It might be 7 January and 2019 a week old already but for me today feels like the start of the new year. That’s because all three of my children are back at school and I’m properly back at my desk after a lovely Christmas break. Being self-employed and working in social media you never switch off from work entirely but I scaled things back the best I could over the festive season and I feel so much better for the break.
But now it’s back to reality and routine.
I missed the little people today but I feel recharged and refocused and ready to make changes in our lives. Here are the steps I’m taking this week to make this year an organised and productive one. I’m sure there will be challenges and chaos along the way where I’ll feel a million miles away from the focus and good intentions I’m setting now… but at least this will provide a good starting point and something to fall back on.
Are you feeling similarly inspired by the start of the new year? I’d love to know what steps you are taking to make life more organised this year. Please do share your tips in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook, or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy
All photos from Pixabay other than the ones of me running and doing yoga plus the one of my children
Decluttering our home
My big project for 2019 is to declutter the house. I feel like I’m constantly doing this to some degree anyway but with a big kitchen extension planned either later this year or next year (finally!) my mission is to get rid of half the stuff in the house. Yes – half. More if I can.
Like a lot of families with young children, we have way more stuff than we need – and it’s driving me mad. It’s true what they say about a cluttered house leading to a cluttered mind and I find myself agitated and frustrated when I spend too long at home due to all the stuff. We’re not especially extravagant people and definitely don’t overbuy for our children. I clear out the toys every few months. But still I feel we are drowning in things we don’t need. This is combined with a lack of decent storage space in our house too, so it often feels that the stuff is on display rather than hidden away which really doesn’t help.
I’m writing a list of what needs to be done in every room of the house and will be tackling it slowly, thoroughly and ruthlessly. My wardrobe is a huge priority. I need to go through my clothes as there’s lots in there that’s well past its best and I know I won’t wear again. It’s also full of bags of junk and goodness knows what, as I have been guilty of storing things in there when I don’t know what else to do with them. This then means I end up wearing only a handful of clothes because I can’t face rummaging through the wardrobe for fear or what may fall out on me. The garage and attic are other key spaces in desperate need of decluttering – both are bursting with boxes of stuff we no longer need but until now hadn’t had the time to sort through to work out what we can sell, what we can give to charity shops and what can be ditched.
I’m also getting my children involved in the sort out. Before Christmas I gave each of them a big carrier bag and asked them to fill it with toys and books they no longer wanted. They responded so well to this that I’m going to ask them to do it again every few weeks. We sold a few of their old toys on local Facebook selling groups and have decided as a family that we will save all the money we make this way and put it towards a family trip to Legoland.
My aim is to get rid of two bags of stuff a week minimum.
Getting a cleaning routine established in the house
Once upon a time time when my children were little and used to have long lunch-time naps, my house was spotless. During those two (sometimes more) daily hours where my first and second children would nap in synch I’d spend the first half cleaning and tidying and the second half watching TV or reading. Mondays was the bathroom plus washing the towels. Tuesdays was the dusting and vacuuming the downstairs rooms. Thursdays was the bedrooms.Friday was the kitchen and the bed linen. I’d put on a load of washing one day and iron and put it away while watching the TV the next.
But then we had a third baby, my children got older and messier, I was doing three school and nursery runs a day, and my working patterns changed so that I was looking after them in the day and working in the evenings when they were asleep. Although Cardiff Daddy and I both did our fair share of jobs it became so much harder and the housework became one huge struggle.
Now I have Monday to Friday during term times to work at home and I’m determined to get back on top of things. I did think about condensing my work into four days and having one ‘household day’ but that doesn’t quite work with the nature of my job. So I’m going to finish an hour before school pick up each day and blast the housework. Routine and consistency are key rather than letting it all mount up and then not knowing where to start. Cardiff Daddy and I each have our own chores and the children have responsibilities to keep the rooms and the play area downstairs tidy. I’ve been watching The Organised Mum Method videos and Mrs Hinch on Instagram and feel inspired to reclaim some order in the house.
Refocusing my work priorities
It’s been a huge shift for me to have set working hours during the day after so long of squeezing my work in where I could. I gave myself from September through to December to figure out how best to make things work and what direction I want to head in and I feel now like I know where I’m going. I have lots of plans for Cardiff Mummy Says this year but I’m also looking forward to taking on more freelance work (I’m a freelance journalist and PR so will be getting in touch with key contacts to let them know I’m available again) and increasing the number of yoga classes I teach.
I’m also going to be ‘block-tasking’ as much as I can. This means doing similar tasks together. In my case, this could be spending a morning taking and editing all the photos I need for several blogs; or creating 10 Instagram posts in one session; or writing four blog posts in one go. When I was working around my children I was often scrabbling around trying to do things last minute but I now have the time to work more effectively, which I hope will make things calmer and less chaotic.
I’ve also found that I am more productive at working when my phone is another room and I’m not distracted by the constant social media notifications which are an inevitable part of my job. I now set my timer for 50 minutes and work on whatever task I’m trying to get done with complete focus. When the timer beeps, I then go and make myself a drink/snack/lunch depending on what time it is and catch up on notifications and emails. I set the timer for 15-20 minutes so that I don’t lose myself scrolling through all my social media accounts for hours on end and the return to my work.
Reassessing our finances
Cardiff Daddy and I have a night planned this week to go through all our bills and financial commitments to work out where we can save and better focus our money. We haven’t changed energy provider or phone/TV/internet provider in a long time for example so we will be looking to see what better deals we can find as well as looking for better interest deals on our various savings accounts. We have savings accounts for family holidays and Christmas already but we are going to set up more for car expenses and household expenses. Having three babies in four years and spending so much time with them during nine years of having preschoolers was wonderful but naturally our income and savings took a real hit – so now is the time to get things back on track.
I’m a big fan of meal planning (you can read more here in this post I wrote commissioned by Love Food Hate Waste) but over the busy festive season things went to pot so this week I’ll be getting us back on track. We sit down as a family after tea on a Sunday and work out what our plans are for the coming week and what we’ll be eating. I ‘batch cook’ a lot which really helps. I’ll usually do one or two recipes a week where I make enough for two or three extra family meals. This means I always have a stash of healthy meals ready to go in the freezer on the days when I don’t have the time or inclination to cook.
Yesterday I emptied and sorted out the fridge and freezer and went through our food cupboard to work out exactly what we had (and what was out of date and needed to binned). The good news is we have enough pre-made batch-cooked meals, freezer food and cupboard staples to get us through at least the next week. All we need to buy is bread, milk and a little bit of fresh fruit and veg. This means we don’t need to do a big weekly food shop this week. This is something we try to do one week a month – it’s all too easy to head to the shops and forget about the food already in the freezer and cupboards when I reckon most households could get through a few a days with a little imagination. The money we would have spent on a grocery shop will go into our holiday savings account.
Family and household organisation
January is a quieter-than-usual month for me when it comes to work so I’m utilising this time to get organised on all those little things that get forgotten about when life is busy.
Tomorrow I will be ringing the dentist, hairdressers and opticians to get appointments booked well in advance so that we don’t have the panic of needing an appointment and them being full for weeks.
I’ve made a list of family and friends’ birthdays upcoming in January, February and March and this week will be buying all the cards we need (plus a few generic spares for the inevitable class parties) as well as stamps for those that need to be posted. I’ve also made a list of ideas of birthday presents for those people we would give gifts to. Fitting in with my decluttering theme of above we often gift ‘experiences’ rather than ‘stuff’.
I also made a decision a few years ago to give book vouchers or money to my children’s school friends for their birthdays. As grateful as we are for all the presents my own children have received from their class mates over the years, they really don’t need all of that stuff. Some of it is not to their taste; some of it is duplicate. I feel awful saying it but some of it has ended up in charity shops and the wastefulness makes me really sad. That’s why we prefer to give a voucher or money so that the birthday child can put it towards something they really want.
I’ve got our 2019 calendar out and am scheduling in playdates with my children’s friends and working out dates we can get together with other families.
As a family we’ve made a list of things we’d like to do and places we’d like to visit this year. I love to get my children involved in discussions about what we do rather than just the grown ups and they often come up with some good ideas.
I’m also taking care not to over-schedule because time chilling out just the five of us is so important – as is the ability to say yes to spontaneous invites.
Scheduling in time for me
Like a lot of mums I’m guilty of putting myself last on the list. It’s all too easy to lose ourselves amid all the family and household stuff and to forget to make time for us. I know that I’m a much better mum, wife, worker and friend when I feel like my needs are being met. So this means carving out time for me in the same way I do for everything and everyone else.
One night a week I attend a yoga class and my husband knows that only in exceptional circumstances can something he’s doing trump that commitment. Likewise I don’t make plans on the night he plays football. We both know these activities are important to the other and plan around it as much as possible in the same way we plan around our children’s activities. It took me a long while to do this – it was only when my friend Laura said in this article that she scheduled in her own sporting commitments in the same way she had been doing for her children for years that I realised I’d not been prioritising my health and well-being at all.
Last year was the year I rediscovered running – including running my first half marathon in October. However since then I feel things have stagnated. I do the weekly 5K Parkrun whenever I can but to keep me motivated I’m signing up for a different running challenge every month of 2019. I’ll have a full post on that coming soon. Having these dates in the diary means I’ll be better focused at making time to fit in training runs in between because I know I have a race coming up and I hope the consistency will encourage me to set some personal bests in 2019.
I’m also going to make more time to read in 2019. I am a big bookworm at heart but when my children were younger finding time to read felt impossible. I’ve set myself the goal of reading at least two books a month and will even be joining a book club for the first time in eight years.
I’m also going to start planning dates in now to meet with different groups of friends. It’s all too easy to let months or even years go by without seeing people in the real world. And as wonderful as social media and message chat groups are nothing beats seeing your friends face to face.
Are you feeling similarly inspired for 2019? I’d love to know what steps you are taking to make life more organised this year. Please do share your tips in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook, or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy