I have a few goals for November, which I prefer to call my intentions, if and when I have the time. Not everything on my list will get done, some will undoubtedly spill over into December but having a list helps to focus my thoughts. There are tasks I must do and ideas for things I would like to do so I am planning on a good mix of both. I am looking forward to the fun things.
Finish decorating the guest bedroom and furnish within budget
Design and make a Christmas card – using up some of the blank cards and envelopes
Make advent calendars and crackers
Make mini selection boxes for the charity coffee morning using up the trick or treat fun sized chocolate bars
Bake Christmas cake and Nut Roast
Have a day out and pack up a winter picnic – homemade soup, fresh rolls, hot chocolate and go somewhere ‘Christmassy’ like the market towns of Bakewell, Ashbourne or Howarth
Tidy up in the garden
Clean the outside paintwork and porch
Put the festive outdoor lights up
Make mum a Christmas ‘This is your life’ style book using old photos and slides
Send out the family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and rule sheet
Organise the family pre-Christmas get together event
Make and send out the Neighbours pre-Christmas get together invites
Have a Christmas ‘looking’ day at John Lewis
Visit the Sheffield Millennium Galleries Christmas Crafts shop
Plan for mum’s late night shopping weekend visit and book to see a local drama group play
Plenty of cleaning
Leave some time for self – book in a hair appointment and facial treat and buy a new party dress / Christmas outfit
Quite a list and only 30 days in November, thirteen of which have already been and gone. How are your plans for Christmas going – that is if you are already planning!
My Focus Word for 2017
After much thought and deliberation I have decided on my focus word for the year and it is
Taken from the Greek oikos meaning house and nemein meaning manage – economise is the careful management of resources, careful use of something
I like the sound of carefully managing resources as I feel our throw away society is something I prefer not to be part of and I want to see just how resourceful I can be this year.
As well, due to impending changes in our household income I need to cut down on unnecessary spending. Becoming resourceful with our resources in order to ‘minimalise’ our purchases will also feed my desire to simplify and ‘minimalise’ our possessions. Now we have the caravan whilst waiting for the cottage to be sorted we only have room for what is absolutely necessary and I love living with such a drastic reduction of ‘things’. At the moment we only have 2 cups – so we have to keep on washing them up to reuse – it is quite challenging to see what we can get by with but also quite liberating.
Already this year I have been writing a Menu plan for the week – this seems to be the most effective way to save money, reduce food waste and eat healthily.
At present I am shopping in my cupboards and only buying fresh vegetables and other necessities to add to what I already have to be able to make 7 healthier home-made meals each week.
I find it hard to admit that I am not sure what my food bill was each week over the last year – it was so manic that just getting through the week was a challenge on its own. I ended up in Sainsbury’s with no plan and often duplicating items I already had in my cupboards. We have probably eaten far more ready-made meals than ever before – pizza, vegetable samosas and quiche are the pre-prepared foods we normally fall back on together with those pots of chilled sauces for pasta.
I believe almost all of my lunches at work last year will have been bought and I dread to think the number of baked potatoes with cheese and coleslaw I got through but it will be quite a few – luckily it is my favourite lunchtime meal.
When I run my end of year spending report on my computer program all will be revealed and I don’t think it will be a pretty sight. I know I will be upset at the amount of money I will have spent and wasted.
I find that at this time of year it is so easy to start off on the right foot but then as life takes over our good intentions fall away. I have yet to resolve this recurring situation and I am thinking hard of a way to keep on track even through busy periods.
Below are some of my ideas to get me into Economy mode and at the same time increasing the number of nutritional meals we have to improve our health. I buy as much organic produce as possible – I like to think my food is free from any contaminants or artificial flavourings etc. – this already makes my shopping dearer than the average, however, on the plus side we are both vegetarian so no expensive fish or meat in my trolley. Having said that some vegetables can be quite expensive bought at the wrong time.
- Having a menu plan is the number one priority – it only takes 20 minutes to write a simple plan for the week. For me it is best done on a Sunday so that my new plan begins on a Monday – on a busy week even this amount of time can be difficult to find so my plan is to have some pre-written menus for these weeks to tide me over.
- Keeping up with what is in the store cupboards, fridge and freezer is the second priority and including these foods in the menu plan helps to keep everything rotating and avoid food going past it’s sell by date.
- Only buying store cupboard items with long dates on them when they are on offer such as cereal, packets of Passata, tea bags rice etc. Some foods that I buy are rarely on offer but others come round fairly frequently. Having a quick look as I go along the aisles to check the offers is worthwhile and saves money on those staple items.
- Trying out new recipes to add variety to the weekly meal plan. Test these on a weekend and time how long they take. Having lots of very quick meals can become quite boring to the point where we often go off a certain meal.
- Planning the menus around seasonal produce – this saves money as fruit and veg in season is usually cheaper.
- Look out for coupons and vouchers. As I shop at Sainsbury’s I automatically get Nectar points but I also get coupons at the till with either money off or additional Nectar points. Make a point of buying the item on the coupon if it is something I would use or normally buy.
- Remember to freeze left over bits of foods that have been opened but only a small amount used – such as tomato paste, coconut milk etc. Also grate and freeze cheese and breadcrumbs and mix up and freeze crumble topping.
In addition to the planned meals I have a one or two quick standby meals in the freezer just in case. Last week it was a ready-made pasta sauce to add to whole wheat pasta and this week a pizza. If I don’t need to use them then I will save money by not having to replace them.
My lunch at work is the area I need to get to grips with – I am more likely to eat a sandwich at home and prefer baked potatoes at work rather than too much bread. My current idea is to buy a ready done baked potato but take my own fillings and salad. This should cut the cost down and I can also organise myself to make soup for the week and freeze in smaller portions.
So far this year we have really enjoyed getting back to proper home cooked meals and saved money at the same time. I actually prefer the winter salads I make of shredded cabbage, carrot and beetroot and raw cauliflower florets – I like the crunchy texture. I find the bagged lettuce quite limp and wasteful. Any remaining salad items have made delicious sandwiches served with home-made soup for lunch at the weekend. The meal plan for this week was a little different as we were on holiday from work and stayed at the caravan for 4 days and had to rely more on easy to make meals. On Saturday night we are hosting a Burns Night Supper with some friends – we brought the haggis back from Scotland (vegetarian for us) together with some mini steak pies and macaroni pies, not sure of the nutritional quality of these!
I will put the menus in the tabs above – here is the quick link
Just to update on the caravan we now have running water and central heating and a fully operational shower. The Swift engineer who was coming to replace the fridge socket however did not arrive – or rather he did come but thought we were on the caravan site next door – as this is all closed up for the winter he went away again. So fridge socket still not sorted…watch this space!
I know I am a little late in saying this but…
Happy New Year 2015
After a long and sometimes difficult year I was quite glad to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome the new year – a fresh start and a new journey – below is a quick photo reminder from some of my posts last year which include one or two of the more memorable moments.
However, only a few days into 2015 we received a phone call from the care home where my mum in law lived to say mum was in A&E after being resuscitated from a choking incident. Sadly she never regained any consciousness and died a few days later only days away from her 91st birthday. Such a sad end – but her quality of life had not been good for the past 6 months with the worsening of her dementia and the Parkinson’s so in a way it was a blessing for her that she slipped away peacefully to a long earned rest.
Just before this drama occurred I had begun writing this post and thinking about what I might do this year as I pictured a whole new year stretching out in front of me – quite unblemished, as it was then, like a fresh fall of snow before any footprints appear.
I began by thinking about my focus word for the year – last year it was Focus and for the early part of the year this kept me on track, but as the year went by my Focus changed not surprisingly when we experienced the flood. The impact that has had on our lives together with my colleague being off work ill has been tremendous. Now I feel I need to get back on track, sort myself out and turn my dream of a simple and healthier life into reality.
After much deliberation over words I have finally chosen Wellbeing – I believe this encompasses all I want to achieve this year.
I wasn’t too sure exactly what came under the umbrella of wellbeing so I started with the dictionary definition
well-being or wellbeing
a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous
Of course I had to go and choose a word that had alternative spellings and after checking up on the difference I have chosen to go without the hyphen – this is the more modern interpretation as wellbeing is becoming a recognised term in its own right and I am told the hyphen will eventually be dropped just as similar ‘brought together’ words have in the past – I am just helping to accelerate that transition – so I apologise to any traditionalists that may be reading this!
My choice of Wellbeing is not because I feel really unhappy, unhealthy or lacking but the state of good health is not just the absence of disease – well not in my mind anyway. If anything this last year has been quite a roller coaster from start to finish even the most positive of events – becoming 60 and a grandma within a couple of weeks was equally as stressful and emotionally challenging as becoming homeless due to the flood!
I have read that by taking care of what is important in one area can make life easier in another. Likewise, neglecting one area can negatively affect another. It is all about keeping life in balance – so I will be putting this to the test.
The areas that I will be looking to bring into balance are probably the same for most people who work and run a home
- Personal & Leisure & Family – taking care of myself and allowing time for myself to enjoy my day-to-day life as well as spending time with friends and my family – it will take into account my hobbies and things I like doing recreationally – maybe starting new ones who knows!
- Home – this is how I will deal with all the management of the house – housekeeping – decorating – gardening – general upkeep
- Health – the goal here is to become healthier both physically and mentally and will include exercising – meal planning and putting to right any niggling health issues
- Work – I think this speaks for itself – I definitely need to find an answer to reduce the long hours I have been forced into doing
- Finances – this area had plenty of focus last January but is ready for another minor overhaul
In addition I want to take steps to slow down, where possible the pace of my life, and make it simpler so that I am able to live the moment and enjoy the day and not feel quite so guilty when I find I am doing one thing instead of dealing with another.
So there we are Project Wellbeing – all I have to do now is work out a plan of action and I feel my first task is to establish some routines to provide some stability to my life.
Hope you all have a good weekend – I have a bit of catching up to do in blog world but I know from my quick scans of my favourite blogs that many of you are well into any new challenges you have set for yourselves I hope I will have time to leave the odd comment again soon but this might be after the funeral when life has calmed down a bit over here. x
How the chaos and clutter sneaks in and builds up
I surveyed my house this morning and took a quick snap of some of the many bits and pieces left lying around to be put away. Thursday is my last day at work and the start of the weekend for me and the day I feel absolutely drained by the frenzy of the working week. So this is usually the evening when very little gets done as by this time I have run completely out of steam and have neither the intent nor the inclination to do anything but rustle up something quick to eat and then flop.
Although my house may have been tidy on the Sunday evening after the long slog of a weekend’s housekeeping there is always a slow build up of items on most surfaces by Thursday. My survey this morning highlights the problems I have as you can see from the list of items below…
- A large unopened letter from Tuesday left on the office desk – it was actually post for my mother in law because we deal with her finances and both hubby and I knew from the size and weight it was one of those dreaded annual report books from the shares company that we never read as we would need to employ an accountant to translate. It unfortunately goes straight into recycle and one day we will write and ask to get this info online. Note: task for task list!
- The inner peel off lid from the Yeo Valley Yoghurt again on office desk – saying ‘Is this your lucky Lid’? – well it might just be – it has a lucky number to enter on the computer to win a Camper van – I cannot pass this over even though I know it is highly unlikely that I would win and almost not worth the effort of doing it but somehow I cannot just bin it! Note: another task for task list.
- An Ikea leaflet with £15 off promotion – office desk? – correct! – I do keep these just in case there is anything we have in mind to buy and I would put it away in my coupons envelope but I have to figure out how do I remember the offer? For the time being it has just been left lying around on the office desk.
- A coat hanger and heating timer left on the back of the settee – the former left by hubby who was up and off to get the London train at 5am this morning. I expect he left it here not wanting to wake me up rummaging in the wardrobe – so we can excuse this…
- The timer (in the red box) arrived in our house on Tuesday it is to replace the useless one at the cottage and is on our Easter job list but at the moment is waiting for hubby to read the instructions to know if it is definitely compatable with the boiler timer. Note: task for hubby’s task list!
- The rotting apple left on the kitchen counter – I discovered this in my fruit bowl on Monday morning as I grabbed an apple to take to work. I put this one aside thinking that I would cut off the rotten bit and possibly cook or eat the rest when I got home… mmmm never got back to it so it is even more rotted now and may just have turned into compost. Of course I should have sent it over to Sue at 365 Days – £365 she would have it peeled and sliced and turned into an Apple Pie and twenty other dishes in the blink of an eye LOL! Note task for task list…only joking Sue!!
- Spotlights left on the landing bookcase – I bought these from Sainsbury’s well over a week ago and left them in the office hoping hubby would replace the spotlights that have gone – I am still hoping!!
- Tradepoint leaflet left on (you guessed it) the office desk – I have put this where we can see it to remind us to go and pick up a new catalogue at B&Q when passing – problem is I am not sure when we will be passing as we don’t actually ever pass B&Q as it is at the other side of town!
- Necklace left on dressing table (ooops Beauty Station!)– I wore this at work with my black and white outfit yesterday (unusually co-ordinated for me as I hardly ever get as far as adding jewellery) and removed it before bed but it didn’t quite make it to my jewellery box only 5 feet away instead it has spent the night on my
dressing table, Beauty Station. But the reason for this is probably because the jewellery box sits on top of my chest of drawers and the top was covered in a pile of magazines for reading, clean tights to put away, clothes that I had taken off (and should have gone to the laundry basket in my daughters old room as we are limited for space in ours) and didn’t quite make it.
- Opened Easter card left on living room units – I picked this up off the mat when I walked in last night and was so excited to receive a hand written envelope that I just had to open it there and then. It was a homemade Easter card from a friend which reminded me that I must return her recent email as well as send her a card. Note: task for task list. I then put it on one side to go and take my coat off and make a drink before starting the tea.
I won’t bore you with the rest but you get the gist and even though I have places to put some of the above and systems to deal with them it is often the shortage of time on a workday evening that keeps me from attending to such things. So I am beginning to wonder if I have the right systems in place.
With this in mind for May I have chosen Developing my Systems to be my Focus for the month and I cannot believe given my track record that I am already planning this.
Putting systems in place
We all have systems don’t we whether they work for us or not. Some we deliberately set up but a large part of our routine is done through habit, both good and bad, and if we don’t develop a habit consciously then we develop one by default and that is often the start of a bad habit in my experience.
So I wondered how good are my systems – do they help or hinder me and could they be done better and most of all could they free up some much-needed self time and stop the feeling of Thursday night burn-out.
If I considered the running of my home and life as a business and the success or failure of my business was in direct relation to how efficiently I manage the day-to-day running then I ask myself ‘am I a good manager or should I sack myself’?
To know the answer to this I reasoned that I have to look at what my systems are now and if they can be improved. I am very much a systems person but not so much a routine person if that makes sense – that is I like things to be done in a certain way or order but I don’t necessarily do the task or maintaining when I should be doing it. For instance I might find myself blogging rather than using that time to cook a homemade meal and one which we are eating earlier rather than later.
In my job I deal with figures all day, adding them subtracting them, percentagising (is that a word?) them and checking them. I tackle each part of my workload like batch baking for the freezer. I am able to keep on track at work because most of my work has a deadline. I am sure my boss would not approve if he found I was planning my menus or blogging instead of billing the Legal Aid files! I stick to doing what I should be because I know I have to. However, it is different at home as I am my own boss but this is where I fall down because I do go off and work on the wrong thing at the wrong time – now why is that?
To be clear on what my ‘Job Description’ is and of the systems involved I have tried to group the things I do into areas I have responsibility for and this has been my first stumbling block – how to categorise them in a meaningful way.
This is what I have come up with so far
Household and garden management
- Laundry and clothes care
- Gardening – lawn care and plant care
- Stock control
Financial and Paper management
- Bill paying
- Document management
- Purposeful Filing
- Library stock control
- Personal care
Meal and food management
- Menu planning
- Stock control
Wow – you can see why being a working housewife and mother is a full time occupation and I don’t have to include childcare on my list like some of you might!
Have I missed anything and how would you categorise all the things you do in your home and life? Oh and let me know if you have got some good systems going…
I did wonder if meal planning should be part of household or a separate category and decided it is quite a large category to manage in itself so have kept it separate.
Recently I have been reading about Flow and Lean – some of you may have heard of these concepts.
‘5s’ has developed from lean manufacturing concepts in warehousing and they are…
Sorting, setting order, systemic cleaning, standardizing, and sustaining
this discipline ensures that money is not wasted to poor organsination or process. Disorganisation costs money. Each process, from housekeeping to inventory transactions needs a formal, standardised process to ensure consistently outstanding results.
Sounds good to me so I wondered if I could adapt this lean process in some way to meet my requirements.
So in May I am going to get to grips with my systems. Each will get an in depth review and then a possible makeover. For the rest of this month in preparation I will be undertaking a time and motion study really looking at three areas
- the way I do things,
- why I put off doing things and
- could I do them better?
a possible fourth would be could I put off doing them altogether!!
Now please excuse me while I go and put away a few items and get the place relatively ship shape again as well as look at making some Easter goodies and cards.
This weekend we (that is me, hubby, daughter No1 and her partner) are all going up to my expectant daughter No 2 to help her decorate and declutter her little cottage ready for baby’s arrival.
Have a good weekend x
…was it Pooh Bear who said that…or was that about eating honey – Oh if eating honey was my only task!
I have set aside what time I have this month to Focus on completing and following up on the previous three. To recap: I spent January focusing on my finances, February focusing on simplifying and decluttering my space and March focusing on a Spring clean. I now have a list of left over jobs to tackle from each month and only two weeks of April to complete as we will be away for Easter and beyond.
You will find the list of tasks under April if you click on the Focus 2014 tab above or click here
I have been a busy bee this weekend whizzing through some of those little jobs that hang around – you know the ones I mean the non-urgent tasks that seem to roll over on the task list from one month to another. If you don’t suffer from this ever then please leave me your secret in the comment box!
Since last Friday I have managed to –
- get a spare garage key cut £5.50 (ouch!), only on the list since last month
- take my paper scissors to be sharpened £3.50 (I thought this was reasonable as they will last a while and it saves buying any new ones), on the list since January
- laminated the clock change instructions to keep handy in my car and the compost layering ‘recipe’ to nail to the underside of the compost lid, as well as the musical sheets that are part of our musical crackers game ready for next Christmas get together, on the list since January
- cut back part of the front lawn that had crept over the driveway, on the list since last September
- weeded the front bed where my lovely tree had been that succumbed to Honey fungus and is now ready for new planting, on the list since February
- finished copying over the old videos that we want to keep on DVD discs, on the list for over a year
- hubby took the sink trap off for cleaning (the fact that he didn’t screw the half bowl trap back on properly and I flooded out the cupboard below tonight – we won’t mention!), actually not on the list but we had a drain smell occur this last week
- sent another bag of clothes to charity, not even on the list
- washed my black winter coat, on last months list
- washed all the cleaning cloths and dusters, on the list for ages – the pile has just got bigger (they definitely breed)
- balanced our finances, trying to do this at the end of each month no matter what
- located the bottom of the ironing basket, this is on my weekly list but often has to be abandoned
and that was as well as the usual cleaning, washing and tidying but it does feel good to not have to roll them over again.
I must say that the parts of the house that I have simplified, decluttered and cleaned are a real pleasure to be in. I do need to work on my routines to keep up to this level of tidiness, cleanliness and clutterlessness (is there such a word?)…and most of all I need to keep a tight hold on the purse strings to avoid buying and bringing unnecessary bits and pieces back in.
Having said that there are certain items I am looking to buy or even make and as I go through each room simplifying and decluttering I am making a list of these items. That may sound strange when my mission is to get rid of things but I also want to enhance my new space and make it decoratively pleasing to be in.
One of the items I am on the look out for is a small pretty wicker basket to contain my use up toiletries – so I can leave it out in full view and remember to use them. At the moment they are in a Muji plastic tub but it would be nicer to have them in something a little more decorative than functional as I am sure it will be an ongoing container, even this plastic one
from Lakeland would be better but I would like to avoid plastic and prefer a white-painted wicker one.
For anyone out there doing the same decluttering / tasks / spring clean how is it going for you?
Have a good week x