{Living intentionally} A simple Christmas

Before I start today’s post, let me quickly point you towards my apology at this post. Go have a read and then, don’t hesitate to book your place!

make it count workshop | OrganisingQueen.com

For the past couple of years, I’ve done an elaborate (for me!) Advent Calendar with 25 activities for the kids.

Granted, I’m clever so a lot of things we’d normally do would still go on the calendar, like buy presents with Mummy, buy presents with Daddy, put up Christmas tree, etc.

I also put up easy things to give us a breather like “go for a drive to look at the lights”, a really low-key, 15-minute activity.

A simple Christmas |www.OrganisingQueen.com

But this year our weekends have been really full and last weekend, I just thought about it and decided NO.

None of this crazy.

I took a piece of paper (not even a cute printable!!!) and wrote down what I want from Christmas – carols at a local shopping centre, and at church, make some Christmas biscuits (gingerbread men), do presents and a few cards, and maybe two crafty things if I’m inspired.

The children and Dion then added to this list things like watching a move at the “theatre” (Connor), and watching a movie at home while eating popcorn (Kendra), going to see the lights, and decorating the house and tree, and doing some secret shopping with each parent.

That’s it.

A simple Christmas |www.OrganisingQueen.com

That’s our little list for the next 25 days.

Best of all? We already crossed off two of those things this past weekend because the carols at the shopping centre and at church were early this year.

  1. Decorate house and tree
  2. Carols – shopping centre
  3. Carols and Christmas play at church
  4. Make gingerbread biscuits
  5. Wrap presents
  6. Make some cards for people we will see
  7. Drive around and look at the lights
  8. Movie – theatre
  9. Movie – home with popcorn
  10. Do two Christmas crafts with kids (did one already)
  11. Christmas shopping with Mummy
  12. Christmas shopping with Daddy
  13. Christmas service at church

I love simple Christmases.

I share this not to impress you or for you to feel sorry for my “poor kids” πŸ˜‰ but to inspire you to let things go that you may be doing just because you think they should be done, or because you’re comparing yourself to your real, Facebook or Instafriends.

What are the must-dos on your list this Christmas?

PS if you’re wondering where my monthly goals post is…. I’ll do that post on Wednesday.

{Intentional living} realistic memory-keeping

I’m old-school with photos while (I hope) still embracing the technology. I Instagram as much as the next person but I also print photos for real albums.

I print holiday (vacation) photos but I also do individual albums for each baby child, one album of them together and a Project Life album. And when the mood takes me, I print albums of my favourite photos (my weird photos, as I call them), almost a coffee-table photo book.

People have asked why I don’t do photobooks rather than albums and my answer is very simple – I’ve done 4 photo books over the last few years and they actually take me longer to do, are more expensive, and you can fit in fewer photos (usually). More important than that, the designing part makes me super crazy. Seriously, life is to short (for ME) to do photobooks.

I often get comments when I talk about MY memory-keeping process, like…

  • How do you find the time?
  • I wish I was as organised as you are.
  • I wish I could do the same!
  • My Project Life is so behind. One day when _________, I’ll have the time to do it again.


There are two thoughts I have on this topic.

1. Is it really a priority for you?

I don’t mean that in a bad way but is it really a priority for you? Be honest. Or do you wish you were that person who did these things?

My friend, Laura, the Organising Junkie, has often said over the years how she accepted the fact that she’s not a scrapbooker. She wanted to be, but it didn’t work with her personality so she got rid of the scrapbooking stuff and is happier for it.

If memory-keeping really is a priority… really truly honestly… beyond Instagram, then you will make the time for it.

And if it’s not, then own it. Accept that your priorities are work, kids’ day-to-day, relaxation in other forms, and please don’t feel guilty.

which brings me to my second thought.

2. How much time do you realistically have?

You’re right when you say you don’t have time…. if you’re got other priorities in your life at this point.

The reason I have (and make) time for my photo albums and such is that I don’t watch TV or DVDs. In fact, Dion teased me when we went to see Philomena the other weekend. He said, “wow, we’re on a roll. This is the second movie this year and it’s only May”. That’s true.

When a season of The Amazing Race is on TV, it actually still shocks me that an hour a week can throw off my rhythm.

Most people are not as extreme as I am and so most of you do watch TV, DVDs and so on. I probably spend about 5 hours a month on my photos – taking, deleting, organising, printing and putting in albums. So if you only have two hours a month, then recognise that what you can realistically do is going to look a lot different from someone who spends more time on it than you do.

I’ve linked to Pink Ronnie here before. She’s an AMAZING memory-keeper. You will be inspired!

Warning – don’t go reading if you already feel overwhelmed and this IS a priority for you.

I started feeling a bit of envy once and then I stopped myself, because the truth is I don’t want to do as much as she does otherwise I would have done it. I certainly have the time management capabilities.


Back to some examples of being realistic:

  1. I knew that a weekly Project Life was unrealistic for me so I do a monthly album. 6 – 8 photos and it’s done. The whole thing takes me about 30 minutes every month, and most of that time is the choosing of photos. I’m also a very “simplistic” Project Lifer. A friend takes about 4 hours a week doing the most beautiful spreads. That wouldn’t work for me.
  2. I don’t stress too much about choosing an equal number of photos of each twin for their individual albums. Realistically, on any given day, one is more co-operative than the other so obviously that child will have more photos πŸ™‚ But I do cap it at max 8 photos per month. Most times I only print 4 per child per month unless we went on a holiday, or they had a birthday/ Christmas. Sometimes Kendra will have 4 photos and Connor will have 2, and that’s just fine.
  3. If you have a lot of children and not much free time, maybe the best option is to just get one photo a week or month.

Remember, it’s all about what works for you.

That’s being realistic.

Please tell me how realistic you’re currently being about your time constraints.

If you’ve gone through a mindset change, I’d love to hear more.

{Intentional living} Photo night

Photo Night is one of my favourite nights of the month. Aside from Goals Night which I will talk about next week.

(you can now see I’m very creative with naming things!)

It’s the night I “tie up” all my photo-taking and memory-making activities for the previous month.

In other words, it’s hugely satisfying for a J like me who likes closure. I’m ESTJ.

  1. I copy my favourite photos to the M faves, kids together, C faves and K faves, etc. folders.
  2. I make sure I have small versions of anything I want to blog about. A full post to follow about this process.
  3. I print my 4 photos of each kid for their album, 4 of them together and my 6 – 8 project life photos for the month.
  4. A new thing for me this year until the photo album is full … I also print all the instagrams I want to keep. E.g. I had 82 from April and I printed 48 I felt best represented the month – 6 into a 10 X 15 collage, so just 8 actual photos.
  5. And then, most importantly, I back it all up.

Dotted throughout the post are some of my instagrams from March – the ones that made it to my album.

Confession time

I used to DREAD photo night because truthfully, it was a huge schlep, but it’s important to me to have my things organised just so. I even have a system written down on a Project Life card (!) with months on the one side, my steps on the other, and I tick them off as I go along.

So, huge sense of dread I until I decided to time it one month.

And it took me one hour up to starting the back-up (and then I go tidy something, cook something, read something, go to dance class, etc.)

One hour!

I was getting my knickers in a knot for one measly hour.

Since I now know it only takes an hour, I don’t dread it anymore.

It’s actually been as quick as 35 minutes some months but never goes longer than an hour.

My coaching questions for you

Is there something you currently dread doing? These are usually the things you also procrastinate on.

Is it worth it to you to continue doing?

  • If no, scratch it off your mental/ physical to-do list. Done!
  • If yes, time it and see if that changes anything for you.

Or write down the steps so you don’t have to go through the mental gymnastics to organise your thoughts every time.

Let me know what that thing is for you!

May updates and holidays

1. Dion and I celebrated our 19-year wedding anniversary last week and, as we’ve done for many, many years (except last year), we went away with the kids for a few days to an exceptionally beautiful part of the country, the Drakensberg.

(we’d never been before!)


I took this photo inside of the resort grounds

2. I learnt some interesting things about myself while on holiday, namely my complete reliance on wifi and how not having internet is actually quite freeing. This is a subject for a complete blog post!

3. In other news, I also resigned from my full-time job and Wednesday was my last official day. I will write more in my next newsletter which comes out on Wednesday as I left without having another job lined up. If you’re not signed up yet and you’re interested in my thought process and the financials behind it all, please sign up here. Thanks πŸ™‚

4. We’ll be voting on Wednesday which is always an experience in itself. Last time they allowed us to “express vote” due to having twins who were 1 – 2 years old; this time, I’m afraid there’ll be no such conveniences. We’re still debating whether to go one at a time or whether to drag the kids along with us. If you’re South African, when do you plan to vote?

5. And last but not least, this is exactly what life is like, isn’t it? You spot a pretty location, position yourself and kids and this type of photo is what happens πŸ™‚

It made me laugh; hope it makes you laugh this morning too!

Happy May!


A photo to make you laugh – please note the one 4-year-old on the left………… #thisisfour

PS I’m opening comments on this post.


Bucket lists and concerts

Guess what we’re doing tonight?

We’re going to see Air Supply in concert!

This has been the year of the concert.

So far this year we’ve seen:

  • Bryan Adams
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • UB40

and tonight Air Supply.

They were out in South Africa a few years ago and Dion wasn’t keen on seeing them (soppy love songs from the 80s :)) but since I went to Bruce Springsteen, he had to come to this one πŸ˜‰

I can’t wait!

So let’s talk bucket lists.

This is who we’re seeing next. This, my friends, is my favourite CD at the moment.


Who do you want to see next in concert?

PS BILLY JOEL, I can’t wait to see YOU in concert!!!

PPS Let me know on Facebook

Take care of yourself


Sooooo, I planned out a whole month’s worth of posts and somehow they don’t want to be written.

Instead, I feel led to post on other things this month and I’m just going to follow that yielding, if that’s alright with you.

I feel like the theme of this month is taking care of your needs.


I was listening to the safety announcement on a flight the other day and heard the usual “in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, place the mask over your own face first before helping fellow passengers”.

Isn’t that a great metaphor for life?

Take care of your needs before you can help those around you.

What do you need this month?


Do you need to eat better? Exercise more? Sleep more?

Or do you need to give yourself permission to NOT open the laptop at night and just read? Or go outside and play with your kids or your camera?

Whatever it is, you know deep down what you need.

This month, I need to schedule some appointments, get my sleep back on track and get back into a regular gym routine during the week. Oh, and check out an adult Spanish dance class I’m thinking of joining πŸ™‚

Β How are you going to take care of yourself this month?



Do you have a gift shelf?

Talking about gifts has got to be one of my favourite topics πŸ™‚

I definitely have a gift shelf for all sorts of gifts – baby gifts, kid gifts and gifts for friends. I’m actually trying to empty out that shelf so we can start thinking more personally for the friends (my kids are now 4).

Something that’s helped me is I have a “gift of the year”.

This year I did activity books, a “proper” book, and a “craft kit” with things my kids currently like – little notebook, crayons/ oil pastels, stickers, glue, scissors, stickers, etc. all neatly organised in a container. Last year I did little backpacks (I called it the Out and About bag) with a little magnadoodle, a small puzzle, a tiny block set, etc.

This year we sewed up a MILLION aprons (ribbon on a tea towel/ placemat), bought little cutting boards, measuring cups, little recipe books, baking mixes, etc. and made sets of “chef” sets for all the kids. We’ve just given away the last two for the November birthdays. I love giving gifts πŸ™‚

For overseas friends, I order online and get it delivered directly to save on shipping but we send a handmade card (two birds with one stone – craft time and a card!)

Do you have a gift shelf?

Do you have some systems in place for effective gift-giving?

3 ways to enjoy the holidays


I am exactly like a lot of you – so anxious to get to the next thing on the list that I move too fast to enjoy it all.

I think it was Albert Einstein that said if he had an hour to save the world, he’d plan for 55 minutes and take action in the last 5.

And yes, this is the most wonderful time of year (as the song goes) but it’s also one of the most stressful times of year for many people.

Blogs, Pinterest, Instagram can all make you feel less than perfect if you let them.

Here are 3 ways to enjoy the holidays this year:

1. Talk to your family members to align everyone’s expectations

Sit down and ask each person what they most enjoy or want to do in December and forget about the rest. Maybe you’ve been trying to do lots of baking for the family and nobody really cares about that.

Adjust your expectations and let the “shoulds” go.

My kids love going out and about and so I’ve planned a special outing every weekend. It’s really good when you keep expectations low because my kids are even happy to go to the library as a special outing.

2. Set strong boundaries

What about other people-imposed time commitments?

I have some friends who will be driving 10 hours one way to spend two days with one side of the family and then 5 hours another way to spend another few days with the other side.

They don’t want to do it but they don’t want to upset anyone.

My suggestion is to start gently but firmly setting stronger boundaries which means also taking your own opinions and feelings into account.

Maybe this year suggest that you’ll go to one set of parents (if you want to do so) and another set next year. Or better still, they can come visit you.

3. Plan realistically and well

If you only have three weekend days free for the entire month of December and you both work full-time, there’s no way you can realistically and sanely do 10 outings. That may be an extreme example but I think a lot of us need to hear extreme examples to really have it hit home.

Something that works really well for me is having a monthly calendar at a glance with blocks big enough to write in. I mark off all the socials and other time commitments and then it’s clear – I can’t actually do everything I’d necessarily like to do because sadly, I still only have 24 hours in a day… and I need my 8 hours of sleep.

I mentioned recently to a friend that success for me is one two-hour outing with the twins without a meltdown or tantrum.

She laughed (she has an 8 and 10-year-old) when she remembered what this stage is like.

Because of that, I really try not to overdo things with my kids because I’m realistic about what they can and cannot do.

If you’re starting to feel frazzled, stop and start doing one of these three steps.

I’m sure it will make you feel better and help keep you sane over this busy time of year.

What are your tips to enjoy the holidays?


Why I’m closing comments on the blog


We’ve spoken before about comments or rather, the lack of comments on this blog.

At the time, some people wrote some very nice things about how maybe people who read organising blogs don’t have time to leave comments.

It’s a good reason but then I thought about many other organising blogs who do, in fact, have tons of comments on every post.

So apparently it’s just me.

I’m not looking for sympathy – it’s just a fact.

A part of what has always made blogging very rewarding for me is the connection with some of you and the feedback .

I can’t change that part of me, nor do I want to, so I’m owning the fact that I do like comments and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And so I decided to close comments on this blog for a couple of reasons:

1. the number of comments (thank you to those of you who do pop in to say hello) don’t justify me creating a bit of extra work for myself

2. readers can still contact me by emailing marcia AT organisingqueen.com

3. I had the lovely Trisha (my virtual assistant) install a Facebook plugin so that those of you who want to say hi can talk in the Facebook comments just below the post

4. it will remove my expectation to interact with my readers


What do you need to own in your life?

PS if this starts to feel too unnatural, I reserve the right to open up the comments again πŸ™‚









I’m “not a DIY diva” – are you?

There are only a handful of blogs I currently read where I know exactly how I landed there and when I started reading/ following them.

Most happen very randomly – a click here and there and before you know it, I’ve happened upon a new blog and added it to my reader.

It was the same with Nelissa Michaels and her blog, The Inspired Room.

I don’t know how I found her but I was hooked when I saw a and stay reading because I love how she talks about being authentic and intentional about life.

And yes, while I do enjoy seeing the pretty pictures of houses, you and I both know that 90% of people’s homes do NOT look like a magazine cover.

So my favourite posts are the ones where she talks about how she makes mistakes and shows the human side.

People like it when they can relate to other people’s imperfections, right?

Anyway, when Melissa released her book last year, I bought myself a copy but I only read it this year and I loved it.

Not a DIY Diva

It was a great (short) read. I felt inspired to embrace my own non-DIY ness but still to do what I could to create a comfortable home.

I especially love how she talks about the Pinterest/ blog culture vs real life. (Heads up – I”m going to write more about Pinterest on Wed)

Click here to visit The Inspired Room and get your copy of Not a DIY diva.

Have you read Melissa’s book?

Do you find yourself being wishful about having a Pinterest home?

PS That is an affiliate link. If you prefer not to support me, you’re welcome to go directly to Not a DIY diva

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