{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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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?

Organising Queen’s best books of 2018, just in time for summer/ winter reading


I thought I’d go ahead and post my best fiction and non-fiction books of 2018, just in case you want some backlist titles for summer/ winter reading.

Just like in the Northern Hemisphere, I also read a lot during our winter because I completely indulge myself in all that is good about winter (reading with tea under a blanket).

So here we go, first my top fiction reads and then my top non-fiction reads.

Fiction

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Still Alice is 10 years old this year! If you get the physical copy, you might find the lovely 10th anniversary edition.

I loved this book so much but I’ll confess because I lean to the dramatic (!), it made me super paranoid that I was getting Alzheimer’s. That’s not a spoiler – it’s in the book blurb that it’s about a woman who gets early-onset Alzheimer’s. To this day, if I walk into a room and can’t remember why I’m there, I freak out a little inside.ย 

I gave this book 4.5* because it was so uncomfortable to read in places, but it is my own issues. It’s actually a 5* read.

The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

This was a debut novel spanning about 20 years in the lives of a string quartet. It is beautifully written, has interesting, compelling characters and still moves at a good pace. You don’t need to know anything about music (I don’t!) to appreciate and enjoy this book.

I still can’t believe this is her debut novel – it’s so, so good and was my absolute favourite book of the year (5*). I loved it so much I plan to listen to it in June on audio. And….ย  if you’re like me, once you’ve read the book,ย 

As an aside, Beth also read this book (the only one of my friends SO FAR!) and loved it, and we generally read completely different genres, other than psychological thrillers which we both enjoy.ย 

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Like Still Alice, this was also a book club pick. I loved everything about this book and I loved the mom character too, who I am sure is an enneagram 1.

This was a 5* read but I chopped off 1/2* due to a small detail near the end.

If you’ve read any of these three books, do let me know what you thought in the comments.

Non-fiction

How not to hate your husband after kids – Jancee Dunn

I know this is a clickbaity title but the research is so solid, and this is a fantastic book. She covers all the important parts of marriage – especially the ones that cause… disharmony…. and I loved every single chapter.

Lab girl – Hope Jahren

This was the book that made me see nature in a different way. I wrote so much more here.

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

And I wrote more about this book here

And if you want to get inspired to get organised and nest, I’d love you to grab a copy of one of my books here.

Do you have any great backlisted titles to recommend to me?

PS These are affiliate links – it costs you exactly the same price and I get a few cents on each title for recommending it to you.

{reading} How I track my reading and January books read


So let’s talk about book tracking.

This is a big deal in the bookstagram world, and if you know me at all, you know I love tracking anything and everything. I learned since reading The Four Tendencies that upholders do well with monitoring, which is really what tracking is for me.

I first started tracking my reading straight after my last matric exam. For those outside of South Africa, it’s your last school year. That day was on 18 November and on that very day after my Biology exam, I went to the library, took out all the books I could and started tracking from that day nearly 27 years ago.

At some point once I’d started working, I started keeping an Excel sheet.

Fast forward to when I discovered Goodreads, and little by little but only back to 1998, I entered most of that notebook into Goodreads.

Well, how do I currently track my reading?

I track in 3 ways:

Goodreads (if Goodreads ever goes away, I don’t know what I’d do)

I use Goodreads for recording books I’ve read and to check when I’m at the library or bookshop whether I’ve read a certain book before borrowing or buying it. After thousands of books read, I can’t keep it all straight in my head ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s an app which I use for on-the-go tracking, but I write reviews at my laptop as I need a proper keyboard.

Excel spreadsheet

I track my monthly goals on an excel spreadsheet. In the past I’ve done an exercise at the end of the year to see how many fiction vs non-fiction reads I had, and other such interesting stats, which took me hours. Hours of pleasure, but hours nonetheless. Then I got clever. So since 2017, as part of my monthly goals, I also track the numbers of non-fiction vs fiction, physical/ kindle/ audible books and so on. It’s so much easier to enter the totals in less than a minute every month and my Excel sheet is set up to total, and do % of goal, etc. so I have the annual totals quickly too.

Bullet journal

This year I started writing down the month’s books in a special notebook I call my book bullet journal. I also have notes at the back of books I want our book club to read, books I want to read on Audible, books I need to borrow through Overdrive, and so on.

It’s really lovely to have a beautiful, fun notebook, and to physically write down books I’m reading again, especially since I haven’t done so for about 15 years, if not longer.

How do you track your reading?

And as for the books I read in January…

I finished 10 books – 5 of them during the first week while I was on holiday ๐Ÿ™‚

My final tally is 8 fiction; 2 non-fiction with 5 physical books, 1 audible and 4 Kindle versions.

Favourite reads of this month: The Friend – Dorothy Koomson (my first 5* read of the year!) and The Sunshine Sisters – Jane Green

What were your favourite reads in January?

{time} Your ideal weekend

On a Monday a couple of weeks ago, a colleague at work asked me how my weekend was, as you do, and I said, “it was a really great weekend”.

“Oh,” they said, “tell me more”.

And then I realised that nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I’d had a friend date on the Friday afternoon, hosted my kids’ book club, gone to Zumba and church, did some pottering around the house and read a book.

Kind-of standard things for me, but a really great weekend I realised because it had MY three ideal elements in the correct ratios.

  1. People/ out and about stuff
  2. Productivity
  3. Relaxation

It got me thinking that having a great weekend is completely within my control because I can control all of those components.

I’d been feeling a bit blah lately and when Dion and I unpacked my feelings, I realised I hadn’t had enough people time. As an extrovert, I’m energised by spending time with people.

My happy number is about 5 – 6 friend dates every month. Book club happens automatically and my friend dates are set up on a schedule, but when they get cancelled, I’m not upset (life happens) but I feel it later in this low energy state. What I need to do is then possibly reach out and just connect with a friend by phone.

We were at book club recently when one of our introvert members explained to two of us extroverts that it’s nothing personal but they just don’t feel the need to spend time with people. I must say, I was a bit surprised but I had an aha moment about friendship right there and then.

Over to you.

What does your ideal weekend look like? And are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this play out in your weekend plans?

Your favourite posts of 2018

This is one of my favourite posts to do every year. I love having the statistics; I just dread the process of drudging through and compiling it all ๐Ÿ™‚

Some fun facts:

Over the last 365 days, we’ve had nearly 900 000 visits from 150 000 people.

Jan

Word of the year recap and my 2018 word

Organising Queen’s best books of 2017

How I read 120 books last yearย  (this post is my most popular post of the entire year – yes, I’m shocked)

Feb

3 ways to Konmari your digital life

What I want less of this year

On being moderate with fitness

March

What went well in February?

The book that changed how I view nature

Quarterly recap of my word of the year

April

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

How is your phone changing you?

What freedom means to me

May

You have more than enough time

Groceries experiment – feedback

What I’m bullet journaling these days

At this point in the year, I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I took the Deep Dive into the Four Tendencies course and the concept of Upholder Tightening really hit home.

Blogging twice a week was me being in the same spiral without considering if it was still what I wanted to do or if it was good for me.

I didn’t make any big announcement; I just quietly went from a Mon and Thurs posting schedule to Wednesdays. To date, not one person has said anything about this.

Because of the reduction in posts, these are the favourite post of the month from June.

June

What are your nos with books?

July

Are you a time pessimist?

Aug

My annual birthday review

Sept

Lovely limitations (if you’ve heard The Nester on podcasts lately, she has mentioned it a few times too)

Oct

On setting reading goals

November

Introducing my 2019 diary

Decemberย 

What I learned by writing every day in November

Were there any posts that surprised you? (there were for me – the book ones!) I’m also always surprised that the ones I like writing the most are not the most popular ones, but that’s par for the course.

Which was your favourite? What is your favourite type of post to read?

{living intentionally} 3 ways to experience the “selfish” joy of giving this year

I picked up the phrase “the selfish joy of giving” from reading Laura Vanderkam’s “All the money in the world” book a few months ago.

It immediately resonated with me. I have often said that I sign up for Santa Shoebox because there is nothing better than shopping for other kids because I don’t have to find a place for all that stuff.

Jokes aside, it’s so true. There is something that warms my own heart even more than the recipients’ hearts when I fill a Santa Shoebox.

She also mentioned some research thatย people are more happy from philanthropic endeavours than from spending on themselves.

This was my favourite chapter in the entire book and has stuck with me since.

I also want to highlight 3 ways for each of us to experience this selfish joy of giving the entire year, not just around Christmas.

  1. shopping for individual families rather than giving money
  • She mentions that this is probably not as effective a way to use the money, but it is always a popular way to give. I completely resonated with this. Years ago at my church, there was an appeal to buy a gift for a certain amount of money, wrap it and bring it in. We always enthusiastically participated. Then it changed to just donate the money and suddenly we stopped. It just wasn’t as fun anymore. People (me!) want to feel warm and fuzzy inside while they give.
  • 2. lots of little gifts of a small amount of money
  • She suggests that if you have the mindset of looking for ways to make the world better for $5 – $20 (for South Africans, I just thought R20 – R100), it’ll be a lot of fun for you. One year I put on my list to pay for the person’s stuff behind me. It was so fun and let’s be honest – I didn’t even miss the money (just think of it as tossing a few extra things in your basket at the till, only healthier!)
  • 3. something larger that you won’t feel
  • This is the most exciting part for me. I have visions of paying for science/ maths camps for 5 kids a year. I have a bias because I studied science. If you know of any in the Joburg area, tell me!
  • But how about starting small and sponsoring a prize for the 3 kids who read the most books in the foundation phase at school? I’m going to do this next year – I just need to chat to the principal and the librarian to get the okays, and really, it’s a couple of thousand rands for me but will make me (and the kids) so happy. When I mentioned this idea to my kids, they were really upset that they’ll not be eligible ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I’ve also thought about sponsoring a Bible college year for one person. These gifts, while larger, will not break my bank of Marcia (I know how to save and manage my money), but it might be just the thing to truly influence another person’s life, and I really want to be part of something bigger than just me.


Some other ideas I’ve heard from friends:

  1. One friend stopped doing Santa Shoebox and decided to buy something (I can’t remember if it was nappies or formula) on a monthly basis for a whole year. She’s not trying to solely fund the children’s home but she knows that every tin of Nan counts or Pampers. Whatever it was.
  2. Another friend buys hot dog rolls and sausages, prepares them and then drives around her suburb and surrounds handing out food to the beggars on the corner.
  3. Another friend makes cupcakes for all the old people at her nearest old aged home.
  4. I used to read a blog where the blogger ran amazon ads and used all that money (it’s really not a lot) to buy diapers for kids. What a great idea!

I support two World Vision kids from the Eastern Cape (I’m from the EC) but this kind of practical thing sounds like a lot of fun that I can do in addition to my monthly subscription. In fact, 2018 marks 20 years of me supporting a World Vision child.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do, why don’t you purpose now to set aside a certain amount of money every month this year, and make a practical difference. And if you can’t give financially, there is always your time.

Can you think of some easy ideas to experience the joy of selfish giving?

{reading} Why I read fewer books in 2018 than in 2017

In 2017 I read 120 books. You can read how here (that’s one of the most popular posts on the blog, by the way).

Last year I passed 100, didn’t hit 120 but ended up on 112.

Let me tell you why:

  1. I read longer, more challenging books

One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read books that would stretch me, some more literary fiction. I specifically set a really low Goodreads goal of 80 books. This means I still needed to be reading almost two books a week, so I had to prioritise reading but I could read longer books during a month and not choose ones I’d finish within 4 days instead of say, 6.

2. I worked from home more

I listen to audible books on the way to work. A standard non-fiction read is about 8 hours long and a standard fiction read is about 10 – 11 hours long, so let’s average out at 9 hours.

Given these stats, and my commute being about 45 minutes, in 2017, I’d get through a long audio book in 3 weeks, but on average this year it was taking me 4 weeks because for many weeks, I’d work from home two days.

(no complaints; I’d gladly sacrifice books for focussed deep work time)

3. my reading slump

I won’t go into the whole thing here again but when you’re in a reading slump, you’d rather do other things than read, so I organised, took jacaranda photo walks and had other kinds of fun ๐Ÿ™‚

It was really helpful analysing why I read less this year. The bottom line is I’m an upholder and it’s still best for me to make my own rules about reading (and everything else) and uphold those rules.

Read more about my reading rules here, and on re-reading them now, it’s so obvious the commenters are not upholders ๐Ÿ˜‰

How did your reading life compare from 2017 to 2018? Have you noticed any trends?

Lovely things to do, eat, watch, try in 2019


I made this free printable a few years ago because I like to make a list of lovely things to do when I have a birthday.

It’s like a goals list, but super fun ones ๐Ÿ™‚

Some of you will say that all goals should be fun; I disagree because we all know there are things you should do as part of being a grownup that aren’t necessarily fun (dental appointments, I’m looking at you!).

I didn’t get around to make my lovely things list in August but I’m going to do it with a twist for next year.

  • Lovely things to do read this year
  • 19 lovely things to do in 2019

Ideas for you:

  • lovely things to watch this year (if you’re a movie/ TV person – I am not)
  • lovely places to eat at this year (if you like to try new restaurants – I don’t like new restaurants but I do like working my way through some menus…)
  • lovely things to cook this year (I could get behind this idea)
  • lovely friends to see this year
  • your choice

Have fun with it, friends.

I’ve got good news – I’ve made these 7 printables and they’re ready for you to download here.

Care to share your lists? Please tag me on Instagram and tell your friends to sign up for their set of lovely lists too.

{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.
  • ย 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.ย 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?

The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k

Despite the title of this book (I’m not a fan of sensational titles), to my surprise, it was a really good book.

If I were asked, I’d say that it’s a book about boundaries… and you know how much I love talking about boundaries. But if you’re super sensitive to swear words, I’d give this a miss because you won’t get her message. That said, I don’t like a lot of swearing too and I found I became numb to it after a while.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

In this book, Sarah Knight gives her readers permission to stop wasting our time doing things we don’t want to, without feeling guilty about it. And without being that rude person no-one wants to be around. It’s about being firm, polite but being honest.

The nice thing is she gives lots of examples about places in all our lives where we do or pay for or attend things due to obligation without questioning, when in fact, the world will continue just fine if we stop doing these things we hate.

  1. like responding to rude people’s obnoxious questions (whether they be complete strangers or family!)
  2. attending baby showers and other social norm events
  3. doing things at work that no one cares about

Some of my favourite quotes:

“when I stopped giving a F about going to baby showers – an activity I positively loathe – I gained untold Sunday afternoons of freedom” (I had no idea anyone else in the world felt the same as I do about baby showers!)

โ€ฆ it’s all about prioritizing. Joy over annoy. Choice over obligation. Opinions vs feelings. Sticking to a budget. Eyes on the prize”

and my favourite

“Your time, energy, and/ or money spent should result in greater happiness for you.”

One thing I really LOVED in the book was the concept of a personal policy. E.g. you get asked for a loan from someone. You just say, “I have a personal policy that I don’t give loans. So sorry” (polite, firm and they can’t argue – it’s your personal policy)

You can do this for many things…. go wild ๐Ÿ™‚

The overarching theme is that we all think other people care much more than they do (so true). And so we do things to make people happy when they really don’t/ won’t care that much.

So stop twisting yourself in knots, just be honest about your feelings in a kind way, and you and they will be much happier.

I think I have good boundaries but I also learnt a lot from this little book. If you need a little kick-in-the-pants (especially for the obligers and then upholders), grab a copy from the library and get reading in preparation for your Christmas events… or for a New Year refresh ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you need a boundary refresh? Where do you need to set a personal policy?

If you didn’t know, I coach women just like you to live more intentional lives. Contact me to arrange your coaching session.



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