Weekend Weightlifter – camera check

It’s the last weekend before Christmas, so it’s a good time to grab all of your recording devices (phones, cameras, video cameras, iPads etc – whatever you’re going to use) and make sure they have storage space on them and have a full charge.  If they take batteries that might need changing, ensure you have spares for emergencies.

You have all weekend, so you may want to take all the photos and videos off, file them and back them up, too. That way you have  a fresh start with completely empty cards.

Merry Christmas, and enjoy capturing those special moments!

Clutter-free gift ideas

We all have too much stuff and not enough quality time these days. Rather than make it worse this Christmas, why don’t you have a go at reversing it a little? What better way than to get some gifts that won’t clutter up the lives of your loved ones. After all, who needs more stuff? Here’s some ideas to get you thinking:

  • 20121120-100031.jpgMovie tickets
  • A dinner voucher (or you can combine them and get a movie/dinner package)
  • A baby-sitting voucher (again, combined with dinner and a movie would be awesome for busy parents)
  • A voucher for some organising or decluttering (from Clear Space, of course!)
  • A voucher for an assistant-for-a-day/week
  • Tickets to a theatre show or sporting event that is meaningful for them
  • A home-made “I’m your slave for a day” voucher (or if you prefer..”I’m your personal assistant for a day”)
  • A donation to a charity (see Oxfam Unwrapped or World Vision Smiles to buy a goat, a school kit, or blankets on behalf of someone – there are hundreds of gifts to choose from)
  • Flowers delivered every month for a year (or even once is just as nice..and far less expensive!)
  • An annual membership for their favourite sporting club
  • A car detailing package
  • A spring-clean service for their home
  • A gardening service (don’t do this if they love their gardening!)
  • Singing lessons
  • Music lessons (guitar, drums, piano etc)
  • A massage
  • Dancing classes
  • Art classes
  • Gym membership
  • Voucher for a treatment of their choice at a beauty salon
  • iTunes (or similar) gift card
  • A homemade frozen or fresh dinner home-delivered (great for new or extra-busy mums)
  • A zoo membership (South Australians click here for Zoos SA membership details)
  • A ticket for an adventure such as a ride in a racing car, vintage fighter jet, jet boat, hot-air balloon, sky-diving (but be sure they’re up for it!) or something milder like a hike, canoeing or a day-trip boat cruise
  • An opportunity for them to meet their hero. For my husband’s 40th I hired Stuart Dew from Port Adelaide FC to make an appearance at his party. He will never forget it!
  • Take them out for the day and let them do whatever they want to do, eat whatever they want to eat and go whereever they want to go (great for kids)
  • Hide a picnic lunch somewhere for the two of you and give them the GPS coordinates so they have to find it (make it a scenic route!)
  • Photography classes
  • A session with a stylist
  • A coupon that entitles them a few hours of your time helping them organising their digital photos
  • A week of full-time housekeeping (yes, please!)
  • A week of a personal chef (again…yes, please!)
  • Take them out volunteering for a day with you (you have no idea just how much you’ll gain in return)
  • An e-book reader (so they can reduce their book clutter)

All of these things either save time or space or give a unique experience and memory. Far better than adding to our cluttered lives, don’t you think?

 

How to ditch your ironing basket

I used to iron most of our family’s clothes. I didn’t bother with underwear, sleepwear or linen, but ironed pretty much everything else. My friends used to tell me they never ironed, and I couldn’t believe it – I expected they’d be all wrinkled up, but they weren’t!

I would spend around 3 hours a week ironing, and I hated the ironing basket. It was always full and always there, staring at me and reminding me I had to do something I hated doing. However, I was compelled to iron because the clothes were always so creased. I could not conceive not ironing.

Then my life changed when we went on a 4-week family road-trip style holiday. We lived out of suitcases the whole time, frequently moving and therefore frequently packing and unpacking (and never hanging anything). I realized that we didn’t look all wrinkly all of the time, and that it wasn’t so bad, this No Ironing Thing.

So when we returned home, I repurposed my laundry basket (it’s now our shopping bag basket) and never looked back. I got hints from my best friend, who had some great ideas (thanks Kym!) on how to prevent creases, and I’ll share them with you now.

Firstly, I still try not to use the dryer. It doesn’t rain much where I live, so we dry outside on the clothesline most of the time. We do this to save on electricity usage, mainly – cheaper and more environmentally friendly. When I do, I just apply the same rules as below, essentially (except for the drip-drying).

– I set my spin speed on my washing machine to the lowest spinning speed that I can
– I often don’t spin at all (especially in summer) and instead drip-dry the clothes
– I give them a good shake when they come out of the machine and hang them on the line as soon as possible
– I smooth them out on the line and leave them as smooth as I can to dry
– I always peg socks together in their pairs (this isn’t an ironing tip but it saves time later)
– As I get them off the line, I put them in the basket in this order: undies, socks (paired immediately), sleepwear (folded), shorts & pants (folded), things that don’t crease (folded). Then finally I lay flat out over the top of the basket the clothes that usually crease a little like t-shirts dresses and shirts (hanging stuff).
– Once inside, I take the hanging clothes off the basket and lay them on the back of the couch. I put the most creased pieces on the bottom of the pile. I smooth them out individually as I add each one to the pile (sort of like ironing them with my hands)
– I put all the other stuff away in the wardrobes
– A few hours later I hang the hanging items – they have ironed themselves on the back of the couch (sometimes I lay them flat on the bed, too).

20121104-222646.jpg
Sometimes I’ll get something out of the wardrobe to wear and it’s a little creased – so then I give it a quick iron, but this is rare.

I have also learned that your body heat will also smooth out wrinkles once you’ve had it on for a little while, too.

It’s also useful, of course, to buy clothes made from fabrics that don’t crease easily!

Finally, ditch your perfectionism – no one will notice, trust me! And you’ll be a changed person!

The “To Donate” spot

It’s a great clutter-controller to have one spot to put things you want to donate.

Find a box that is a fair size (too small and you have to head to the charity place too frequently!) and create a home for it that’s fairly accessible, but not in your high-usage areas. I’d suggest the bottom of a laundry shelf, bottom of the linen closet or in the garage.

Label it “To Be Donated” and teach the family to put anything in there that they no longer need, use or love in there so it can be loved by someone in need.Whenever it gets full, take a quick trip to the nearest charity and drop it off, replacing the box in its spot again to continue the cycle (don’t leave it in the car for 3 months!).

Creating a “Not Ours” spot

The Not Ours spot (or box, or basket…). If you don’t have a home for things that don’t belong to you, you need one of these!

Some of the things that can go into it include:

  • library books & books borrowed from friendsbaskets
  • borrowed DVDs
  • salad bowls and platters left after a dinner party
  • hair clips, water bottles, hats or socks etc left over after a playdate

Create a home (it needs to be fairly accessible if frequent-access things like library books will be stored there) and use a basket or tub to contain the items.

Every time you have a visitor, check your box to see if they have anything in there that belongs to them. Likewise if you visit someone – check the box first so you can return their items to them.

Report back when you have created your “home away from home” spot. Feel free to post pics of it so we can celebrate with you!

A modest life is a life to be proud of

Everyone has different ideas of what a modest life entails, but for me it’s not being dragged into the whole consumerism, materialistic way of life to a point that it has you living outside your means or being extravagant.

It means you don’t go into debt for a big-screen TV or a luxury car, you don’t spend thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery and shoes each year. You don’t buy designer clothes, or borrow money for extravagant holidays.

It means you live within your means, disregarding what this does to the way people see you.

So many people complain about not having enough money, yet they drink excessive amounts of alcohol, have Foxtel and a big-screen TV and drive a brand new car that they have borrowed money for, and spend a fortune on takeaway and junk food.  They sell their house and upgrade to a bigger home with a bigger mortgage so they can fit all their stuff in that they found one sale somewhere sometime but never use. They put their immediate comfort and their ‘facade’ in front of long-term benefits such as being debt-free.

People have forgotten what a real need is. They have forgotten that in the 1960s a family of five quite happily fit into a house with 3 bedrooms and one living area. They forget that a car that is over 10 years old can still drive them from A to B.  They forget that they live a quite privileged life compared to many and that they are so much luckier than they think they are.

They still look around them and want what everyone else has whether or not they can afford it, need it, or have room for it.

I get really frustrated when I hear how “tough” people are doing it, when I know very well many of these people are in debt because they lived beyond their means.  They did it because they couldn’t tell the difference between a need and a want. They didn’t ‘save for a rainy day’ and instead told themselves “I deserve this”.

People who lead modest lives are happier than those that don’t. They are more financially stable. They are self-sufficient and live within their means. They are leaders, not followers. They accept their life as it is and don’t strive for excess. They give freely of themselves. They aren’t overly concerned with what others think of them, and are therefore more uninhibited and self-assured.

How does one live a modest life?

  • Don’t buy things just because everyone else has one, unless you can afford to buy 3 of them without debt (and then still only buy 1!)
  • Recognise that at the end of your life, you will not be remembered for your designer shoes
  • Understand that you are still a valuable person without all the ‘stuff’
  • Learn to be content with what you have, and enjoy what you have instead of wanting more all the time
  • Don’t go into debt for anything other than the necessities (food and shelter, essentially – and that doesn’t count luxury resorts!)
  • Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s, and be proud of not buying into the hype
  • Remember to look long-term and not just for the short-term ‘hit’ that buying something new gives you

There is nothing to be ashamed of in living a modest life, but so very much to be proud of.


On a personal note:

I am not infallible nor am I a monk – sometimes I don’t live a modest life, despite generally trying to. When I bought myself an iPad (I tried to tell myself I ‘needed’ it for work but to be honest, I mostly play and read on it), I was being more extravagant than I normally would, even though I could afford it and did pay cash, because I didn’t really need it.  Sometimes I yearn for a bigger wardrobe, more shoes or a guest room in my house(or a bigger house), or a flash new sofa because I’m tired of the old one. And I was very keen to upgrade our car earlier this year – to the point of nagging!

But  most of all, I live within my means and without extravagance, as does the rest of my family. We’re not overly frugal but we’re not careless either.

Our family is debt-free (and we worked hard to get that way – it wasn’t handed to us on a platter) and we save as much as we can, whilst still enjoying our life.  Our home is not large or fancy, but it’s nice and we all fit just fine and we resist the urge to spend our savings on upgrading. When we last bought a new car (we had had our other one for almost 12 years) we spent around 10% of what we could actually afford to spend in cash and it was still a nice, shiny new (less than one year old) car and I still love it to pieces. The rest of the money is earning interest for us while the small investment is driving me around!

6 Quick Tips for Back-to-School

Going back to school after the summer holidays brings mixed feelings. Personally, I’m sad to see the holiday feeling leave us – I love the holidays. However, many kids are ready to get back into routine, and quite often their parents are more than keen for that, too!

Here are some tips for kicking off the year in an organised manner.

  1. Reinstate (or introduce) a morning routine. We keep ours during the holidays, but have a more relaxed version. If we didn’t keep it, I’m sure the kids would never clean their teeth! The morning routine should hand responsibility of their own self-care over to your children, encouraging their independence and easing your mental and physical workload.
  2. Similarly, ensure you have an after-school routine in place, even if it’s as simple as putting their bag in its home and handing over empty lunch boxes and any notices from school.
  3. Make sure they are getting enough sleep. If your family is anything like mine, they’re often in the pool until 9pm at night during the holidays. This works just fine because we let them sleep in to compensate. Once school starts, however, our kids need at least 10 hours of sleep a night to function at their best, and because they have to get up early to go to school, a 10pm bedtime is a bit late to squeeze all those hours in! Ensure they get back into the routine of a healthy bed time as soon as possible (depending on your child, you may need a week or more of transition – ours cope okay with a couple of days).
  4. Set up a system for organising your paperwork so that the school notices don’t get lost or forgotten. There’s nothing like having your child turn up for school in uniform and everyone else is dressed up as a pirate. Your child will take some time to forgive you that little slip-up!
  5. Have a home for bags, sports uniforms, shoes, hats, sunscreen and library books, and help reinforce the habit of keeping them in their homes. You’ll need to issue lots of reminders before it becomes second-nature to them, but it does happen.
  6. Introduce Menu Planning into your own routine. It will help ensure you never run out of bread and have to resort to buying lunches. It will save a lot of money and reduce morning stress.

What are your own tips for making Back-to-school time organised and stress-free?

 

Christmas is coming!

Source: http://www.design-decor-staging.com

The decorations have been in the stores a while now (it won’t be long before they’re in before July, I’m sure!) and we can sense impending festivities. Are you excited? Or terrified? Or a bit of both?

Download the 2011 Clear Space Christmas Countdown Calendar and you’ll be able to approach the holiday season without freaking out too much. It gives you one task a day to focus on in order to get organised well ahead of time so that Christmas is relaxing. You won’t feel rushed, and you will be able to enjoy the fun things about Christmas instead of all the stress that it usually brings!

Enjoy!

3 Types of “Stuff Homelessness”

One of the biggest causes of clutter is one technical error we all make – some things just never get a home. Even fairly organised homes have some areas that continue to trip them up. They are:

Box of random stuff

  1. Things that don’t belong to you. Books or DVDs you’ve borrowed (from friends or the library), the platter left behind after a dinner party, the sunglasses left after a BBQ, the blow-up mattress you borrowed when guests stayed over. Typically, these are scattered all over the house. Often they (quite embarrassingly) go missing.
  2. Things that need to be repaired or returned. These are in the laundry, in the junk drawer, in the wardrobe, the shed, the spare room and the office. And they never get fixed because you forget they exist.
  3. Things that need a decision to be made. This is most usually paperwork, but often there are items floating around that need decisions, such as carpet samples, a gift you don’t like, clothes that don’t fit, or a project you’ve abandoned but not discarded.

Once you’ve identified these items, create a home for them, and make some rules around what fits into each category.  A home for things that belong to others can be a shelf in a living room cabinet, or a clearly labelled box in the spare room.  A special spot in the bookcase or bedside table is perfect for borrowed books. A box near the back or front door would also be good for things that need repair, or drawers if you have a lot (note: if you have a lot, consider throwing some of them out – especially if they’ve been damaged a long time and you haven’t needed them).

Things that need a decision to be made should also be grouped together. This one needs to be more obvious, because it will probably be the largest category. An inability, or a delay, in making decisions is a key cause of clutter.  I’d use an open shelf with everything on display (paperwork should be stored vertically – in manila folders or magazine files). Then they’re reminding you of the decision that needs to be made. Create a boundary – decide just how much space you’re prepared to sacrifice for these items, then stick to it. If you exceed those boundaries, it’s decision time!

Are you Dame Washalot?

My daughter loves reading the Faraway Tree books. In it is a character called Dame Washalot, who spends all of her time doing laundry.  Today, sitting on the floor in the laundry, sorting my own pile of washing, it occurred to me that most women (sorry guys, but usually the women do the majority of the clothes washing tasks!) spend far too much time keeping their family in clean clothes. Unlike Dame Washalot, however, they don’t really enjoy it!

I go into people’s homes just about every day. One of the most common causes of clutter that I see is clothes. Clean or dirty (or of unknown status!), they overtake the house! I see it time and time again – and it really bothers people but they don’t know how to deal with it.

Here are a few tips I implemented at home, and recommend to clients, to reduce the task a bit:

  1. Wash regularly and, if you have a good machine that adjusts water usage, with small loads. Don’t save it all up for the weekend.
  2. Reduce the amount of clothing you have by setting boundaries. If I can’t fit any member of our household’s entire wardrobe in their cupboard and the washing basket (and on them!), I cull their clothes (and mine, too, of course!). There should be no overflow whatsoever.
  3. Avoid ironing as much as possible. In summer I drip-dry, then shake and smooth them out before hanging or folding. In winter I either use the dryer (and remove and hang immediately) or I line-dry and then lay them flat on each other for a few hours before putting away. For the perfectionists out there who say this is impossible, let me tell you that this has made the single biggest difference to the efficiency of my washing cycle. I save around 2-3 hours a week, not to mention the elimination of the stress of that ironing pile waiting for me! I was once just like you, ironing everything but underwear. After a month on a family road-trip last year, I returned home realising that I will survive without ironing. And I have ironed only a handful of times since. If I can do it, so can you!
  4. Finish the cycle before starting another.  If you have mounds of clean clothes waiting to be put away, finish that job before you put another load in the machine. “Clean” is not the end of the job. If you regard it as such, you will find yourself and the rest of your family perpetually dressing themselves from the pile of clean washing taking up half of your living or spare room. Regard each load as a singular task, with “Away” as the end of the task.
  5. Engage the help of the family. Have them fold and put away their own clothes, or a load each.  It’s a simple job – one that can be done in front of the TV if there is a need to make it less mundane (although I have found it a great opportunity for meditation when done as a solo task).
  6. Have routines.  Choose a time to put a load on every day, and follow through the entire cycle (wash -> dry -> away) on the same day. Stick to the routines until they become a habit.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to help keep on top of the washing? Do tell!