Monday, November 30, 2009

...getting ready for Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I'd point you towards some helpful Christmas posts

Think about clutter-free gifts

Organizing and storing holiday items

Declutter your children's toys

Let's talk gifts - what's your philosophy on the whole gift-giving issue, especially in this economy?

Do you go ALL out, no expense spared?

Do you have a gift limit?

Do you buy for kids only or also for adults?

Do you do handmade gifts?

Share in the comments - I'd love to hear what you do.

post signature

P.S. I'll start by sharing my gift-giving philosophy in the comments.

P.P.S. We found out we were pregnant on Christmas Eve last year. I put up this little stocking not knowing that there were TWO little babies :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Quick tip - easy grocery shopping

The rule in our house is that when we start running low on something, anything really, it goes on the shopping list. We then buy it when I do the weekly grocery shop.

Kendra is on a special formula that only comes in these tiny cans. It's also very difficult to find as only two stores near us stock it, so we have to be organised about the timing.

At her current rate of eating, we need 6 of these tins every month.

I learned my lesson once when I had to drive to about 4 different places to find her formula!

I'm very strict about not going to the shops except on my designated shopping day (the more I go, the more I spend - is that only me?) so here's how I keep track of when we're running low.

I mark the top of the can with numbers and then I stack the cans with the highest numbers in the front.

When I reach out and finally pull out the can marked 1, I know it needs to go on the shopping list.

Just in case someone else opens the can, I also write last can on the lid so there is absolutely NO confusion about when it needs to go on the list.

How often do you go grocery shopping and do you use a shopping list?
post signature
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers! Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And the winner is....

Remember the competition for ideas to use up Connor's empty formula cans?

Well, I loved all the comments. Clearly you guys are MUCH more creative than I could ever be :)

There were truly some great suggestions - if you haven't read them, go have a read and make some notes for your spare cans.

My favourite ideas were from Danel (commenter 1) who gave me not one, but four great ideas:

I use mine as follows:
- store small toys in them.
- cut an opening in the lid and let my baby put babyfood lids through the opening.
- put anything noisy in them so that baby can shake it - loves the noise
- use an empty one as a drum - i taught my baby to hit it with his hands or a spoon to make some noise!

I may have liked them so much because they're baby uses for empty baby cans :) I get a kick out of things like that.

So Danel, look out for an email from me soon :)

I also loved the suggestions to use them for Christmas goodies so I've decided to also use some of the cans for my famous oatmeal drop cookies to give to some of my friends for Christmas. Everybody LOVES these - just try them.

These are the easiest things in the world to make and you absolutely can't go wrong with them. I promise.

I did my first batch today and 1 1/2 cans are already used :)

Thanks, everybody, for playing along.

post signature

P.S. I still haven't managed to fix this scheduling problem (yes, I've logged it on the support forums) so I'm moving to Wordpress. I think I've been very patient the last 6 months!

P.P.S. I go back to work in 2 weeks time!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How do you organise your recipes?

Colleen from Florida wrote...

I love the idea of menu planning but have no organization for recipes.

How do you organize your recipes?

I have them electronically, paper, and websites.

Thank you!

my recipe box
Colleen, I love this question.

I used to be one of those people who drooled at reading recipes. I'd have every intention of cooking or baking the delicious _________ and then life would happen.

I wrote a post on organising my recipes about 18 months ago - not much has changed but here is the summary :)

  1. I've learned to be brutally honest with myself and only print recipes I know I will actually cook. That one step will save you tons of cooking angst and lots of paper :)
  2. Once the recipe passes the taste and easy-to-make test (I don't believe in doing any dish that takes longer than 30 minutes to prepare) and I know I'll do it again, I put it in one of my recipe flipfiles. I currently have one for main courses, desserts, muffins (hey, I love baking muffins). Here's what I do with small recipes when I don't want to waste a whole page for just one.
  3. I also have a flipfile for new recipes I want to try.
  4. We have a list of about 24 meals that we both like (things like cauliflower I have to eat elsewhere :)) and I do my weekly menu plan based on these meals.
  5. Only when I feel bored cooking the same things, then do I go looking through that flipfile to try out my new recipes. Of course, some are so compelling you just have to cook them straight away :)
So in summary, I'd say
  • be realistic about your time and money constraints (we all know some recipes where you'd have to go SEARCHING in exotic places for the ingredients; those are not my types of recipes!)
  • categorise well (according to how YOU think and live)
  • declutter regularly
What are your best recipe-organising tips?

post signature

Friday, November 20, 2009

What's your favourite comfort food?

It's unseasonably cold and rainy in Johannesburg.

Has been like this since Tuesday.

Of course, I love this weather - love love LOVE it - so have been an Energizer Bunny, cooking, cleaning, doing Christmas cards, etc.

One thing cold weather does for me is want to eat comfort foods like pasta, soup, anything potato, etc.

Actually, my favourite comfort food is mashed potato.

I so rarely make it from scratch that I had to take pictures!

adding milk and margerine...

and salt and lots of pepper...

What's your favourite comfort food?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Help me find a use for these and win a free ecourse

The contest is now closed. Thanks everybody for all the fabulous suggestions. I'll pick a winner in the next day or two and post the name :)

Have a lovely weekend!

This is a picture of some empty formula cans.

Somehow I can't bear to throw them away as I'm positive I can recycle them and put them to good use.

Only thing is, the babies have sapped my creativity and I'm all out of ideas.

This is where you come in - I'm looking for ways to use these cans, keeping in mind that Connor goes through one of these every 14 days. Kendra's on the tiny yellow/ orange tins in the top left of the picture so I don't mind throwing those away.

This is what I already do with some of them:

  1. a wastepaper basket in the smallest bathroom in the world
  2. catch water under the leaking tap

So here's how it works:

  • Leave a comment with your suggestions and your email address
  • Competition closes this Sat 12pm EST
  • I'll pick a winner and post the person's name.
  • The person chooses 1 of 3 e-courses.

Hopefully in the not-too-distant future I'll do a post showing you what I did with them.
Come on, put your thinking caps on!

post signature

Monday, November 16, 2009

How do you balance work, home and family?

Melanie from New Orleans wrote...

I'm personally very interested in balancing hings - work, graduate school, home, family, friends, etc, etc, etc. If you have any advice about that, I would appreciate it!

This is a great question, Melanie. It's also something I'm re looking at in my own life since my babies were born 4 months ago.

1. Realise you only have so many hours in the day

We all only have 24-hour days. Some of us think we're Superwoman and have more time than that. We don't.

2. Write down your different roles and the time commitment required from each

Don't forget to add in managing your home time and personal time!

The idea is to see if you're a time optimist or if you're being realistic with your time. Sometimes we think a certain activity only takes, let's say 2 hours a week. When you factor in travel time plus preparation time, it may increase to 4 or 5 hours. No wonder you always feel frazzled when you think about this specific activity.

3. Now ask yourself these questions:

Am I too busy?
Am I trying to do too much?
Am I being realistic about the amount of time outside commitments take?
What do I need or want to focus on at this time in my life?
What can I cut out?
What can I delegate?

4. Prioritise

I do an exercise with my Time Management clients where they tell me all the different areas of their lives. Some people have lots and lots of balls that they're trying to juggle. That's okay-ish.... as long as your priorities are straight.

Don't neglect your home and family commitments just to look good on a committee :)

My preference is to do less and do those things well rather than to feel overwhelmed by taking on more and more.

5. Realise that when you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else.

Some things in life are just for a season, like the newborn stage. So while reading and going to my dance classes are extremely important to me, I'm doing a lot less because I have to sleep when I can :)

If you're on my Organise It mailing list, just this weekend I sent out a survey because I need to declutter all the things I do in my business for the next year or so, in order to focus on the babies.

I realised that I can't keep saying yes to all these other business-related things and short-change my family time!

6. Keep evaluating and tweaking

Just when you think you have things figured out, suddenly something won't work anymore.

That's normal with organising ANYTHING, let alone your time.

Keep evaluating where you're at - I do this on a weekly basis * - and tweak, tweak, tweak. Just because it suited you to work really long hours a few months ago doesn't mean it still suits you to do so now.

* will write about the way I plan my life soon...

So that's how I create balance in my life. I want to emphasise that it's an area I'm always working on!

Please share how you create balance in your life. We'd love to read your suggestions.

post signature

Thursday, November 12, 2009

4 ways to schedule bathroom time better

I'm Karen from Washington state, USA.

Do you know any tricks for those of us in older homes with only one bathroom? I have a teenage son and a disabled husband who spends 2 hrs in there each morning. I can't get up any earlier (5:30am to let the caregiver in).

Karen, here's what I'd do to organise the time better:

  1. Allocate each person set "bathroom time" daily. The fastest person goes first so that the schedule is not thrown off if there are delays :)
  2. Everybody doesn't have to have their main bathroom time in the mornings. Can someone not do theirs in the evenings?
  3. To make the time more efficient, dressing must be done in the bedrooms.
  4. Have a bathroom caddy for each person which they bring into and take out of the bathroom when it's their time. This way the bathroom doesn't have to store unnecessary things.

Do you have one or more bathrooms family members have to share? How do you get everyone in and out quickly in the mornings?

post signature

Monday, November 09, 2009

Keeping up with my most-hated chore, the laundry

Yes, it's true. I really hate doing the laundry. I think it's because it's never DONE! And I like things DONE and ticked off the list.

I actually have a friend who told me once that she finds doing laundry therapeutic. I can't fathom this at all but maybe you also love doing the laundry and can relate.

Before the babies arrived I did 2 - 3 loads once a week, usually on a Friday, depending on whether it was hot or cold around these parts. In winter the laundry seems to pile up quicker because we're wearing thicker clothes and layers, lots of layers :)

Of course, now that the babies are here, we have to do 3 - 4 loads of baby laundry every week, in addition to our 2 - 3 loads. They also spit on me all the time despite using burp cloths so that's increased our laundry too!

Fun times!

So here's what I now do:


  1. I have two big laundry baskets in my laundry, a tiny room just off my kitchen. One is for colours and one for whites. One of these baskets equals a full load in the machine so when the basket is full, I do a load, no matter what day of the week it is :)
  2. We have a laundry basket in our bedroom which I empty every 1 - 2 days.
  3. When I empty the bedroom laundry basket, I separate into the colours and whites piles there and then.
  4. I keep stain remover, washing powder and fabric softener, right where I use it - next to the washing machine - so that it's not a big schlep actually doing the laundry.
  5. Most times, I get the machine ready before the time by filling the washing powder and fabric softener drawers, and setting the dial ready to start. We also have a leaking tap and I hate wasting water so I put a bucket underneath the leak.
Actual doing
  1. When one of those baskets is full, all I have to do is toss the laundry into the machine and turn on the tap.
  2. If I'm feeling extra clever, I load the machine in the evenings and leave a note for Dion to turn on the machine in the mornings when he wakes.
  1. If the weather's good, which it is 90% of the time in Johannesburg, I like to hang the laundry outside to dry because the air does the job quicker and it saves me money by not having to use the tumble dryer.
  2. I hang shirts and tops straight onto hangers and hang the hangers on the washing line. It's quicker than using clothes pegs and easier to bring in quickly if rain threatens as it does during summer time afternoons.


  1. I think if there's anything worse than doing laundry in the machine, it must be the ironing. I absolutely can't stand it. I've been known to wear every single thing in my wardrobe rather than get out the iron and iron something.
  2. We have a cleaning lady, Precious, who cleans the house and does our ironing once a week. Heaven! I would do without eating out but I will not do without Precious :)

The babies have a nanny to look after them and part of her responsibilities is to do their laundry while they nap. Aren't I clever? :)

Do you love or hate doing the laundry?

If you're one of those people who love doing the laundry, please share your tips with the rest of us :)

P.S. This is in response to Michelle from British Columbia who wanted to know how to keep the laundry monster at bay :)

post signature

Get your home organised in 12 weeks

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ask the organiser about organising garages and sheds

I've got two sheds that need tackling so any outhouse tips would be good :)
Carl Wokingham, Berkshire, United Kingdom

This is some of what I wrote to Carl...

Sheds is where I draw the line – I don’t even go into mine! I told my husband that dirty, outside work is for him :)

But let’s ask the readers and see what they come up with.

So readers, over to you. Today YOU are all the organisers!

Please share your best garage/ shed organising tips with Carl :)

post signature