This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? 😉

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

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!)

… 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 🙂

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 🙂

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.

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.

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.

Book bossy and my October reads

I learned of a delightful  little phrase, “book bossy” this month.

It turns out I am book bossy.

Friends, I was quite taken aback because I don’t see this book bossiness as a negative at all; it’s just who I am. I am a person who is passionate about books and reading.

And honestly, I’m only book bossy when I think it may matter to you too. There are some friends I never talk books with; granted, these are probably not my deepest friendships 😉

I am book bossy when I really love a book and want to press it into everyone’s hands (or ears), or because it is universally loved. Or because I know that the person will, in fact, love the book.

So in honour of my book bossiness, these are some books I am decidedly and unashamedly book bossy about:

The happiness project – Gretchen Rubin

Perfect as we go into the new year. I plan to listen to it in January again – it’s just the perfect start to a new year, or even around your birthday.

Boundaries – Cloud/ Townsend

Still the best book on boundaries out there.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

Look on my sidebar. I’ve written many posts and it is truly life-changing.

The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

Listen, read and then if you’re intrigued like I was, take her deep dive course too. Or come coach with me and I will take you through it.

And now, let me show you all the books I read in October, among them the book that taught me about my book bossiness.

I read four fiction and five non-fiction; 0 physical books (!), 6 Kindle and 3 Audible.

My favourite fiction read was the Cathy Kelly – Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

I have three favourite non-fiction reads to talk about. It’s actually a pity of sorts that I read them all in the same month; they each deserve their space in the spotlight.

Off the clock – Laura Vanderkam‘s new release. I enjoyed this book so much and am planning to write a few blogs about it. It’s more philosophical than her previous books, and is my favourite by far.

Dream more – Dolly Parton. This was a short read and I actually listened on audio. It was so fun to hear Dolly singing a verse here and there. I believe that a memoir-ish book needs to make you like the person more than you did before, and this one did. She is utterly delightful and I am so impressed with her work ethic and attitude towards life.

I’d rather be reading – Anne Bogel. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did because (confession!) I don’t usually like books about books as I find them either too cheesy or trying to be too clever. This one was neither. It was relatable and endearing, and I found myself wanting to either wake my husband to share things with him, or Instastory everything and put polls in my stories to talk about it all.

What was your favourite fiction, and non-fiction (if you read – I realise more and more that I’m in the minority with my 40% on average non-fiction reads)?

And more important, are you book bossy?

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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