Little Steps in Organizing

I have been sick this week. After the boys both had gastro for a week followed by another couple of weeks with asthma, croup, runny noses and the rest, their germs were shared with me in great enough numbers for me to go downhill as well. So the greater part of the last week has been spent in or around the bed, I’ve been confined to base this week- until yesterday and I was feeling pretty miserable for a while before I had to give up some things and stay home.
However life goes on and I’ve found the best way to get some sorely needed organising done is in very small chunks. I had joined in with the Organising Junkie’s 52 weeks of Organising at the beginning of 2011 and I’ve totally fallen off the wagon with that but these small sessions are going to get our house back on track. My biggest challenges right now are the sheer volume of things in our house that need to be more organised so that we can all function with less stress. Even though I’m getting around quite happily now on my previously dodgy ankles I still don’t have the stamina to do huge amounts of organising/tidying/cleaning at once. We are using the timer and doing 10-15 minute sessions with me organising something, the boys clearing out something to help me organise (The bottom of my wardrobe) or the boys problem-solving for one of our big issues.
SHOES. There. That is one of the biggest issues we face. I’ve said it. When it is time to leave for school or go to the park or go anywhere there is always someone who can’t find shoes. They could be in any room of the house, often in the living room, in the backyard beside the trampoline, in my car or A’s car and very occasionally in the plastic crate we had designated for shoes in their bedroom. It clearly wasn’t working and it was causing great angst for everyone, especially when we were rushed.
So, with the help of Eric, I organised a Shoe Docking Station on the back veranda. I thought it was just going to be a place where the shoes were all kept together but being boys, we had to have a docking station and I’m pretty pleased with it.
It isn’t fancy. I’ve just used home made laminated computer labels and stuck them down on an old TV stand we had and there are now designated “parking spots for the important sets of shoes. So school shoes, sports shoes, sandals and thongs have their own spaces with one changeable parking spot to be used for tags for hockey in Winter and runners for Little Athletics in summer.
A has raised the issue of spiders so we are going to practice precautionary shoe thumping. What I really like already is that I can pop outside and know straight away what is missing so they can hunt for exactly what they need. I’ve put some photos in but be warned. It isn’t “pretty” but the boys like it and it is functional and that’s what counts for my family right now.


The Intervention

Just when I thought “interventions” were only done on rather scary reality TV shows I found myself the “victim” of a very large intervention on Sunday.  There I was, innocently drinking coffee with a good friend of mine  and relating the events of my week when she announced that we were going to deal with my clothes.  My pleas to finish the coffee and continue chatting were ignored and we were off into the bedroom to begin.

Clothes flew and were flung in all directions in the hours that followed.  Luckily she is a really good friend because comments included “No!”, “Frumpy!”, “Get rid of it”, “What were you thinking?” and “Did your mother choose this?”  I should hasten to say that I owned only one item of clothing chosen by my mother and it has now gone to a  better place.  The final tally was five small gar bags of clothes to go to charity, three small gar bags of stuff that I will fit into soon and best of all, a wardrobe which contains only items that I can wear right now.  It is the first time in my adult life that I can remember having such a wardrobe.  The aforementioned gar bags went into the back of my friend’s car so there were no chances for me to change my mind and the three bags of ambition clothes are going to be boxed up in plastic crates so that nothing nasty befalls them.  The wire coathangers were all dispatched to the garbage bin and the plastic coated wire hangers were deemed to be only good for hanging up my husband’s shirts.  I have most hangers the same the now and all facing in the same direction – revolutionary!

I still have the shoe section to go and a few drawers but they seem easy compared to the task of tackling that overstuffed wardrobe.  I am eagerly anticipating being able to pull out something to wear very easily from those places as well.

The flow on effect from this will be the ease with which I can put together outfits the night before to wear the next day.  I’m intending on having Plan A outfits for days that I am working and Plan B outfits for days that I am not.  The drawback is that I don’t have as many clothes but when I think about it I don’t really have less clothes because the ones that are not there could not be worn anyway.  So it is full of win all round really.

The saying “Knowledge is Power” could certainly be applied to my fateful Sunday afternoon too.  I was lucky enough to attend a High Tea on the previous Saturday where we met Suzy the Stylist.  Prior to that day I never would have thought that I had anything to gain from listening to a stylist given that I am overweight, the majority of my clothes are bargain buys and I usually buy things without trying them on because of time pressures.  Boy was I wrong!

I now know that I have curvy figure (somewhere under there!) and what to do about dressing for that figure.  I know exactly what to look for now in shops and which items of clothing I would like to buy when I next have the opportunity.  Because I was also able to look at things through a “knitter’s lens” as well I now know why some of my projects look good and why some of them should never have seen the light of day.  I am actually having one piece frogged, the wool washed and rewound so that I can knit something else with it!  Best of all when someone mentions a  knitting pattern on Ravelry I know immediately whether it will work for me or not.

So while it isn’t an extensive wardrobe, it is completely functional and even though I needed to sit down for quite a while and collect my thought post-intervention I am really glad that it happened.  And to my dear friend – Thank-you. I needed to be bossed around and I’m truly glad that you did so.

And now dear readers:

Have you ever been part of an intervention? Either intervening or being the “intervenee”?

How do you organise your clothes?

If you are losing weight, what are you planning to do with your clothes?


I’ll see less of you next week!

That is our little catch cry at the end of Weight Watchers meetings and I often say it with grim determination that doesn’t come to fruition.  We also say as we high five the people next to us at the start of the meeting, “you are looking great”.  It sounds bit corny as I type it (sorry C when you read this!) but it really does lift the mood at the start of the meeting and it also means the meeting ends on a positive note.  It was positive all round for me this week because I lost 2.5 kg!  Even more high fives at the scales!

I actually thought that I wasn’t doing too much different but then we I gave it some thought I really have started doing things differently.  The biggest change is that my exercise has gone from  zero to 30 minutes most days and lots of incidental stuff.  I’m spurred on the “incidental” department by my trusty pedometer.  I haven’t yet reached the desired 10000 steps in a day.  My highest was 9000+ but my average each week is steadily rising.

I am also trying to be very mindful about what I eat and to a certain extent get the boys to think about what they are eating too.  This morning I told them that they had to have something for breakfast that wasn’t a ham and cheese toasted sandwich.  I don’t have anything against ham and cheese toasted sangers but to Daniel in particular they area food group of their own!  So Daniel ended up having an orange and a mandarin which wasn’t ideal but we did discuss that fact that he probably had a Vitamin C force field around him.  Eric bravely tried oats and didn’t finish them but it is all a good start and at least they are thinking.

The fact that we are very short on cash certainly has an impact on what I’m eating as well because I’m eating at home wherever possible, cooking my own food and only having very well considered takeaway.

I’ve now got a very good looking graph on the kitchen wall and I’m hoping to keep it looking good.  I’d really like to have a different “tens digit” in my weight next week!  The photo of Vera?  She is my next secret weight-loss weapon.  Once we get here a collar that fits she and I will be pounding the pavement regularly!


A Guide Makes Good Use of Her Time

The Guide Law

  1. A Guide is loyal and can be trusted.
  2. A Guide is helpful.
  3. A Guide is polite and considerate.
  4. A Guide is friendly and a sister to all Guides.
  5. A Guide is kind to animals and respects all living things.
  6. A Guide is obedient.
  7. A Guide has courage and is cheerful in all difficulties.
  8. A Guide makes good use of her time.
  9. A Guide takes care of her own possessions and those of other people.
  10. A Guide is self-controlled in all she thinks, says and does.
I was a Girl Guide, Junior Leader, Assistant Guide Leader and Gumnut Guide Leader in the days of my youth.  Guiding still holds a very dear place in my heart and many happy memories and some embarrassing ones. My bra being flown from a camp flagpole was not a highlight!
It is interesting the things that come back and stick with you.  I could not recite the entire Guide Law to save my life but I often think to myself “A Guide makes Good Use of Her Time”.  This seems to have become more and more relevant to me as I get older.  Obviously I now have multiple roles in life and never enough time in the day.  Being on crutches and having impaired mobility for so long was a salient lesson in what can be achieved in very small pockets of time.  At this stage of my rehabilitation I can be standing around for 30 minutes at most before my back starts hurting so I have had to make sure that I make very good use of those 30 minutes (or smaller) intervals.
The smaller intervals are perhaps the most interesting.  I try to get as many little things done as the kettle boils, as the toaster toasts and when I have set the oven timer for something.  I have loaded or unloaded the dishwasher at one of these time, put a load of shopping away or cleaned down the sink. While I’m waiting for my computer to boot up or shut down or for the printer to work I can tidy numerous things off the desk.  When there are bigger tasks like folding washing, cleaning and the like I often set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes to get myself started and then keep going in 15 minute intervals.
Then there are some other ways to consider good use of time.  A big one for me recently has been sleep time.  I am often turning my light off when there is a 9 at the front of the time on the clock!  I then have a far better chance of getting the 8 hours sleep that I really need.  And what about when choosing what to do?  I had a  an afternoon with Daniel this afternoon as Anthony was off playing Bowls and Eric was at a friend’s place.  I would have been very well justified in continuing to plough through laundry and tidying up especially after yesterday’s Dinosaur Hunting party but Dan and I headed for the local park with his Big Bang Rocket and in true Daniel fashion he soon adopted four other random children and organised a series of test flights making sure that everyone had a turn and that they knew the correct technique.  Now that was good use of time!

Websites I Am Always Talking About

I probably don’t frequent as many websites as most people, sticking to Facebook and Google Reader for the blogs that I enjoy.  However when I am talking to people about the things I love I often mention certain websites and am not always ina position to write them down.  The goal of writing this post is for people to refer to my blog for my favourite sites!

The Book Depository – There is a UK site as well as others in other countries.  It is a place to buy lots of different books at greatly reduced prices and there are no shipping costs.  They seem to send the books as soon as they have them available so when I made my first order a few months ago I actually received three separate parcels in the mail – good fun all in itself!  As an example of the possible savings, I bought two knitting books which sell for $45 each here and by using Book Depository I paid about $22 each.

Strawberry.net – I was put on to this site quite recently by a good friend when my skin was suffering from the cold and dryness and I was finding that my products froma rather cheap direct sales company were irritating my skin and not being very effective at all.  Back in the day, before children, mortgages and financial strife I used to use Clinique products and loved them.  I had given them up because they were simply too expensive and I was finding that I used them too sparingly to do any good.  Now I am back to using Clinique, having paid very low prices to get some items and my skin is really showing the benefits and feeling fantastic.  There is no shipping coast and extremely fast service.  Just as an aside, the same friend put me onto Blinc mascara. It is seriously the best mascara ever and lasts through absolutely everything because it actaully puts little “tubes” of mascara around each lash which stay there until rubbed gently with a wet washcloth.  When you rub them off you can actually see the little tubes on the washcloth and there is no residue smudged around the eyes.  Obviously they are very fine tubes and there is no ill-effect on the lashes. To quote Molly Meldrum, if you are a mascara wearer, “do yourself a favour” and try some of this stuff because it really is wodnerful!

CafePress – I am very happy to be the owner of two knitting t-shirts and one teaching t-shirt from this fantastic site.  There are shirts, sweaters and a range of other products with slogans and graphics for almost any occupation or hobby you could dream of.  It is worth a browse just for the entertainment value of what sayings they have on offer. My knitting shirts are “I knit so I don’t kill people” and “Keep calm and carry yarn”.  My teaching shirt is “I teach, what’s your superpower?”  There is some shipping cost but the service is faultless and they are a very good quality product.

Ravelry – Whenever I am talking to someone who is beginning to knit or crochet I invariably ask them if they have been on Ravelry.  It is a networking site for knitting, crochet and spinning and has thousands of members who share patterns, yarns and finished projects.  You can sign up for free and either browse through what’s on offer or start your own Ravelry “notebook” with pictures of your projects and links to the patterns and yarns used as well as where you obtained them.  because of all these notebooks you can search for a type of project or yarn and find almost countless results.  It is very useful for when you want ideas for a particular item like beanies or tea cosies or if you are deciding on whether to use a particular yarn or pattern.  Just make sure you have a spare 4-5 hours to spend browsing if you decide to have a look.

FlyLady – As I get back on my feet quite literally I am using and will continue to use FlyLady.  It is all about organising yourself and your house to take the best possible care of yourself and your loved ones.  I could write pages about how good her system is but it would be far better to just pay the FlyLady a visit and check her out for yourself.


Life Skills

Since my tumble down the stairs resulting in two injured ankles, I have learned many things – how to use crutches, how to go up and down stairs on crutches, the best way of calling a cab and the best sort of socks to wear when you have to wear them under splints 24/7 for SIX weeks  – only three to go!

Eric has learned a few useful things too.  He now knows:

how to make a cup of coffee (very important for his mother’s survival)

how to make a toasted sandwich (necessary for his survival)

how to change the shelves in the oven and turn it on

which things I need on my trolley when I go from place to place

He has also walked to the local chemist by himself when I was stranded at home and really needed prickly heat powder to put on under the aforementioned socks.  As the days go on he is using his school diary to keep track of the pick-up arrangements for each afternoon which is very useful given that the arrangements are different every single day!

I wish I could say something similar for Daniel but he’s just not into trying new things without a lot of help. His main interest in my injuries is the fact that I have much more time than usual for reading stories to him and listening to him read to me.  So he is learning in a more indirect way from what has happened.  To be fair, he has filled a few water bottles for me and he quite enjoys getting me a Berocca each morning.

All of this has really made me think about the times at which we begin to teach life skills to our children.  I think about it more, when I’m stranded somewhere at home needing something done and I wonder whether I can ask one of the boys to do it.  Will they be able? Will they be willing?  I’ve got a long mental list of things they do know how to do already but I’ve been thinking about how to move them on and some more things I could teach them.

Given that Eric is 10, I’d like to teach him to do simple ironing, start a load of washing choosing water level and temperature, do some vacuuming and where to access the electricity box and water in an emergency.  For Daniel my ambitions include stacking dishwasher, hanging out small washing on clothes airer, folding things and taking simple phone messages.  That’s just off the top of my head and I’m sure there are many more things.

I’d like my boys to get into very familiar routines for mornings, after school and evenings so that the jobs we wanted them to do and homework requirements etc were all just happening instead of coaxed out of them step by step each day.  That means of course that I need to have better routines for myself and I do recognise that.  I’d like them to develop their problem solving skills so they can see that there is often more than one solution to something that is bothering or perplexing them.  I’d like to help them develop their emotional resilience while also leaving them secure in the knowledge that it is ok for a boy to cry.

Eric and I are going to a funeral on Thursday and it will be his first one.  His teacher’s mum passed away last week.   Other students from his class are likely to attend with their parents so he is feeling some safety in numbers. A friend and I had a conversation with Eric and her daughter this afternoon about the sorts of things that happen at a funeral and why they are important. We talked about what it means to the family left behind to see that their community supports them.  Both children now have some concept of what they will see, hear and perhaps feel.  Dh and I decided that it was important for him to attend a funeral now for someone he didn’t know well because there will come a time when he has to attend a funeral for someone he does know well.  When that time comes it may be a bit less overwhelming because he knows the sorts of things that will happen.

Now is the time for us to be mindful of the learning opportunities that are out there in everyday life for our children and to make the most of them even if it does take longer to get things done and they may not be done as well as we would have done them.

You may have noticed that I didn’t put on Eric’s list that he knew how to make toast with honey.  To explain I give you (as accurately as I can remember) our conversation on the Sunday morning before last.

“I’m going to make you a coffee Mum.  Would you like something for breakfast?”

I take frantic mental inventory – what can he make and bring into bedroom without spilling it?  I think that rules out cereal so I settle on toast with jam.  He disappears.

“There’s no jam anywhere Mum.  Can I put something else on?”

“Um, yes. How about some honey?”

“Sure!”

At this point the kettle stopped boiling ages ago, he’s been to the fridge several times but no smoke alarms have gone off.  Then he appears again.

“I’ve sort of made a mistake.”

“Oh yes?”

“I sort of put the margarine and honey on but I forgot to put the bread in the toaster.  Should I put it in now?”

“Um, no, that will be fine, you can just bring it in to me the way it is.”

As it turned out, he probably could have put the bread in the toaster quite easily because he eventually appeared with barely lukewarm coffee and two slices of stale bread with a tiny smear of margarine down the centre of each and about 1 teaspoon of honey altogether between two pieces.

“Thank-you gorgeous, it was so nice of you to make me some breakfast!”

“That’s ok Mum, nothing to it” and he struts away, chest out feeling very proud of himself.

We might still be learning but I’ve got very good material to work with!

 

 


The Love Fest

I like St Valentine’s Day but dh does not.  Where once he used to go along with the whole present and going out thing he now refuses to participate at all.  I knew I’d be “flogging a dead horse” if I tried to do anything about the big day with him this year so instead I decided to focus on the three men in my life.  The boys will hopefully learn a bit about simple celebrations and ways in which you can show people you love them.  I wouldn’t suggest it now but maybe they will store away some ideas for when they have “sweethearts” of their own.  So I’ve had a bit of fun getting tready for our mini Love Fest which we held tonight.

I got the Valentine’s Wreath Idea from here.  Mine is quite different in that I went with flat felt hearts in a rich red and I got the wield my new hot glue gun.  The finished effect is simple but well, effective I think.  The rest was easy: red plastic tablecloth (boys eating spaghetti – I shouldn’t need to say anything else on that subject), white serviettes with hand-painted hearts, some red heart sequins sprinkled up the middle of the table, red tea-lights in our special rose decorated wall sconce and the “piece de resistance” (as far as the boys were concerned) chocolate heart rose buds on long plastic stems.

We dined on spaghetti bolognaise with choc mint drumsticks for dessert anda good time was had by three of us.  Vera the dog was intrigued by all the goings-on and desperate to be included.  She did score some leftover spaghetti sauce in the end!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.