Category Archives: Organise

O is for Organised Enough: A-Z of Simple Living

simple living

{via Charlotte's Fancy}

 

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

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So often simplifying is mentioned in the same breath as organising.

The logic goes: in order to be living a truly simple life, you must have a host of systems in place that will organise every aspect of your day.

You can schedule your hours, systematise your housework, organise your wardrobe, catalogue your paperwork, arrange your kitchen utensils, reconfigure your garage to hold more stuff and roster your down-time.

But true simplicity means many of those systems are unnecessary.

  • I do have a calendar but much of my weekly schedule is in my head, because it’s really not that complicated.
  • I don’t need a special shoe rack to organise my shoes – I don’t own that many.
  • Filing cabinet? It has one drawer.
  • Toys? They all have a place in the play room.

Living a simple life means that being organised for the sake of being organised is largely unnecessary. If you strip away what you do not need, you will find that life doesn’t need nearly much organising at all.

But Being Organised Helps Me!

To a point, yes.

Life is busy. And some organisation helps corral the busy-ness of life into a semblance of order. So I’m not telling you to do away with your diary, bill paying system or ironing baskets. If they help you in creating a less stressful day, wonderful.

But at some point we start to organise instead of simplify.

Life Is Not Organised.

You need to leave space for life to happen.

And life is messy. Life is uncertain. Life is spontaneous. Life is not organised.

You are reading this because you want a simpler, slower life. And while being organised – to a point – means you have time and space for life to unfold peacefully, over doing it means you run the very real risk of sucking the joy from your days.

And that’s our end goal isn’t it? To rediscover the joy. The zing of doing something spontaneous. The flash of excitement when you realise, “Why the hell not? I’d love to go to the beach/play in the sun/have a nap.”

If you over-do the organising, if you schedule the guts out of your days, weeks, months, school terms, you risk losing one of the biggest joys in life – spontaneity.

So my tip:

Be as organised as you need to be. No more.

Organise what you really need. But don’t turn to organisation simply to store more stuff in your space or cram more committments in your days. The key is to take away what isn’t necessary and good. There you will find your simpler life.

 

M is for Meal Planning: A-Z of Simple Living

Meal Planning Image via Kyla Roma

{via Kyla Roma on Flickr}

 

This January, we’re taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

——

Meal planning.

You understand the benefits. You know it’s a good idea. You can see it helps save both money and energy.

But, honestly…

  • Thinking of endless new recipes?
  • Keeping everyone’s preferences in mind?
  • Finding good, seasonal produce?
  • Remembering what you have on hand already?
  • Shopping for specific ingredients?

Who has the energy?

But the reality is that without meal-planning, you have to do this each and every day.

Simple living is all about reducing unnecessary stress, and focusing on the good stuff. And a good meal plan will set you up for a week or more, meaning you only have to think about the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?” once.

The trick? Think of meal planning like a good, hard work out – when you’re in the midst of it you curse the decision to ever start, but once you’ve finished and are benefiting from the results, you can see that the short-term pain was worth the long-term gain.

If You Don’t Know Where to Start:

1. Decide how often you will write out your meal plan.

Weekly? Fortnightly? I have a friend who plans her family meals 10 weeks at a time. It’s just important to establish what works best for you.

2. How will you write the plan itself?

I use the age-old method of pen and paper, but there are multiple apps, beautiful printables and online programs you can use if you prefer a more high-tech solution. Just make sure it doesn’t distract more than help you.

3. Write out the plan.

Take a piece of paper, write out the menu for the coming fortnight on the bottom half. Make sure to include lunches too, as well as any baking you plan to do.

4. Write out the grocery list.

On the top half of the paper write your shopping list for the week/fortnight. It’s easiest to do this at the same time as the meal plan – to ensure no ingredients are missed – and reduce the need for last-minute trips to the shop.

Meal-Planning Hacks to Make Your Job Even Easier:

 

Hack #1: It’s Perfectly Fine to Cook the Same Meal – Frequently.

If you have a family favourite there is no problem in repeating it consistently. My kids love these salmon patties (bonus Mum Points for their incredible vegetable-hiding ninja-skills) and we have them once a week at least.

I haven’t had a complaint yet.

Hack #2: Have the same ‘type’ of food on particular days of the week.

For example:

  • Monday: Pasta
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker meal
  • Wednesday: Left overs
  • Thursday: Seafood
  • Friday: Homemade pizza
  • Saturday: BBQ
  • Sunday: Soup

This simply reduces the stress of what to choose for each day when writing your plan. Obviously you can find a huge variety when it comes to each type of food, meaning you’re not locked in to the same seven meals every week.

Hack #3: Know your schedule.

You know your family’s work, play and school schedule better than anyone. Do yourself a kindness and use this knowledge to plan quick and simple meals for your busy days.

Hack #4: Try new things.

Set yourself a goal of trying one new recipe per plan.You’re certain to discover some new favourites, some not-so-favourites and to keep growing your repertoire over time.

All You Have to Lose is Time Spent at the Shop.

Meal planning really doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. After all, the reason we do things like this is to make life simpler, not harder. We want to free up time for what is important: like drinking cocktails and chasing unicorns.

 

 

 

I is for Inbox Zero: A-Z of Simple Living

How to get to Inbox Zero

{ Over 6000 unread emails - in an old, unused account }


This January, we're taking an in-depth look at the why and how of simplicity with the A-Z of Simple Living. If you want to make 2015 the year you create a simpler, slower life, why not join us?

——

Quick Question:

How many emails – both unopened and read – do you currently have sitting in your inbox?

A quick (and completely unscientific) Facebook and Twitter poll tells me the average reader of this blog has 1741 emails in their inbox.

1741 emails stressing you out

1741 emails reminding you of your inaction

1741 emails weighing you down every time you open your computer

Working to create a simpler life means reducing stress, cutting back on clutter – both emotional and physical – reducing committments and banishing guilt.

Having an inbox crammed with 1741 emails is not going to help you create that simpler life.

Next question: Do you believe it could be zero by tomorrow?

Because it absolutely can.

Currently I have 231 emails in my inbox, which is a blowout. As soon as this post is finished, I'll be dealing with that.

But last month I had over 1000 emails sitting there, taunting me.

I was sick of feeling guilty and overwhelmed every time I checked my email, so I decided to get all ninja on my inbox. An hour later it was down to 14 – it had no idea what hit it.

Here's how to get your inbox under control, no matter how big the number that's staring back at you.

1. Set Up Your Folders

You need a simple, effective filing system that will make sense to you. When creating your folders, keep the following in mind:

  • Try to limit the number of folders to under ten.
  • Keep the folder names broad. Anything too specific will become cumbersome and you will be less likely to use it.
  • Don't have an Action folder. These have never worked for me, so I keep any email that requires action (a reply, a bill to be paid, etc) in my inbox.
  • You can always add another folder later if the need for one arises. Keep it simple until then.

For example. My mail folders are:

  • Admin – bills, technical info for the website, email etc.
  • Courses – login details for online courses I've attended, course materials, links to online groups, etc
  • Guest Posting
  • Personal – recipes etc
  • Slow Home BootCamp
  • Thank You Emails – for the multiple emails a week I get from readers

Keeping it broad helps me to make quick decisions when I'm sorting my inbox every day or two. (OK, every week or two.)

 

2. Sort by Sender

Now you're ready to delete with wild abandon.

First step – sort your inbox by sender. (There should be a tab at the top of your email provider that allows you to sort by date, sender, subject, etc.)

Sorting by sender means you're able to delete huge amounts immediately. Look for big chunks of unread or out-of-date emails from one sender at a time.

At this stage don't even worry about single emails from people, just look for the big chunks. Delete:

  • Email newsletters you receive but never read
  • Blog updates you receive via email but don't open
  • Shopping sites and deals sites you no longer use
  • Auto response emails
  • Alerts
  • No-reply emails

This will clear hundreds, if not thousands of unread/unwanted emails from your inbox in a matter of minutes.

3. Sort by Subject

Once you've gone through your entire inbox by sender, it's time to re-sort the remaining emails by subject.

This will help weed out the email threads you no longer need or care about.

Again, look for the big chunks of emails that share a subject line. Delete any that are out-of-date or unwanted.

Some of the prime suspects:

  • Email threads you've been CC'd on but have no need for
  • Organising a now passed event
  • Offers you've been forwarded
  • Comment threads you've subscribed to

Once you've moved through your inbox again, it will start to look much more manageable.

4. File, Delete or Action

Now it's time to wade through what remains. Depending on how many emails you've already deleted, this may take a few minutes, or significantly longer.

Regardless, just start at the top and move through the contents of your inbox as quickly as possible. Each email needs to be:

  • filed in its appropriate folder – if it contains info you will need access to at a later date
  • deleted – if it is out of date, unwanted, or readily available online
  • actioned – if it requires action on your part (a reply or a specific action) leave it in your inbox

This will leave you with an inbox of emails requiring something of you, and working through these is the last step. Inbox Zero awaits!

5. Action

Hopefully there won't be too many unanswered emails staring back at you, but I know all too well the feeling of being overwhelmed by the state of my inbox and studiously ignoring its contents for days or weeks. Ahem…

So if there is a lot to work through, take a deep breath and just start at the top. As you go through each email, respond as needed and delete it or file it away.

Make your replies as quick as possible, and if there are any emails that need a longer response, leave them until the end.

Once you've worked through them all, pour yourself a stiff drink or a cup of tea, dance a celebratory jig and revel in the feeling of not owing anyone an email. It's a good feeling.

Staying at Zero

Some tips to make sure your inbox stays at zero (or at least under 20 – which is my personal goal):

  • Unsubscribe as newsletters and updates hit your inbox – providing A) it's not the Slow Your Home newsletter and B) you no longer read it
  • Unsubscribe from daily alerts and deal sites as they hit your inbox – unless you regularly find them useful
  • Set aside a time each day to respond to emails – you will be more productive in 15 uninterrupted minutes than if you check emails multiple times a day but never respond
  • Clear your inbox back to zero every few days – it's incredible how quickly the information can add up if left to silently multiply

Confession time: how many emails currently reside in your inbox? (This is a guilt-free zone, so don't feel embarrassed. I once had over 7,000.)

 

How to deal with sentimental clutter

How to deal with sentimental clutter

A few weeks ago I had a documentary crew out to our house. They were filming a short piece on the emergence of minimalism in Australia and asked me to be involved.

I was really excited to be asked, but I won’t lie: I was terrified. Terrified of being on camera. Terrified of sounding like a privileged douchebag. Terrified of being found a fraud when people exclaimed, “That’s not minimalism!”

Part of the shoot was done in the small garden shed we use as secondary storage. In it we keep things like our lawn-mower, my gardening gear, house paints, camping equipment, outdoor toys, a couple of boxes of Christmas decorations and one memory box per person.

I was asked to open each of the memory boxes to show how I manage to keep a balance between sentimentality and clutter. I was happy to do this until I was asked to open a plastic crate down on the bottom shelf.

I had no idea what was in there. I knew it was my stuff, but it could have been anything.

Upon opening it I realised it was old marketing materials, catalogues, business cards, order forms, inspiration boards, design sketches and press clippings from my jewellery label. I had not thought about this stuff in over two years, and it’s been more than four years since I closed down the business. The question wasn’t, “What is it?” but rather, “Why do I still have it?!”

I muttered some kind of excuse as to why I still had this clutter, and swiftly moved on.

But over the following days I really thought about it a lot.

I remember having gone through all this stuff during one of my biggest purges, and going back to look at the contents now I can see I did keep only what was interesting or had some sentimentality attached to it.

It’s really interesting to go back and trace your journey towards simplicity by looking at what you’ve held on to during various purges. By looking at the contents of this box I could see the process of becoming less attached to my business (and the goals, successes and stories tied to it) but hadn’t been ready to let go. I could, however, see a big shift, and the good news was that I had been intentional about it rather than blindly keeping everything related to my business.

And, when it comes to dealing with sentimental items, I think that is the key: Be intentional.

We need to be intentional about what to keep and what to let go of. Instead of looking at the box of trinkets or childhood items and saying, “Argh! I can’t decide so I’ll keep it all,” we need to make a decision.

If that decision is, “I love this thing and want to keep it,” then that’s perfect. If that decision is, “I don’t know yet,” that’s OK. It might be the best answer for now. But you need to ask the question. You need to be intentional about keeping things. Otherwise it will continue to be just clutter.

So last week, I headed out to the shed and opened that last remaining box of deferred decisions.

It was interesting to look through the contents and see what I had thought was important. I didn’t feel bad for having kept it, but upon inspection more than 2 years later, I realised it had changed from stuff I had intentionally chosen to keep, to clutter.

And I realised that the transformation from clutter to sentimental works both ways.

When we are initially faced with the idea of simplifying our home, we balk at the idea. “But this isn’t clutter! All this stuff is sentimental!”

Then we move a little further into our journey and we realise that much of that sentimental stuff is, in fact, just clutter. Deferred decisions, guilt and a lack of time.

We move through that clutter slowly, methodically, keeping what we believe to be important. It becomes sentimental again.

It gets packed away, saved for posterity. Then we rediscover it, hiding in a dusty box in the shed, and we realise that it’s no longer sentimental. It’s changed back to being just clutter. Much of it is stuff that we were simply afraid to be without, but with the passage of time has come the realisation that it’s OK.

And so it was that I found myself looking through the contents of that box in the shed. It was interesting, but I was ready and happy to let it all go. So I did. Every single piece.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a (brief) moment of fear as I picked up each of these items and put them in the recycling box. But, quite literally, the second I let the item drop from my hands, I felt a lightness. A relief. A release. And I knew I was making the right decision.

Slow Home Essentials: Weekly Rhythm

Slow Home Essentials - Creating a Weekly Rhythm

There are 168 hours in the week.

You, me, the Prime Minister and Beyonce – we all have 168 hours, and we can get a lot done in that time.

But how often do you feel like those 168 hours are nowhere near enough?

There are too many tasks, too many appointments and too much housework. You’re pulled in all directions, and while trying to get everything done, you end the day feeling as though you got nothing done instead.

So you try to set up a strict routine, carving out specific blocks of time for specific tasks. It works for a while, but then life intervenes. Someone gets sick, the vacuum cleaner breaks, you have to work late or get called for jury duty.

Your life isn’t made for strict routine.

Rhythm Over Routine

I’m a huge advocate of living a rhythmic life, as opposed to a strictly routine one. The notion of rhythm is a much friendlier, more flexible option, and it fits comfortably in our life.

Over the years, I have adopted a rhythm to my mornings and to my days. And last year, when I reached a point of massive overwhelm, I decided to adopt the idea of rhythm into my weeks too.

For the last 12 months, I’ve had a crumpled piece of paper stuck to the fridge. It’s a simple list, written in my own shorthand. But it also plays a massive part in creating (and maintaining) our Slow Home. It’s my weekly rhythm.

 

What my Weekly Rhythm Looks Like

The list is divided into three sections.

1. Dailies

At the top I have a list of Dailies (thanks to Patty from Homemaker’s Daily for the term), which is simply every task that needs to happen on an-almost daily basis. Things like ‘get dressed’ or ‘feed dog’ don’t appear here, because, really, that stuff just has to happen.

For me this section includes:

  • sweeping (kitchen and dining areas)
  • make beds
  • load of laundry or two
  • wipe over kitchen benches
  • wipe over bathroom vanities

The aim of doing these little jobs every day is that it cuts down on the amount of deep cleaning I need to do. If I sweep, do a load of laundry and keep the bathroom vanities clean most days, I’m allowed flexibility. I can skip a day at home to go to the beach or watch my daughter’s ballet concert, and the house won’t be tragically messy when I get home.

It’s all about doing a little bit of work each day (15-30 minutes, maximum) to help minimise the workload later and keep your home running well. Which means you’re less likely to feel stressed, frantic and overwhelmed.

2 & 3. Weeklies

Below the Dailies is a row for each day of the week. Each day has two columns next to it.

The left column shows the household work for the day, while the right shows what activities we have outside the home.

I try to limit the number of items in either column to a maximum of three. Some days have only one task, and some days have no organised activities. Again, this builds wiggle room and flexibility into our days. If we want to go for a bushwalk, we can. If the kids are sick and need a quiet day, we can do that too.

For me, for our kids, for our stage in life, this idea of rhythm fits really comfortably within our days.

How to Create Your Weekly Rhythm

Print off the worksheets I’ve created for you. You can download them by clicking here.

1. The first worksheet asks you to write down all the jobs that you need to get done in any given week. Include things like cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, ironing, vacuuming, mopping floors etc. Break the bigger jobs down into smaller ones if you need to (for example, I clean toilets on a separate day to the rest of the bathroom).

2. Include all the tasks you like to get done on any given day. Things like making the beds, cleaning the kitchen benches, wiping down the vanities, doing a load of laundry, etc. Don’t forget you may not get every one of these done every day, but if you get the majority done the majority of the time, you’ll be golden.

3. List all the extra activities or regular appointments you have during the week. Include your work hours, school or preschool times, dance classes, sporting matches and training, regular catchups with friends, play group, church, etc.

4. Take some time to look over the list you’ve just created and give some thought to how you like to structure your week. For example, do you feel better if you can clean the bathrooms and floors just before the weekend? Then think about scheduling those tasks for Thursday or Friday. Are the kids at preschool on a Monday? Use that time to do the grocery shopping or do the ironing.

5. Using the second worksheet, list your Dailies and then plot out every day, listing 1-3 tasks for both housework and activities.

Stick the list on your fridge and refer to it every morning. Even if you know what’s on for the day, having a point of reference and a short list of tasks makes your day seem much more manageable. Plus, I find it helpful to be able to explain to the kids that I have to clean the bathroom, then I can play with them.

This stuff isn’t sexy.

I feel weird writing about it in such depth, to be honest.

But you know what? Thinking through this stuff in depth, right now, will set you up for a much smoother, easier, more flexible rhythm at home. One that will last you for months or years, and free you up to do the fun things like playing with your kids, or going for a coffee with a friend, writing a blog or reading a book.

Putting in the work now could reap benefits for years to come.

 

(Looking for more ideas on rhythms and rituals? Grab a copy of Destination: Simple – Rituals and Rhythms to Simplify Your Daily Life.)

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