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!

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Introducing the February challenge…

Simplifying…

I am ready now for my next challenge this month.  I thought long and hard about what it should be as there are a number of areas in my life that I want to address this year, but my word for the year is FOCUS and so I am only allowing myself to do one thing at once, one task at a time through the month.

Although I feel there are some pressing issues like my house needs a big Spring clean, my diet needs attention and I could do with an exercise regime I have decided that a big scale purge on the house must be the next on the list.  There is no point in cleaning the house without first decluttering and simplifying the contents.  Once the house is decluttered it should run smoother and make it simpler and quicker to get ready for work in a morning, plan the meals, cook the tea and deal with the finances or laundry.

Last year I began to simplify some of my belongings but somehow over the months ‘stuff’ begins to creep back in.  I am keen to get started again and everything will be recycled in one way or another, nothing will be wasted, unless it is truly passed its’ sell by date.  I will sell some items on ebay or equivalent as well as sending things to the charity shops.

For those of you who have been following my blog you will know that I am photographing everything other than food (which is on my blog Rerouted) that comes into the house in the hope that it will curb my impulse spending on things I don’t really want or need.

Whilst I am on the subject of recycling one of the things I have been doing behind the scenes is making a ‘mini’ recycling centre for the boot of my car and here it is –  made in true Blue Peter style from old wine boxes that you get in Sainsbury’s.

Mini Recycling

Mini Recycling Centre

The reason for this is that I have a few recycling items that our local council cannot deal with and I can drop these off in the local supermarket and other shops that do.  Having them ready in the boot of the car means that if I know I am going to be shopping near or in this store after work I can take them with me to work, transfer them into a carrier and then deliver them to the shop.

Mini Recycle

This fits snuggly into the boot of my car and the sections enable me to sort the items ready to deliver to the appropriate place when I have time.

Sainsbury’s take the batteries and carrier bags (though I have few of these)

Argos the used water filters

Rymans and WHSmiths the used printer cartridges

My local wholefood shop Half Moon Street will refund 25p on every empty Viridian Vitamin bottle.

I also return those plastic hanger bits that come with tights to the relevant shops

 

Well what am I waiting for I had better go and get started on the mammoth purge…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Christmas Mantle

I find Christmas can be a very busy and stressful time trying to co-ordinate a number of jobs whilst trying to enjoy the season.  It is quite a balancing act and so I always need to have a plan in place.  I have developed a step by step plan over the years as my starting point for having a great hassle free and enjoyable Christmas.

 

Step 1 –  The Planning and Scheduling

  • Always try to sit down and make definite plans for Christmas, preferably in early November or sooner
  • To ring the changes think of something different to do this year or do something differently
  • Make a list of things that have worked well or really didn’t work at all at Christmas in previous years, for instance, we never decorate beyond the end of October. We learnt this long ago from when we were young and foolish and would end up falling into bed at 1am on Christmas morning after hanging the last piece of wallpaper!
  • Keep a Christmas inspiration book / wallet
  • Agree a spending limit and each January open a Christmas savings account
  • Plan time to have a family photo session (formal or informal at home) to record the event and even use as cards for  grannie and aunties!

    Make a Christmas Countdown Calendar for November and December

  • Enter set dates such as birthdays, anniversaries
  • Re-schedule any unnecessary appointments during the busy time, such as the dentist if they can wait
  • Schedule dates for making Xmas items such as cake and cards
  • Schedule in time for the things you want to do such as attend church, Carol Singing, Nativity play etc
  • Enter last date for postings generally 11 November last date for surface mail to Eastern Europe, 18 November last date for surface mail to Western Europe, 5 December last date for airmail to outside Europe, 12 December last date for airmail to Europe
  • Put in a reminder to buy advent sweets etc
  • Book and enter hair / beauty appointments
  • Establish everyone’s movements and add to calendar
  • Have emergency numbers ready by the phone

Step 2 – The Big Clean up

  • Make an ultimate clean-up plan to use each year
  • Work through the plan room by room
  • Clean out the freezer and stock with basics
  • Prepare Guest rooms and plan any bedding required
  • Gather together tableware for Christmas Dinner and other events you are hosting and add to this if necessary

Step 3 – The Food and Entertaining

  • Decide on any entertaining or parties you might have then buy, write and send invitations
  • Decide if you are to host Christmas Dinner or similar
  • Plan the menus
  • Plan the baking and cooking for the freezer
  • Make an effort to cook all the required food early and freeze
  • Make lots of soups / stews
  • Stock up on basics in November
  • Try out new recipes you intend to use

Step 4 – The Gifts and Cards

  • Update your Christmas card list and addresses
  • Plan a budget well in advance list the main people for gifts then close friends then a contingency for those unknown last-minute gifts
  • Buy a decorated box and use for card writing to keep everything together.  They can be written in batches whilst watching TV
  • If short of time buy or make all the same cards or no more than two different designs to speed up the process
  • Print labels for all cards to be posted
  • Decide if any gifts can be made and what they will be
  • Begin a gift ideas list for each person –  have a clear detailed list before leaving the house and keep it with you at all times
  • Try having a theme eg books, slippers
  • Keep one envelope for all your Christmas present receipts for expensive presents use a credit card so they are insured
  • Have a themed stocking and purchase small gifts weekly to spread out the spending
  • After an initial look around the shops for gifts decide on who for what and then go buy it so they don’t sell out
  • Keep a spare gift something you can use afterwards
  • Go to the advertised discount / points nights
  • Remember to buy and wrap those December birthdays

Step 5 –  The General Shopping

  • Have a Xmas shopping list – you only need do this once.  Split into basics and Xmas.  Buy basics in November
  • Check remedies and medicine stocks
  • Begin buying drink early to ease the load
  • Buy Xmas tree lights and any spare bulbs early
  • Remember batteries, stain remover, sellotape etc
  • Buy blank DVD’s early and set recorder in advance for programmes you might miss.
  • Buy fresh flowers
  • Buy Xmas Tree
  • Buy or make crackers

Step 6 – The fun and the pampering

  • Decide on which invites to accept
  • Check your wardrobe and start early to plan and buy outfits whilst there is a good choice in the shops
  • Schedule in some stress free time to relax
  • Book the hairdresser, beauty or pampering sessions early

 

Wow it does look quite a list written down like this but it can be used year on year by just altering the dates slightly to suit when the weekends fall.  For instance I always make my cake near to the 24th November on the same day as the Crisis charity coffee morning as I can guarantee being around that afternoon.  (Having said that this year we had to go to Scotland and guess what – I still have to bake my cake!)  We buy a real tree each year so we tend to get that one or two weekends before Christmas so it doesn’t look like a skeleton tree on Christmas day.

Most of all I want to enjoy the ‘getting ready’ bit as much as the day itself.  I love the idea over at Linden Grove of the slow walk to Christmas – however, I think it might be a bit late for my slow walk this year as it is quickly becoming a fast sprint.  I think I would have to start much earlier as I always try to make as much as I can for Christmas rather than buy.

How do you plan for Christmas or maybe it just happens?