Simple Life

One Bite at a Time

It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of SImple Mom and her book Organized Simplicity. It helped me get my house in some semblance of order and it was particularly useful when I was only working a couple of days, since I had the time at home to put a system into place for managing the home.

Since I started on my teacher training course full-time, though, I have found that a lot of the techniques don’t really work or at least, I don’t have the time to carry them out or even think about them. Let’s just say I have a LOT of reading to do!

A little while, I bought Tsh’s eBook One BIte at a Time since it was on offer. I haven’t had chance to read it yet but it looks like a much more manageable prospect since it is 52 little task – one for each week of the year – that you can tackle to get on track and feel a bit more in control. So I will attempt one of these bites each week and share them with you here. I won’t do them in order, as this isn’t expected in the book and I would like to have the choice of bite!



Simple Life

The Little Things

The next chapter of Organized Simplicity is about savouring the little things. It is about using all the fantastic organisational tools set out (i.e. the home management notebook and all that entails) and reaping the rewards through enjoying simple pleasures with your family. Tsh suggests some things to do with your time that will help you live the life you want and set out in your family purpose statement. These things include crafting (well, that’s fine with me!), cooking from scratch, and entertaining and socialising.

I was surprised by the third item on the list – the first two seem pretty obvious if you are trying to live a simpler life. The type of crafting she is talking about is making things from things you already have or can acquire cheaply and using creativity to transform them into something pretty or useful, involving the kids if they are old enough. Cooking from scratch is about eating better quality food for less and this is something I am working on all the time – although my latest bout of illness has brought out all the worst kinds of eating: convenience, take-aways, etc. I can’t wait to get back into home cooking and meal planning so that we can start eating more healthily and more heartily. However, I hadn’t really thought about how entertaining could form part of simple living. For some reason, I put entertaining and socialising into the ‘luxury’ category.

However, one of the advantages of having a de-cluttered and simple home is that it is easy to get ready for guests – no need for a full day scrub down when friends are coming. More impromptu evenings can occur when you aren’t worried about your house looking perfect and being well-organised means that the store cupboard is well-stocked meaning a quick supper can be knocked up easily enough. I have been so focused on getting organised, I hadn’t really thought about why I wanted to live this way. Of course, I put some thought into the type of family I wanted us to be but I hadn’t thought of the day-to-day benefits of living simply and living in an organised way. In our family purpose statement, I had stated that one of the things I wanted was to make ‘our home a place of warmth and simplicity’. I had been thinking of this from the perspective of our immediate family but of course, I would want our friends and extended families to benefit from our warm and simple home too.

Simple Life

Personalising my Notebook

Since setting up my Home Management Notebook, I have been about as productive as I have ever been. Apparently, I am very task driven and a checklist motivates me more than any treat-based system! Since using the weekly cleaning checklist provided by Simple Mom, I have been able to get more housework done and certainly feel more on top of those household chores.

Today, though, I decided to make my own so that it would fit with our rooms. There were some tasks on the original list that weren’t relevant (e.g. refill soap) and I was tempted to remove items that I didn’t think were necessary to do on a weekly basis (e.g. cleaning the windows!) but I refrained since I realised I probably should be doing these, or at least aspiring to! Download your own version by clicking here: weekly checklist (.doc) – I have provided a word .doc version so you can amend it yourself.

The original list also had daily and monthly items at the bottom as a reminder – I have separated these out onto a separate sheet which I will print once to include as a Master checklist:

I still have some work to do on the notebook. I want to think about the following possible sections to include:

Dinner Plan Area – Simple Mom uses Google Calendar but as I mentioned before, I don’t think that will work for me as I don’t want to allocate meals to each day. Instead I will set up a Master Meal List and keep a fortnightly list of the ones I am planning to make.

Master Grocery List – this does seem like something I would like to set up – it will make shopping (and more importantly, preparing for shopping) so much quicker as I will be able to tick off the things I need from the list rather than write a new list each time.

Monthly Budget – in line with our financial review, we have set up a basic budget but I really need to revisit this and have it part of my Home Management Notebook so that I can keep on top of our spending.

Master Project List – we currently use Wunderlist for our house projects and to dos and this works wonderfully since it can sync between all our various devises and it is easy to share lists so Rich and I can edit and use the same lists.  If you are looking for an online and desktop task manager, I would definitely recommend it.

In fact, I find using Wunderlist complementary to using the paper-based notebook.  Last night, I was getting into bed and when I go to bed, I usually have either my phone or my iPad to hand. I hadn’t filled in my Daily Docket for today so I created a new list in Wunderlist and jotted down my 10 to-do list items before I forgot them.  This morning, I copied out the list into my Daily Docket – I usually could keep my notebook out somewhere visible so I can keep referring to it throughout the day and tick things off as I accomplish them.  This visual reminder is why a written to-do list works so much more effectively more me – if I only keep my list on my electronic devices, inevitably, I will get sidetracked and at bedtime, I will realise I forgot something important.

If you are constantly feeling like you are drowning in household chores and tasks, then I can’t recommend this system enough.  That said, I acknowledge that this works particularly well given my proclivity to ticking off tasks. I have been known to write tasks on my to-do list that I have already finished so that I can tick them off. It’s a shame, isn’t it. 😉

Simple Life

My Home Management Notebook

I was excited (because I am sad like that) to get to the sixth chapter of Organized Simplicity because it deals with setting up a Home Management Notebook.  I have so far only set up two parts of this organisation aid but already I feel like my life at home has been transformed. I have been at my most productive now I have established the system and I feel more in control of my household chores and all the other things I try to get done.

I am using a Paperchase organiser I had bought a while back for this purpose.

So far, I have set up the Daily Docket which captures a whole day with your To-Do list (no more than 10 items) including 3 ‘MIT’s (most important tasks) which are the three things that if you get those done, you feel like you have had a successful day!

It also has an area for your meal plan, daily inspiration, a timed planner so you can remember times for specific appointments etc. and a notes area. You can download one to print for free from Simple Mom.

I have also started using her weekly chore chart Cleaning Checklist to keep track of the housework – this is exactly how I like to work: ticking things off as I go. I will probably make my own version of this eventually so that it fits my house better and so I can take off chores which I don’t intend to do on a weekly basis (don’t you dare judge me for not cleaning my windows every week / ever). I print these off, like the daily docket, in A5 onto the paper provided in the Paperchase planner using both sides for the Daily Docket to save paper.

Simple Mom keeps her Cleaning Checklist in a plastic sleeve and uses a whiteboard marker to tick off the chores so that she can wipe it all off and reuse it each week. I am not sure this will work in my notebook and since I doubt I will ever finish the list each week, it is good to be able to refer back to see what DEFINITELY needs doing!

Last Friday, I was buzzing from getting the house into some semblance of order and cleanliness and on Monday, I had the most productive day; despite a deadline of needing to leave town at 4pm, I managed to wrap eBay parcels, take them to the Post Office, reply to emails and blog comments, pick up a delivery from Asda, put away a stack of DVDs, wash up and load the dishwasher, as well as all the usual baby-related things like feeding, changing, washing etc!

Things that Simple Mom has in her notebook and that l might still implement (and will hopefully be able to share with you when I have done so) include:

  • Monthly Calendars
  • Master Grocery List
  • Monthly Budget
  • Ideas areas
Simple Life

Project: Simplify: Hotspot #4 – pantry and fridge

This is rather late in the game (Project: Simplify is WAY over) but until recently, there didn’t seem to be much point in getting our kitchen cupboards sorted until we had filled the hole left by the integral fridge which we removed.  Since we already had a much superior Miele fridge/freezer which fit in our new kitchen, we didn’t see the point in trying to use a fridge which was low down and small.

Taking the fridge out was the easy part. We then needed to find a cupboard interior which would fit the non-standard kitchen which the previous occupants had fitted.  After a couple of mistakes (Ikea kitchen? Nope! Wickes kitchen? Nope!), we texted the old owner to ask who fitted the kitchen and we were able to get the exact interior ordered. (Of course, as soon we thought to ask the old owner, we found several stickers on the undersides of the kitchen cabinets with the name and address of the fitting company!!)

ANYWAY. The long and short of it is that we now have a spiffy new LARGE cupboard so we have had a re-organise.  Here are the results:

Main food cupboard
Baking cupboard
Cereals, spices and drinks
Baby food, tea and coffee (plus mugs and glassware)
The new cupboard! Le Creuset, Pyrex, slow cooker and hand blender
Cornishware and assorted crockery
Pan drawer!
Frying pans, roasting tins and Tupperware
Lesser used glassware and travel cups in awkward end cupboard

In the corner cupboards, we used large plastic tubs to store things used less often so that they were still relatively accessible.

Assorted tableware, table mats, booze and crisps!
Baby things, food processor, baking bowls, baking trays and chopping mats

As for the fridge, I do still need to have a clear out of expired condiments and pickles etc but it really doesn’t need decluttering otherwise. If anything, we need MORE food for it! Another shopping trip it is!

The last week of Project: Simplify was a free for all so I have done my Utlity Room and Kitchen Store Cupboard.  These are the before photos to whet your appetite!

I have a tea towel habit
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Project: Simplify: Hotspot #3 – toys and kid’s clothes

I am going to cheat for last week’s hotspot for Project: Simplify since I have recently had a good sort out of my daughter’s toys and clothes when I got phase 1 of her nursery done.  I don’t really need to do any more for the time being with the clothes and toys although her out-grown clothes will need to be sorted and put in the loft at some point – for now, they are being stored in the owl bag I used as one of my hospital bags.

Downstairs, we use a basket to store all the toys which is hidden down the side of the sofa. I am sure this will change as she gets bigger (and her toys do the same).

The exception is her play gym which has to stay out due to its size and frequency of use!

This week’s hotspot is the pantry (or in my case, the kitchen cupboards) and the fridge.  Again since we have only just recently moved in, this won’t be such a big job as we got rid of a lot of expired food when we were getting ready to move.  The fridge could do with a clear out though – I found a yoghurt from January in there on Saturday…

Simple Life

Project: Simplify: Hotspot #2 – Paper Clutter

I am a bit behind with these but the important thing is that I am doing them so I am not too worried about the deadlines!  The second hotspot for Project Simplify was paper clutter.  This is something I feel I am constantly battling and it doesn’t help that getting ready for the move and since the move, a lot of our filing and archives are scattered around the house.

I was getting a bit fed up with the constant sorting of paper into piles, only for it to get in a mess again.  This is a kind of ‘before’ shot (in the background of a picture of ricardo and my daughter):

So the first step was to gather every piece of loose paper from around the house then start sorting into piles: bin, shred, recycle, filing, action needed. I had a little helper;

After disposing of the rubbish, I then organised the three concertina files which were all serving the same purpose, meaning I could never find anything as I didn’t know which file things were in. I used one to hold all our old filing and labelled ‘archive filing pre’ plus the date.  i used a box file to store all our conveyancing paperwork from the move. I wrote proper labels on each section of the newest concertina file and filed away all our current paperwork which we might need to refer to easily.  The third concertina file is empty, ready to be used for archiving once the current file fills up.  Another box file has been used to hold all our receipts and manuals which take up room but might be needed one day.  Box files are great for this sort of thing as it is very quick to throw a receipt in a box file making it much more likely for me to maintain.  Some pretty filing concertinas house the filing for my teaching applications (not yet done but I already have a few leaflets etc.) and my daughter’s filing including her medical information, children’s centre timetables, nursery pamphlets etc.

Here is our side table now… just the ‘action needed’ pile attached to a clipboard with my nearly complete to-do list (although a new set of chores will be added this week I am sure!).

I will be getting an in-tray for this table which will store all the ‘to action’ papers and all the incoming mail which I will go through once a week (or more frequently if I get chance). The filing concertina, my daughter’s filing and the receipts box file are under the table within easy reach, all to make it as easy as possible foe me to keep on top of filing.  Having these in the lounge instead of the study upstairs makes so much more sense as I am much more likely to get it done while we are watching TV in the evening.  Before filing used to be dumped upstairs and since I rarely even go in the study, it got forgotten.

Next up: toys and kids clothes clutter.

Simple Life

Project: Simplify – Hotspot #1

Yesterday, I managed to (pretty much) complete the first challenge of Project: Simplify which was to organise our wardrobes.  I was particularly pleased that this was the first area to tackle since our clothes were in a right old state since we moved in.  As you probably know, our parents moved us into our new house since I was a bit busy at the time having my daughter. This meant that we did not organise our clothes when we first moved in.  We bought a large wardrobe to go in the guest room since it was clear that we did not have enough hanging space but again, we were in such a state that we never really got organised.  Ricardo spent quite a few weeks in the guest room so that he could sleep uninterrupted during the week so his clothes were mainly in that room.

So first of all, here are the before photos.  No judgement please!

The first step was to tidy up the hanging space. I moved ricardo’s casual shirts to the guest room wardrobe and put all his work shirts and trousers in the wardrobe in our room – this makes sense since these are the things he needs daily.  I removed all the clothes from the shelving areas of both wardrobes and folded them neatly into piles on the bed: sweaters, big jumpers, night wear, sports wear, decorating wear (yeah, that’s a thing, apparently), polo shirts, smart jumpers, snow wear, shorts and jeans.

I cleaned out the wardrobe shelves with household cleaner and then divided up the areas (mentally!) for each of us.  I also emptied all the drawers of our two chest of drawers and added them to the piles.  I emptied out the shoe area and paired up the shoes.  All clothes that I wasn’t going to keep went in a big Ikea bag and all my maternity wear in another bag to go up in the loft for next time (fingers crossed!).

I still need to go through the big bag to split the clothes into charity shop donations, stuff to Ebay and stuff to throw away/recycle (fabric recycling does not care about the state of the clothes since they are shredded to make into bedding etc).

Then all that was needed was for the clothes to be put away.  I used a shopping bag to store all ricardo’s snowboarding accessories.  We still need to get some shoe racks so we can keep the shoes tidy and remember to wear all our different shoes! I have seen some cheap ones in Homebase.  Overall, I am really happy with the result and it amazing the impact this has in the morning for feeling like you are on top of things. Here are the after shots:

Our room
Guest room

I even have some spare room in the guest room wardrobe for my crafting supplies!:

More photos here.

I am excited to get on with the next task which is paper clutter. I have already had one paper purge lately but I need to get a more attractive filing system so I can have it handy in the lounge.  That way I can file as I go along.  I might have to check John Lewis online as I have some vouchers to spend…

Simple Life, Words

Organized Simplicity

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional LivingOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider

I have just started reading this book because ricardo and I decided that this year, we were going to wrestle our finances into order and simplify our lives. I have been reading Tsh’s blog Simple Mom for a while as it is a great source of inspiration when it comes to organisation and home management. However, now that I am a mama myself, it has become even more relevant.

The term Intentional Living refers to the idea that you don’t just let life happen to you but instead you live with conviction and have more certainty about why you make decisions. It seems to me it is activity versus passivity and proactivity versus reactivity.  This approach is very appealing to me, especially since I would like to get a hold of the things that constantly need to get done and shake this constant feeling of falling behind.  I want to be able to sit down and spend an hour sewing without feeling guilty. I want to want to sit down for an hour to sew rather than watching year-old episodes of Oprah. I want to be able to fully enjoy this incredibly blessed life I have.  I have a feeling that one of the changes will be ‘watch less TV’ but, you know, baby steps…

As a first step, I have made a short list of my goals for 2011 with this in mind. I will share my progress with you here and I have even changed one of my horizons to ‘Simplify‘ so you can easily find posts about frugality, the simple life and all that good stuff.

Finally, I will be participating in Project: Simplify over at Simple Mom.  The first hotspot is the wardrobe and that is definitely an area that needs attention.

Sidenote: The ‘z’ in the title caused me more pain than it should – I am no pedant after all – but it is the title of her book and who am I to impose my British spelling?!