What I learned through writing every day in November

Many of you know that I chat to Beth, my accountability partner and friend, every week.

On Thursday 1 November, I’d only completed my personal goals from the previous week and no blog goals, which all involved writing.

On a whim, I mentioned to Beth that I wondered if I could still actually write every day. And right there and then, I decided to try.

You see years ago, for five years in a row, I blogged 324 or more times every year. For two of those years, I blogged every single day.

Also, here on Organising Queen, I’ve twice participated in the 31 days series – once I wrote about easy organising solutions, and the other time I wrote about having enough time.

It is never hard for me to write, especially if I know what I want to write about, so I thought I’d give it a bash again.

So what did I do differently and what have I learned?

  1. I set two daily reminders in my phone – one at 6 pm and another from 8 – 8.30 to come write. The 6pm reminder was to start thinking about what I want to write about. And the 8pm reminder was to actually sit down and write.
  2. I used a habits page (I have no idea where I found it – I’d printed off a whole year long ago and not used all of the monthly pages) to cross off my progress daily. I also recorded my progress on my Instagram stories every 3 – 5 days, or thereabouts.
  3. I was conscious about my “difficult days” – weekends when I’m too relaxed, and Tuesday nights when I’m exhausted from my two dance classes, and so I made sure to have something easy to write about on those days. This was a great idea.
  4. I brainstormed some topics at the start of the month. I ended up with 17 topics but as is often the case, I’ve since deleted about 5 that sounded far too boring even to me, and added a couple of others. I scanned my book notes from recent non-fiction I’ve read to see if there was anything I really wanted to blog about.
  5. The point was just to write, not to create beautiful blog posts. Some nights I just wrote; most of them I also added photos and tags for a blog post. Having my standards low meant that I actually got things done instead of obsessing about perfection.

A few notes:

I’m an Upholder on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework so strategies that work REALLY well for me are clarity, scheduling, pairing and monitoring.

Clarity – I very clearly defined what “success” on this project would look like – actual writing on a keyboard for 15 minutes, and having my blog post ideas list

Scheduling – reminders in my phone

Pairing – I knew that at 6pm I’d be home from work but low energy, so the first reminder would go off while I was cooking or otherwise having a cup of tea with the kids (I could start thinking about my topic) and the second reminder was just after the kids went to bed (well, in theory)

Monitoring – I was checking off my list of blog post ideas as I completed writing, and also the occasional posting to Instagram stories, and my weekly accountability chat with Beth.

Any upholders out there? Did my approach resonate with you too?

How about the other tendencies? What would your approach have been for creating this new habit.

You can do the same for any habit you want to create either now or in the new year. I will help you clarify your tendency, and put structures in place during our coaching session.

Please contact me as soon as possible to schedule your coaching session as I only coach a limited number of sessions weekly.

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

Introducing my 2019 diary

my current diary

When I started looking for a 2019 diary, I fully intended to either get my current diary again, or go for a Moleskine or Legami weekly diary planner as I’ve had in previous years.

But alas, my current diary format was only available in a cover that did not feel very smooth to touch. I’m a very tactile person and I like a diary that feels good to touch, or at least doesn’t irritate me.

I’d just about eliminated everything and was ready to order my Moleskine online as I didn’t see any Legami diaries in store when something quite serendipitous happened.

Typo had a sale and I had a voucher!

I’d not been intending to buy a Typo diary because the standard weekly diaries have no lines (I need lines!) but when I went into the store, I saw 5 weekly diaries left (2 different covers) at 50% off, and my decision was made.

They were not my first choice but as I mentioned before, they did have my non-negotiables:

  • pretty cover that is lovely to touch
  • weekly format – horizontal preferably
  • lines and big enough for my handwriting
  • month to view with notes paper

And since I’m such a practical person, I couldn’t justify spending double that on another diary when this would work perfectly well.

Interestingly, once I brought my diary home, I now love it and can’t wait to start using it 🙂 It’s actually a 2018-2019 diary so I could technically start using it right now. If you’re curious, I’ll use the extra pages in the front for my bullet journal lists.

Here are some photos if you’d like to see inside:

Do you have your 2019 diary yet? And have you declared and scheduled your planning day?

No-fail menu planning

Last year I wrote two posts on menu planning that were two of the most popular posts on my blog the entire year.

If you didn’t see them, here’s post 1 and here’s post 2.

The reason I go on and on about this is because it is such a game-changer when you make it part of your weekly routine.

Today I want to give you two methods of menu planning that are truly very easy.

Base your meals on the protein. E.g.

Monday – legumes like lentils or kidney beans (chilli con carne using just kidney beans served over rice or baked potatoes)

Tuesday – chicken (chicken breasts, chicken a la King, chicken curry)

Wednesday – fish (grilled fist in the oven with chips or mashed potato)

Thursday – chicken again (add a second night of the protein your family likes the most, and if it’s chicken, choose from the list above)

Friday – cheese (pizza)

Saturday – eggs (breakfast for dinner, or quiche)

Sunday – beef (stir fry, steak, etc.)

(of course, I only plan for 5 nights and there’s usually enough in the fridge for the other two nights)

OR

you could do the same as above around the carbohydrate

Monday – rice

Tuesday – potatoes or chips

Wednesday – pasta

Thursday – wraps

Friday – pizza or bread-based

(this is mostly how I menu plan because I get bored eating the same carbs two nights in a row)

OR

you could plan meals around the type of dish

  • Oven bake
  • Casserole
  • Slow-cooker
  • Stir-fry

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas.

But even if you have a good system going, try planning using one of these 3 plans occasionally to jazz things up in the kitchen.

Will you let me know in the comments if you give it a bash? I’d love to hear.

But also, as we’re in summer in South Africa, please let me know your favourite meals to make in summer.

Declare a day for annual planning

I read on Sarah’s blog where she said she wished we could have an International Planning Holiday where we would all take out our new diaries, transfer information and get all transitioned out of the old and into the new one.

Well, I was agreeing with her as I read and then I realised… I already do this!

My international planning holiday is not on a specific day, but does fall within a specific week of the year – the week between Christmas and New Year.

I love this week and have referred to it in the past as the best time of the year.

This is how I do my annual planning day:

  1. I choose a day during that week (26 – 31 December) where I do not have any socials planned because there’s nothing worse than feeling rushed. It’s usually on the 27th or 28th, but has been as late as the first week of January some years.
  2. I ensure that I have a good block of 2 – 3 hours to work on my diary. I have, in the past, gone to a coffee shop to do this planning work uninterrupted.
  3. I make sure I have all my gel pens and highlighters handy, as well as post-it notes (the proper stuff, not the cheap sticky notes) and washi tape.
  4. I write all the important dates in my new diary, and transfer in any other important information, like passwords. Don’t judge – it works for me.
  5. I write in all the school terms, both in my monthly view, and during the actual weeks.
  6. I get January all set up with scheduled dates, friend plans, etc.
  7. Lastly, I move some lists to my new bullet journal (like life admin, blog post ideas, etc.) or the notepaper in my diary, if there is notepaper, like the years I’ve bought an 18-month diary, but only started during the actual calendar year.

Important to note:

I may not have set goals by this time, or chosen my word of the year, but I do think it’s important (for me, anyway) to at least feel somewhat in control by having the week-to-week aspect of my life set up.

Do you declare a day for annual planning? Why don’t you block out the two hours right now to prepare your 2019 diary?

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

Do you have your 2019 diary/ planner yet?

 

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I’ve long spoke about embracing your paper-loving self.

I’ve also mentioned before that generally speaking, Js on the Myers Briggs are most likely to actually use their diaries. Ps buy them all the time but from mid-Feb they’ve given up 🙂

I asked in my Instastories a few weeks ago if people use diaries and it was a lot lower than I thought :0

All that said, if you do use a diary and you haven’t yet made a choice for next year, let me point out some things to consider:

  1. Do you think big picture or daily detail? Use weekly for bigger picture and daily for a detailed view.
  2. Will you feel guilty or overwhelmed having undone items on a daily basis? Weekly might be better for you.
  3. Is it important to have monthly planning pages? This is a not-negotiable for me. I have put down many diaries that don’t have a monthly overview and notes (I use these for goals) page.
  4. Is the space large enough for your handwriting? I have medium handwriting and many diaries have lines that are tiny.
  5. Prettiness is an important consideration too. I promise you, if you don’t like the look of your diary, you won’t use it consistently. I’ve bought only ONE plain black diary in all my years of diary buying, but I did jazz it up by putting my word of the year on the front.
  6. Price. I know that the cost per use is low if you actually use a diary, but I still can’t bring myself to pay exorbitant prices for a diary when I can get a perfectly good one for hundreds of rands cheaper. I have seen some South African ones for R700. I have the money; just can’t do it.

I’ve seen some beautiful ones this year but to be honest, I don’t think anything has matched my 2018 diary, which I do love! If you need a reminder, it’s this one.

I have settled on one though. In typical Murphy style, I then won a diary on Instagram (how cool and weird because I’ve only won two things in my entire life before this!). I’m hoping and praying it actually arrives in South Africa because it is gorgeous…. I’ve ordered other things from Singapore and Japan, and am still waiting for them to get to me since June….. and I desperately hope that this one arrives, and arrives soon. I’ll give it another month and then show you the one I bought.

Tell me, have you decided on your 2019 diary yet? Have you gone weekly or daily?

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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  • 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?

On setting reading goals and books read in September

Good news!

I reached my goal of 72 in August, and this month, I reached my Goodreads goal of 80 books.

You may ask yourself why I set such a “low goal” if I read 120 books last year.

My purpose for my reading life this year was to read deeper and sometimes longer books as well as fun books. I saw a tendency in my reading life last year to skip over some books if they were over 400 pages and I wouldn’t be able to finish them if the month had only a few days left. This year, I wanted to create space to read longer books than I had been reading.

It’s working beautifully because I am reading longer books and I’m getting through books I’ve had on my Kindle for a couple of years.

I’ve also surpassed my non-fiction reading goal which was 24 for the year; I’ve read 29 as at the end of September.

I had an audible goal too of 12 books for the year; I’ve read 16. I find that two a month is my comfort number.

Do you set reading goals?

Do you find that it enhances your reading life, or do you feel that it diminishes it?

And now onto my books read during September.

I really loved both non-fiction books I read: Hello Mornings by Kat Lee, and Grace not Perfection by Emily Ley.

I re-read Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, and again LOVED it!

If you’re a Gretchen Rubin Four Tendencies fan, tell me if you agree with my take on the characters:

Erica and Oliver – both Upholders, one leans to Questioner and one to Obliger

Vid – Obliger

Tiffany – Rebel

Clementine – Questioner

Sam – Obliger

Just some fun 🙂

Other mentions:

If you can, get Maeve Binchy’s book on Audible for all the beautiful Irish accents.

I am in the minority as I did not love Joshilyn Jackson’s The Almost Sisters, BUT it was a great book club discussion, and that I always love.

I’m reading Off the Clock (35% through – will report back next month) and that rounds up all the books I’d set aside to read in September.

What were some of your notable mentions or favourite books read this month?

Word of the year and 18 in 2018 update, 3/4 in

Here’s where I talked about my word of the year, fun.

Here’s my quarterly recap at the end of March.

At the end of June, I didn’t recap here on the blog but I did a little recap as part of my half-year review in my bullet journal.

This may speak to some of you but a key mindshift change for me was that I really don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. I’m in charge of my own life.

So I’ve declined invites, changed how I do things here on the blog (have you noticed?), changed other things about how I do my full-time work, and so on.

Here’s a quick list of fun things I’ve done this year:

  1. Enneagram coaching course
  2. Four Tendencies deep dive course
  3. read good, discussable books in book club
  4. started a kids’ book club
  5. tending my friendships
  6. giving lots of gifts, many for no reason at all
  7. I gave a talk to a moms and daughters group
  8. reading only fun books during my birthday month
  9. listening to books on audio that I’ve already read, but knew I would enjoy again (The Happiness Project, Truly Madly Guilty, The Four Hour Workweek)
  10. changing the way I did Santa Shoebox this year (click to Instagram and then click on the red circle under my bio where I talked about this)
  11. danced in Zumbathons
  12. did seasonal photodrives
  13. used fun notebooks and stationery at work
  14. went to watch Crazy Rick Asians with some friends (I never go out at night and definitely not to the movies, so this was enormous fun)
  15. I did a Handyman Course – this was the MOST fun thing ever, possibly because I’ve always wanted to go on a course like this

And now for a brief 18 in 2018 update…

I’ve done 16 of my 18 in 2018 items, and I’ve just scheduled number 17. For some reason I’m getting stuck on number 18…. but there are still 3 months left 🙂

Over to you!

How are you doing with your word of the year?

You can always change your word if it’s not working for you. To be honest, I briefly entertained the idea of changing my word because I feel like my world’s getting smaller….. but then I realised that is precisely the right reason to have FUN as a word. Hopefully there’ll be a few more fun things to say YES to in the next 3 months.

And if you’re doing 18 in 2018 (there’s a free form you can get here), let me know how it’s going. I do hope Gretchen Rubin does this challenge again next year – it’s been such a fun way of doing goals.

 

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