Avoiding isn’t the answer

You’re cluttered. You feel out of control and overwhelmed. You want to escape the house. You aspire to a beautiful, organised home but despair that you’ll never get it. You’re anxious.

When you’re anxious, going shopping can make you feel better – every girl knows that ;). But we also all know that it’s only a short-term hit, like a drug.

Sometimes you even buy organising products to try and get around that feeling in your gut that tells you to stop bringing more stuff into the house.

But more stuff, even if it is a useful container or set of shelves, will NOT fix your problem.

The only thing that will fix your problem is taking action on what you have got around you. The only way out is to stop avoiding your stuff and face it. To defeat it, you must take action.

When you next get the urge to run away from your home and seek solace in shopping, realise that the ONLY WAY to get the home you want is to stay in it and face your demons. Sort that pile, toss that stuff, create the life you want rather than buy it.

You CAN do it, I know you can xx

Storing kids’ artwork 101

artwork

Our kids’ artwork can be very special to us (copyright Ethan Mezzino!)

This is such a common question I get that I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post on it!

A Facebook fan asks “Do you have any ideas for storing kids artwork? I have already accumulated a pile of “treasures” and my daughter is only 3. I obviously can’t keep everything, but how do I decide? And I’ll have the double the problem when my youngest starts getting creative. Please help!”

There are several ways to deal with kids’ artwork, so I’ll give you a run-down of a method that works for me and I recommend to the majority of my clients. It might work for you, too.

 

 

 

 

Firstly, have a place to put all the artwork when it comes in. You can put it on the wall, or in an artist’s folio sleeve, or both (the wall for a month, then the folio or a combination). The folios are designed for one or two pieces of artwork but I’ve shoved 6 month’s worth in there fairly easily! Slide it behind a piece of furniture for safe-keeping. Ours goes behind our buffet.

artist folio

A2 Artists’ folio – this one from Officeworks

Create a routine in which you regularly (when they are little do it every season, when they are older you can do it twice a year or so), go through the folio and photograph or scan every picture. Have the children pick out a few originals to keep, then recycle the rest (or use it as wrapping paper, or give to family – whatever you like).

The originals that my kids keep go in an A3 display book with plastic sleeves that they can look in any time they like, and is stored in their bedrooms (slid behind a bookcase).  The really special ones get framed.

If they are attached to their artwork this can take some coaxing, and you may get tears, but they do get used to it and if you can create a little slide show of all their artwork on the computer, you’ll win them over – they love it. You could even get a photobook printed of all their creations every couple of years.

It’s important for children to learn that there is a finite amount of space that we live in, and we can’t keep everything. The alternative of having the photographs means you save space and you still keep the memories.

 

 

Do less, be more

I have many clients that aren’t hoarders, but have too much stuff.

They don’t over-shop, but they are always in a mess.

They don’t refuse to throw things away, but they still never get around to it.

These people are busy – really busy. They have jobs (often more than one), they have study, kids that have stuffed-to-the-bursting schedules, friends that they drop everything for, hobbies, groups, committees, coaching and other commitments. 

They are cluttering up their schedules, and that in turn clutters up their spaces and their minds. They are overloaded.

I am constantly bleating on about slowing down, about dropping all but the essentials. My clients’ lives – YOUR lives – will not change if they don’t.

You don’t NEED to be doing EVERYTHING all at once. Slow down. Drop stuff. Pare back.

We have a long life, at the end of which very little apart from our near and dear will actually mean anything.

You don’t need to be doing all that stuff to be of value. You are of value just as you are.

Do less, BE more.

A Restful Haven – 6 Steps to an Organised Bedroom

peaceful bedroom

Source http://smallplacestyle.blogspot.com.au/

 

Do you dread going into your bedroom? Is it piled high with clutter? Do you wake each morning staring at a mountain of things to do?

A cluttered bedroom doesn’t encourage a loving relationship or healthy sleep!

Try this 6-step process to declutter your room so you can reclaim your haven.

  1. Decide on your vision for the room. Write it down, draw it, close your eyes and ‘see’ it.
  2. Eliminate all items that don’t fit the vision.  This includes paperwork, kids’ toys, excess books and magazines (keep just a few for current reading) and homeless “junk room” stuff that belongs elsewhere in the house.
  3. Group everything that remains into ‘like’ groups – clothes with clothes, shoes with shoes, jewellery with jewellery etc..
  4. Eliminate duplicates and anything you no longer need, use or love.  Eliminate any clothes you put on but always take off again, that are damaged, do not fit or you just don’t like them anymore.  You can donate or sell items; it’s your choice (only sell if you have the time and really need the money – otherwise it’s just another thing on your list of things to do). This is the hardest part – letting go.  Yes, it’s difficult, but keep your vision in mind and you’ll be able to do it. You NEED a restful haven to sleep in.
  5. Find and create homes for all the items you need, use and love.  Remember that those things you use frequently should be easy to get to, and those that you use infrequently (like luggage, memorabilia and spare linen) should be less accessible – use the high and deep spaces for those items.  Don’t forget the useful space under your bed, too. Use  vacuum packs, tubs, drawer dividers, clear shoe boxes, jewellery organisers and other useful organising tools. Don’t buy them until you know where they are going and what is going in them, though!
  6. Set up a new habit of ‘resetting’ your room before you go to bed each night – all that is required is that you do step 2 really, and then for everything that’s left, put it in its home. And then enjoy a peaceful sleep.

I know many people will say “It’s not as easy as that”. But I do this every week with clients and it IS that easy – I know from experience. You just have to let go of the fear. You’re brave, I know you can do it!

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?

 

New Year, new … somethingorother …

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It’s New Year’s Day, a time that many of us decide we will make some resolutions to change for the better, and that 2012 is going to be better than 2011.

More money, more friends, less stress, less fat, more fat, more joy, more holidays, less travelling, more clothes, less clothes, more stuff, less stuff, new car, new house, new partner …*takes deep breath*… new friends, no more new friends, more muscles, less crying, better parenting, better job, no job, see family more, see family less, help more people, get help more often, quit smoking, drink less, eat more meat, eat less meat … the list goes on!

Most people want to improve themselves or their lives to some degree; we’re all alike in that way.

Most New Year’s Resolutions fail (I won’t go into detail, but there are stats supporting that sweeping statement!). So I recommend that you just don’t make any. But no, you cry, how will I improve if I don’t make a resolution to? Easy – you take action. A resolution is just a decision to do something, and decisions don’t get you anywhere.  To change, you need a goal, some determination and action. Action is what gets you over the line!

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Choose a theme (“financial freedom” “healthy living” “learning journey”). You can’t change everything – it just doesn’t work. Pick a theme for 2012 and base your goals around it. Don’t stress, though; if you want to lose weight AND learn French this year, that’s fine!
  2. Restrict your goals to only a few (maybe 3?). Brainstorm a list then trim it down to the most important ones to you. Keep the rest to review next year.
  3. Write your goals so they are as specific as possible, and preferably measurable (eg – fit back into size 10 jeans, or get debt down to $50,000, or finish a graphic design course)
  4. Once you have a few specific, large goals, break them down into some smaller goals so that you have a plan of action to follow and not just a vague notion (ie, visit dietitian, decide on exercise routine, start routine, change diet, lose 5 kgs, lose 10 kgs, fit a size 12, fit a size 11 … )
  5. DON’T give up altogether if you stumble. Just start again! Perseverance is the key.

Share your theme for the year with us – what are you focusing on? (In case you were wondering, mine is “Acceptance” – rolling with the punches, flowing with the current and being grateful for all I have).

 

Productivity Death by Mindless Escape

We all want to run away from things sometimes

Procrastination affects everyone, but for some it seems to really affect their life – especially their work. It’s a real productivity-killer. I was chatting about it with a friend recently who said that she has become particularly good at some PC games because when she can’t face work, diving into a game helps her to cope. She’s engaging in a mindless escape from a difficult reality.

Most of us engage in mindless escapes – TV is a prime example (most commercial TV at the moment is particularly mindless, but I’ll save that rant for another time, lucky you…). But there is also Facebook (sometimes looking at photos of someone you don’t know seems an entirely useful way to spend time), or Twitter (do the useful links EVER stop coming? It’s Mindless Escape Heaven there) and other things such as watching kittens take on dogs in YouTube videos or reading up on Scandinavian Twig-Chair making.

My friend knows very well she’s escaping, and even talked about the cost/benefit of the escape. However, she still doesn’t know how to stop the escaping and the procrastination associated with it.

I suggested that it’s okay for her to play Angry Birds – that she shouldn’t try to stop altogether. But what she should do is first take 10 seconds to write down what it is she’s escaping from. The act of actually realising what we’re putting off, and then writing it down, means that your mindless escape all of a sudden becomes a conscious choice. And we can control our choices.

You still may engage in the escape, but by being aware, the escape may well be for a shorter time. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break – it’s how long and how frequently you take that break (and the quality of the break) that is important.

What do you engage in mindless escapes to avoid doing? Can you reduce that and be more productive, or at least, more conscious?

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!

What excuses do YOU use?

There are many reasons why people keep too many things; I hear them every day. Some are valid (ie, they need, use or love the item) but other excuses need to be challenged if people want to move forward with a simpler, less cluttered life.

Here are some of my favourite counter-arguments and challenges in response to some common excuses:

1. I might use it one day

This is the most common. I always remind people that for every item you keep for this reason, you are adding to your ‘To Do’ list. After all, if you do actually use it, it’s something to do, isn’t  it? Do you really need MORE stuff to do?  And if you’re keeping it out of obligation (“I really should finish that project”) then it’s not even going to be an enjoyable activity! Why do that to yourself?

When exactly WILL you use it?  How long have you been ‘meaning to’ use it? How is it affecting  your life right now? If you’re pretty sure you will use it, give yourself a deadline. If it’s not used by then, it is a negative effect on your life and it needs to go.

I also ask clients to ask themselves “What’s the worst that could happen if I get rid of this item?”. In most cases, you’ll just need to borrow one off someone else, or buy it again. And that’s the worst case! You can live with that, can’t you? You’ve certainly been through worse. Most  likely, you’ll forget it existed and be grateful for the peace of mind.

2.  I plan to fit into it again

Okay, so you have a few items of clothing that you love that don’t quite fit – fair enough. However, you need limits on how many you keep.  After all, you will most likely want to go shopping again if you lose weight, won’t you?

And the tough question – how likely are you to actually lose weight?  How long have you been that size? It does get less likely as time goes on.  I always encourage my clients to focus efforts and space in their wardrobe on clothes that they can use, and that make them feel fabulous in the size they are, instead of resenting their size.  If skinny clothes could talk, all they would do is call you fat anyway. You wouldn’t keep a friend that called you fat!

3. I spent a lot of money on it

The money is gone – it’s not coming back. If you wasted the money, it’s already wasted; what you do with the item will make little difference to that. Accept the loss and move on. If you don’t use it, you’re wasting both money, space AND sanity. Why not consider selling it or donating it to someone who will get a lot of use out of it?

4. Someone gave it to me

Your affection for someone should not be directed towards items, it should be directed towards the person. Love the person; get rid of the monstrosity that stresses you.

5. It’s a waste if I get rid of it

It’s far more of a waste to keep it and not use it! Donate it to someone who will appreciate it and get use out of it.

6. We’ve always kept that type of paperwork

Just because you’ve always done it does not mean it’s appropriate anymore. Challenge your habits and rationalise your decisions with some logic. Do you need it? Can you reproduce it if you really do find you need it one day? If it’s available anywhere else, get rid of it and simplify your life. Less paperwork = more smiles!

What excuses do you think you need to remove from your decluttering experience?


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!

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