class to the weekly schedule. I’m happier and calmer when I move my body.

3. Last but not least, I need to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. I can’t run the workshops I ran last year, but I can run a virtual workshop. I can’t connect with people in person but I can coach on Skype and Zoom. I can’t go eat out at a restaurant like before (we are still being very careful, e.g. we went on my birthday), but I can try many, many recipes right here at home to experiment with ingredients and new flavours.

What do you need right now? 

Do you need to work on drinking more water, getting more sleep, having a set start and stop time for work, connecting with a real life friend instead of scrolling Instagram, switching the TV off at a decent hour every night…?

There’s something powerful about speaking it aloud to yourself or comment and I will see it.

{mindset} So many pandemic changes – part 2

We started talking about all the changes that we need to consider due to the pandemic last week. Read part 1 here.

And a huge disclaimer – I know that we are fortunate that our jobs have been secure thus far. If your income has been affected, I’m sorry – that completely sucks.

5. House/ external environment

I’ve told myself, since we’re not travelling, we might as well spend some of that money on our house so that we’re as comfortable and happy here as we can be.

To that end, I’ve had a handyman in to fix 6 little things, a plumber came to sort out some minor annoyances before they become big things, my garden is looking good for now (Jhb has no winter rainfall so the garden is decent) and my house is fairly deep-cleaned as my domestic worker is back for 40% of our pre-covid arrangement, which is actually why I can blog and am not cleaning!

We sealed some windows and had carpets replaced (two years later than I planned!) and now I just need a painter to come and paint my downstairs and I think we’ll be good for a while again.

More importantly than projects, we’ve moved things around in the house so that the entire space works better for this new C19 life. That couch on the left is no longer there – I needed it there for the workshops but since those are no longer happening, we’ve moved it upstairs to the pyjama lounge so the kids can relax near us while we’re working.

Zumba in my study

6. Exercising

In the beginning of the lockdown, exercise was a substitute as we waited for “things to return to normal”. Now that we realise this is how it’s going to be for a long time, and things are not going to return to normal for a long, long time, and we’re working from home so are far more sedentary, I have personally realised that I need to either get happy about my methods of exercise, or change them.

Zumba has been keeping me sane, I’ve found I really do not like ballet via Zoom though (I really do go for the whole sensory experience) and I love going for a walk to clear my head some evenings after work, especially now during autumn and winter. I’m under no illusion that when it gets too hot in Jhb, I’ll hate walking again and may have to do more Zumba classes, or maybe ballet will start looking exciting again 😉

thank goodness for kindle books and scribd

7. Spending

Oh, this is a big one. I’ve had a couple of discussions on Instagram because I’m honestly fascinated by all these people who are saving money.

Yes, we’re not spending as much on petrol but our food has increased so, so much with all of us here all the time, snacking, eating, treating ourselves with food and the occasional takeaway.

We’ve had to upgrade our internet and with that comes an increased monthly expense – the speeds are not sufficient with two people working full-time, in meetings, and two children trying to also access the internet for their schooling.

I’m going to deal with clothes properly in a separate post but is there a need to buy clothes any more? I have to probably keep four work outfits for summer and four for winter, and even that is plenty. I have bought some clothes during the last four months – a sports bra, slippers and socks, so I clearly have enough clothes.

So what am I spending some money on? Scribd, Zumba, books and some toiletries.

Our repo rate (the rate that the banks loan money to people for houses) has dropped a number of times since lockdown to aid the economy. I’ve been sensible and increased our bond payments every time. I let the actual payment the bank requires go off on the 1st of the month, and then we pay in extra on the 14th. Let’s face it – things could change any day and it would be good to have a bit cushioned away for an emergency.

This photo was taken in February, and I’m so glad we made time to get together when we had the chance.

8. Socials

I would almost always rather meet up in person than spend time on a call, but calls and Teams/ Zoom meetings have been a delightful way to connect with my friends.

I do have some concern for some of my friendships because I’ll be honest – it does feel rather like I’m stoking an awful lot of friendship fires these days.

Even our bookclub has taken a knock – the nice thing about not everyone pitching is that you can really connect better with the ones who are there (and this is what I tell myself). The bad thing is it is an anchor during the month to connect with many friends at one time and if those friends don’t pitch, I don’t always have the time or inclination (or, enneagram 1!) feel like it’s my job anymore to always be the gatherer. I’m not sure if anyone can relate?

Tell me, how has the pandemic affected these four areas of your life?

{organising} Project – how I decluttered my bookshelf

Let’s take a break from all the Covid-19 talk and focus on a fun, pretty project you could do during the workdays, if you’re not working, or on the weekend if you want a break from boring things like laundry.

I had a goal this year – to go through my bookshelf and declutter anything I no longer wanted to read. So this is it – these are all the physical books I own, other than the ones that live on my Kindle.

Here’s what I did and suggest you might like to do too:

  • If there are books a friend has loaned you and you know you’re not going to read them, return them. If you keep them, they start to guilt you everytime you look at them. None of us needs that guilt.
  • Return any books to their owners that you have read. See the brown wrapped book? Ready to go to a friend when I can next see her. (Edited – I ended up using a courier to send to her)
  • Pick up and go through each and every book on your shelf and make two piles: those you have read and those you have not read.
  • For the ones you have read, honestly answer these questions:
    • Do I love this book so much I want to keep it? Does it spark joy? Might I re-read it? Yes – keep. No – toss aside (I only keep books I LOVE and that rate an 8-10/10)
  • For the ones you have not read, answer these questions:
    • Am I likely to ever want to pick this book up to read? Does this book spark joy? Yes – keep. No – toss aside.
    • Was I gifted a book I don’t want to read, but am keeping because the person is a special friend or family member? Hold the book, think positive thoughts and toss aside.
    • The not-sure bunch. Ask yourself, is this a title I want to take with me into my future? Here’s where it’s easy to let go (most things I know full well I am never going to read like most parenting books).

Those tips helped me a whole lot. I now have books on my shelf I know I want to read and a lovely pile of books waiting downstairs to donate to my local library.

If you choose to go through your books, please send me pictures or better still, post your pics to Instagram or Facebook and tag me to come have a look.

{organising} What’s your organising style?

“You’re either born organised or you’re not”.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

There are those of us who are naturally more structured and organised due to our personalities but I also know that anyone can learn how to organise or to improve their organising skills.

Interestingly, many professional organisers were once disorganised and learnt the skills in order to better manage their own homes and lives.

As for me, I do have a natural bend towards organising (I think this is mostly because I’m a J on the Myers-Briggs) but honestly, I figured a lot of things out once I had my own home. And I certainly developed my love for decluttering when we started moving house and I didn’t want to pay to move things I no longer valued.

The key to organise your life effectively is to know your style so you can adapt any system to work with you, and not against you.

Today I want to talk about one particular facet of personality – structured versus unstructured organising.

It’s important to note that both of those descriptors are ways of organising yourself: you can organise yourself in a structured manner or in an unstructured manner. Unstructured people are not disorganised; they just prefer to organise themselves in an unstructured manner.

Structured

These are people who like clear goals and deadlines, they prefer closure, they love planning and following that plan.

Unstructured

These are people who feel trapped by deadlines, they are spontaneous and like lots of freedom and flexibility.

The really quick way I like to identify my clients’ styles is to ask them two questions:

1. do you work best with piles or files of paper?

Generally speaking, unstructured people work with piles of paper while structured people like files. Digitally, unstructured people have all their files in My Documents folders and structured people use (many) folders.

2. do you actually use the planning tools you buy or download?

This is a key indicator for me. If the person is a paper person (like I am), they probably have a diary. Do you actually use that diary or do you simply like the idea of having a diary? Open yours now and have a look… Digitally, do you merely download cool productivity apps or do you actually use them?

Of course, within those two really broad categories, there is a ton of variation.

I’m clearly structured but I’m a 7 in that I don’t lean very far across the scale. I love files but I keep them very sparse and thin. And electronically, I have one app I use… quite thoroughly, but only on a weekly basis. That’s the most structured I want to be.

Why is it important to know your style?

1. You’ll stop wasting money on tools that don’t work for you.
2. You can enjoy the freedom of being exactly who you are.
3. You can use your time more effectively.

Over to you.

Do you organise yourself in a structured or unstructured manner? What will you start or stop doing as a result of this knowledge?

{planning} your ideal weekend routine and rhythms

We are all different personalities and therefore need different rhythms for our weekends to feel like they were good ones.

What is important and consistent across personality types is for all of us to decide for ourselves what the components are that will make a weekend feel successful, and then incorporate those elements into our days.

This will also differ according to different times and life stages, e.g. in winter I cook more because that feels more life-giving to me, but in summer I only want to be in the kitchen a very short time.

Let’s look at some components of a successful weekend, shall we?

church – anchor event

1. Anchor events and scheduled activities

In this section, extroverts will typically want to have more time spent with other people where introverts will be happier by themselves.

I have at least three anchor events on most weekends – a tea with a friend after work on Fridays, Saturday morning Zumba and Sunday morning church. Those things are scheduled and in my diary; they can move, but probably won’t.

2. Downtime

We all need downtime, but what downtime looks like for you may differ to the next person.

Some people relax by reading on the couch; others relax by going for a long run. You do you.

3. Chores

Let’s face it – we all look forward to getting some nagging things off the to-do list and I, as an enneagram 1, like nothing more than to potter and set things in order in my home. The week is often for keeping the house ticking over and weekends are when I (and you) can devote a longer period of time to a little deeper cleaning or organising, like swopping summer and winter clothes, decluttering your kitchen cupboards, etc.

4. Planning

This only has to take 20 – 30 minutes but is so useful if done consistently. I’ve heard of some couples who take time on a Friday night to plan for the week ahead. I do my planning in two stages – I plan the menu for the week ahead on a Friday night or Saturday morning and write out the shopping list, and then on a Sunday afternoon, I take 5 – 10 minutes to review and plan my schedule and to-dos for the week ahead. On very busy weekends, I might push the planning to a Monday night but I still like to get it done.

I need to get out once a day at least or else I get cabin fever but other than that, I like to both relax and get things done around the house every weekend. This goes out the window if I have a heat headache but if I’m well, that sounds like the perfect weekend for me.

I’m flexible around my loose plan (typical upholder!) but I do need those first three components to be present, and I feel like I’m winning for the next week too if I get my planning done.

What are the components for you to feel like you’ve had a successful weekend?

{goals} A 2020 list with a difference – a lot more fun

Before we start, I have two questions for you:

This year I’m doing two lists – a standard list with normal (to me) goals and a fun list too, because I realise that I’m very serious and if I don’t intentionally plan for fun, it won’t just happen. I was especially inspired by my friend, Julia, who had a 19 in 2019 list full of super fun things.

I know this sounds crazy to the non-upholders but remember, discipline is an upholder’s freedom.

Onto the list…

  1. Have a lime milkshake
  2. Go for Milky Lane waffles (I have not had either of these two for more than 10 years) with all the syrups!
  3. Have a tea party for my friends (I’m not having a birthday lunch this year)
  4. Take Connor out for a supper date
  5. Take Kendra out for a supper date
  6. Make 3-ingredient scones with Kendra
  7. Pay for someone else’s groceries
  8. Volunteer to take someone’s photos
  9. Take a holiday outside South Africa
  10. Take the red city bus tour
  11. Teach a workshop using photography as a coaching tool (that sounds very boring but it would be super fun!) and then host a photo walk
  12. Go watch a fun, girly movie completely by myself
  13. Go play with my big camera on a walk once a month
  14. Go see a concert with Dion
  15. Time away with D
  16. Run a Four Tendencies workshop, for children
  17. Buy a dishwasher
  18. Go to Simply Asia with Angie
  19. Organise Dion’s desk (let’s be honest; this is going to be the MOST fun of all)
  20. Get a carpenter to do a cupboard/ shelf for the tumble dryer

Are you inspired yet? I know people who have made lists of places to eat in their city, other people have made lists of books to read or movies to watch, still others have made lists of friend dates. All of these are excellent ideas, or you can go the old-fashioned way and set some standard goals. I’ve done the best of both with two lists 🙂

What will you do? Care to share a couple of your goals with me?

PS I have done some fabulous start-of-year coaching sessions to help people strategise and set goals for the year. Contact me if you’d like to book a once-off 60-minute session for $60, or you can book a coaching package that suits your needs.

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