For the serial task-jumper …

You know how I’m always on about how unproductive it is to multi-task, or to switch from task to task before they’ve been competed?

I’m also a fan of working with your personality, so here’s something you can try if you really love the variety of multi-tasking but know it’s not getting stuff finished.

Choose 2 or 3 jobs that you want to finish by the end of the day; no more than 3.

Now, allow yourself to jump (as infrequently as you can manage) from task to task, but NEVER deviating from those original 3 projects.

You should find you enjoy your day more AND get stuff done!

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.

 

 

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!).

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).

 

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!

Small desk syndrome?

Desks are fabulously useful. You can spend a lot of time sitting at them, pretending to work. And the more stuff you have spread around you, the busier you look, right? Well, what if you have a tiny desk?  How do you manage to look busy (or, more seriously, stay organised) when you have a teeny tiny amount of space on your desk?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep your active paperwork vertical. A stand of manilla folders takes up less space than a couple of piles of paper, and a magazine file of journals takes up less space than a pile of them on the desk corner.
  2. Keep your reference paperwork off your desk entirely. Try a filing cabinet, or binders on shelves. If you look at it infrequently, it should be off your desk
  3. Curb your stationery addiction. I know, it’s awfully pretty and fun, and it makes you feel organised, but you don’t need 60 notepads, 7 staplers and a bucket of paperclips. Nor do you need a billion pens that don’t work (throw them out – not back in the drawer!)
  4. Try to use your vertical wall space as much as you can – install shelving or add a hutch to your desk
  5. Have routines that include an end-of-day desk clearing – file your paperwork and put away your stationery. If you do it every day, it will never get out of control. And you won’t come in on Monday to the smell of curdled cappuccino, either.
  6. Try using a magazine file as your inbox instead of an in-tray (which is an unrestrained pile waiting to happen anyway!). And empty it daily (not yearly!).
  7. Ditch everything you don’t use regularly, and limit the amount of personal ‘knick knacks’ on the desk. They’re lovely, but it’s prime real estate that they’re hogging!

Tiny desk = no worries!

 

How do you STAY organised?

Many people work hard to get organised. They do a big cull, pull everything out and create homes for their stuff. They make it all neat and tidy and breath a big sigh of relief when it’s done.  However, they all face a similar struggle once they finish de-cluttering and organising their space. How do they maintain it? How do they avoid having to do it all again in a year’s time?

They  feel a little silly at this stage, because they think it should be easy once it’s all organised. But it’s not – you still need to work on it. Your space will not change in the long-term if you don’t change, no matter how clever you are!

This is where routines and habits come into play.  Organised people are organised partly because it’s the way their brain works, but also because they have built up a repertoire of habits that positively reinforce their organisation.  There is more than one way to build habits, but my favourite is by introducing them through routines.

When you introduce a routine, try to think about what you always do out of habit already, and ‘stick’ new habits onto it. If you always turn on the coffee machine as soon as you wake up, add a positive habit to that routine such as checking your calendar while you wait for it to brew. Once you have a habit ‘sticking’ (around a month of trying should get it working okay), add another. Keep going until you’re a well-oiled machine.  You’ll free up your brain, have a more organised day, more organised spaces and be able to enjoy life a little more.

Share with us – what habits and routines do you have that help you stay organised? My favourite is choosing my next day’s outfit the night before – it saves so much time and reduces stress a great deal!

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