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Showing posts with label organisation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label organisation. Show all posts

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time management for the scatty

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Productivity ebbs and flows and some days I am superwoman and others, not so much. It doesn't help that I tend to follow my feelings about things, as opposed to my rational thoughts. If I don't feel in the mood to do something, forcing myself do it drains me. If it involves other people, I have no problem sucking it up and getting on with it, but when it comes to the humdrum necessities of my own life and stuff it isn't so easy. Domesticity can be a little too routine, however much I try to be mindful and focused on the task at hand.

I really do envy those who can pick a task and stick with it to completion, who can happily create and follow a rigorous schedule,  but my mind works a little more globally than that. In the past I have tried to fight it, to conform to strict routines and processes and it lead to burnout and joylessness. Instead, this method works well. Everything gets done within an acceptable time frame and my mind gets to hop about a bit and follow its whimsy, something it does not get to exercise in my very routine day job.

This is my _____ a _____ a ______ way of being and doing. I just fill in the first ______ with a verb, the second ______ with a subject and the third ______ with a regular, manageable time frame. Some examples from my current blank a blank a blank list currently read like this:

  • Crochet a row a day (cheery warm chevron blanket will be ready to go in just 120 more days)
  • Sow a crop a week (no empty spaces in any bed, container or paving crack this year!)
  • Wash a load of laundry a day (no more midweek laundry heap blues/running out of nappies trauma)
  • Write a blog post a week
  • Save a pound a day (to put towards a long dreamed of project)
  • Sort ten items to give away a week (decluttering is a lifetime project apparently)

So, in between scheduled activities that are set in stone, I pick any project from my list, whatever suits my mood. I don't resent having to carry them out, I have a few fun things (I can't really call crochet a daily necessity, but it sure is relaxing) that I can pick without guilt - there is balance. I take childlike pleasure from achieving tiny, incremental goals that I can see building into a worthwhile whole, not unlike collecting pennies in a jar.

I am now writing a list like this for our longer term goal of moving to Norfolk. Part of the reason that the self reliant life so appeals to me is the sheer variety of skills I would get to exercise on a daily basis, but self discipline is still an essential. A balance, as always, is the best way forward. I have made my peace with the reality that some things just have to be done there and then; and sometimes I have to just commit; and sometimes I can hop about from task to task.

So, how does your brain work? How do you organize your activities? And if your brain works like mine, all advice will be gratefully received. If your brain does sound a little like my brain, you may want to check out this time management method. If your brain doesn't work like mine, well, you probably don't need any advice on time management anyway : )

Friday, January 27, 2012

Changing spaces

by Rhonda at Down to Earth

When we first moved into our current home, we made quite a few changes. The house had been lived in by an older couple and some of the things that suited them didn't suit us. We pulled up the carpet and laid a wood floor, we changed the kitchen, added verandahs front and back and put in gardens and the chook house. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply.

It's very easy to look at a new home and see spaces you don't really like, or know they won't work for your family and just ignore them. I want to encourage you to change what doesn't suit you. If you don't, you're changing yourself to suit the house.


We all have different circumstances and expectations but all of us can benefit from changing our living space to suit how we live. For instance, if you do a lot of sewing, you should have a space to store your equipment and fabrics; if you write or paint, you should have a quiet space to do it; if you bake a lot, have all your needs close to where you work. Outside, your mower and garden tools will serve you well if they're stored in a space out of the weather and close to a work bench were you can carry out your maintenance.



I guess the obvious and easy change is to create garden beds where there are none and to build a chook house or tractor. That change alone, while not costing the earth will equip you to provide a measure of fresh food right from your home. But there are other less obvious changes to be made, you just have to look at the space around you in a creative way with a focus on your sustainability.


Out in the back yard, along with the gardens and chickens, you could think about water tanks or barrels. If you don't have the finances for that now, it might we something worth saving for if your climate is fairly dry, if you get all your annual rain in a few months, or if you have a vegetable garden. And even if you don't have the money for big tanks right now, see if you can set up a system whereby you collect some water when it rains. We have a couple of 200 litre tubs here that, when full, can keep our garden going for a week. We just fill the watering cans or buckets from the tubs and transfer the water to the garden. It's more work than hosing, but we don't mind carting our harvested water the short distance. Make sure you set up your collector tanks close to where it will be used. Btw, mosquitoes take about 10 - 14 days, depending on the type, to go from egg to mosquito. Harvesting the water within a ten day period will kill the larvae before they fully develop. Or, you could just scoop the larvae out with a fine fish net.

Inside the home you might look for a cupboard to store your stockpile. I think one of the downsides of many modern homes is the lack of cupboard space. Think creatively about your cupboards, if you have a big cupboard near your kitchen, or in the laundry or garage, that may suit your stockpile better than what is currently in it.


Move pots and pans, baking supplies, tea and coffee making supplies close to where they're used. Organising your kitchen well will save you a lot of time and effort. It just takes an hour or so to think about how you work in your kitchen and then moving things closer to where they're needed.


Make a space to sit with your tea and coffee. This space might also serve well as the place you talk quietly with your partner, read to the children, write letters, knit or stitch. You need a space like this just as you need a place to store your linens or groceries. Make a space for yourself - make the house suit you, not the other way around.

I could go right through the house but I'm sure you get what I mean. Making small changes to your home will make your life easier. Modify the house to suit the type of family you are. Make the spaces work for you and if they don't, change them. Your home is one of the key tools you have in your life, making a few adjustments to make it work as it should and have it accommodate the activities of your family, will make living there easier. There will be some changes that cost money, just do them as the money becomes available, but many changes will cost only the effort you put in to make them happen.

I hope you identified some changes you want to make when we did our simple audit last week. So if you have some plans, I encourage you to dive right in and enjoy the process of change. You'll be making your home fit your family instead of living with the feeling that the house isn't quite right. This is another one of those things where we take the bull by the horns and give it a good shake, instead of sitting back wishing things were different.

Do it thoughtfully, take it slow and enjoy the change.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking Stock

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I don't mean the stock we use for cooking - though we do make bone broth, chicken stock and vegetable stock concentrate at home to cook with, and I can post about that another time!

Living with a large family, on a farm, we tend to accumulate 'stuff' - not through excessive shopping habits, just by keeping what we do have - reusing jars and plant pots, saving hand-me-downs for younger children, etc.

We have recently been changing the way we store things.  The children gave up their unloved old cubby house, which created an instant gardening shed for me!  I was able to sort through all the pots, tools and hose fittings which I previously kept on a table in a dark corner of the shed.  I parted with some of the pots for other gardeners to re-use.  I found that we had a lot of mis-matched hose fittings, but not really a spare full set to fit our tap size, so I bought a nice brass set in the hope that it will outlast the plastic ones which don't seem to cope with our high UV levels here.  With all the spiders sent on their way and everything sorted into piles and open crates, I felt much less overwhelmed by our gardening paraphanalia (bits and pieces collected over nearly 20 years of playing in the dirt)!


The same week, my husband finished constructing a 6m x 3m shed that we'd salvaged from someone's backyard a year ago.  Finally the kids' bikes could be moved from the lean-to at the front of the milking shed, and all their sports gear and outdoor toys could be moved out of the corner of the shed too.  We found some broken toys and outgrown items lingering in the bottom of the drawers and crates - so here was another good chance for a clean out!

And in the very same week we were moving things around and now have storage space for our pantry items.  So I've been taking stock off all our stored food (we order much of our food in bulk every 6 months), the preserving jars (empty and full), emergency supplies for cyclone season (like candles, matches, water, tinned food, etc), and even our camping supplies, clothes stored for the youngest two children (outgrown by the older ones), out-of-season clothes of mine and other 'stored' items.


I hardly know what to do with all this extra space we suddenly have - it's a little overwhelming!  I'm trying to organise our new spaces in an ordered manner so that clutter doesn't build up (I was glad to find that with all the re-arranging there wasn't very much we didn't use - unlike my 9 year old's bedroom last month which we realised was housing bags full of outgrown clothing and toys!).


It seems like this year Spring really is time for 'out with the old' for us, and I'm so grateful for the new spaces (at last) and creative storage options.  Now, if only the rain would stop I'd get back out there and tidy up the old shed, with it's newly emptied corners...

Do you have any storage tips?  How do you balance re-using (pots, baling twine, kids' clothes), and clutter?  Does Springtime see you cleaning up and sorting out too?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Organising Days

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

Last month, I posted about Organising Information.  Following on from that I'd like to describe how I use tools to organise our daily lives...


We are a busy family with one adult who works full-time (shift work) and plays in a band, myself with a home based business and lots of volunteer/community commitments, and six children, five of whom we homeschool.  One daughter works 5 days a week and is studying, two daughters work at least 2 shifts each week and have busy social lives including sport and rehearsals, and three younger children with various classes, excursions and friends to meet up with here or out and about.

Diary - I choose a week-to-an-opening diary which is opened flat on my desk at all times.  My family can look at it, write down their commitments, check if we're busy before accepting a shift at work or invitation someplace etc.  Because I look at my diary often, and write events in there by hand as soon as I find out they're on, most things stick in my mind.  I tried using my phone so I could respond to invitations and make appointments when out and about, but the downside was that the whole family couldn't access the info like they can with a paper diary on my desk.  If I'm out and need to book something, I usually just make a tentative date and check when I'm home.  On the rare occasion the tentative booking doesn't work, I'll phone and change to a date/time that does suit.  I have also tried Google calendar and various software tools because I use my computer daily, but again, the paper version won out and we're sticking with the diary.  Garden-themed diaries and Moon diaries are my preference, and you can buy diaries from the very simple generic version at your local newsagent to one themed to almost any area of interest!

Menu Plan - My first ever post here at the co-op was about menu planning, and I use the same method today! 

I always have a sheet of paper on the side of the fridge listing all meals for the week, who’s cooking, baking to do, outings, birthdays, work shifts and other reminders for the whole family.  A lot of this info is transferred from the diary on my desk.

On Sunday night I take one of these sheets of paper (they’re printed from a Word doc on the computer with days of the week etc and spaces to hand write all details)… After writing the next week’s outings, visitors etc on the list, I begin planning meals. On the days we have busy afternoons or are home late, I choose a meal from the freezer (I cook in bulk and freeze), or a quick meal. Then I think about what fresh produce I have from the garden, markets or co-op to use up. We have these meals early in the week so that nothing spoils in the fridge.

Next I think about what’s already planned and choose other types of meals to slot into the plan - we divide our usual meals into lists depending on what they’re based on: egg, legumes, rice, potato, fish/meat or bread. At times I challenge myself to include new recipes, other times I try to use up a lot of frozen homemade meals and pantry basics to save a bit of money. Overall, the menus are well-thought out so they work.

If you’d like a helping hand to get started with menu planning, I recommend Mealopedia and Menu Plan Mondays at Org Junkie for inspiration. Some good advice can also be found on this page of the Hillbilly Housewife site.

Lists -  My lists have been the subject of a few giggles within my family over the years - packing lists, shopping lists, To Do lists and so on.  Sometimes I stop making so many lists and guess what?  Not very much gets done!  I forget things and feel a bit harried not knowing exactly what it is I have left to do.  I guess I am not a naturally efficient person - I never feel obliged to do housework and don't have rhythms like "Monday is cleaning day, Tuesday is baking day etc".  I also wear many hats - so while I'm busy teaching algebra, it doesn't come to mind that I have a phone call to return or need to start a sourdough loaf today...

Having a list and crossing items off is a sanity-saving tool for me!  I write my To Do lists in an exercise book which sits with my diary on my desk.  I also write bits and pieces of phone messages and other things in this book, and it's amazing how many times I have needed to go back and check on something.  When I use scraps of paper, they flitter around everywhere and I end up losing my lists - and part of my sanity!  I do write my shopping lists on scraps of paper (and sometimes lose these) but by the time I've done the menu and noted the ingredients required for the week, I normally know my shopping list anyway.  Again, phones and computers have apps and software for list-makers like me.  I've tried to use these tools, and also the whiteboard and eraser, but nothing compares to crossing out completed tasks with a firm blue line from a pen!

I am hearing whispers about the festive season here and there lately...  If you want to be more organised this festive season, you may make use of a how-to article such as, Organized Christmas?  I think Christmas is a perfect time to flex your organising muscles... The perfect warm-up to a stress-free, planned and productive 2012!


Please leave a comment describing your favourite daily life organising tool - do you favour apps or a calendar on the wall?  Or do you have an excellent memory and barely use lists?  Or maybe you just prefer to wake up and see what the day brings?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pruning Saw


by Francesca
FuoriBorgo


Are you in need of a last-minute present idea for a gardener? Or are you a gardener with limited storage space and room for only the essential tools? In either case, a pruning saw might be the tool for you!

pruning saw


I fall into the second category: I'm a gardener who's limited by a serious space shortage, which means I can only keep a handful of essential hand tools. About a month ago, a friend of mine saw me struggling to prune some laurel trees with a regular cross-cut saw. He whipped a pruning saw out of his pocket, and cut back the laurels quickly and effortlessly. The day after, I bought my own pruning saw for a very modest price, and have found it to be right up there with my sickle in terms of usefulness and efficiency.


pruning saw 2

My pruning saw has a straight blade and offset teeth, and it folds in half like a pocket knife. It's perfect for cutting medium-sized branches which are too large for gardening shears, and slices easily through hardwood branches as thick as a couple of inches in diameter. I've used it already in a variety of projects: to make our Christmas elves, to remove dead limbs from a cherry tree, and to saw a branch off of a plum tree that was invading the area where we keep our compost. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with the right tool!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My new best friend

By Aurora from Island Dreaming


I have always had a thing for brand new stationery; indeed I was delighted, aged four, when I came down on Christmas morning to find an executive desk and chair set with all the (admittedly plastic and cartoon animal themed) accessories, filing drawers, blank papers and new pens a 4 year old could possibly want. I loved filing, I loved writing notes and memos, I loved taking telephone messages and writing to-do lists. I have retained my early love for stationery; but none of the organisational drive that keeps piles of paper and deadlines in check.

If my friends were to describe me I guarantee the first words out of their mouths would not be ‘punctual’, ‘organised’, ‘remembers birthdays’ or ‘excellent project management skills’. Whilst these are not the qualities I would necessarily want to be most remembered for; my ambivalence to planning and time management have probably slowed my progress towards to my simple living goals over the past few years. Last year, the garden had a separate journal all to itself which now sits on a shelf gathering dust.  At the same time I had a tiny pocket diary for appointments that spent most of its time at the back of a drawer; and a fistful of scrap paper with important dates and reminders stuffed at the bottom of my handbag and coat pockets.

The ability to survey your immediate and distant future and decide what you want from it is a useful skill in any walk of life. Being able to plan the steps to get there is half the battle of completing them. I am starting small; and more importantly immediately, as delaying until new years resolution time rolls around means I have lost a fortnight of planning time and will probably give up too easily. My approach in 2011 is going to be low tech - a week-to-view diary and a biro, carried everywhere I go. In addition I am carrying a pad of sticky notes for adding to do lists, shopping lists and other temporary reminders. This year, I am filling in my gardening plans before 2011 begins; and sowing dates will sit scrawled next to crafting deadlines, meal plans, financial goal deadlines, birthdays and appointments, all of which will be overlaid with shopping lists and important notes. 

This sounds chaotic, but as I need prompting to remember to do the most basic tasks (like putting the recycling out on the right day), a very crowded diary for a few months is a price I am willing to pay for a smoother running life. Gradually, as I prompt myself and these actions become habits, I hope the pages will be freed up for more interesting scribblings. A single 'bible' of all the information I need to go about my day is a simple enough system that I hope even I can keep on top of.

Do you struggle to organise your time and projects or does it come naturally? Do you plan your time carefully, or does an unscheduled life suit you best?










Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving Timetable

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I'm the oldest of five children, so learned early how to cook for a crowd (in fact, I had to learn to cook all over again, for one, when I moved out on my own). Although there are just the two of us now, Thanksgiving Dinner at my house is usually for at least six, and sometimes even more. Over time, I've developed a timetable schedule that lets me get everything ready and on the table at once, with a minimum of stress. The menu doesn't vary much - we pretty much stick with tradition for this meal.

Things get started the weekend before Thanksgiving. The turkey needs to be out of the freezer and into the refrigerator by Saturday to thaw - it will take at least 3-4 days. I use my timetable as a reminder when making out my shopping list that day too (should you wish to refer to mine, clicking on the picture below should bring it up in a more-legible size).

By Tuesday, the turkey has thawed enough that I can get the giblet bag and neck out (when my sister first cooked TG dinner for the family, she didn't realize that those extras were inside. Mom discovered them, cooked inside, when she went to carve the bird) to use for making stock for gravy and moistening the stuffing. I submerge the bird in a bucket of brine, in the refrigerator, until Wednesday, and then let it air-dry, also refrigerated until time to get it into the oven on Thursday.

With the brining bucket out of the refrigerator Wednesday, I can start getting some of the other items prepped and in. I'd rather cook from scratch instead of out of cans when possible. Although the timetable says pumpkin, I prefer either a pink banana or butternut squash for my pie. Any of them will work, but where pumpkin pie can have a greenish cast to it, squash pie tastes the same but with a nice brown color instead. Whole sweet potatoes cook at the same time, later to be peeled and sliced into a casserole dish. Bread for the dressing, either cornbread or french bread, is baked, cut into cubes, and left out on the counter overnight to dry. I use the "day before" list pretty much in order for the most efficient use of my oven.

The "Make" list, I might leave until my sister arrives. I always have a "guest apron" or two available, and we enjoy the chance to talk, wait for the local radio station to play Alice's Restaurant, maybe drink a toast to the harvest, and work together preparing the dishes we've had on Thanksgiving since we were children.

For "The Day" I have two sets of serving times in the left margin. If my husband has the day off work, we can eat in the afternoon; if he's working (Nevada casinos are 24/7, so getting the day off is never a certainty), TG dinner becomes an evening meal. Since there is only enough room in my oven for the turkey, everything else goes in when the turkey comes out. The side dishes cook while the turkey rests; gravy is stirred and potatoes mashed; husband carves while everyone else gets their choice of beverage. Then everyone helps get the meal on the table. And then we all sit down together. I hope you and your families are similarly blessed this holiday season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A gardener on the road

by Francesca


I was on the road for almost three weeks this month, first in a country I'd always wanted to visit, Portugal (here), and then in a region I love, Tuscany (here). But my vegetable garden did not share my enthusiasm for travel. By the time I returned home, it had become a forest of healthy weeds threatening to choke my weakened plants. Traveling when you have a vegetable garden is an issue.

neglected lettuce
~ what remained of my lettuce and carrot patch ~

A vegetable garden needs constant care and attention during the hot summer months: watering, weeding, harvesting ripe vegetables and removing unhealthy ones, checking for pests and diseases - these are just some of a gardener's daily tasks. And although you can install automatic irrigation systems to take care of the watering, everything else needs to be done by hand with a watchful eye.

neglected tomatoes
~ my unruly tomato plants invaded by weeds ~

I love gardening, and I spend many winter months eagerly waiting for that magic spring day when I can start preparing the soil for sowing and transplanting seedlings. During the summer months, I cherish the time early in the morning or late evening that I spend with my plants in the garden. And what a special joy it is to walk back to the house with a heavy basket full of vegetables I've grown, and to know that my family will eat good and healthy food! So every summer, when my garden is in full production and I have to leave it, I'm torn.

neglected basil
~ luckily, my basil and strawberries were among the plants that survived ~

This year I was lucky, and found the damage of three weeks of travel, during which a neighbor girl watered my garden every other day, wasn't as bad as it looked: I'd lost my string beans, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers and, naturally, all the different varieties of lettuce. But my herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and chards are alive. And of course, I may have more nice surprises waiting for me underground: I'm really curious to see what happened to my carrots, garlic, onions and potatoes during the weeks of neglect.

How do you handle going away on vacation and keeping your garden alive and healthy in the meanwhile?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chronicles of a New Garden: intercropping

by Francesca
FuoriBorgo


planting

Gardening season is off to a slow start this year in my part of the world, as March has been an uncharacteristically cold and wet month. And so, instead of cultivating my garden, I've been cultivating my ideas about how I want to sow and plant this year. There are several strategies that one can take when starting a new garden, and I've decided to take an intercropping approach, following principles of permaculture and biodynamic agriculture.



Intercropping means growing one or more crops in the same space during the same growing season, in order to imitate the diversity of natural ecosystems. The idea here is that by creating biodiversity, the different resources of the soil are better utilized, and the chances of single pest outbreaks are limited by a habitat where pest management happens naturally. A garden where biodiversity is maintained doesn't have the neat look that most of us associate with successful gardening. There are no individual crops growing in long rows, but a varied mixture of vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits, carefully selected and planted according to specific principles. Here are a few of the key ones:



To favor the healthy growth of a complex habitat, it’s important to select plants that don't compete with each other for space, nutrients, water and sunlight. Sow crops together that have opposite needs: shallow-rooted plants with deep-rooted ones, slow-growing crops with fast-growing ones, tall plants with short ones that like partial shade, and so on.



Another important practice is to companion plant, growing different species of plants together that benefit each other. There are several lists of companion plants available online (for example here and here), though there are some discrepancies, and so – as always with gardening – the best strategy is trial and error.



Here is a little list I've created for my own needs. If anyone has tried companion planting, please pipe up in the comments and tell us about your experiences.



PLANT

COMPANION

AVOID

garlic

potatoes, roses

peas, beans, parsley

tomatoes

marigolds, basil, geraniums, sunflowers

peas, potatoes, cucumbers

strawberries

borage, beans, lettuce


onions

strawberries, carrots, chamomile

peas

lettuce

radishes, cress

onions

potatoes

cucumbers, spinach

sunflowers

basil

tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers

rosemary

chives

carrots

beans, peas

beans carrots


carrots

peas, onions, rosemary, sage, marjoram


cucumber

corn, radishes, lettuce, beans

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Year


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I love a fresh new year. It starts with the clean-up as we prepare for the festive season. We finish up our homeschooling and tidy out everyone’s desks and school books, taking stock of what’s required in six weeks’ time, after our summer holidays.

There’s lots of cleaning out the fridge and pantry with all of the extra cooking and food with Summer, Christmas and New Years’ entertaining.

For most of January we have no commitments – none of the children’s classes or activities are running, no school work to do – a month of freedom! I love this time! I generally do some de-cluttering around the house, organise financial matters, write up my new year diary and calendar, plan for the coming year of home education, shop for resources, deep clean rooms I’ve neglected, catch up on mending, take stock of the freezer and pantry, etc. As homeschoolers, we don’t have to take the same holidays as schools, but I do enjoy having the month of January to catch up! In between all of these tasks we picnic, swim, walk, watch movies and relax together.

It’s also a time for me to take stock on the year that was, and goals for the New Year. I’m not huge on New Year’s Resolutions, but I have a group of friends who pick a word for each year. I haven’t joined them before, but am inspired by their choices – mindfulness, patience, me, dare, acceptance, trust, shine, enterprising… My word for 2010 is Be. It's all about me doing too much, and not taking time to just Be. Be available. Be Mum. Be still. Be calm. Be me.

Are you excited by a new calendar year? Do you make resolutions or turn over a new leaf in some way? I’d love to hear about what the New Year means to you.