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…

 

 

 

 

 

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being thrifty, decorating, drEAming, financial focusing, general chit chat, homestEAding, trEAsury

‘dolly’ mixtures…

It has been a busy week again since we arrived home from a long weekend at the cottage/caravan.  Work was particularly pressured this week but I now have 5 days off to look forward to with having the extra Bank holiday day on Monday.

Today I would normally have been cleaning but decided instead to tackle the pile of paperwork that has been breeding accumulated on the desk and get back on top of the finances.  I have a number of tasks…

  • Find a new mobile provider – (once again, as sadly Sainsbury’s gave up last year as a provider) and now Talk Mobile are pulling out of their pay as you go which cost me all of £20 a year!   I am not a phone user so not really worth me being on a contract and the best coverage at our cottage / caravan is Vodaphone.  Their pay as you go is expensive so I am looking for a cheap, cheap, and even cheaper contract.  OH has one that is only £7.50 a month with bundles or whatever but I am not sure I can get that deal now.
  • Decide how to switch my new pension investment  – finally our firm has enrolled onto the people’s pension scheme and I had the first deduction taken this month from my salary.  As with OH pension I want to invest in an Ethical fund but the first pay in is into the default ordinary one so I need to read up on the instructions of how to change this online.  Looking at the figures on the handout we were given at the recent seminar the Ethical choice is doing relatively well.
  • Check our bank accounts and savings and update them.
  • Check over the renewed insurance policy for the cottage – a job I hate doing but must be done.
  • Switch energy provider – Npower are now for the chop.
  • Filing – plenty of it!

Once the paperwork is done my next task is to decide what is going back into the newly decorated bedroom.  We have assembled the Ikea wardrobes which have been fitted out with shelving rather than hanging and will be my linen cupboard and also house fabrics and sewing projects –  this will take the strain off the wardrobe in our main bedroom.  We have also bought a set of drawers so I have to decide where and how to store the items I am keeping and what is to be displayed.  My granddaughter will eventually stay in this room so I want it to look appealing to her and have a place for a few toys.

I removed a bag full of soft toys when we cleared out the room – this little rag doll is the same age as my elder daughter – 37 years old.  I made her as a sample for a sewing kit manufacturer interested in selling toy kits when I worked for New Look Patterns in the seventies and eighties in Bradford – some bloggers may remember them as Maudella.  We were updating the toy section of the catalogue at the time and I had great fun designing and developing a selection of toys.

She has always been called ‘Dolly” and here she is having a leisurely soak whilst her clothes are in the washer.

 

 

Meanwhile bunny and Ted have been spruced up in the washing machine together with a few other ‘friends’.

I had to make the awful decision to send one or two to the charity shop to be loved in a new home – what is it about soft toys that makes this such a hard job?

When my mum comes to stay she has little room to pack lots of toiletries in her case and they make it heavy so she keeps a spare set of basic things at our house.  I have put them all into a little guest basket for her and added in a couple of towels, face cloths and scented soaps – looks much prettier on the shelf now.

 

We needed a new blind for the Velux roof light as the old one had rotted in the sun.  When we checked the price we found they are nearly £100 now for a ‘proper’ Velux blind.  We came across an ordinary blind reduced to £6 in John Lewis and it just happened to be the same width so OH managed to carefully remove the fabric from the new blind and fix it onto the winding mechanism of the old blind.  Brilliant  – what a bargain.

I shall reveal all soon – just not been able to take any pictures yet.

 

Have a great weekend – back soon.

being thrifty, decorating, homestEAding, trEAsury

this and that…

February has almost been and gone already.  I cannot even think what I have been doing but I know I have been busy doing it!

I warn you now this is more of an update and not a very exciting blog post – feel free to leave now…

Earlier this month we had a few days in our new caravan…a few very wet days and then snow when we got back home here in Yorkshire.  This weekend it has been extremely wet and windy and I don’t know about you but I feel I am in desperate need of some warmer sunnier weather, especially to wake up to.

Cottage renovations aside we are planning a bit of a whole house revamp here in Yorkshire – inside and out  – starting with the airing cupboard of all places.  This may seem a strange place to start but recently we had a new Combi boiler installed and the hot water tank upstairs was removed.  The upside is we have a large empty space but the downside is that the airing cupboard is no longer warm!

Mr I. has spent many a day inside this tiny space sanding and painting and fitting new shelves and  a small tubular electric heater to keep it warm so I can carry on airing the clothes and linens after I have ironed them.  I already keep spare toilet rolls and lightbulbs in here and the aim is to store the towels here too.  To get the job done quickly Mr I. bought Quick Drying gloss – this was a big mistake it is definitely not as good in finish and quality as a normal gloss and it is still slightly tacky one week later – thankfully it is only the airing cupboard.

As well as the airing cupboard we are redecorating my younger daughters bedroom (she left home in 2002) and we have never updated it in all that time!

We are installing some fitted wardrobes in this room so last Friday we had another visit to Ikea – our third in two weeks – not because we had a lot of shopping to do but because on previous visits I couldn’t decide on the style of doors for the front of the wardrobes we had gone to buy!

As usual I thought I knew exactly what I wanted until I got there and then found I needed time to have a rethink.  In the end I did buy the wardrobe doors I had first decided on and they have been delivered and are in our living room waiting to be put together.  I am looking forward to having a place to store my linens  which are in our main wardrobe at the moment.

Feeling Frugal

The menu planning and shopping has gone better than expected – my shopping bill is definitely lower, our meals more nutritious and we have even produced a few leftovers for my lunch at work to keep my daily spend down too.

Boots have to their 3 for 2 and a five-pound off coupons at the moment so I am stocking up on my basic face creams and a new mascara.   I haven’t compared my spending yet with this time last year – that will have to wait for a free hour next week when I can sit down and look at the budget.

Today I set up a new savings account with 5% interest which is a good rate given the low rates at present and I am trying to rearrange better utility deals one by one.  Not a job I enjoy doing but hopefully will produce some significant savings.

The To-do List

I have been concentrating on reducing my list of tasks and trying to give myself only 5 a day so that those awkward ones don’t get left undone and keep recurring.  This week will be even busier than last as I have a training seminar to attend in Leeds and I am involved in a fund-raising evening on Thursday after work.

On Monday I have a job to sort out at Kwik Fit who serviced my car and did the MOT and somehow entered my Vehicle number incorrectly.  This has caused a problem at DVLA and guess who has to sort it out!

I have also a few items of shopping that I think will be cheaper from one of the bargain shops or Wilkos rather than from Sainsbury’s or Boots so I will make the effort to go shopping at lunch time.

I have quite a few birthdays for March so I had better start looking for cards and gifts so they are not last-minute.

Well my time is up now  – hopefully It won’t be another month until my next post!

Have a good week x

 

fEAsible, getting things done, homestEAding, managEAble, my goals, nEAtening, organising, rEArranging, simplifying, taking stock, to do list

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