Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My chat with Pinky McKay

The delightful Pinky McKay who has published many books and conducted countless seminars around the world, also runs a Parenting by Heart program, where she interviews an expert in their field each month for the members. I am proud to be one of Pinky's experts, and was interviewed in October about my book "Preparing your home and life for baby - a practical guide for expectant parents", as well as the services I offer new and expecting parents.

Pinky Mckay, preparing for baby, preparing home baby

The interview is about an hour long and was recorded exclusively for the paid membership program, BUT she has kindly allowed me to share it with my audience too! You can access the full interview here.

"For many of us, having a baby is a huge test of our ability to surrender and let go of certain amount of control, particularly when in our working and professional life we view these traits highly. Today’s call will aim to provide you with a few simple organisational guidelines and other tips to help minimise the feelings of loss of control, to set up a strong support network so you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone, and how to help minimise your stress over things like the necessary paper work and budgeting for life with a baby" - Pinky McKay

And now for some Christmas Cheer!! In addition to sharing this exclusive interview with you, I am offering 10% discount on both the soft cover and ebook versions, plus FREE shipping on the soft cover version until the 19th of December - it makes a perfect Chrissy present for first-time expecting parents! Just use the code 'xmas14' at checkout. Click here to purchase.

There is also a Kindle version coming very soon. If you would prefer this version, contact me to register your interest and I will let you know as soon as it is available.

Let me know what you thought of the interview - I would love to hear from you so feel free to comment below. Happy listening!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

3 Little Organising Secrets for new mums

Having a baby is definitely one of the biggest life changes we experience. Everything we know about how to manage our time and space seems to go out the window, and we can be left feeling overwhelmed with unfamiliar chaos. (This was certainly my experience - and the main reason I chose to work with expecting mums and young families!)

baby chaos, baby clutter, organised with baby, organising baby

As I say to all my clients, regardless of their life stage - being organised is not about having everything neat and tidy all the time or having everything perfectly under control. It is about having space and systems set up around you which help you to live well, avoid stress, and enjoy your home and life. This may not seem achievable for a new parent, but here are my 3 little secrets to show you how...

Secret # 1: A new definition of "organised"

The most important thing is to manage your expectations. We already know that being organised is not about being neat and tidy, but we also need to redefine what being organised means in this new context. The way your space and life worked before bubs came along is not going to work for you now - you need to rethink your space and systems to suit your new way of life. What is going to make your life easier? What are the causes of stress or frustration for you? Consider new ways of doing things - perhaps rearranging the furniture so that your space works better for you, doing grocery shopping online if getting out of the house is a stressful exercise, and a big one that many new mums struggle with... ask for help! Don't assume your hubby / mum / best friend knows what you need help with.

Secret # 2: A place and purpose for everything

You know the old saying "a place for everything and everything in its place"? Well I like to add "a purpose for everything and everything serving its purpose". This means
- having a designated place to put your keys, handbag, travel change mat, etc, so that you can always find what you need when you need it
- AND not having anything in your home and life which serves no purpose, or wastes your time, space or energy. These are very precious resources, especially now, so anything that consumes them better be worth it!

Secret # 3: Flexibility is key

This might seem a bit contradictory - you may expect an organised person's schedule to run like clockwork, but remember we are talking about space and systems to help you live well, avoid stress, and enjoy your home and life. Expect the unexpected, be prepared for things not going according to plan, and don't over-schedule your day. Having a loose structure to your day allows you to flow through your schedule much easier, without the stress of running late or trying to get stuff ticked off your to-do list.

So that's it! My 3 little secrets to being a more organised new mum. All you need to do is - manage your expectations on what it means to be organised during this stage of life, have a place and purpose for everything around you, and allow yourself some flexibility, and you will feel so much more relaxed and on top of things!

If you would like more tips and tricks on how to get more organised with a little one, I am running a 1 hour workshop on Wednesday 17 September in Preston - why not get your mums group together and benefit from the group booking discount! More details and bookings here.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Why "In-trays" are the enemy!

Recently there was an advert on TV for a large office supply retailer which said "Get your office organised with these stackable in-trays", and I would cringe every time I saw it! 99% of the time, in-trays are part of the problem, NOT the solution, and it is very rare to come across people who are using in-trays effectively.

This is the reality of in-trays...
in-trays, office organising, paperwork tips, desk organising, decluttering

Look familiar?

In my opinion, the only thing in-trays are good for is storing "virgin" stationery - reams of paper, blank forms, envelopes, sheets of labels, and so on. This is because the contents are then uniform throughout - you can always just take the one on the top of the pile. As soon as you are having to flick through the pile trying to find something, you know you have a problem. How many times have you gone through the contents of your in-tray over and over again before finding that one piece of paper you need? You can waste so much time and energy on this "system". Time to think vertical! Vertical systems are so much easier to use than horizontal systems, as it is much easier to see and access what's there, and much easier to add new items in a meaningful place, rather than to the top of a jumbled pile.

I love using products like these to set up systems in my clients' homes and offices...

vertical files, vertical sorters, step files, organised desk, paperwork system
Products shown are: Eldon Incline Sorter, IKEA Kvissle magazine rack, Esselte Sorted and Sorted Plus, Marbig Enviro FoldaRack 

Remember to use clear and meaningful labels. Here are the categories I end up using the most, but the categories you choose will entirely depend on the nature and amount of paperwork coming in to your home and office:

  • Immediate action (for things that have a deadline and consequences attached - like bills to be paid, registrations to be completed, RSVPs to be sent, etc. You can also have a Non-urgent action category if required, for things that need to be done at some stage, but don't have a pressing deadline or consequence attached) 
  • Ready reference (for things that have useful information that you will need to reference in the near future but do not require any action from you - like invitations which has been RSVP'd to, school event info, doctor's referral letter for an appointment that has already been set, and so on) 
  • To be filed (for things that have been actioned and no longer need to be readily referenced - like receipts, paid bills, school reports etc)

Now you have a clear place for everything, a system that flows easily, and you can find what you need when you need it. No more over-stuffed nonsensical in-trays = happiness!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Be right back...

Huge apologies, we have had a break in transmission due to unforeseen circumstances but shall resume very soon!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

My Top 5 Tips for Effective Decluttering

As promised previously in my Top 5 tips for effective storage, today I bring you my Top 5 tips for decluttering. Remember my definition of why clutter exists in the first place?

clutter, declutterer, de-clutterer, professional organiser, organising clothes

Therefore - in order to DEclutter, we need to address the decision AND action parts to make progress.

#1 Have a vision

Clearly define your end goal and desired result, so that you can go back to that vision to refocus and boost your motivation to push on. What are you trying to achieve by decluttering? Reduce stress, create more space, save time and energy spent looking for things, improve your performance and efficiency at work? Without knowing WHY you are doing this, it can quickly start to feel too much like hard work.

#2 Have a plan

As with most things in life, before you jump in to a decluttering project you need to have a plan. Decide what, where and when you are decluttering, and only work on ONE area at a time. Dedicate some time to decluttering in your schedule, otherwise it will always slip to the bottom of the To Do list and never get done.

#3 Prepare for the task at hand

If your floor is covered in clothes, or your desk covered in papers, clear the area first without sorting. Place all the stuff in a big bag or box, and then clean the surface below. Give the floor a good vacuum, your wardrobe shelves a good wipe, or your desk a good polish. Now you can start preparing for the next step by equipping yourself appropriately. If you’re doing your home office, have a recycling bin and shredder handy, and some sticky notes to label things for filing. If you’re doing your wardrobe, plan where the excess clothes are going before you create a big pile of stuff on the floor which you then need to figure out what to do with. Try using reusable shopping bags, plastic storage crates, or cardboard boxes - whatever containers you have available. Have as many as you need for the categories you’re going to sort into, and then label them accordingly. Some suggested categories include: Toss, Recycle, Donate, Sell, Repair, Archive (packing your winter woollies or Christmas decorations away is a form of archiving too), and Place (as in place the item where it belongs).

#4 Make decisions

This is where the real work begins, and it can get quite emotionally and mentally exhausting, so work in chunks of time you feel comfortable with. Work through your bag or box of items, sorting them into the categories you have set up. If you are really struggling to decide what to do with some items, you can allow yourself an ‘Undecided’ box, but when it gets full, make a decision on something else in there before adding another item.
To help with decision-making, think about the following:
- have you used it in the last 12 months
- is it serving its intended purpose, or could it be serving a better purpose elsewhere
- what value is it adding to your life, and is it worth the space it’s taking up
- does it have a home, and if not, is it sensible and possible to make a home for it
- if it’s something awaiting action (eg. an intended craft project), are you going to get it done within the next 6 months

clutter, declutter, de-clutter, decluttering, de-cluttering, organising, clothes

#5 Take action

Now that you've made the decisions, it’s time to take the required action. This is where the wheels often fall off! The secret is to keep the time gap between the decision and the action as small as possible. Take the ‘Donate’ items to the charity shop, list that stuff on eBay, return those borrowed items, and put things back where they belong - preferably within 24 hours. If that's not possible, set reasonable time limits and have a plan B in case you don’t meet them. You HAVE to take action though, otherwise it just slips back into the category of clutter – lacking decisive action. Remember you can check out the Resources page on my website if you would like to know what to do with the items you have decluttered.

Much like diet and exercise, once you have achieved your goal you still need to constantly work on it to keep it up. Going through a decluttering process like this is just the beginning of the process. Next month I will share my tips on how to maintain your newly decluttered state.
If you have any questions on decluttering (or what to do with the items) which I haven't covered here, I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

HOW TO :: Create your Home Command Centre in 3 Easy Steps

School is back, swimming and cricket start next week, and forms and dates to remember are flooding in from all directions. Sound familiar? This could easily get overwhelming and out of control, if it were not for my trusty Home Command Centre - aka drop zone; launch pad; flight deck... there are many different things to call it - basically, the one central point in my home where I can manage my family's schedules, activities, and "stuff". These control centres can come in many different sizes and formats, and today I am going to show you how to create one that is just right for your needs in 3 easy steps.

Step 1 - Choose a location

Rather than choosing a layout that you like and trying to find somewhere to put it, choose the location first and design the layout to fit accordingly. Setting it up in the right location is essential for its success.
Where do things like your keys, mail, and kids' school bags naturally accumulate in your home? It could be the kitchen bench, the dining table, or near the front door - but that is the best location to use. Change is not often embraced easily, and introducing a new system for your family is change enough. By using the natural flow and existing habits of your family, you are much more likely to make this work.

command centre, home command centre, family command centre, how make a command centre
Image sources - Left: Operation Organization; Right: Two Twenty One

Step 2 - Decide what functions it needs to serve

Are you a "shoes off at the door" family, or would you like your command centre to include a basket or shelf for shoes? What kind of sporting equipment and kit bags need to fit in there, or are these left in the garage? How many family members do you have? Your command centre can consist of a single notice board, or an entire wall full of hooks, hangers, shelves, containers and calendars - it all depends on your unique situation and requirements. Write a list of functions you would like your command centre to serve, and then you will be able to determine which organisational tools you'll need to meet those needs.

command centre, home command centre, family command centre, how create command centre
Image sources - Left: Real Simple; Right: Get On With It Already

Step 3 - Altogether now... Try, adjust, repeat

Set up your command centre in your chosen location from step 1, with the required tools from step 2, and keep the family involved with its design. Depending on which self-help book you read, it is generally believed to take between 21 and 30 days to change a habit - IF you consistently practice it every day. Give your family some time to trial the new system and see how they feel about it. Ask for their feedback and make adjustments accordingly. The more input they have, the more likely they'll be to accept the new system. Don't throw in the towel if it doesn't seem to be working after a few days - allow everyone a few weeks to change their habits until it becomes instinctive, and soon you'll find school notices magically appearing on the notice board and library books being returned on time - without the usual morning panic. Yays!

If you would like some inspiration for creating your ideal command centre, check out my Pinterest board - it is packed with different layout and functional design ideas.
Do you use a home command centre? What have you found to work or not work for you? I would love to hear your feedback!

Friday, 24 January 2014

GUEST POST :: "Sugar Blues" - Naturopath's advice and Special Offer!

To kick us off in the blogosphere for 2014 (and to get us back on the straight and narrow!), we have a guest post from the delightful Helen Goodwin - mum, Naturopath, and owner of Just for Today Living. I love her practical advice and super easy-to-follow tips. I'm also thrilled to be able to offer you a whopping 30% discount off her brilliant new program starting in Feb!! Read on for more details. Enjoy!

When it comes to the silly season I, like many people, indulge in sugary foods that I would normally have in moderation, or not at all. And just like a good party, overindulging feels great at the time but can leave the body feeling pretty fragile once the good times stop rolling.

When our bodies have been knocked out of balance from too much sugar, we may struggle to get up in the morning and stay alert during the day. A foggy head, digestive problems, headaches and mood swings may also become issues.

Whilst a yearly Christmas binge may not have any long term implications, eating large amounts of sugar on a regular basis certainly will. We commonly associate too much sugar with dental cavities, diabetes and obesity, however the white stuff can also lead to poor immune function, an overgrowth of Candida and high cholesterol. The effect of sugar on children’s intellectual development is an issue that we should all take very seriously.

The problem is that once you start consuming sugar, it can become ridiculously addictive and very difficult to quit. In fact, William Dufty in his book ‘Sugar Blues’ believes that the difference between sugar and narcotic addiction is largely one of degree.

Another major hurdle to reducing sugar is its prevalence in so many processed foods - it’s not just cakes and sweets that contain refined sugars, large amounts can be found in everyday foods such as breakfast cereals, breads, sauces and dips. We have become so used to these high sugar flavours that we may no longer be able to taste the natural sweetness found in fruits and vegetables.

In order to break the sugar cycle, setting a date and feeling mentally committed to quitting can really help. Going cold turkey is definitely a challenge but within a few days cravings can be reduced. Avoid all refined sugar found in chocolates, cakes and biscuits; artificial sweeteners (which are potent neurotoxins), and the natural sugars found in honey, maple syrup and dried fruits, until things get under control.

Tips to help you overcome the cravings and re-balance your system 

  1. Recognise that the human body naturally craves carbohydrate for fuel, but respond to these cravings with slow release sugars found in whole grains breads and cereals and sweet vegetables such as carrot, beetroot and sweet potato.
  2. Eat regular meals at roughly the same time everyday, making sure that you include quality protein in the form of lean meats, nuts, beans and pulses at every meal. 
  3. Always have a handful of nuts at hand, almonds are perfect, for those times when you feel your energy dropping and you need a boost.   
  4. Sour foods such as lemons, plain yogurt and fermented foods can curb sugar cravings quickly.
  5. Consider a chromium supplement which can help to get blood sugars into a healthy pattern.
  6. When you do re-introduce sugar, try to include natural sweeteners such as raw honey and maple syrup, as they are closer to nature and contain vitamins lacking in refined sugar. Natural sweeteners are however still simple sugars, so moderation is the key. Don't be fooled by brown or raw sugar, it's simply refined white sugar with the molasses added.   

If your sweet tooth has spiraled out of control lately and you’re feeling at the mercy of your cravings, give these suggestions a try and watch your energy and focus return, your waistline shrink and your mood improve. Once you’re back in balance you may find that sugary foods no longer appeal, but if you do indulge once in a while it will be from a place of pleasure rather than addiction.

Helen Goodwin, Melbourne Naturopath, online naturopath, online nutritionAbout Helen

Helen Goodwin is an experienced Naturopath and nutrition lecturer who has taught hundreds of people about the true value of good food and health. Helen has been running courses on nutrition and teaching cookery in Melbourne and the UK since 2001. She has also been a feature writer for the Australian Natural Health magazine for over three years and assisted Chef Tony Chiodo with his cookbook ‘Feel Good Food”.
Visit her website and Facebook page.


Helen Goodwin, Melbourne Naturopath, online nutrition, nutrition course

Helen is running a 4-week online nutrition course starting 3rd Feb 2014. It's the perfect way to develop your nutritional know-how and make positive and long lasting changes to the way you eat and drink. Each day you will receive a particular nutritional tip, such as “Choose small amounts of natural sweeteners” or “Include healthy fats with your food”, along with guidance and recommendations, which you follow just for that day.
You will receive 21 tips in total, covering every aspect of nutrition, along with well written articles you can keep, links to videos, websites and organisations, that will literally open up a whole new world of food for you. The private Facebook group page also offers you the chance to connect with other people, so you can share tips and keep motivated. Read more about the course (as well as some rave reviews!) here.
As HALOblog readers, you have the opportunity to save 30% off the February course!! Just enter the code 'HALO' when booking online.