drEAming, general chit chat, getting things done, managEAble, rEArranging, simplifying

decluttering my inbox…

My intention today was to have a really good clean in the house but by the time we had seen the man who came to measure up for our new sliding wardrobes in what will be the guest room, when we have decorated it, the urge to get scrubbing had waned and I became sidetracked by checking my emails.

Then somehow I have managed to spend most of the afternoon clearing out old emails from my inbox all 755 and doing a bit of reorganising of folders.  I now have zero emails in my inbox (but that won’t last long) and anything that needs some further consideration is in a follow-up folder at the top of the folder list.  I have fifteen follow-up items to deal with, some of which require an email answer.  Anything I need to keep goes into an appropriate folder.

I have also unsubscribed from a number of those emails that arrive in my inbox and I find that I never open them – just delete them – but often they begin to stack up if I don’t log in to read my emails everyday and especially when we are at the cottage and do not have an internet connection.

I actually feel much better in myself for doing this task – it was prompted by something I read yesterday in the book How to Get Things Done by Richard Templar

Basically he suggests that you don’t work a week behind and gave emails as a prime example.  You can deal with today’s emails or last Wednesday’s emails it takes the same amount of time but one keeps you on top of the game and is more efficient.

 

This made absolute sense to me as I find I am often reading last weeks emails and sometimes last months.  In the big clear out I unexpectedly found an email received in August and still unread from my insurance company which had got lost amongst the many subscription emails that come in daily.

So now with less junk I should be able to spot the requests for the meter readings or the insurance renewal more easily.

Yes, I definitely feel good tonight after that major declutter- all I need to do now is make sure I leave 10 to 15 minutes a day to check on my inbox and read and deal with the new items.

I am looking at other areas of my life where I might be working a week behind – do you have this problem?

Have a good weekend. x

 

 

 

 

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crEAting, drEAming, general chit chat, getting things done, managEAble

the best things come in small packages…

I have quite a few birthdays in October – all friends –  and we give each other gifts that are modest in price about £5 to £8.  I usually find bits and pieces in some of the gift shops in Scotland and buy them as I see them and stash them away.

On Sunday I had a mammoth wrapping session it felt a bit like Christmas.  I like to make my modest gifts look tempting and I wrap them with care taking time to choose the paper and ribbons I think appropriate.  I often use printed tissue paper for those awkward shaped items.

I have one of those paper punch shape cutters that produces a tiny label.  I decorate these in different ways in this picture I have used some little rubber stamp pictures.  I also cut up cards for labels as it is such a shame to throw old birthday cards away.

I found the coffee coloured spotty paper in Sainsbury’s it comes on a roll and is good to keep on hand as it is useful for any occasion.

 

Here they are all ready to go with the appropriate cards.

It always feels good to have things organised and I feel quite pleased with myself that this month at least I won’t have to think about rushing around getting gifts and cards sorted out at the last minute.  Oh… if all my life was like this!

decluttering, drEAming, fEAsible, financial focusing, general chit chat, managEAble, organising, rEArranging, trEAsury

tackling the paperwork mountain…

I am not used to working Thursdays now so it was a bit of a long week for me last week waiting until Friday for a day off work.  Due to the Birmingham visit on Tuesday  I had to work on Thursday which has recently become my cleaning day – so no cleaning done.  Dilemma then when I woke up on Friday morning – do I clean today instead or do the paperwork that is normally designated for Fridays.

 

The paperwork won!

It is a sit down job and I was quite tired by Friday morning so cleaning seemed far too energetic and I had a ‘ladies who lunch’ date with my friend which I knew would break up part of the day.

Surprisingly my desk was reasonably tidy and I got stuck in.  First job was to write a to do list – I now use Todoist as I can’t install Microsoft works on the Mac – it was the closest program to the one I had but not as good and I refuse to pay to upgrade to the premium service.  The list seemed never-ending in fact so long that even if I retired tomorrow I feel sure I would not get to the end.

So then I did a shorter version to capture the really urgent tasks but it still looks a bit daunting.

Having assembled a frightening list I then made a note of any upcoming appointments and put reminders in my diary.  I also checked the September birthdays and made a mental note to see if I can find suitable cards from my supply to save me buying any more.  I have more than enough blank cards in my craft cupboard and just need to find some time to make some and this would be a good economy as I spend far too much on cards over a year.

Then it was down to bill paying – the plumber for the recent radiator leak (yes I know more water problems),  the roofer (who has done a small repair for us to prevent a future leak) and Yorkshire Water for our water bill (it seems a little ironic that we have to pay so much for water when we seem to attract more than our fair share of free water into our lives in the form of leaks and floods!).

Whilst online transferring the payments I did a quick check of our bank statements to assess our situation.  We have of course spent quite a bit on paint and new furniture recently for the bedroom we have just decorated – I didn’t set a budget as such but I always know when something is more than we should be spending.  The wardrobes were our dearest item and then the drawers and the small bookcase but the two blinds were very reasonable at £16 and we made the wardrobe door handles.  The duvet cover with pillowslips only came as a pack of two at £32 making them £16 each, the fleecy throw was £4 and a few picture frames at £3 or £4 each.  Everything else we already had.

Within our usual day-to-day spending there is always room to economise more.  The dearest item by far this week was the petrol we bought for the journey to Birmingham.  My neighbour has recently been sent three Sainsbury’s 12p off petrol coupons,  I go there every week and they have not sent me or OH any – so feeling a trifle miffed about that.

I am however still taking packed lunches to work so saving a good £10 a week there even allowing for the extra food on the weekly shopping bill.  I have a £20 gift token for Boots so I will wait until there are offers on the brands I use or put it towards a new hairdryer – mine stopped working one day recently, the same week as the iron died on me!

We have just changed gas providers from Npower to EDF for a cheaper deal – the electricity is already on a reasonable fixed rate and with our BT line we pay up front for the year which is cheaper and try not to go over the hour with our calls which are free for the first 60 minutes – difficult when you have 2 daughters, a mother and a sister (and not forgetting my brother) who all like a long chat.  I will just have to start keeping the timer by the phone and cut them off after 55 minutes!

As I can’t reduce most of the bills any further I can only look to the housekeeping and transport costs – food, petrol, cleaning and toiletries to make more savings.

 

Over the rest of the weekend I extended sorting the paperwork to a mammoth session of decluttering and streamlining the files in the office.  I am not sure where the mountain of paper came from to throw out but the files are so much lighter now.  There is far too much paper to shred – I can’t put it in the recycle bin as too much sensitive information so we will take it on holiday with us to Scotland and have a bonfire at the cottage.

 

So after my sorting out session everything is in order and up to date,  I even managed to set up the log in account for my new workplace pension.  We have always preferred the ethical funds for OH’s pension where we have been given a choice and it has performed well over the years so I was pleased to find I could choose an ethical one with our workplace pension provider.  I am not sure I will accrue very much between now and retirement but I won’t be refusing the ‘free’ money paid in by my employer and the government as every little helps!

My next job is my heap (I exaggerate not here) of magazine cuttings – I am not sure why I find such a pleasure in hoarding articles and pictures torn from magazines.  I spend time neatly filing them into folders – all subjects – gardening, craft, health, decorating ideas, recipes etc but now I have a whole shelf full of files dedicated to magazine cuttings plus the heap waiting to be filed.

I realise I have a problem and as an example of how chronic my addiction is I have articles on health issues I don’t even suffer with…well not yet anyway!   I have more diets than I could possibly try out and more craft ideas than I would even want to attempt – after all why would I want to crotchet a hot water bottle cover really when I can’t even crotchet!  In my perfect life I might consider it but when it takes me all my time to go to work, shop, cook and clean a crotchet hot water bottle cover is probably on the end of my do to list.  (Just checking I did add this on to the end of my list!)

So I am resolving to be ruthless – my OH is not convinced – he knows me and my cuttings well!  Watch this space…

 

 

 

 

 

drEAming, fEAsible, managEAble, rEArranging

be prepared…

 

Whilst we had a really good time on safari at the weekend it all took quite a bit of planning and it is in this area that I find I need to take some control over and look at simplifying the procedure of preparation and packing for an event.

 

I did quite a bit of ‘getting ready’ the day before but on Sunday morning I still found that I was less than ready to get up and go.  Analysing the situation I can see how all the extra few minutes easily begin to mount up and cause unnecessary delays and stress.

This is the run up to us leaving the house –

The presents

Although I had wrapped the presents for little L the day before I had run out of paper and decided to put the jumper and jeggings I had bought for her as an extra into a gift bag – but for some reason I had only thought it and not done it so had to scrabble around to find a suitable birthday gift bag and then write a tag before we left.  I had also got distracted at the time and left the presents I had wrapped without gift tags or any finishing touches – you know the kind a bit of glittery Wasi tape or some curling ribbon.

Time waster No 1 – not buying enough wrapping paper or following a task through to completion so that was a 15-minute delay.

The Picnic

We had decided on a simple picnic – my idea of making some little Quiches did not quite materialise and so we opted for the Higgidy vegetarian Cheese and Chutney rolls some home-made coleslaw and salad with a wholemeal roll with cheese and pickle.  For pudding we decided that we would be buying ice creams anyway so did not take anything additional other than some fruit. OH sorted the food but the new picnic plates I had bought recently in Sainsbury’s sale were still unwashed and had sticky labels on them.  I had been asked to take them with me in case there were not enough of the paper animal plates.

Time waster no 2 – I had not pre washed the new plates and removed the sticky labels – another 10 minutes’ delay to scrub off the labels.

The weather

Of course in England you can never be sure of the weather not only from one hour to another but also from one county to another.  The forecast had said mainly overcast possible rain at 3pm, however, just before we were leaving the sun had appeared and it was feeling quite warm. Unfortunately, in my haste to get dressed I had not thought I would need to put sun tan cream on other than my face which I do automatically all summer.

I should have known better and put some cream on after my shower before getting dressed as this is far easier at this stage than trying to lavish greasy sun cream onto exposed areas whilst fully clothed.

Time waster No 3 – never believe the forecasts just expect extremes of weather and prepare accordingly – another 10 minutes’ delay.

The extras

In addition, I had to search out my umbrella, sunhat, long distance driving glasses, jumper in case of cold weather, coat in case of rain and do a dozen other checks of items to take just in case.  I would normally have many of these items duplicated in our pre-prepared black travel bag but I am down to one umbrella, one sun hat and one pair of glasses and I have to keep borrowing them for work until I remember to go out and buy new replacements.  As well, sods law, the big golf umbrella broke the day before.

Time waster No 4 – not collecting the bits and pieces together the night before as it is amazing how long it can take just to do this – in this case another 10 minutes.

The car

Once we had gathered all the bags together by the door I realised I had not checked to see if the rear seats were back in place in the car.  We have an estate car and tend to have the rear seats down for maximum space when going to the cottage but often they do not get put back into position after we have unpacked the car.  Today was such an instance.

Time waster No 5 – putting the seats up – this may only take 5 minutes but each time waster adds up.

The technology

We thought we had been really organised with all our technology the night before and put mobiles and camera batteries on charge but not thought about my video camera (battery absolutely dead) or the Polaroid camera which takes ordinary AA batteries.  As we wanted to use up some of the Polaroid film bought for the wedding last year and Elder daughter had bought me a selfie frame and props for my birthday the Polaroid camera was crucial to our plans.  Of course when we looked at the Polaroid we discovered that the old batteries had leaked so we had to set to and clean up the battery compartment and then try to find five new batteries.

Time waster No 6 – 35 minutes’ delay to clean up, find batteries and test the camera.

The outcome

Needless to say by now we were running late – luckily we had left plenty of time but it was hardly the best start to the day and we left the house with a bit of a bomb site to come back to and me chuntering as we set off down the road!

 

We always have a lot of comings and goings to prepare for at our house – I seem to spend my time packing and unpacking so I am determined that I will simplify this task by being better prepared.  My downfall is obviously not preparing enough the day before and thinking I can leave some bits to do on the day – many more than I have time for.

 

I have friends coming round for the evening next Saturday night so let’s see if I can prepare for this any better.  We (yes that is a we not just I) have to clean up the house and I am hoping the painting will be finished so we can get the wardrobes out of our living room and in place in the bedroom by then.  I know already I always buy far too much food and think I am feeding an army so I need to make a simple menu plan and set a strict budget.  It is just a supper buffet rather than an evening meal but the couple are both meat eaters and one does not eat nuts and the other no fruit.

Help!

 

 

decluttering, gardening, homestEAding, managEAble, organising, rEArranging, simplifying, to do list, trEAsure

hot off the labeller…

After all the decluttering, reorganising and reshuffling of the last few days I have everything labelled to perfection – even my dear hubby –  (though he doesn’t fit neatly into any of my storage boxes)!  You can imagine what he has to say about my labelling but for all his jokes he is able to find things and more importantly put them away afterwards.  I actually quite enjoyed myself – sad I know!

 

Labelled Storage

 

Most of the garage is done now and we can actually move about in there and find things.  We have a few things to sell, a few to give away and a few to mend or just attend to.  So we started a jobs tray for me (see below) and a jobs box (much larger) for OH.

This is as it stands today:-

  • drill a hole in the bottom of the decorative hanging bird feeder – a present from 5 years ago and still waiting a drainage hole.
  • hammer the parasol holder into the ground by the patio
  • Glue the pottery ducks beak on – obviously it is not frost proof as it drops off each winter – a gift from my mum – he is hidden behind the ivy at the moment!
  • replace the socket in the office
  • Screw in the vine eye hooks to the fence for the climber
  • add the wire
  • plant the Xmas tree
  • feed and weed the lawn with one of the 4 boxes of lawn feed!
  • clean the copper rings with Brasso
  • clean the brass plant mister with Brasso

During the clear out I came across the drawer with flower arranging tools.  I am not a flower arranger  – I generally go for the just picked and put in a vase natural look but occasionally I have made gifts with flowers and so I keep a drawer with a few tools, tapes and florist wires.  The vintage flower frog below was discovered amongst my mother in-law’s things and I decided to keep it.  She used to go to flower arranging classes.  I may never use it but somehow it reminds me of her and how creative she was and it is such a delightful little object and packaged in its own charming little box.Flower arranging tools

Vintage flower frog

 

Some items from the shed that are not affected by the weather have had to be rehoused in the garden.  Not knowing where to store my terracotta pots, some of which are vintage from my dads garden shed, I searched around and found this handy little place inside my Victorian cloche that belonged to my father in law.

Terracotta pots

It is a few years since I grew any vegetables – I gave up my little plot, which is now flower bed, a few years ago when I began working full-time.  Looking at all the lovely veg I see being grown on some of my favourite blogs I decided to buy a Courgette plant and grow it in one of my large pots. Courgette

 They are quite decorative vegetables and already I have flowers appearing with the beginnings of the Courgette behind them.  As I was too late for Sweet pea plants this year I also bought a few left over pea plants from a local nursery and have planted these into another pot with some willow stems for support.

Herb pot

The strawberry pot which again came from my dad’s garden has Chives and a few stray self seeded flowers

The Fence

Remember the fence saga – here is a catch up picture – the climbing hydrangea is blooming and once the wires are in place I can tie it back to the fence and hopefully by next year it will cover the mishmash of fencing and all will be well again.
Climbing Hydrangea

The Obelisk (which I previously called a Gazebo!! – it’s my age) is now in place and planted with Honeysuckle – Lonicera Scentsation  – cream and yellow flowers with a long flowering season and a wonderful scent.

Honeysuckle

Just in case you got the idea from my recent moan about the fence that we didn’t get on with our neighbours – well actually we are good friends and I can totally understand that he isn’t a gardener  – I am just a bit too precious over my plants!

Potted geraniums

As part of the garden tidy up I bought one or two summer bedding plants to put in pots – I do like these wooden crates such a shame they don’t last – I might line it with polythene and grow some herbs in it for the summer.

Birdhouse

The new bird house now has a zinc roof to protect it from the weather – another job off the list.

eating outdoors

After all our hard work we put up the parasol and had lunch outside – perfect.

How are you enjoying this warm spell?

Back soon x

 

cleaning, fEAsible, getting things done, managEAble, nEAtening, rEArranging, simplifying, taking stock

waiting around…

Yesterday I had a fun day out at a Legal Aid Seminar for costs lawyers over the hill in Manchester at the Hilton Hotel.  I doubt if the ins and outs of Legal Aid and its future is everyone’s cup of tea but I did actually enjoy it and we had a delicious lunch provided.  We also had a plentiful supply of Danish pastries, macaroons and the famous Hilton chocolate chip cookies served just out of the oven.  I am definitely going to make some.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e2/4b/1f/e24b1f2397f14c3648d05e1f46f9ad20.jpg

Just click on the picture to link through to Amandeline who has the recipe for them on her blog or Google Double Tree Cookie and you will find plenty of references for their ‘not so secret’, secret recipe!

On the train going the uncommunicative commuters had their heads buried in their phones, tablets and notepads with headphones on – so I sat back and enjoyed some precious thinking time.

In my quest to simplify my life one of my goals is to simplify the housework.  I do enjoy keeping house, there is nothing better for me than a good spring clean you can’t beat the distinctive smell of towels blown dry by the wind outside or a freshly washed floor or polished wood –  but I do want to streamline the process to speed up the time it takes me to make the house presentable and of course a place of joy to live in.

As I have written about here Lean is a concept I am following to simplify my life and I the seven wastes in particular provide me with plenty of food for thought – the waste of waiting being one of them.

For instance – I often have a time lag between washing and ironing the clothes and the putting away – so our house constantly resembles a Chinese laundry (am I allowed to say that these days?).  When I can get them outside on the line to dry it is great but then I end up with a huge pile waiting for ironing.  If I don’t get them outside to dry I end up with a huge pile of wet washing drying on the clothes horse and the end process of getting them put away ready to use again is delayed.

Another unproductive area of waiting is our bad habit of sometimes leaving the dirty dishes after we have eaten our evening meal – so the dishes are waiting far too long to be washed and put away and we are doing them when we are tired and should be relaxing.

And the worst of the waiting – we constantly buy things and then do not get to use them so they end up waiting somewhere – instances of this are all over the house from those little flossing brushes I bought to try ages ago to the Ikea wardrobe parts still packed in boxes and now waiting in the living room to be moved upstairs and assembled.

I can identify very strongly with the waiting time in this household and the time lag between production steps – I only ever seem to be able to do half a job and then don’t get to finish it until my next day off.

So I am on a mission to get some of the stuff off the waiting list and reduce the waiting time during production.

So for starters I am going to tackle the washing and put in a load every other day and iron it before bedtime so there is no pile building up over the week waiting to be tackled at the weekend, then the dishes and then make a start on the ‘stuff‘ – the unfinished projects –   there is one good thing it will still be there waiting for me if I don’t find the time to deal with it!

How do you tackle your unproductive waiting times?

being thrifty, fEAsting, food shopping, getting things done, hEAlth, healthy eating, managEAble, meal planning, trEAsury

a relatively good start…

With menu in hand I completed my Sainsbury’s shop last night after work and felt quite pleased with myself, especially as I limited myself to a hot chocolate without a little snack (I would usually have a scone to keep me going).  Even though I was aiming to buy seasonal British grown produce I noticed the  cabbage was actually grown in Spain!  My trolley was mainly vegetables with a couple of loaves of bread and a few groceries – the ones we were running out of and one or two on offer.  My total bill came to £32.21 for the week – so I am quite pleased with that especially as we are eating better than when I spend a lot more!

shopping

This was all the fresh veg that I needed to add to the bits and pieces in the fridge to make my selected weeks menus.  The cheapest item was the Kiwi fruit at 30p and the dearest the dozen mixed sizes free range organic eggs at £3.70.  I need five for the Spiced Chickpea bakes and the remainder will carry over for next week.  The herbs were on offer and I will be able to freeze what I don’t use.  In the end I decided to buy a ready pack of Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato for £1.

Fresh Veg

Last night we had the Mushroom Stroganoff unfortunately when hubby made it he forgot he was making Stroganoff not risotto and mixed the rice into the mushroom mixture – but in the end it tasted the same!  Tonight we had the veggie stew with roasted chickpeas and butter beans a good warming winter dish – we both enjoyed the new recipe but perhaps the sweet potato and butternut squash made it a little too sweet for me so I would need to make slight adjustments next time.  The other draw back is it does not make enough for 2 meals – the leftover portion will however do for my lunch.  I will have to think of something to fill the empty slot for our tea tomorrow or move everything forward a meal.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s last night I had some returns – I had bought a snuggly throw for the bed at the caravan to keep us warm overnight.  It was a knitted cream blanket with an acrylic sheepskin style underside.  I never thought to check the washing instructions when I purchased it and was rather shocked to find it was not washable.  When I found the receipt to take it back I noticed I had been charged twice for this item.   As it was part of my weekly shop at the time I had not thought too much about my bill seeming a bit dearer than normal and had not checked the receipt afterwards.

So when I asked for a refund of the throw I had bought  I mentioned to the lady at Customer Services about being charged twice and confirmed that I had only bought one – after a bit of a quiet moment and a few umm’s and argh’s she agreed to refund me the money for both.  I thought this was very good of them as I had no way to prove I had not bought two at the time.  So well done Sainsburys for the goodwill gesture – but I will be checking my receipts more throughly in future.

We are certainly getting back into a routine again, all though we are well into January now, and a few of those stubborn little tasks are being crossed off the list.  I booked the car in for the MOT and service on Friday  and made a dentist appointment for the same morning. 

 I am not sure if the car or my teeth will require any major repairs – I hope not as I need to make economies in all areas of my spending.