Category Archives: Organise

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.

Why Rhythm Trumps Routine

Finding Your Rhythm

From this week, or maybe next, life generally returns to normal.

People are back at work, families are getting prepared for the school year ahead, dance enrolments open, swimming classes fill up, as does the calendar, and the year simply rolls on into another version of its former self.

I know many of us resist this return to Life after the holidays. It feels like a drudgery, a constant battle to remain balanced when there is simply too much to do, a reminder that the more relaxed way of life we have been enjoying was merely an interlude. A pause between hectic periods.

Which is kinda depressing, don’t you think?

Instead, we can see this new beginning as an opportunity. Not an opportunity to create an uber-routine of ultra-productivity, but to create rhythm for our homes and the people who live in it.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Routine. It’s the domain of the successful, the organised, the on-time. It’s what You Should Be Doing. Right?

But do you know what else routine is? It’s restrictive, it’s unfriendly, it’s regimented.

Rhythm, on the other hand, speaks to you. It moves you, it moves with you, it feels good.

You’re right, on the face of it there isn’t much difference between the two. Both help you get things done, both deliver guidelines on what needs to happen and when.

The differences though, are really important. And if you’re looking to create a simpler life with less stress, then…  you gotta have rhythm, baby.

Rhythm Over Routine.

After our daughter was born a few years ago, Ben and I were determined to establish a routine, get her sleeping pattern regulated, and create comfort and predictability for everyone involved.

As it turns out, babies don’t really work like that.

In fact, life doesn’t really work like that.

It took us well over 12 months to learn that routine – a strict, sequential approach to our days – was less than helpful. It made us feel we were failing if we missed a step or fell behind.

Rhythm, however, was a much friendlier notion. It spoke of order, but also flexibility and movement and fluidity. It even sounded friendlier.

Rhythm.

Rhythm moves you. You dance to it, find your groove, let go a little, enjoy the moment and see where it takes you.

Routine? Notsomuch.

You march to routine. It’s a steady metronome keeping time. And if you sway, if you linger, if you move out of order or miss a step, then you fail. You’re out of time. You’re lagging behind.

Rhythm allows change and flexibility for different seasons in life. Which is why rhythm wins out over routine every day.

Embracing Rhythm

To embrace this idea, you need to ask yourself some questions about the rhythm you want to create.

You can create a rhythm for your mornings, evenings, weeks, seasons or even holidays, and what it looks and feels like is entirely up to you.

Choose a rhythm and ask yourself:

What are my priorities? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?

What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Or perhaps my school-age kids need to pack their bags in the evening?

What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.

What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.

What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.

Once you’ve answered these questions, take some time to work out your best rhythm. Literally write it down on a piece of paper, establish a sequence and then bring it in to your day.

Once it’s there, you simply let your day unfold around it.

And the best thing? There’s no need to keep up a rapid tempo if it’s the season for a slower tune. Similarly, if you feel the urge for dancing, for growth, for expansion, then up the tempo and dance for your life. Always know that it’s your rhythm and you choose the pace. You choose the moves.

 

21 Ways to Tame the Toys

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

{ original image via Lee on Flickr }

 

Are tiny dinosaurs invading your living room? Have you turned down your bed linen to find a naked Barbie? Do you know first-hand the expletive-riddled pain of stepping on Lego in the middle of the night?

For the love of all things plastic, let’s tame the toys!

Every week I get dozens of emails from people who need help with decluttering. Sometimes it’s their wardrobes, sometimes their office. But the biggest issue many people ask for help with is toys. 

Our kids are only young – 2 and 4 – and while I have a pretty good handle on how to keep their toy chaos to a minimum, I know each age and stage has its challenges. Many of which we haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing yet.

So I have once again engaged the group wisdom of my readers (yes, you!) and turned to Facebook.  Last week I asked you for your best toy-taming tips and, as ever, you didn’t disappoint me with your answers.

Just a Note: Not all of these tips will apply to you – it depends on the ages of your kids, the amount of toys you already own and the number of new toys your kids receive each year. 

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

1. I could say pass them on to my sisters…BUT that would not be the right answer would it, Brooke? (Michelle M. is actually my sister. So, no, Mich. Definitely not.)

2. Keep it simple and in big chunks (no micro-organising).  Get them involved. You can read more about it in this blog post. (Cassie @ Working Order)

3. Keep fewer toys out for your children to play with. Too many just overwhelms them. Keep some stored away. Then every few weeks switch out the toys. Your children will have renewed interest in the toys that were stored away. You also won’t have countless toys cluttering your house. (AnnMarie GM)

4. We purge often and use bins. I do not organize the bins but just toss them in there. My kids don’t play in “sets” so to speak so it would just waste my time and frustrate me. (Karen WE)

5. Don’t buy so many! But it is hard when your kids are given so many lovely pressies all the time. (Kristin @ Mamacino)

6. Buy wood and metal toys only and request that to friends / family. They last longer, can be updated via paint and can be heirlooms. Also storage cubes with baskets are awesome! (Louisa Jane W)

7. Don’t let the grandparents take the kids shopping – that is where most of our toys come from! (Michelle Leanne B)

8. I recently did a huge cull and now only have a few toys in each of the kids’ rooms – it has made an amazing difference in the reduction of clutter, the kids don’t have a million things to choose from and they’re playing outside a lot more. You can read more about how I ditched the playroom right here(Deb @ Aspiring Mum)

9. My son is only 9mo old, but i have started to bag up and store toys he has grown out of and bored with (the good quality ones, I tossed a few silly ones that never were played with) until the next baby comes along. That way I’m not wasting those toys, but I’m not letting them clutter up our house. Also, for his first birthday, I am going to request that if people bring gifts, they should bring him a favorite book. (Emily FS)

10. I removed a shelf from the bottom of an old cupboard to convert it into a study/storage area for our 5 year old son. I painted the the bottom shelf in gloss to make it a wipeable desk and painted the inside. I used a combination of see-through tubs and baskets, and left the rest of the toys viewable so he can request the things he would like to play with. I keep certain things grouped too for easy selection. (Michelle LW)

11. Wait til your child is at school or away, then pull out things from the back of the cupboard that are no longer played with or have been grown out of. Pack them out of sight and rearrange those staying so a fresh look is noticed. Missing items not requested after 3 months progress to the loft or garage, en route to another home or toy recycle session. (Helen N)

12. Be SELECTIVE about what comes into your home. Involve kids when purging – we do this twice a year – once before their birthday, and the second time before Christmas.  I never sneak toys out when they aren’t around. I don’t think they learn how to part with things that way. (Amy BU)

13. A couple of years ago, we started to give our kids (now 8 & 10) experiences for special occasions vs. a ton of toys. Tickets to traveling Broadway shows, etc. They do get a couple of things to open, but it’s minimal. My daughter (8), really looks forward to what her next experience will be. We have a large book collection. I placed a basket under the shelves and when they are done with a book they place it in the basket to GO. (Amy BU)

14. Limit the amount of useless toy presents. I give out a wish-list for my son’s birthday and Christmas, with tips for what toys/books would be appropriate for his developmental stage and what clothes he needs for the next six months or so. I make it very clear to relatives that I prefer clothes or other useful presents. This is economically helpful for me, and my son loves clothes, so both are happy! (Ane FS)

15. My children are 6 and 10 and we have a rule, one new toy equals one pass on to younger friends/charity. (Jody M)

16. We have a rule that we only buy them stuff for Christmas and birthdays, and ask family to buy them experiences whenever they buy gifts. (Rebecca M @ Clear Space Organising)

17. What worked the best for us (after decluttering) was to always make toys easier to put away than they are to get out. Works for shoes too. (Ellane W)

18. Start with less, add less. Enjoy time with each other. Interaction is a fab way to learn and develop. Eat together, talk together, read together.  Teach your children by example – don’t have loads of stuff yourself and treasure what you have. If it’s not beautiful or useful, don’t bring it home (Alic B)

19. Add to savings account on birthdays or Christmas so kids can choose for themselves when older. My daughter is 14 and loves photography so she has just been able to afford her first great camera. I’m still the signatory on her account. (Alic B)

20. Let them play with potatoes, cups, stones and pegs. I know two beautiful boys who prefer stuffing the washing machine for their mum instead of red plastic cars – at the age of three and one. (Laura NA)

21. A tradition when my (now 25yrs old) son was little, we would sort through his toys a few months before Christmas and decide what he wanted to donate to kids who couldn’t afford toys. He enjoyed helping others and it also made room for new toys later from Santa. (Tammy F)

I was going to add a few of my own tips and suggestions, but considering the incredible group wisdom on offer here, I think I’ll make a Part Two to this series next week. I wouldn’t want to overload you with awesome.

In the meantime, do you have any favourite toy-taming clutter tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

June is the Month of Change

June is the Month of Change - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

And so we roll into June (June?! Really?) which brings us to the Month of Change.

As part of the 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge, June sees us decluttering the linen cupboard, decor, seasonal clothing and parts of the garage/basement. Specifically though, we are looking at those seasonal items that are switched out at this time of year. And while your thoughts might be with red wine and fireside chats, or camping trips and lake swimming (depending on your Hemisphere!) this month is the perfect opportunity to do a little work – and save yourself a lot of time later in the year.

To jump straight into the challenge, you can download the June checklist here. Or keep reading to find the full list, as well as added tips and suggestions below.

(If you haven’t started the challenge yet, it’s never too late to join. Click here to find the first six checklists, as well as the Slow Your Home forums, where many of us are keeping track of the clutter leaving our homes.)

My Progress from May - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

My Progress…

At the beginning of May I got a phonecall from my Dad saying he and mum had been inspired to clear out their storeroom at home. The downside was they had found four huge boxes of my stuff and wanted me to pick them up. Some were filled with wedding gifts, some from my days living in the city. Some from school and others from University.

Suffice to say, I had kept a whole heap of crap for no apparent reason and the majority of it never made it in the door of our home.

The combination of those four boxes, and working through the kitchen, dining and storage spaces has made it an interesting month.

This month I…

Threw Away/Recycled:

  • textbooks x 12
  • photo albums and boxes x 17
  • notepads/journals x 8
  • folders x 14
  • miscellaneous papers x 37

Donated:

  • cutlery x 28
  • crockery x 12
  • wine glasses x 12
  • martini glasses x 9
  • kids crockery sets x 2

Sold:

  • wine carafe
  • wine bottle holder
  • chopping boards x 2
  • board game
  • salad servers x 2
  • second-hand paving bricks x 180

TOTAL:  338 items

Progress to Date:  1348 unwanted items are gone!

(Over halfway there – and it’s feeling awesome at this stage.)

 

And now on to this month’s checklist.

June is the Month of Change

For us in the Southern Hemisphere, the change is all about winter sheets, chilly mornings and ugg boots as the footwear of choice. But for those in the Northern Hemisphere, June brings longer days, warmer temperatures, pretty blooms and the end of the school year.

I’ve found that building this seasonal switch into our yearly rhythm helps in maintaining not only our level of stuff, but also the little tasks around the house that need doing once or twice a year. Viewing June as the Month of Change means you’re less likely to forget to clear the gutters or wash the curtains – they’re simply part of your rhythm.

Anything seasonal will either be packed away or brought out at this time of year, and you should ask yourself the fail-safe decluttering questions, to avoid keeping a heap of stuff you don’t even want or like.

  • Did I use this (last season)?
  • Do I like this?
  • Do I want it, or will I need it?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Do I like it enough to have it repaired or cleaned?

Using these questions as your guidelines, work through the areas of your home listed below.

The June Declutter Checklist

Click here for a printable version of the checklist.

Linen Cupboard

  • sheets
  • blankets
  • quilts/duvets
  • throws
  • pillows
  • towels
  • guest linens (how many do you really need?)

Clothes

Yes, we have just worked through the wardrobes, but this is a good opportunity to establish what we actually wore over the past 6 months, and only store that. As we pull out our winter coats and scarves, or our swimming costumes and sun dresses we can now judge what we want to keep, what is still in good condition and what we need. The rest can be donated.

  • adults winter/summer wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • winter coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • sandals
    • dresses
    • shorts
  • kids wardrobes
    • swimwear
    • coats
    • scarves
    • boots
    • winter uniforms for school, sport etc
    • dresses
    • shorts
    • lightweight clothing
    • cold weather clothing
  • specialist clothing – wetsuit; hiking or snow gear

Basement/Garage

  • seasonal hobby gear – fishing or snow gear, camping equipment
  • beach equipment – shelters, umbrellas, body boards, surf boards
  • outdoor furniture

Decor

Some people like to swap out decor for the seasons. To be honest, we don’t have much so haven’t seen the need to swap things around. But if you do, it’s a good idea to approach the process in a similar way to your clothing.

Whatever you do, don’t use it as an opportunity to add useless stuff or clutter back in to your spaces. In fact, you will likely find you have much less need for the bulk of your decor. And this (to me) is an added bonus of simplifying your home. Less to dust!

  • soft furnishings – cushions, throw rugs etc
  • prints, wall hangings etc
  • quilts, decorative linen on beds
  • tabletop decor – vases, bowls, etc
  • mantlepiece, coffee table and hall stand decor

Again, the June Checklist can be found here.

Establish Your Own Seasonal System

If you don’t yet have a system where you swap out your seasonal clothes, linen, decor or recreational gear, this is a great opportunity to start. Storing what isn’t currently needed means you keep the wardrobes, cupboards and garage much less cluttered. You can see at a glance what you own, what you need and what to wear. Plus, you’re more likely to pull out the surfboard and head to the beach if you can actually reach it without an avalanche of stuff coming down with it!

For clothing and linen, I simply have a lidded storage box that holds the gear I don’t currently need. I keep it stored out of the way and don’t think about it for another six months. For bulkier items (surf and snow gear, outdoor furniture etc) after decluttering, I simply rotate them to the back of the storage space when they are out of season. It’s a simple solution that works.

 

I’d love to hear how you’re finding the challenge. I know many of you aren’t keeping count (and who can blame you!) but let me know your best guess. How much have you gotten rid of in the first five months of the year? 

 

 

 

Simple Living in Real Life

Simple Living in Real Life - Francesca's Story

Could you imagine owning 200 pairs of jeans?

Francesca Tulk actually did own over 200 pairs of jeans at one point. She also shopped compulsively, buying up to 40 items at a time, many of them not even in her size.

But over the past few months she has been slowly regaining control over her spending, clothing clutter and credit card debt. Francesca is undertaking the mother of all wardrobe cleanouts, and removing at least one thing (but up to as many as 50) per day.  And as yet, she has barely scratched the surface.

This Simple Living in Real Life interview is packed with some great insights and tips – from someone who has seen what happens when things do get out of hand.  I hope you’re as inspired by Francesca’s story as I was.

Inside Francesca's wardrobe before she began...

Inside Francesca’s wardrobe before she began…

 

You’re currently undergoing a huge wardrobe decluttering project, removing at least one thing every day. What motivated you to begin?

I have a walk-in wardrobe the size of a small bedroom. It has been fitted out with a good storage system, but it got to the point where not only were all the shelves, drawers and hanging spaces crammed to capacity, all the floorspace was also filled. The roof of the walk-in is nine feet high and piles of clothes reached the ceiling, to the point where I couldn’t even open the door. My nine year old likes playing a game in there called ‘trapped’. Need I say more?

I had 200 pairs of jeans and wore two. I owned swimming costumes in double figures, yet I don’t swim, and bras in sizes well above and below my own. Most of my clothing was pointless!

Each time I looked at the clothes I would feel a great weight and depression come over me. Nothing seemed to fit right and I wore maybe ten items in total. YET I still bought more. I believed if I kept buying, eventually the miraculous outfit that would turn me into Carrie Bradshaw might emerge. Of course it never did.

The tipping point however was a more real problem, and that was I had been continually buying on credit, and as a result had run up huge debts on my cards.

Something had to give.

 

How do you go about the task of decluttering?

I initially freaked out because the task was too overwhelming, so I just started one item at a time. However, I was getting very frustrated as nothing seemed to be making any difference, so I began getting rid of bags and bags of things at a time, up to 50 items in one fell swoop. The charity shop thought it was Christmas as I kept coming in with more and more.

 

What about the project is proving harder than you thought it would be?

I am finding it hard to forgive myself for wasting so much money. It bothers me that I will be paying for items on my credit card for some time yet – items I have already donated and long forgotten. It is a good lesson though and has made me more determined to get my life sorted once and for all.

 

What about the project is proving easier than you expected?

It’s surprisingly easy so far. I keep remembering something my mum said about how clothes were ‘just rags’. The more I look at my clothing the more pointless and rag-like it looks to me.

I had good stuff – well, stuff I liked. I never bought designer, just thrift store items in tremendous bulk. (Sometimes 30 items at a time.) It then continued with buying clothes for my daughter. She and I have decluttered her clothing too and I hope I passed on a good message to her by doing that.

 

As you work through your sizeable wardrobe, have you discovered anything about yourself?

Phew, this is a big one.

I have realised I like a rock star/biker chick type style, so the abundance of girly dresses and frilly things is ridiculous. I prefer skinny jeans and don’t like any other style. I realise I am a size 12, not an 8 or 10 or 14. I realise fewer items can make amazing outfits. I now understand that real style has nothing to do with owning a tonne of clothes.

But most of all I realise my purchases were done to make me feel more unique. My self-esteem was so low that I thought I could improve it by throwing money at clothing to tart me up. It has taken years for me to realise this, but I finally think the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train. As my wardrobe becomes less in clothing, my heart feels so much lighter.

 

What are some of the benefits you’ve already seen as a result of simplifying your wardrobe?

I can find items to wear a little more easily. I feel confident my debts will be paid off since I have made a huge effort to pour money into my credit cards and not waste money on clothes.

I have always been fairly minimalist in all other areas of my life, just not when it came to spending on clothes. The rest of our home isn’t cluttered and I’ve consistently cleared out anything superfluous to our needs and do so even now. (With the exception of the wardrobe, which was my blind spot.) Generally, I abhor excess and waste. In fact, I even rifle through bins at my workplace for leftover food for my chickens! But now I am now able to apply my beliefs about excess to my wardrobe and it is a big relief.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for those struggling with similar wardrobe issues?

  • Ask yourself: If this item had a K-mart label, would I still want it? (It might be the label you’re attached to.)
  • Try to live with thirty items for three months and see how much easier it is to get dressed each morning.
  • Ask a trusted person if they think you have a problem. My husband is brutally honest and whilst he never told me what to do, he made some suggestions that basically suggested that less is more.
  • Blog your worries and concerns. By blogging I was able to really focus and take stock on what I was doing. The picture it painted was so bleak and my credit card slips so abysmal that I knew I had a problem.
  • For each new item you think you have to have, you must commit to getting rid of two. That way, at least the clothing/clutter population has a chance of becoming smaller.
  • Just start. Start somewhere. Don’t put it off. Understand that if you have an excess of something, and you still think it isn’t enough, one more isn’t going to make it better.
  • Expect to feel angry at yourself. Whilst this isn’t the best feeling to have, it sure is impetus to get things started.

 

To learn more about Francesca’s project, you can visit her blog Closet Blitz, where she’s documenting many of her wardrobe exorcisms.

 

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