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?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the little things…

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.

Coathanger

  • 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!

Rotten apple

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

Easter card

  • 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

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry and clothes care
  • Sorting
  • Organising
  • Decorating
  • Gardening – lawn care and plant care
  • Stock control

Financial and Paper management

  • Earning
  • Budgeting
  • Bill paying
  • Saving
  • Document management
  • Purposeful Filing
  • Library stock control

Personal management

  • Wellbeing
  • Healthcare
  • Personal care
  • Socialising
  • Blogging

Meal and food management

  • Menu planning
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • 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

 

 

 

So much to do and so little time to do it…

…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

Small Faux Rattan Storage Basket

Google Images

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

 

 

 

 

Financial Focusing update #1

After a shaky start last week I am just about getting back into a routine both at work and home.  At work it is the lull before the storm as there are some big changes ahead starting February – I am not even sure what I will be doing when it happens but I am not going to worry about that now.  No I am going to get my house in order – starting with the finances.

Each evening after work I have been ‘Focusing’ on one financial task from my list.

So far I have…

  • taken the loose change to the bank – £14 in 5p, 2p and 1p’s over the year.
  • taken any returns to the shops for a refund (all but John Lewis this has to be a weekend job),
  • reimbursed our account with the cost of some clothes bought for my mum in law,
  • applied for a cash back card,
  • checked out our current energy deals and
  • begun making a pile of sellable items that we no longer want.

Like a lot of other bloggers I have been totting up the Grocery spend for last year

Total Grocery spend for 2013

£3,082.59 for the year or £59.20 week which is a disappointing £10 a week over the budget I set.  My best month was June £175.14 and my worst August £370.79.

Most of this was spent in Sainsbury’s and I have now got over £80 in reward points to spend – this will help get us through January.

Did I mention I accidentally pulled the plug out of the freezer in the garage when I thought I had just unplugged the outside Christmas lights.  It happened last Tuesday night and not discovered until Saturday!  I need saving from myself.

Not sure what we can save and eat or will have to abandon – any suggestions anyone?  At least it was in the process of being run down to help get through a frugal January  – so not a huge amount in there.  Oh well tomorrow ‘s another day…

Happy New Year…

Stormy weather at Portpatrick

Stormy weather at Portpatrick

Happy New Year to everyone – I hope you all have a wonderful year and achieve all your hopes and dreams and goals.

As you will have noticed through my lack of posts I have been having a bit of an enforced blogging rest.  Christmas became a frantic race to the end mainly due to high work commitments and a lack of free weekends – too many family get-togethers!

As always at this time of year I am looking forward to a fresh start.

My planner has a new diary and clean task sheets all ready to begin the year – perhaps before I am.

I have been thinking about my word this year and without much effort the word FOCUS has kept dominating my thoughts.

I can identify with the ‘power of one’  Sticking to one goal at a time until the project is finished as I believe I am guilty of taking on or starting too many things and trying to achieve too much at once.  So each month I am setting a new single goal as I feel a month is much easier to plan for once all my other commitments are identified and scheduled.  With my busy work life and not many hours spent at home I precious little spare time to accomplish anything.

Focusing on one goal at a time does not mean that I will stop eating healthily or fail to watch my spending – it just means that any spare time will be given over to concentrating on the main project I set for the month.  Each day I will do something towards my main goal.

So my goal for January is to get my finances in order.  This will also incorporate a clearing out of the office and dealing with old paperwork and my filing cabinet as well as the desk drawers.  I shall also be reviewing all my systems for dealing with finances and paperwork to see if they can be made more efficient.

At the top of my blog is a drop down menu  – Focus 2014  – here, if you are interested, is where you will find my list of tasks that I will be doing each day (but in no particular order) throughout the month to bring me closer to my months goal.  I can’t wait to get started!

As I am still playing catch up reading everyone’s blogs please excuse my lack of comments – I see you have all been very busy too and full of new challenges too for the coming year.  I have been reading everyone’s plans and reviews and I will be following your progress over the coming months.

PS –  if you are reading this – I love your sweet little addition to the family Sue and Mavis is such a cute name – I am sure she will thrive with you to look after her.

Deck the halls with boughs of Holly…

Holly

…Fa la la Fa la la Fa la la…

Tonight I have been sitting beside the fire writing Christmas Cards  – all the ones that have to be posted.  Tomorrow I will do our short Christmas news letter for certain friends who like an update and then I will post them on Friday.   I have already received my first Christmas card from a very organised friend (who is retired I should add!)  As I am a working girl I think I deserve a little more time to do mine.

I have been Holly spotting as I drive to and from work in my car and the only place I have seen any Holly, complete with plump red berries,  is very high up on a tree where it would be too difficult to reach. At this time of year I ride around with my secateurs in the glove box just in case.

Brrr…it was so cold this morning that I could not open my car doors and in the end I had to resort to getting my hairdryer and the extension cable to warm up the car a little. It did the trick nicely even if I did look a little strange giving my car a blow dry!

Tomorrow is Bernard’s funeral at 2pm so I have booked a half day off in the afternoon.  I was glad I didn’t have to rush to pick him up today – I would have been concerned if he had ventured out onto the treacherously icy pavements.

I can tell it is getting close to Christmas because certain household items are beginning to break down.  First it was the Burglar alarm that began to make strange noises and we have had to abandon it for now, then the oven has started to trip the main switch when we cook anything over 170C and now the shower screen door is beginning to squeak and groan and we cannot replace the little plastic ball bearing runners as the manufacturer is no longer in business.  Most of these items are quite old now but I do not want to have to replace them before Christmas.  I am hoping that as they say things happen in threes that this will be my quota done.

Oh and I have had my hair cut ready for Christmas so another job off the list – as it is almost winter and particularly cold tonight I decided to only have a good inch taken off otherwise I might feel a little chilly.

Now where did I put tomorrows ‘what to do’ list?  Only 19 days to go…