Sunday, 1 March 2009

Where do you get the time for that? (Part 3)

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Before seeing Eilleen's recent post about time, I had decided to post the following piece this week. My post is Part 3 because Julie posted this one in November about the same topic. Great minds, huh?

An Organised Life
A lot of people say to me, “You must be so organised!” And it’s true, I am quite organised. I have lists, menus, folders, files, a diary and a place for (almost) everything. At least once a week I spend time updating my diary and to-do list, writing a weekly menu, checking the pantry and fridge for items I need to buy and otherwise getting organised. And every day I check my to-do list and diary so that I can keep up. Otherwise, all tasks are pushed to the end of the week and beyond, and eventually I’m snowed under and confused. This is when we resort to take-away, buying things at the corner shop or supermarket, and generally wasting our time and money.

I am flexible with our routines – I swapped housework for a social day last week and therefore my entrance and dining room floors are less clean than I prefer. Again. Sometimes I’m a little behind in some of my magazine columns because I’ve been blogging or sewing or sleeping (they’re written months before publication, and it never seems pressing until I see the word ‘deadline’ in my diary!) Some weeks I’m tackling a lot of tasks I postponed the week before, or the week before that.

I’m nowhere near as talented at or patient with homemaking as Rhonda. I’d love to be, but with six children, homeschooling, the farm, a home-based business, two volunteer positions and my freelance work – I just can’t do it all. And I’m not giving any of those other things up! As Eilleen described - the things I do are important to me. They're my priorities over some of the simple living skills I'd love to learn. And as Julie described, there's time to learn these skills, one by one, as I'm ready. And I have! Before I had children I could barely sew, cook from scratch, grow more than a few potted plants or keep on top of the daily chores. I accept the limits of my current lifestyle and immerse myself in my current challenges and joys. All the while, I stay afloat by being organised...

The things I’m particular about are:
* a clean bathroom, especially the vanity (sink) and toilet once a day
* a clean kitchen including the fridge and pantry, wiped benches and clean dishes all day, every day
* empty bins as required, rubbish sorted, scraps to animals once a day
* clean clothes, no build-up of laundry as I have enough loads to do without a backlog, every day
* enough food for us all, and no wastage of that food, check the fridge daily at lunch time
* clear floors so no one trips over or breaks anything, every morning and evening
* menu plans and shopping lists, weekly
* bills paid on time, planned for as they arrive, spending tracked
* reduced clutter, at least at each change-of-season
* do something in the garden each day – harvest, water, plant, feed, weed or planning

My challenges are:
* major cleaning like ceilings and walls, even a complete vacuum and mop is sometimes a challenge with a house full of people
* folding and hanging clean clothes in wardrobes (I am responsible for myself, my husband and the younger two children only)
* wiping over cupboard-fronts, whitegoods, light switches etc
* windows, washing curtains
* tidying the linen cupboard (who messes it up anyway?)
* tidying and cleaning the shed – only when I can’t stand the mess do I tackle this one

Knowing where my weaknesses lie is important. These are the things I schedule into my diary or to-do list or I’d never get to them. I prefer play to work, and life’s too short when the children are young to let some cobwebs stand in the way of a picnic at the creek!

My recommendation for anyone wanting to live more simply is to get organised and stay there. Don't rush the changes and learning, but implement or learn something new on a regular basis. You’ll save time and money, tread more gently on the planet and still have time for play…

Here are a few of my favourite tools for an organised life:
Simple Savings – using the tips and especially the forum is fantastic for keeping me challenged, new ideas, in the right mindset.

Blogging – keeping lists for what’s in my garden and orchard, writing seasonal notes and monthly updates also keeps me accountable and is fantastic to look back upon! Org Junkie hosts Menu Plan Monday and other tools for bloggers – I find that joining in keeps me accountable.

Lists – find a method to suit and use it. I currently use one of those 1-cent 64 page exercise books which can be found at the start of a school year (we keep a small supply for various uses, not just homeschool!) I divide each page into six, which is the right size for about 6-7 tasks/reminders a day. What I don’t do is transferred to another day.

Menu Plans – we all must eat, and it’s getting more expensive each week. Menu Planning has saved my sanity and our budget. There are numerous online tools to help you, or just wing it using your usual fare fitted into your usual weekly schedule, with at least one back-up option in mind (a frozen or ‘quick’ meal to avoid the take-away trap!) I wrote a post about Menu Planning here.

Folders are my friends! I keep some paperwork I regularly refer to in those spiral-bound A4 refill books – one for recipes, one for the farm, one for general papers – lists, forms, catalogues and so on. No loose papers! I also keep larger 3-ring binder folders for financial matters – one for our home budgeting and bills, and one for my business paperwork.

A place for everything. I try to think of the house as having ‘zones’. So the children’s stuff stays in their space, entertainment in the living area (games, TV, DVDs, music), anything to do with food in the kitchen, cleaning in the laundry, personal care in the bathroom, and we have a room for anything to do with homeschool, though it does tend to spread out to other rooms and bookcases of course. Home education is a lifestyle! I never go anywhere in the house empty-handed and teach the children to do the same. If something has strayed from its zone, we take it home on our way around the house during the day. This eliminates the need for too many big clean-ups, so is a good tool for us!

Simply staying a step ahead – extra food in the cupboard, extra meals in the freezer, clothes washed before the hamper overflows, outings planned, money budgeted and everyone informed of what to expect, when (by way of a family calendar in the kitchen) – this preparation is my advantage.

I hope some of these ideas help. Maybe you have an organisation tool, website or idea to share in the Comment section of this post?


belle said...

I live alone and have just myself...and my chooks and be responsible for, but being organised and getting it all done can be a big challengefor me.

I don't work, but as I have some health issues, I'm not always up to the "doing" each day, and I was finding that if I chose to clean my house and work indoors, then the garden was neglected, and vice versa.

Like you, I have chores that are 'must-do's' every day..clean bathroom, toilet and kitchen, tidy lounge and bedroom.

But it was so overwhelming to see all that needed to be done each day, all that weeding, or planting seedlings out, just sweeping the paths, not to mention cleaning walls, windows, cupboards, often I'd end up doing nothing. So now I allocate half an hour for an area each day...when the time's up, I stop, and move on to the next task. It's not random, I make a list of what's to be done, in order of priority if necessary, and work through that list.

It's amazing what can be done in that short space of time, and over the days it adds up, and I no longer feel that I'm neglecting one area for another, and more importantly, not finishing the day feeling exhausted from trying to do it all at once, or anxious becuase I've done nothing.

Joanne said...

I like th idea of incorporating one thing and sticking to it. I'd like to do my bathroom more often.
We have ant problems in the kitchen so I feel as if I am wiping benches a hundred times a day.
I like to clean and tidy in a set order so that nothing is overlooked and I try to incorporate one of those extra 'deep cleaning' tasks like cupboard fronts or cobwebs in each cleaning cycle.

rhonda jean said...

Great post Bel! I have my list of must dos too, it is much like yours. I found we need to be organised if we want to live as we do, otherwise is too difficult to remember it all. And we all know this life is a small steps kind of thing. You get to things as you can, your recommendation to do that is a sound one and will help anyone thinking of changing to live this way.

Amber said...

I can't remember when I first learned of the French phrase 'Mise en place', meaning 'everything in place'. It's a cooking term and it refers to the proper placement of the ingredients and equipment a chefs needs to prepare food, so that everything is appropriately on hand.
I love this concept and apply it to all the other 'zones' in my apartment. If something makes it's way out of it's proper zone, I make a point of returning it to where it belongs. Having everything in it's place certainly does make simple living much easier!

Paula said...

I really enjoyed your post, especially your "particular" list as well as your "favorite tools". You've provided some really great ideas for me to think about and incorporate! Thanks!

Bel said...

Thanks all! Sounds like I'm not alone with the lists and routines here! Amber, 'Mise en place', I love it! I think I might create something arty and hang that phrase on the wall. Thank you! x

Belle, you have really described how finding a routine is really a coping tool for many of us. Thank you.

Joanne, have you tried wiping with a drop of peppermint oil (or even essence) to deter your ants? We also have ants in certain weather!

Hana said...

I'm totally unorganised; plus I'm not yet living really simply, not at all, but I'm trying. I figured what worked for me was thinking of the tasks to be done as fun, and enjoying them. In fact, that's the same thing that helped me do the household chores when I was a child... washing the dishes was like a game. So, what helps is not rushing - it usually turns out I do things much quicklier that way!, keeping my pace; and being aware of what I'm doing and fully appreciating and enjoying what I'm doing at the moment. I'm still not able to apply it to everything, though.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm pretty organised....except for budgeting and finances. I have a hard time keeping up with everything going up,up and up:)

Do you do anything special in this area...folders, graph, ect.. don't seem to work for us?

Great Post!!


Bel said...

Hi Renee!

I have a folder each for our home finances and my business finances. I work better with pen and paper so have a sheet printed out with the different accounts where I can keep notes and balances, then a column on the right for all the bills and their due dates, and incoming monies.

To track spending and cashflow, I use an Excel spreadsheet I got from and altered for us. It's brilliant (she says only 2 full months into using it!) I enter every cent spent (we have a 'spending money' section for those teensy bits of cash spent though). Knowing where the heck it's all going has been helpful in revising the budget.

Maybe another reader has ideas for you, Renee? Comments please!

Condo Blues said...

Please ask me how I have the time to do what I do - it's easy I make the time to do the things I want to do. It always helps that my husand and I split the household duties he cooks, I clean and do the gardening and DIY because I like to smack things with hammers :)

I also do some of my green things because I'm lazy. When I ran out of paper napkins & didn't want to drive to the store to get more, I rooted around the house and found a set of cloth napkins. When I ripped a pair of pants and didn't want to spend days trying to find a replacementat the store (i'm a difficult fit) I hemmed them into summer capri pants. And the hieght of lazy greeness, I ran out of shower cleaner, instead of mixing vinegar & water into the old spray bottle, I screwed the spray pump from the old bottle onto a new bottle of vinegar - which works better than the 50/50 solution I use elsewhere in the house.