Monday, May 30, 2011

Time Management

I'm just going to touch briefly on the topic of time management today, as I know a lot of you may be interested. I'll try to keep it simple for today as I (very ironically!) don't have enough time to go into great detail. It's a topic that I get asked about from various busy people. I am not a time management expert- I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you today.

I think time management can be broken down into a few very simplified steps-
  • Clearly know what it is that you wish to spend more time on
  • Have a good look at how you DO spend your time and do some prioritising
  • Devise a plan that suits you and your immediate family; and lastly
  • Set this plan into motion.

So, what is it that you feel like you don't have enough time for? Is your goal to spend more valuable time with your family; more on the garden; more on de-cluttering your home; or more "ME" time reading books and relaxing? Whatever it is, you may feel that you don't devote enough time for it, and these feelings often lead to guilt, which can make you depressed. Depression can be exasperated with feelings of denial or avoidance; and guilt can creep back in when you think back to what you wish you could be doing more of- and on it goes in a vicious cycle. All of these feelings can prevent you from making progress towards achieving your goals, and of course make you very unhappy.

But the problem can be solved. Perhaps you could set aside a whole afternoon (take the phone off the hook, clear your diary, say "No" to commitments), and set the time for yourself to work out your time management. I think a couple of hours without distractions would help you to clearly work out your thoughts and to set up a system for yourself. If you find its too difficult to do this on your own, it might be worthwhile (if you can afford it) to get some professional assistance. Do you know Marcia's blog Organising Queen? I highly recommend you check this out, as Marcia is an expert on time management (unlike me).

Make a list if what it is you want to spend more time on, say, in the next month. Its a good idea to do a short term goal here, otherwise things can get very tricky and you will spend far too much time on working out what it is you want to do with your time (Phew what a mouthful!!) So its best to keep things simple, and this will ensure your success.

So your list might be-
  • Spend more time with family
  • Finish the sewing project
  • Read a new book
Next, have a good think about what it is you ARE spending your time on. Do you spend too many hours in front of the computer, as I am doing lately?? Or are you working long and demanding hours at work (been there, done that). One of mine and my husband's jobs was at a luxury lodge in the middle of the Aussie bush, on top of a mountain. We were short staffed, but very busy; so we were forced to work around 80 - 90 hours per week, for a while. It was full-on and we had NO time whatsoever to do anything other than sleep, work, sleep.  We knew it wouldn't go on like that for long, so it was ok. But my list of "What I would like to do More Of" grew very big- and I had to spread out the Things to Do over the next few months, a little here, a little there. I was only able to complete my goals a long time after I'd stopped working those crazy hours- but I got there in the end. If you are working ridiculously long hours, is this feasible long term? Can you see an end in sight? If not, should you consider a career change? Personally I don't think its healthy to work very long hours if you are unhappy, constantly stressed and never feel like you can get anything else done, because of work. Yes its true, I am not exactly what you would call ambitious- I doubt we will ever be rich because I like my free time too much.

Perhaps you find you are at one of those stages where there are a lot of TV programs you like to watch, and that takes up a lot of your time. I go in and out with TV- sometimes I watch waaaayyyyy too many soapies, other times hardly any TV at all. For me I have to discipline myself, set myself perhaps 1 hour of TV per day; most of us would have a digi-recorder, you can always record your fave program and watch it another day (after your sewing project is completed?).

I think when one thing is taking up a lot of your time and preventing you from achieving your goals, and making you depressed or anxious; its a good idea to set a time limit for yourself and be very strict. A great idea is to set a timer- I use my phone clock, you could also use an egg timer for example. Set it for 1 hour- when it beeps, stop doing that thing. Turn the computer off (after saving what you were working on!). If you are writing, and you are on a 'flow'- jot down the ideas you were thinking of in note point- so you can pick up where you left off, tomorrow.

Is your entire day taken up looking after your family?? You rise early, make breakfast, pack lunches, drive to school, grocery shop and run errands all day long, pick up from school, drive to children's football practise, drive to children's ballet class, make dinner, bath and bed children, iron, clean, fall into bed, sleep 5 hrs or less, get up next day and do the same thing again. The weekends are spent shopping for presents for school friends' birthday parties, baking cakes, going to more sports practise, doing all of the washing etc, etc.

I think its easy for mothers in particular, and of course, dads (really trying not to be sexist here!) to get into the routine of putting everyone else first; but not only do they put them first, they put them "ONLY". Does that make sense? You only do things for others, never for yourself. If this sounds like you, do you think you could delegate some of those tasks that keep you so busy? Who can help you? Can you organise car pooling with other parents for sports activities, teach the kids how to make their own breakfast, make a rule for the whole household of only 1 hr TV per day? If you hear "I'm bored!!!" after this hour has lapsed, great! "Well in that case, please help me to fold this washing and then we can do the dishes together!". Also, as we all know, it can be very difficult for us to say "No" to (outside of the house) commitments, because you don't want to let the person down. But sometimes, you need to be selfish and put yourself first. So, say "No"! And then let go of the guilt- guilt is the least useful emotion and often the most soul-destroying.

I don't have kids yet- our first is due in 5.5 weeks (Cant wait!!). So I know I don't really have the right to talk about such things yet- I am just drawing on my experiences with busy-busy Mums and Dads who have personally told me how it is for them, and have asked me for help to give them "More time in my day".

OK so where were we- we are now up to "Do some serious prioritising". You can do this in list form, numbering the items from 1 to 10 for e.g., where 1 is the most important. Or you could just do this mentally; you know what it is that you want more time for. I find lists very useful when I am working out my time schedule, I am a visual person so I need to be able to see it in front of me.

This is turning out to be quite a long post, so I am going to leave it here for now. Please share with me your thoughts (if Blogger allows you to comment- what is with that??) I hope I have made sense here, with the few ideas I've shared with you. I'll summarise with this-
  • WHAT is it you wish you had more time for
  • WHEN is a realistic time to complete it
  • HOW are you spending your time? Prioritise!
  • WHO can help you achieve these goals
  • SAY NO to commitments that you don't really have time for
  • BE selfish- put yourself first for a change!
  • LET GO of guilt
  • ACHIEVE your goals! :-)
I hope you have a wonderful week. I'm now going to turn off the computer and work on number 3 on my To-Do list - my baby's crochet blanket. Its coming along very slowly but surely :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Little Dishes

I love little dishes to store little things in. For some reason I don't regard something as clutter if it is in something else. If like objects are stored neatly together within the boundaries of a vessel, it makes me happy, even if it is out on show and not away in a cupboard. Of course, this only applies to a certain degree. If I have 1 or 2 little dishes on the window sill, I am happy. If there were, say, 20 little dishes on the window sill, I'd be unhappy.  This little dish is for rubber bands and twist ties, and belongs on top of the fridge.

The next little dish is for Shane's chef buttons, and belongs on his desk. After ironing his chef jacket for that day, I hang it nearby on the hallway cupboard door. It makes sense to have the buttons kept close to where the clean jacket is hung.

How sweet is this tiny dish- like a little fry pan. Its perfect for the stud earings that I wear most often, and my rings hang on the handle. Behind is another cutie just for hair pins. These are on my window sill in the bathroom. Most of these were bought from a kitchen supplies store, or from second-hand stores.

On the subject of jewellery, here are more (worn less often) stud earings in a gorgeous antique blue glass dish, and behind are a few of my dangly earings hanging from a little jewellery stand. These belong in our bedroom.

A little bowl for gem stones and a tiny dish (which is actually a green-tea cup) for the key that locks the kitchen window screen. A little ornamental frog sits by watching me do the dishes in the morning.

This little red square dish holds something special- a guitar pick from one of my favourite bands- I caught it at one of their concerts years ago :-)

Also there is my collection of foreign coins from my over-seas travels in a sweet little pot.

Do you use little dishes for organising or keeping special things in too?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Drop Zone

Do you have a drop zone by your front door? I do, where I drop my daily essentials- purse, keys, phone, mail to post, and sometimes books to return. I use an Ikea basket by my front door for this purpose, and hooks on the wall above to hang keys and an umbrella. Its important to restrict this zone purely to essentials; sometimes the basket gets full as other bits and pieces creep in- lip balm, tape measure, hat, sunscreen, cardigan, etc etc. If this happens I de-clutter the basket and put the offending items back where they belong.

My drop-zone basket is placed here on top of a piece of furniture that is actually a shelf extender turned sideways- not the most beautiful thing!!! One day I will buy a lovely piece of furniture to replace this but thats not on our current priorities list. This shelf-thingy is multi-tasking- its also a cat scratching thingy for our cat, Princess. I nailed a spare piece of carpet onto the side and she just loves it.

Also, the shelf-thingy is used to store my magazines underneath- I've used a bread-board holder (made out of stainless steel) to keep the mags upright- nifty, eh? I hated the bread-board holder in the kitchen- too big and ugly to have on the bench; and anyway we only use one really big board for bread/ vegies and one other board for meat. I knew the board holder was too good to throw away- and was very pleased to give it this new wonderful purpose so my magazines don't have to be stacked. I know this doesnt look the prettiest- but its functional so thats good enough for me for the time being. I would love for our home to one day look something more similar to Chez Larsson's...

Hanging off my drop-zone basket are the 2 bags I use the most often. Also there in front of the basket is a shopping bag that rolls up. I also have my yoga mat here by the front door, otherwise my baby-brain would make me forget it on my way to preg-yoga.

My keys- including Lego Man brought back from Germany by my father-in-law, and my Aldi shopping trolley token

Does a drop zone by the front door work for you or do you have another system so you dont lose your keys?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Plastic bags

I just wanted to show you my latest little sewing project completed- my plastic and paper bag holders. I made a big one for the kitchen, hanging here from a wine bottle holder (not being used- due to the pregnancy NO wine is allowed to be consumed in the house- so I don't feel left out :-D). (The occasional beer consumed by my extremely hard-working husband is however allowed). I know these bag holders aren't rocket science- I am a very amateurish sewer and don't challenge myself too much in that regard!!

The chicken fabric strip is so cute. I also made a matching one for small bags for the cat litter, hanging here near the cat-litter tray in the laundry. (Unfortunately we don't have a compost or a garden at this home- we rent and its not allowed:-( otherwise the cat litter could go straight into the compost/garden, as its biodegradable litter).

We have a tiny laundry- so I have been forced to be quite space-clever, and you will see the hanging baskets above the cat litter where I keep my cleaning products. I'm quite pleased with this, especially for when Peanut is at the age where you have to keep cleaning things out of reach. Ha- you can also see the bubble wrap I've taped to the corner of the hot water system's box- it was a nasty corner and I would hit my head on it nearly every time I bent to do the cat litter! (Am not missing this job since I've been pregnant- delegated to Shane so Peanut doesn't catch nasties).

You can also see my white board Bill List here on the laundry door, my saving grace.

By the way, as we are pretty good now at taking our canvas bags to the supermarket and to the food market, we rarely get plastic bags these days. I often find I have none to line the bin. Does anyone have a solution for this?? I've considered just throwing the rubbish straight into the outside wheelie bin with no plastic involved - but I'm not sure our council would appreciate this?? We have on occasion bought biodegradable plastic bags in the past, but they are expensive and they are still plastic- I don't want to buy them again. Shane brings bags home from work now and then, and I wash them in hot water and soap in case they had meat in them once (eww). P.s. we reuse any kind of plastic bag we get- those little triangle ones herbs come in, bread bags, the bags the free newspapers come in, we use all these for the cat litter. I hate plastic but I feel better if at least I use the bag 2 or 3 times.

Its nearly Friday, which means its nearly the weekend- Yay! "See" you again soon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Hi all,
I have been corrected on my comments about TV shows on Hoarders in my previous post- and I do apologise for this mistake. My aim in my last post was to tell you my personal experience with a hoarder, a lovely lady who I got to know over a couple of days and who I have a lot of respect for. I am so happy to hear that those TV programs do in fact use psychologists to help the people.
Thanks for forgiving me this error :-)
Xx Sarndra

Hoarding- perhaps misunderstood?

A little while ago I came across a TV show about Hoarders- people who cant throw anything away. I couldn't watch much of the program because it was A. badly done and B. incredibly insensitive. The people from the show would go into the hoarder's house, clear everything out and throw it in a big rubbish skip, in what seemed like a couple of hours.

I couldn't watch the whole episode, but I could tell from that short viewing that what they were doing would most probably be very ineffective and more than likely only make the situation worse. Not that I am an expert on hoarding- far from it. But I have worked with hoarders in my line of work, and I believe this situation requires sensitivity and time, and possibly therapy in many severe cases.

One personal job that springs to mind was with a beautiful elderly lady called Daphne. She was in her late 80's, a widow, no family members living close by and had terrible health problems.

Daphne's house was crowded from ceiling to floor with 'stuff'. Stuff in the hallways, stuff piled on furniture, stuff in the unused bathtub, stuff on most of her bed. When I arrived I spent the first hour or so sitting having a cup of tea with her, and chatting. I got to know her a little. She spoke of her kids who lived far away; her regret in not knowing her grandchildren; her charity work; her friends at Church; her late husband who was her first and only love and who she dearly missed; and a little about her childhood. She grew up very poor, as I'm sure a lot of people from her era did. She told me back in her day, every little house-hold item was used carefully, salvaged, recycled, fixed, kept in perfect working condition; valued.

Every little scrap of food was kept and very little clothing was ever bought; their family home was sparse. It was hard for me to relate to her up-bringing, as I'm sure a lot of you can understand. As she spoke to me about the poverty she grew up in, I looked at the contents of her living room and slowly began to understand why she had become this way. How could she throw away something like a chipped coffee mug, when once her mother couldn't afford to buy a coffee mug? We didn't actually speak of the condition of her home; I could see the embarrassment in her eyes and I just wanted to make her feel comfortable and trust me.

I gently asked her why she had called me, what she wanted me to help her with. She replied that she needed help to clear her kitchen table, so that she could just have a place to sit and eat her meals. We went into the kitchen and I could see that the table was piled high with paperwork, bric-a-brac, medicines, little notes, pieces of plastic, and many, many other things. I got to work straight away and spent the next several days with Daphne, and together we slowly went through item by item, deciding if she really needed it (phone bill- yes; apple core- no). I don't want to be disrespectful here in any way- I could clearly see after her living this way for years how difficult it had become for her to fully differentiate between certain items. I didn't bill her my usual hourly rate because I knew this job was going to take a lot of slow work and patience. I mentally worked out how long it would take me to do it if I was on my own (probably about 2 hours), and billed her for that time, instead of the actual 3 days it took us to do it together.

A couple of days later and we had successfully cleared her kitchen table and I had filed the paperwork, tided other little areas in the kitchen to make room for the objects that were once on the table and disposed of the food rubbish. She was absolutely thrilled with the result- and I could tell that she was going to try hard to keep up the easy systems I had set up for her (medicines here in this pile; paperwork there in that pile). I knew there was no point to just throw everything that you or I would consider rubbish in the bin- this would only have created pain for her and after a few weeks the table would be back to how it was originally.

From my personal experiences with hoarding I do believe that just going in to the house and throwing everything away like they were doing on that TV show, would only make the matter worse. The cause of hoarding seems to go much deeper than just being disorganised or too busy; severe hoarding must be a psychological issue that can stem from deep down and probably doesn't actually have anything at all to do with the 'stuff' or how much organising time the person has.

I know this is a sensitive issue, and a lot of us can relate to not being able to throw something away, myself included. I am a firm believer in saving things 'in case I need it one day', especially when you don't have a lot of money and you are trying to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. My husband and I try to live by the rule "reduce, reuse, recycle", and we try to buy as little plastic as possible. But I also know that my home has a limit in space- and I know that for me to be happy I need to get rid of things now and then, whether it be recycled or put in the bin- I hate contributing to land-fill but I don't know what else I can do with what I regard as rubbish.

I'm sorry, I don't really have an answer to hoarding; as I said I'm definitely no expert and I sympathise with people who for one reason or another live in that way. I just hope that they are brave enough to seek help if their health or their happiness is jeopardised in any way- and I hope that whoever is called upon to help them does so in a gentle, understanding and sensitive way.

I am now going to call Daphne to say hi :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Computer Organising

I've had such a lovely time today reading through everybody's comments- thank you so much. It means alot to me to get such friendly feedback.

I received alot of comments today, which as I'm sure other Bloggers are aware come through my email inbox, as well as on the blog. This reminded me to do one of my home organising jobs- organising in the computer. I like to keep on track with emails, sorting them into folders, so my inbox doesn't get too full.

I delete the emails I know I won't need again, immediately after reading them. Then every now and then I sort the others into folders- Family, Friends, Blog, Bills, Birth & Baby, Receipts, Organising, and so on. I have quite a few folders, and I can always add a new one if an email I need to keep doesn't belong in any folders I already have.

Another task I like to keep up with is de-cluttering my desktop. I often save documents there so they are easy to find (lazy, I know!!). So every few months I need to delete unwanted icons on the desktop, so I can clearly find only the ones I actually need there. I like my desktop to only have a few things on it, as I usually have a beautiful photo in the background, and I want to be able to see as much of the photo as possible :-)

 I am really bad at one major job on the computer- organising photos. I use Picasa 3, but I have never taken the time to learn how to use it properly. I would love to learn how to correctly group photos in folders and albums, one day... one day. In this world of digital photography they sooooo quickly build up, into thousands and thousands. A great piece of advise I was given recently, was to delete the unwanted or 'bad' photos, and in the case where you have several of the same thing, choose the best and delete the rest. Such a good idea- back in the day of film I would only take 1 photo of something, not 10! So I need to work on this.

I will be putting 'photo organisation' on my To-Do list. How do you organise in your computer? Sorry no pic today- I think a photo of my computer would be way too boring :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thank You

Dear Readers and Followers,
Thank you so much each and every one of you, for your absolutely lovely comments and for visiting my new blog! I am very touched by your kindness and generosity. I have been away from the computer today, as Sundays are my husband's only day off work and we spend the time together. But I will spend the next few days replying to your kind comments- so please do come back when and if you have time :-)
I hope you have a lovely week!!
Xx Sarndra

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wardrobe Organising

Now is a perfect time to get my clothes organised. I find that the change in seasons gives me the motivation I need to do some "clothes rotation" work. I've had my summer dresses and singlets etc hanging in the easiest-to-access area in the front of my wardrobe, with winter clothing stored up high in clear boxes, labelled. So I have been swapping them over- warm long sleeved tops and jackets come down out of storage, and up go the skimpy clothes that I definitely don't wear during autumn/ winter.

I always hang like with like- so all the dresses together, all the t-shirts together, jackets together and so on. I also group the clothes into like colours, so its so much easier to find what I am looking for. I love wearing colourful clothes and I love seeing my clothes lined up in the wardrobe like a rainbow- reds together, blues together, and on the end are the blacks and greys.

The same goes for intimate apparel- out comes my warm woollen tights and cuddly bed socks, to the front of the sock drawer. I make the most of the vast space up above my built-in closet, there's usually a shelf up there in most homes that goes all the way to the ceiling. Once you have a sturdy step-ladder and a few big plastic boxes with lids, you can really make use of that space. By storing the clothes you wont wear right now, it really opens up the wardrobe so that your clothes aren't crammed and being crushed.

While I am doing this clothes rotation, I keep my eye out for any clothes to be donated to charity. I take them straight to the laundry to be washed and once dried pack them into a garbage bag and placed in the car, so that I won't forget to deliver them. Otherwise the bag might sit somewhere in the house for months and never make it to the op-shops.

I could go on and on with tips for great wardrobe organisation, but will leave the rest for future posts :-) I hope you have a happy and productive weekend. Tomorrow I am having Sunny, nephew Jamie and another friend Hiari over for some knitting and crochet- a little craft circle :-) I cant wait.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Recently I ventured into territory where my organising skills are not always welcomed. My husband’s desk. He had asked me to find his watch. To my horror one of the drawers wouldn’t open because it was jammed with notebooks not lying flat inside. I took it upon myself to very generously, and quickly, tidy the drawer before he was due to arrive home and catch me in the act :-)

I recognised the top notebook as one that he had used in a previous job for menu planning and writing down recipes. I opened it and discovered that a lot of the writing was beginning to fade, due to the age of the notebook. What a sad loss it would be to lose all that valuable information, especially for one day when we have our own restaurant; it will be an excellent resource.

Again to my horror, I realised that all of the other notebooks in the drawer were also recipe/menu notebooks of his. He has only been a fully qualified chef for 4 years, and yet he has managed to fill 8 or 9 notebooks (all fading) with barely legible, scribbled, and utterly amazing creations.

This is an excellent example of how small jobs quickly (or slowly) turn into very big jobs. I will now begin the somewhat daunting task of going through each notebook to type up each recipe carefully, so that Shane will have them far into the future. Thank goodness I discovered this now and not in another 4 or 5 years...

This is one of Shane's degustation menu's

Tasks that need constant attention, such as typing recipes, or de-cluttering the kitchen bench, are best done regularly. If you set aside an appropriate amount of time to keep on top of the task (2 hrs per month, 5 mins per day; whatever it might be) small tasks wont get the chance to grow into big, overwhelming jobs. A little effort regularly will help keep things in order long-term.

Financial Matters

How was your Friday the 13th? Mine’s been lovely. I spent some time with my nephew Jamie and his gorgeous mum Sunny. We went for a stroll along the water here where we live in Southport. The sky was deep blue with not a single cloud in sight; one of our first true winter-y days. Beautiful.

While managing money is definitely not one of my strengths (ex spend-aholic), I am slowly learning how to keep up with our finances. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given by an excellent accountant I know, was to decide who out of the two of us, would solely pay bills and manage the money. I’m sure a lot of couples out there can share this responsibility, and some couples just do their own thing and don’t share money or accounts. But for Shane and I, we were sharing money, sharing the responsibility of paying bills; and sharing the problems caused by that not really working out for us. We didn’t know who had paid what bill and this caused some late fees and frustrations.

Shane and I decided that as I have the extra time, it would be I who managed our money (I guess I drew the short straw here! Lol). It was tough at the start for me to have this level of responsibility on my shoulders, but I am slowly getting there. I think the biggest breakthrough for me, was when I realised in order to do this successfully, I needed to know exactly what was coming in, and what was going out (Duh!). I was curious to see just how much of our hard-earned money I was “fritting away” on Ahem, can I say crap in my blog?? Sure, it’s my blog.
So I kept a cute little notebook and pen in my bag at all times, and would write down every single dollar we spent while out. At the end of the week, I added it all up and basically, was shocked.

Needless to say once you know how much you earn, how much you spend, and how much, if any, you have left over to either save or pay off debt, life seems to become a whole lot more enjoyable, honest and (can I be a little Dr Phil here) REAL. I found I really needed to be down-right honest with myself about money and accept the fact that it is NOT acceptable to use the credit card for awesome new jeans and pretend that it is ok...

We still use a book to keep record of what we spend on shopping, food, bills and fuel etc, and this enables me to work out our budget. I actually enjoy it these days (especially getting out my cute little calculator), and I feel somewhat empowered.

I have already mentioned my trusty Bill List on a whiteboard near the kitchen. I use this to keep track of bills due. I also have another great thing in the house that keeps me organised with bills and general paper work to be filed. It’s a 3- tiered A4 size plastic container that stands up-right on the desk (will post photo. I got this from Officeworks). Each of the 3 tiers is labelled (naturally)- one is Bills to Pay; the next is Paper to File; and the third is Medical. As I am pregnant the Medical tier is relevant. In another stage of my life, this third drawer might become Outgoing Mail or such. I can imagine one day we might need another of these containers, for paper work such as School Notices. It does mean that I have to handle all my mail twice- into the container and then once it’s been “actioned” (for e.g. bill paid or school fete attended), into the filing cabinet or shredded (my favourite job!). Some Professional Organisers advise that you only handle paperwork once. But I don’t enjoy having to go to the filing cabinet every day; I find my system works for me.

Now if only I could get on top of rolling over my superannuation.... Suggestions anyone?? :-)Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Organising in the Third Trimester

Today I've been working on yet another To-Do list, entitled "To-Do Before Peanut Arrives". There's quite alot on the list, and I'm sure it will grow over the coming weeks. While there's still about 8 weeks til baby Peanut is here, I know that this time will fly by and before we know it we will have this precious little person in our lives.

As the cold weather approaches, I will need to go through my winter clothes and find warm items that I fit now and will continue to be able to wear for the rest of my pregnancy. I'm a little apprehensive; I think this pile will be relatively small... which means I may need to borrow late-pregnancy maternity wear from friends or go op-shopping for some extra stretchy items. I don't want to spend alot of money on things I'm only going to use for a few weeks.

Next on the To-Do list is the dreary Centrelink and Medicare forms which will need to be done soon. In some ways I am a terrible procrastinator; especially anything to do with paperwork. When I was studying at university I would leave all of my written assignments til the very last, stressful minute (I worked better under pressure! or at least that was my excuse). Paperwork is still a challenge for me, it's something I really have to force myself to do. I try to get the tedious tasks such as these over and done with so I can move on to something more enjoyable. Like washing and sorting out the new gorgeous cloth nappies my MIL Rhonda gave us today, from

So, the list so far- winter maternity wear, paperwork, cloth nappies. Rhonda also gave us a toilet-fitting hose for hosing down the cloth nappies, so we will need to fit that onto the toilet tap. I think I will delegate that task to my husband.

I'm sure there's more to do than this though!! Do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear from expectant mothers what is on your "To-Do before Baby Comes" list. BTW we have already got the baby essentials- a cot, pram, change table, plenty of baby clothing, sling, baby bath, baby bouncer, and a whole lot more! I think we are fairly prepared in that department already :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

(Not yet) Life with a new-born

A friend's comment has caused me to ponder the question "How will I stay organised once the baby comes along?" And I'm not sure that I can accurately answer that question other than to say to myself, "I probably won't". I have no idea how our lives will be turned upside down once "Peanut" (baby) has arrived, in the most unpredictable and joyful way.

Obviously I am going to remind myself that my priorities will change, and my standards (to do with the house) will considerably drop. The top priorities in mine and my husband's lives will be-
1. Feeding Peanut
2. Getting Peanut changed, happy and hopefully sleeping
3. Repeat 1 & 2 for many years to come.

Also of course, we will have to somehow feed ourselves and get ourselves to sleep now and then. Everything else in life will have to take a back seat.

Alot of mothers and fathers have told me it really helps to have alot of meals already cooked and stored in the freezer, ready to be microwaved for Mum and Dad on the odd occasion that we have time to quickly gobble down some food. I think this is a fantastic idea and we will definitely make the most of the last few days or weeks before Peanut comes along, to do as much cooking as possible. This will only work if I first de-frost and de-clutter the freezer and make adequate space in there to store the new meals. I will, of course, enlist my trusty labeller to make sure we know what is what and how long ago it was made.

Our home is certainly not always tidy and neat; I don't want to be under any false pretences!! But what I have striven to do, and what I help my clients to do, is to create a "home" for every object in the house. For example, when you need a new light bulb, you know exactly which cupboard or drawer to go to. When I am doing my "crafts", i.e. sewing, knitting, crocheting, gift-wrapping etc, I spread out all over the place and make a huge mess. Also there are times when the general house mess gets the better of me, and I just don't have the energy to do anything about it. And thats ok! But when the need to tidy comes along, like when visitors are coming or when I just need to clear the room so my mind is also cleared; I can quickly tidy up because I know exactly where to put things. This helps to prevent shoving everything under the bed or in a cupboard.

I think I will try to keep my already-set-in-place system working after Peanut comes along, at least to a certain degree. I may not be able to neatly fold the clean towels, but perhaps when Peanut is here I will try to quickly throw them unfolded, onto the right shelf so at least I know where to look for a clean towel the next time I need one in a hurry.

We will be using cloth-nappies as much as physically and mentally possible, thanks to a supply donated to us by my beautiful mother-in-law and Blogger-extraordinaire Rhonda Hetzel (Her blog, down---to---earth, has won Best Aus/NZ blog! And she is in the midst of having a book published by Penguin! Stay tuned, I will post more on the up-coming book another time). Rhonda did a very generous thing and swapped advertising on her blog (which has had about 4 million hits) for a huge pile of beautiful bamboo and cotton cloth nappies made by Booroi
and distributed by Bean Sprout Bubba

We will somehow need to stay on top of the washing, drying and putting away the cloth nappies. I'm not sure how we will go with this, but the good thing about modern cloth nappies is they no longer need to be soaked. I will be getting a bucket with a tight-fitting lid for what is called "dry-pailing", to put the dirty nappies in. The excess waste is washed off into the toilet with a high-powered hose that fits onto the toilet tap. My husband and I will have to have somewhat of a system, of dry-pailing, hosing, washing and drying (hopefully most of the time in the sun; on rainy days the dryer will have to be used). I think the way modern cloth nappies are made these days will make the whole process alot easier and time-efficient. Also, there is no need to disinfect the nappies unless the baby is sick with a stomach bug or something nasty. The nappies only require a half-dosage of normal enviro-friendly laundry liquid. We will have enough cloth nappies to make sure we will only have to wash every second day instead of every day.
Obviously to do this, you need double the amount of nappies used in a single day (one set being used; one set being washed/dried). Initially this could be expensive to purchase that many cloth nappies, but over the course of a nappy-wearing child, (about 3 yrs?) you will save approximately $2000 compared to using disposables!! That in itself is enough incentive for me to use the cloth system. And of course, my baby will have the lovely soft feeling of bamboo on his bottom :-D

I would love to hear any suggestions from you about systems you use in your home to help you stay organised, or at the very least, sane, with a new born and/or toddlers. Please do contribute; I think we will need all the advice we can get!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Before & After Photos- Organising an Office

This is a before photo of one of my client's office. They had the right idea, to use containers for storing paper work. They just needed a little guidance to get the office organised and looking lovely.

Office Before photo

Office Before photo

Now see the result after my organising the office.

Office After photos.

I sorted out all of the family's paperwork and office supplies, and came up with strategies to help the family stay organised. The office is often a place for disorder and chaos in many homes. Note the use of beautiful colourful boxes, labelled, to keep things in order. Remember the simple rule- keep like items together. Simple strategies set in place and followed can help you stay focused, achieve your goals and create your perfect office bliss!

Office After photos

I hope you've enjoyed checking out these Before & After photos from one of my organising weekends. Stay tuned for more pics!

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Friday, May 6, 2011

I Love Lists

If you visit me at my home, you may find little lists all over the place. They may look random, but in fact they will be written and placed in very specific areas around the home. I have my meal planning list and groceries lists, on the kitchen bench. I have a list on the fridge of the meals I plan to make that fortnight (see my Meal Planning post). Granted, not all of you will have time to be this list-crazy. I am not working (although I do take my 'job' as house-wife, cook, cleaner, personal organiser to my husband, finances manager, and craftsperson, very seriously), so I do have the time to make all these lists that make our lives easier.

I have a list by my computer of websites and blogs to visit and read when I have time, otherwise I would forgot what it was that I wanted to read but didnt have the time. There's a list by my bed for those 'middle of the night cant sleep coz I have to remember to do that thing tomorrow' s. This crucial piece of paper and pen by my bed enables me to get a good night's sleep. I have my own To-Do list and I also create a To-Do list for my husband. My To-do is under my kitchen calendar, and Shane's To- Do is by his computer, where I know he will read it (no excuses! :-)) Shane is the bread-winner in our family at the moment, so I have taken on almost all of the other tasks around the home, but there are still things occasionally that I need him to do, like call Telstra to sort out an error of theirs, as this makes me very stressed ;->

Another essential list in our home is a 'Bills to Pay' list, on a small whiteboard mounted on the laundry door. I love this list, I can clearly see what bill I have to pay and when, and this prevents any late fees and helps me do our fortnightly budget (more on finances and budgeting another day!) I find once you are honest about how much money you have to spend that fortnight on bills, you are more likely to stick with your budget and not over-spend. And there's nothing more satisfying than wiping that bill off the white-board once its paid!!

Do you have lists around your home or do you just have a good memory? I'd love to know what you make lists of, and for.

Labelling- I'm an addict

Our unit could look as if a foreign exchange student learning English lives here, with the amount of little labels scattered throughout the premises. Yes it can look a little daggy, but it makes mine and my husband's lives, much easier.

A label maker is an essential item, if you are striving for more organisation in your life. I bought my Dymo from officeworks for around $50, a very worthwhile purchase. It has so many uses, where can I start?

In the kitchen, I store most of the pantry items in tupperware (I don't mean the expensive Tupperware brand, I just use that word for small containers for storing food :)). I love the look of an organised pantry with food stored neatly in containers. Also it minimises cockroaches, and therefore the need for nasty chemicals to kill the cockroaches, helping to keep my life eco-friendly. I label the tupperware containers with what is in them, and sometimes the date if it is a perishable item. I also label the shelves in the pantry. Yes I am a little OCD about labels. I find unpacking groceries so much quicker and brainless (and face it, most of us ARE brainless after a few hours grocery shopping), when you can easily see where to put the particular item. My husband loves the labels as well, as my kitchen system may not always come naturally to him, and the labels prevent tension in our relationship :-D

Labels have many more uses than just in the kitchen. I have recently labelled the drawers in our baby's room. We were kindly given a pile of hand me down baby clothes, of all different sizes. Knowing that I will be extremely busy with him when he is born, I organised all of the clothes into sizes from 0000 to 1, placed them in order in the drawers (smallest up top and bigger down the bottom) and labelled the outside of the drawers. I know this will make putting away the washing and "quick grab a fresh babysuit" much easier when we are busy new parents.

What do you use labels for? Please share your tips as well :-) I have many more uses for my label maker that I will share in the future, with photos as well.

Meal Planning

I am fairly new to the wonderful world of regularly cooking and preparing nutritious and yummy meals for my husband and myself. I'm not sure why it has taken til my early 30's to get into the rhythm of planning and cooking meals on a daily basis. I guess initially, it was due to the recent change in our finances and needing to cut back on our eating budget. We are expecting our first baby in about 8 weeks, and I haven't been working for most of the pregnancy. This was partly because my work is very physical, and partly because we have only just moved to the Gold Coast and I am yet to build up my client base (in professional organising) here.

So we have been living on one income, and this forced me to re-evaluate our spending and eating habits. I discovered it is much cheaper, and healthier, to cook at home every day. It took me a while to get used to this as Shane and I were accustomed to eating out regularly. He is a chef and while he is passionate about cooking, he rarely feels up to it in his down time. Fair enough too! Mind you he cooks me spectacular meals for a special treat now and then :-)

My biggest challenge with being the main cook in our home was coming up with new and exciting meals to make, and once I had, realising that I just didn't have the right ingredients in the pantry to actually make the meal then and there. So I decided to start meal planning. This was something I had read about in many organising blogs, and I was curious to try it.

This was a process I've learnt slowly and it is still evolving. I began by assembling all of my favourite recipes into a new recipe binder. I am lucky to have a vast library of amazing cookbooks thanks to my husband's passion, and I started reading through some that didn't seem as intimidating as others. (i.e. have you seen the book on current best restaurant in the world called Noma, in Denmark? I don't even recognise most of that as being food! Its more like art). A few non-chef-people-friendly books of my husbands that I love, are-

Neil Perry's 'Good Food'; Gordon Ramsay 'Makes it Easy'; the beautiful Maggie Beer's 'Maggie's Harvest'; and Matthew Evan's 'the Real Food Companion'.
I photocopy my favourite recipes from these and others, and compile them in my recipe binder. I also use magazines such as Woman's weekly, handed down to me by my mum, for recipe inspiration; and websites such as

Back to the meal planning. Every fortnight I sit down sometimes with my husband and sometimes on my own, and flip through my recipe binder. I usually like to plan around 10 - 12 meals for the fortnight. I find planning and shopping for a fortnight rather than for a week, much more time-efficient. When I cook, I try to make enough for the meal and also for another meal or two the following day. Sometimes I make a large meal such as spaghetti bolognaise and freeze portions which will last a long time. Good tupperware is essential for storing left-overs so we don't have to use too much gladwrap. (More on storing and organising your tupperware, a common complaint of my clients, in another blog another day!).

I make a list of groceries I need to create the 10 or so meals. I then organise the list into separate lists named by where we will purchase the ingredients. For example, we buy our meat and cheese and some dry goods such as organic tomato paste, from Aldi. Aldi have excellent quality Australian produced (very important!) meats such as Free range chicken, at excellent prices. A lot of people don't realise this, and I think a common mis-conception is that Aldi has mostly foreign produce. In fact, most of the produce especially the meat, fruit and veg, is Aussie. There are a few items that we have to buy from Woolworths much to our dislike. We buy A2 milk from Woolworths and also special cat food for our fussy little Princess (yes, that is actually her name!) and a few other things when we cant find them at Aldi. My biggest peeve with Aldi is the inconsistency, one week there'll be something fantastic and the next time you go, its no longer in stock. This doesn't happen very often luckily. They have a great range of organic items like spaghetti, tinned tomatoes and yoghurt.

We buy our fruit and veg from local markets. I highly recommend you try this, if you haven't already. I find the produce is not only cheaper, but stays fresher in the fridge much, much longer. This would be due to the fact that the stall holders buy the produce locally and sell it almost immediately, as opposed to the major supermarkets storing and freezing their produce for alarmingly long amounts of time.

So usually, I have one list for Aldi, one list for Woolworths and one list for the markets. Occasionally we will buy meat in bulk at a big meat supplier such as Patton's meats, as well.

I find this method of creating very specific lists and really sticking to them, very helpful and enables us to keep to our budget. It also creates a lot less wastage, as I know exactly what to do with what I have in the fridge! No more wondering "now what will I do with that half a cabbage" and then throwing it out the following week when its gone off.

It sounds like a lot of work, but believe me, it actually saves me time and stressful headaches caused by not knowing what to make for dinner. Its also much healthier as we can plan well balanced meals and create them quickly with ease, having all the right ingredients there. This prevents the "I'm hungry and want to eat now, so lets get take way" syndrome.

Also, just another point, I always try to make enough at the time for lunch or dinner the following day. Shane takes his left-overs to work with him, which saves us alot of money on bought lunches. I try to cook as much as I can at the one time, using the same boiling water for several vegies for eg, to also save on power. The oven and stove top can add considerably to your power bill, so its great to do things like steaming one type of veg over a pot of another veg cooking. Efficient, healthy and enviro-friendly cooking!

I hope this has given you some inspiration to try meal planning. I was a slow-starter but now that I'm there, there's no going back for me!