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.

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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?


Step by Step back to “normal” life

Or as normal as it ever gets!  I’ve officially been cleared to work again, I’m no longer wearing splints and walking longer and longer distances until i start limping again and need to stop.  I did alarm the physio with a very swollen left ankle (the fractured tibia one) on Friday night so I am taped up for the duration of the long weekend but flesh coloured tape is much less conspicuous than big black lace up splints.

There are so many things you take for granted until you have your mobility taken away from you.  I’m really enjoying things like:

having a shower standing up

carrying things around from one place to another

walking around places

being able to get up off chairs

getting my own cup of coffee and indeed getting cuppas for other people

walking along hand in hand with my little boy

DRIVING – even though I have to use Anthony’s car for the time being.

I’m in the process of transitioning from convalescence to supply teaching again and I feel as if I am launching myself onto the world as a whole new person.  A wise person told me that all these thigns happen for a reason and I found that statement hard to take as I hobbled around on crutches. But now, as I find myself on the way out of it all I believe she may have known what she was talking about after all.


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!

 

 


52 Weeks of Organising – Recipes – Part 2

I began my great mealing/recipe project a few weeks ago and it is travelling along nicely.  Yesterday I took the next step of organising my new Recipe Binder.  It isn’t flash because there’s no spare money for flash binder and dividers around here.  I bought a lever arch file, some flouro plastic dividers with an index page at the front and a box of 100 plastic sleeves.  I LOVE plastic sleeves – just needed to say that!

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I simply wrote out my categories on the index page, slipped some recipes into plastic sleeves and I was done.  The recipes are either from Mum which means they arrived by e-mail or I’ve typed them out.  If it came by e-mail I’ve just printed the e-mail – not time to muck around!  For all the others, because I’m doing Weight Watchers, I either get them from the Weight Watchers website or I type them into the Recipe Builder in E-Tools which then works out the points for the recipe and enables the recipe to be put into my Pro Points Tracker.  This gives them some uniformity as they all have the same sort of formatting on the site.

They are all in individual plastic sleeves so they can go to kitchen and back again easily and I’m adding recipes as I do them and they are “successful”.  Two new ones are being added tonight from this weekend – Sweet and Sour Braised Steak (Slow Cooker) and Banana and  Malteaser Muffins.

I’m getting back into the good routine I used to have of planning the meals for the upcoming week on the Saturday, making a shopping list and doing the weekly shop by Sunday.  I’ve also baked today to school lunches (so I’m feeling particularly accomplished!)

Now for Laura’s questions this week:

Questions to ponder:
1.  Let’s talk stuff!  What have you tossed out this week?

I have tossed coffee cups, lots of paper and quite a few odds and ends from back deck (when I was preparing the Valentine’s Night Dinner).  This included our hermit crab gear – the last hermit crab died over 2 years ago!
2.  Have you ever regretted something you’ve gotten rid of?  Why?

The only things I regret getting rid of are the books I had as a child because I would have dearly loved to pass them on to my boys and my niece (she would probably appreciate the “Little House” series and possibly “Nancy Drew” more than the boys would!).  I’ve got one large volume of Frances Hodgson Burnett with three of her books in it that Eric has read from cover to cover and loved.  It may be time for my niece to borrow it!
3.  How tempted are you to rush out and pick up pretty organizing containers first?

I’m tempted but money is an issue so I’m forcing myself to wait.  I’ve saved the link to this bookcase type thing from Ikea which I would like to use in our entry way horizontally as part of a launch pad but I have to work out where to put the cupboard that is there presently as well as save up for it.  Simply having more clear spaces is helping me to be more organised!


Organising Recipes

I’m still catching up on Organizing Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organising Project and this week she has asked about “piles” that we may have tackled in the past week and any decisions that needed to be made about them. In my case it was piles of Weight watchers magazines and cook books.

Cooking dinner each night for at least 6 nights out of 7 has been a big drama over the past 18 months and I am now working on ways to get the whole process running more smoothly so that we have a meal on the table, we are eating healthy food and we save money by not resorting to takeaway food at the last minute.  The other thing influencing all of this is that Weight Watchers have introduced their new Pro Points system which means the points on everything have changed.

There are two key things that I am doing/have done to streamline the whole meal planning/cooking process:

1. Culling Recipes – I had at least four magazine files full of Weight Watchers cookbooks and magazines and I was desperate for space to make my new “homework station” for the boys (a post about that is coming!).  I knew I would have to work out the points for recipes I liked and that obviously there would be new magazines and books coming out as well.  So I sat down for about 4 15 minute sessions and ripped or cut out the recipes I wanted to keep and recycled the rest.  I don’t have a before picture but as you can see in the photo I have reduced that massive pile into one plastic pocket folder of recipes to try.  It isn’t particularly glamorous looking but every piece of paper in it will eventually be thrown away so it is just fine for its purpose.  The decision making was done as quickly as possible and I was as ruthless as I could be.  If I don;t have every recipe I needed I am sure I can find it somewhere else anyway.

2. Meal Planning – I started by making a list of all the meals that will be happily eaten by all four of us.  In some cases it is meals that dh and the boys will eat more happily than I will but I can organise something different for myself if I have time.  So far there are only about 7-8 things on the list so I am aiming to expand the range by going through my “ripped out recipes” and choosing at least one to re-visit each week so we can decide whether to add it to our list.  because I am using e-tools on the Weight Watchers website I can go in and input the recipes as I do them and it will work out the points for me.  Then the recipe is stored there and I have one piece of paper less in my home.  My aim is to go back to my old habit of planning meals and writing a shopping list on a Sunday so we are all set for the week and either dh can do a grocery shop on Sunday or I can do it on a Monday.


School Holidays – Staying in the Groove

The boys are on holidays and I am not, but we are dealing with it.  I did flex off from work today so I could take Eric and his cousin Emma to a “Softie” workshop at Threads and More.  It was really Emma’s 8th birthday present but we sent Eric along for company.  I know children should learn to make their own fun and be able to amuse themselves in the holidays.  But I think it is good to have some structured activity in there especially if it involves learning something new and producing something you are really proud of.

As for the rest of the holidays we’re farming out the boys to various different places and dh will have some time off.  But to keep our sanity we will still be going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, trying to eat regular meals, trying to keep up with the laundry and the house.  Because we didn’t have sporting commitments last weekend I took the boys and two friends to work so that they could experience the event that I’ve been working so hard on and that took up most of Saturday.  It was  just marvelous to be able to stroll around after them and interact with all the different elements that I had been working on.  As it is a “Great Train Robbery” Daniel spent a total of two hours (in two different sessions) in the police station going through evidence and was thoroughly absorbed.  I’m going to have to make sure I keep his investigation sheet which was filled with wonderful Daniel hieroglyphics probably known only to him.  Eric was just as enthusiastic but was also keen to do the Blacksmiths tours and a few other things so I think I could safely take them up there during a non-event period and they would still be well occupied.

I’m planning another trip to the city museum on the weekend but we’ll have to fit it in with Eric’s sleepover plans.  I’d also like to see a movie or two with the boys.  I’m just getting used to the fact that we don’t have to do everything during the day and that they can handle some late nights if necessary.  Our holidays are going to be very different from now on but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.