When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are your basics?

Do you have a strategy for life’s curveballs?

Your end-of-year reality check

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About a week before the end of November, I put an item on my to-do list: schedule all socials til the end of the year.

And then I made a list.

Well, the list had about 10 friends or sets of friends on it, and when I looked at the available dates, it was going to be impossible.

However, I never let a small thing like a full schedule get me down and I started working my list until I realised…

it’s my own self-imposed idea that I have to see people this year and not next year

Granted, it would be nice if everything was all neat and ordered, but it would cause me a bit of stress fitting everything in and probably be less joyful.

So right now, I’m playing with the idea of a very loose year 🙂

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This whole process reminded me of  organising.

We have these TV/ blog/ Instagram/ Pinterest-like visions of what our organised homes should look like, complete with state-of-the-art organising systems, the most beautiful containers and worthy to appear on a TV show.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, and dreaming big, but when we become paralysed and not motivated by the dream, there’s something wrong.

The thing is that those visions of perfection often leave us demotivated and uninspired to even start as you think, “what’s the point? I could never have it look like that”.

The point of inspiring blogs and Instagram feeds are to give us ideas, and not to make us feel bad about what we don’t have or to sow discontent in our lives.

Why not rather look at your home realistically?

See what you can and are able to do and take it from there. Use what you have in the time you have available and just do the best with that.

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Read that paragraph again…

Here are some action steps for your organising reality list:

  1. Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down the rooms in your home that need some work. Leave space under each room heading.
  2. Now walk around your house and make a list under each heading of what you want to do. For example, in the study/ home office, * tidy desk * do filing *put photos in photo albums/ frames, etc.
  3. If you want to do something this year, pick 1 – 2 small spaces and do those. Otherwise, start in the new year. Remember, there’s no rule that says you had to have done X in your house this year. If you’ve done less than you intented, forgive yourself if you’re feeling guilty and just tell yourself 2017 is a new year.

Did you have a list for this year?

How did you do?

PS I had a list for our old house which we stopped working on when we put in the offer on this house. I do have a long list for this house too 😉

Is your space working for you?

One of my biggest frustrations is when a space doesn’t work properly for me.

I feel like I don’t want to spend time there, and then I’m easily distracted while in that space too.

Can you relate?

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Example 1

I saw a room on Instagram that gave me an idea for one of our spaces. The person had a daybed/ bench in the kitchen area and it looked so inviting that I thought, “oh, I’d like one of those” and then I thought of something I could do.

So this weekend I moved one of my couches to the dining room. I still have the table and chairs; there is just more space to relax with the couch there.

Dion is still not sure about it but the kids and I love it there. I find them sitting and reading on the couch because the light is amazing in the mornings.

Do you need to move things around in one or two rooms to make your spaces work better for you?

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Example 2

I’m not a fan of beige anything 🙂

When we bought this house I knew I’d have to jazz up my kitchen somehow.

I decided on 4 smallish things (compared to a complete kitchen renovation – which we choose not to do because we prefer money to pay off our bond :)) and I’m delighted with the results from just 3 of the 4 so far.

The 4th thing is proving a lot more money than I initially thought so it will take a month more of saving to do that.

I’m going to put up pictures and such on Monday to talk you through some of my thinking.

But for now, I have a little thinking exercise for you.

Think of a space where you spend a lot of time – kitchen, bedroom, kids’ play area, study, etc.

Take a few minutes to evaluate your physical space and see how it’s working for you.

  1. Do you feel happy when you look at the space?
  2. Are you energised when you’re there?
  3. Does the space function well?
  4. Can you say with complete honesty that not much irritates or frustrates you there?
  5. Is it organised enough for your and your family’s needs?

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Your coaching challenge

  • If you couldn’t answer yes to at least 3 of the 5 questions, what are 3 small things you can do to brighten up that space and make it work for you again?
  • Do you need to move furniture around? Shop your home first before you think of going to buy new items.
  • Consider this the first draft and keep tweaking until the space is fully functional.
  • Don’t get caught up in Pinterest perfectionism – it doesn’t have to be pretty to be functional, organised and bring you peace.

If you’d like to talk through some of your space issues, let’s set up a free 15-minute chat for you.

I’d love to know which of your spaces you want to make work better for you, and what the first thing is you’re going to do.

{Mindset Monday} How to have a great work week

Next week we’re going to talk more about my own (good) habits, and then I’m going to listen to Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, again…. and very possibly write a few more posts.

One of the things I tell myself (and others) constantly, one of my mottos, if you will, is that there are things you can control and things you can’t.

We all know this.

So I like to think about things I can control.

And one of those things is to be prepared.

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At work, I start off the week ahead on a Friday afternoon. Fridays are actually like Goals Night for me. I review the week that was, look at the week coming, check the important things that need to be handled, I follow up on outstanding things, clear my inbox and I plan.

The outcome is a to-do list for the week ahead, but definitely to know what I need to do on Monday morning so I can leave all the work behind me and enjoy my weekend 🙂

Have only 6-ish items on the list for Monday

I still follow my Eat the Frog principles of doing important and urgent things, and not adding more than 6 to the list. I might add more to the list during the day but that’s really just to get my brain clear, and not an actual intention to do it that day (unless super urgent).

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Be realistic

Be realistic both with your time and with your energy levels. If you have 3 hours of meetings in the morning and you’re a morning person, you’re not going to get much serious brain work done in the afternoon. You’re only frustrating yourself by thinking you’re Superwoman.

Keep a master list for the week…

but don’t worry about the future tasks til you need to, i.e. on Tuesday 🙂 Every week there is much more than 6 items i have to take care of for the week ahead. But the key is to leave unimportant things (for that day) undone while you focus on just that day.

That’s it!

Repeat every Friday afternoon, and you can leave your work at work every Friday but return on a Monday fresh and ready for people to bring it on 🙂 (I couldn’t resist!)

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Happy Monday – have a great week!

Re-think your space

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We currently live in a 3-bedroom house. Since the twins were born, they shared  one room, with the other room being a study, and of course, we had the master bedroom.

Last year the bedtime shenanigans hit an all-time peak so I gave up my study and moved them each to their own room.

Great idea because sleep time has been amazing.

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Some of the furniture moved to other parts of the house but my big, yellow desk (that I LOVE) could only fit in the sunroom.

Interestingly, it works out amazingly.

I only actually work on a laptop there some afternoons – mornings are too bright, and evenings are too cold. But that desk is perfect for the twins to colour next to each other, or for me to wrap gifts, plan my week/ month, take photos for Instagram or to separate the kids for homework purposes.

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The Nester also wrote recently about re-thinking spaces too.

I didn’t intend to have a big yellow desk in my sunroom, but I must say, I love having it there 🙂

How can you re-think furniture placement in your home to make something work better for you?

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Children’s capsule wardrobes

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A few things I want to quickly mention:

  • my kids are 6.5 (nearly 7 if you listen to them!) and I’ve long stopped buying clothes for future years
  • they do have some things, mainly gifts from people that are too big for the current year so these get put away til the next warm/ cold season

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I had an aha moment when I started Konmari-ing my own clothes last August.

  1. First, the kids have way too many things if we have to rotate clothes (newly washed clothes go to the back of the pile)
  2. There’s so much that I don’t plan to buy anything until they outgrow clothes
  3. Capsule wardrobes are the in thing. When you have to think of mixing and matching, it becomes a whole new set of work.

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I put my new capsule wardrobe theory to work in the summer…. the hot, 8-month long summer.

Kendra needed some strappy tops so I got her two tops that would match with everything else in her wardrobe.

Connor needed two sleeveless tops too and I did the same, less picky, because he wears denim shorts a lot.

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The benefits during our holiday in Cape Town were huge:

  • everything “went” with everything else – surprisingly navy goes with neon orange, green and hot pink 🙂
  • I didn’t need to make sets (as I’ve always done) – I just tossed 5 tops and 5 pairs of shorts/ skirts in the suitcase and that was that – happy, happy days for me!
  • they dressed so quickly every day because it was easy

While Konmari-ing their clothes, I also decided to not waste my time “forcing” the kids to wear some clothes, e.g. gifts. If they told me they hated something, I donated the item even if they hadn’t worn it at all or enough. I really don’t have the energy to insist they wear things. And to be fair, I won’t wear things I hate either.

Once those items were out of the house, I felt happier so it worked.

I’ve told my mom (who loves buying clothes for gifts) to also rather not buy clothes anymore unless pyjamas – both my kids LOVE pyjamas. I think they get that from me 🙂 So that’s what she did for Christmas – pjs and money!

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This winter we’ve done the same – everything goes with everything. I had to replace one or two pairs of pants and I’m being very strict – it either matches with everything or doesn’t come home with me 🙂

The kids are happy and so am I.

Have you thought of doing capsule wardrobes for your kids?

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March review and a few happy links

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March was a really good month for me. It’s always a good month when you have 10 days off to recharge but boy, did I pay for that last week when I got back.

I’m just about caught up so hopefully (!) this week will be easier.

I mentioned in my newsletter that I’d had “big plans” for my leave but beyond a bit of organising, some Konmari-ing, I did mostly nothing except lots of reading and sleeping. I way exceeded my sleep goal for every day of the holiday except one.

I read 10 books in March. 10! Besides December when I was pushing hard to reach my 2015 reading goal, I don’t know the last time I read that much for leisure. So decadent!

So I have to give a shout-out to the best book I read in March – Smart Money, Smart Kids. Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze, are the authors. Oh man, just read it. It is fabulous. Packed full of big picture strategic thinking and really practical common sense (which is not at all common these days) in raising money smart kids.

If you have kids, you should get this book. Just do it – seriously 🙂

Other highlights

  • We took 4 walks (it’s still far too hot… 7 months and counting now)
  • I have been bullet journalling – posts coming up soon
  • My Project Life is up to date for Jan and Feb. And my photos are nearly done for March.
  • I did a few things on the house to-do list, but not as much as I wanted!

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And now a few posts you may have missed:

Goals for kids

The adult colouring craze

Do you toss your Christmas cards?

Project Life – before………. and after

On being a printer of photos

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Your favourite instagrams

This Goals Night one, the Konmari one and the Easter craft one

My favourite instagrams

This one, this one and this one 🙂

How was your March?

We’re up to 355 followers (this is a lot for me!). If you’re not following yet, check the feed and click follow. I love to engage with you so ask questions if you want to (the rug I feature a lot is from Superbalist) and that yellow table was the brightest Plascon yellow they had 🙂 🙂

Seeing your space in a new light

See your space with new eyes | www.OrganisingQueen.com

I literally only pulled out my camera one day a week for the whole of Feb (to take the 52 Project photo of the kids on Sundays), and then not quite as bad, but there’s a sense of get this done, instead of play in my March photos so far.

I was even completely up to date on Monday night after the Sunday photos last weekend.

So I decided I needed to leave my camera out more to encourage me to just grab it and snap a few photos as things look good in certain light.

And I went a bit wild today.

It was good for me because I always feel great after I’ve created with my camera, but more than that – this!

See your space with new eyes | www.OrganisingQueen.com

I noticed bits of my home that I’d forgotten, both good and bad, like

  1. the big canvas hanging slightly skew
  2. the beautiful light in Kendra’s bedroom
  3. the hand towel I should swop out to match with the bath mat
  4. the way the light shines on my wooden floors in the lounge
  5. how much I love my yellow desk

I even gave myself a challenge to take photos in the kitchen with unwashed dishes, and make it look good 🙂

See your space with new eyes | www.OrganisingQueen.com

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that sometimes we need to literally take a photo of our spaces to really see them – you might have got used to the clutter in your space and this helps you see your space properly again.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation. You buy some clothes, come home, toss the bag in your bedroom and a week later it’s still there. We’ve stopped seeing it because our eyes are now used to that clutter.

This is why I like to get my donated things out and into the boot (trunk) of the car before it becomes a new item of “furniture” in my house that I get used to.

*ahem* I have a box of books in my sunroom….

If there’s a space in your home frustrating you, take a photo and see if you can spot what it is you need to do.

When was the last time you took photos of your home?

– Both big canvases (size A0) printed by Mojo Printing who I thoroughly recommend. I used a number of printers until I found them – they are my favourites and will courier anywhere in the country.

– Chevron rug by Airloom, bought via www.Superbalist.com

– Couches and pillows from Mr P Home

3 quick things, one of which is the end of an era

Happy Human Rights Day!

  1. Well friends, tomorrow will be exactly 10 years since I first registered the domain takechargesolutions.org and it’s also the first time I’m not renewing that domain.

Instead I’ve bought marciafrancois.org and everything has been transferred over there.

So goodbye, old friend 🙂

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2. Many of you know that friendship is very important to me and as such, I like to be very intentional about connecting with my friends.

I wrote about how I have a friends spreadsheet here to help me get organised.

Tomorrow I’m sending out a copy of that spreadsheet to those who are on the list.

If you’d like a copy, make sure you’re signed up 🙂

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3. And last but not least, I want to highlight my one organising book, Live Organised. This is a very practical guide to getting and staying organised, and because we’ve been messing around with all the website pages, it’s now only $5. Boom 🙂

Get yourself a copy and be spurred into action. Thank you for your support.

What are you doing this Human Rights Day?

PS We’ve been grocery shopping, done cleaning, prepared our books for the Se7en library project, and I’ve done the budget while the kids coloured/ did wordsearch, etc.

What I learnt from my R600 mistake

When we were on our holiday last month, we went to the beach for our (as it happens) first photowalk of the year.

Behold the beauty…

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It was right when I was taking this set of photos that my battery light began flashing. I carried on taking pictures while I made a mental note to charge the camera once we were back at the house.

OH MY WORD.

And then it hit me – I didn’t pack the charger. Panic!

I used a different bag to pack all my cables and chargers so I didn’t notice that the bag was lighter than it’s supposed to be.

I contacted a few friends and one said I could use hers. Her charger was for an older camera and didn’t fit my battery.

Another friend said they are Nikon people (!) so no luck.

Long story short, eventually we went to a camera warehouse (I could have stayed for hours!) and I reluctantly forked over a good chunk of unnecessary cash for this charger.

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Just in time because my camera stopped working about an hour after the purchase.

It’s not about the money; I just really don’t like wasting money on things I had in Jhb!

However, this not-so-little mistake made me do two things differently:

  1. I will now start using my packing checklist again.

You see, I’d become a little too complacent. Yes, I have my list but I essentially know what I need to pack every time we go on holiday and so I’d stopped properly checking the packing against the actual paper list.

2. I took TONS of photos after the camera was charged again

My one friend checked with me at one point to see if I still wanted to do all our plans given that I was running around quite a bit… and I said YES! You see, I felt like I needed to go take lots of beautiful photos to justify the purchase of that unnecessary charger.

Crazy but true.

I went to the Bo-Kaap twice, saw many friends and we did a Red City Bus tour. All those photos are priceless and would not have been even half as good with my iphone camera.

Cape Town | www.OrganisingQueen.com

Cape Town does grey buildings so well. I have photos of three different buildings in the most stunning shades of grey.

Cape Town | www.OrganisingQueen.com

Taken in the Bo-Kaap. My latest Instagram pic is taken from the other angle in front of this very house.

Cape Town | www.OrganisingQueen.com

My three loves

Have you ever forgotten chargers for phones or cameras when you’ve gone on holiday?

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