Category Archives: Organise

Rethink. Reset.

Rethink. Reset.

If you’re a regular reader of Slow Your Home you probably know my family and I spent December and much of January in Canada. We had our first (magical) white Christmas, we snowboarded, we ice skated, we spent whole days by the fire watching movies and reading books.

It was one of the most incredible holidays we’ve ever had. And it was also the longest time we’ve spent together without daily pressures of work, school, home and general life stuff. We had the opportunity to view life through a wider lens and have come home both refreshed and with a very real need to rethink and reset and our priorities, goals, rhythms and habits.

Because when you’re in the thick of life, it can be hard to get a 10,000-foot view. But when you do and life opens out beneath you, it can become abundantly clear that things need to change.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve been on a resetting binge. Life is going to look really different this year, with our eldest starting school and our four-year-old at preschool two days a week. So my approach to our days and weeks needed to be overhauled. But what’s more, it needed to change because it was no longer working for us.

Resetting our Rhythms

I’ve spent a lot of time rethinking how our days, our home and my work will feel this year and resetting the rhythms that help make it all happen in a (relatively) simple way.

This means I’ve deconstructed all the things that need to happen in our mornings, our days and our weeks, and I’ve put it back together in a way that makes sense to the way we want to live and the way we want life to feel.

I’ve written before about how you can create a rhythm for your days and weeks, but essentially it means looking at:

  • what needs to happen
  • what currently happens
  • what doesn’t need to happen
  • the time you have available for these things

Then plug it in to a rhythm (which is a little like a routine, but not really) that fits your life.

(You can read the full post about creating rhythms here, and download the Rhythm Worksheet here.)

Resetting my Mornings

Early mornings are when I like to get the majority of my writing work done, and last year I fell in to bad habits. I would hit my snooze button one too many times or waste time online (Facebook, reading emails, news websites). This meant I got less done, which would leave me frustrated, and I would carry that feeling through the rest of my morning, constantly feeling overwhelmed and behind schedule.

This needed to change, so I spent a lot of time thinking about my priorities and decided to:

  • stop using my phone as an alarm clock.
  • start getting up at 4am again
  • avoid the internet completely before 9am – this means no email, no messages, no social media, no posting to the blog at all during this time.
  • finish my work at 6:30am and get the rest of the morning underway – regardless of whether I’d finished or not.
  • have a list of no more than 3 things to do every morning

We’re only in the first full week back but I can already tell you that the no internet thing is working incredibly well.

Resetting our Level of Stuff (Again)

Another thing I love about travel? You recognise how little you really need.

After coming home I decluttered even more of our stuff (mostly toys, decor and clothes the kids no longer fit into) and was amazed to see how easy it was to let go, even though we didn’t have a huge amount to begin with.

With toys in particular, it was really interesting to see how the kids reacted to having only a few things to play with while we were away. They each had a little bag of figurines, a puzzle, a board game, a soft toy and some Lego and we also packed colouring books and pencils.

They never got bored. And while part of that was being on holiday and having us around more than normal, I think part of it was also that they weren’t overwhelmed by choice. There was plenty there to keep them occupied but not so much that they didn’t know where to begin.

When we got home, I held a second packing party for the kids toys and no-one has missed a thing.

——

If January had an unintentional theme of Resetting, then February has a very intentional one of Momentum, where my new goals and habits of:

  • writing 500 words (min) every day
  • going to the gym three days a week
  • waking early (4:00am) every week day
  • no internet before 9:00am

become an ingrained part of my rhythm and where the New Year just becomes the year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together and whether I need to readjust again once we’ve settled back in to our everyday rhythm.

I hope you and yours have had a good introduction to 2015. I have a feeling it’s going to be an exciting year!

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?

——

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.

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