Prepare and Backup Your Photos BEFORE Natural Disaster Hits

How do you prepare your photo collection for the worst case?

 

Living in the bushfire prone outskirts of Melbourne, in beautiful Nillumbik – which is also called the green wedge – has triggered my passion for keeping photo collections safe at all times but especially during summer.

It can be a very overwhelming project and there is no doubt it is usually very time consuming. Read in this guest blog how you can prepare and backup your photos before natural disaster hits. If you are time-poor, the quick solution will be scenario 2 mentioned in the article. I call it the ‘Grab and Run’ scenario. Ideally however, you are able to set some time aside and work on your photo collection to prepare it even more. Either way, you will gain peace of mind knowing that your photos are as safe as they can be.

Click here to read the complete article.

21 Habits of Organised People

21 Habits of Organised People

We can declutter and organise as much as we want. However, without routines that eventually become good habits, we will be back to Square One after a while and be frustrated because the decluttering and clever storage solutions don’t work – or so it seems.

Not everyone is a fan of routines because they feel it’s boring and too hard. Personally, I think routines and habits are one of the keys to both a more orderly home and a simpler life.
Some of the tips below are actually more about cleaning and tidiness than about organising. Even if an organised home is not the same as a tidy home, I feel these habits help create a calmer, healthier and more functional environment, which helps us thrive.

Just pick one or a few of these suggestions to try out, and I’m sure you will see an immediate positive impact!

Quote: You'll never change

 

21 Habits of Organised People

  1. Never walk empty-handed – if you leave a room and see something lying around that doesn’t belong, take it with you and put it away.
  2. Always do the dishes while you’re cooking – start washing up, loading the dishwasher and keeping the bench top clear instead of watching the pasta water heat That way, you can sit down for a more relaxed meal, knowing that you only need to put the used crockery, cutlery and pans in the dishwasher.
  3. Tidy up and clean your kitchen every night – before you sit down or go to bed, make sure the dishwasher is loaded (and turned on if full), and that the surfaces and the sink are clear and clean.
  4. Empty the dishwasher in the morning and leave the house with a clean kitchen – nobody wants to come home to a kitchen with dishes piled up in the sink or dirty bench tops. Allow enough time in the morning to clean after
  5. Make your bed – it takes less than a minute to make a bed, but it makes a huge difference coming back in the room later. It automatically looks so much tidier.
  6. Put things away immediately – have a home for everything and put it back after every use. Throwing the dirty clothes into the laundry basket doesn’t take any longer than dropping them on the floor! (Read more about putting things back here.)
  7. One in – one out – when you bring something new into your home, let go of another one to avoid clutter build-up.
  8. Have a laundry routine – whether it’s a load a day or per week, it doesn’t matter. Find a routine that works for you, stick to it and you will always have clean clothes in your wardrobe.
  9. Tidy up every day – take 10 minutes every night to quickly tidy and straighten things up.
  10. Deal with your mail daily – whether it’s paper mail or e-mail, go through it daily, immediately recycle envelopes and junk mail (having a sticker on your letterbox so you don’t get it anymore would even be better). Action things immediately or throw it in an inbox to deal with it later.
  11. Unsubscribe from unread newsletters – when you receive newsletters and updates you were once interested in but realise that you haven’t read the last few ones, immediately unsubscribe.
  12. Take the rubbish from your car with you – whenever you come home and have rubbish or other stuff in your car that doesn’t belong, remove it immediately.
  13. Meal plan – you can save so much time and money when you plan your meals and don’t have to run to the shops every night. (Read blog here – link).
  14. Cook more than necessary – and freeze the leftovers for the days you can’t cook, or for lunch the next day.
  15. Allow buffer time when going somewhere – if you have an appointment, always consider travel time and add some buffer time. If you’re early, you can always read a book, catch up on emails or just relax for a bit.
  16. Have a donation box – place a box or a bag near your garage. Whenever you no longer want something, throw it in there. Go and donate it when the box is full.
  17. Plan, plan, plan – take a few minutes on Sunday to plan your week ahead and don’t forget the buffer time! Also do a quick calendar check every night to plan the next day.
  18. Prepare the night before – if mornings are stressful for you, prepare everything you need the next day the night before: put out your clothes, pack your briefcase, and maybe even prepare your lunch as far in advance as possible.
  19. Think twice before buying something – do you really need another pair of shoes? More toys? That fancy kitchen appliance? If yes, what can you let go to make space?
  20. Have one – and only one – place to write down your to-do list – have a master list with all of your to-dos and ideas. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a physical notebook or a digital solution as long as it’s all in one place.
  21. Have a filing system – having a home for everything includes paper or digital files. Create and use a system that works for you and always file documents as soon as possible (if you actually need to keep them).

 

Have you got any habits or routines that help you to be organised? I’d love to hear about it. Just leave your comment below.

 

Best wishes,

3 Steps to Your Easy Meal Plan or …

… how meal planning gives me an extra 90 minutes each week!

What would you do with an extra 90 minutes each week? Would you read a good book? Would you spend that time with your kids? Would you hit the gym and do a little cardio? No doubt you’d rather spend that 90 minutes doing something fun, not spending it grocery shopping.

 

 

Meal planning Pinterest-2

 

Years ago, I was no fan of meal planning. In the meantime however, it has become a great habit, which has saved my family a lot of money and time over the years.

Before we had children and were living in Switzerland, we worked full-time. In Switzerland, people tend to eat a big lunch and then a small dinner – cold meat and cheese with bread or a soup. Our workplaces offered a canteen so we typically ate there for lunch. There was no real reason to meal plan.

The weekend was the only time we really cooked, and that was if we didn’t go out. A few times I tried to implement meal planning, but it just wasn’t for me. I was also under the misconception that meal planning would take away any flexibility, spontaneity and freedom. I mean what if I wanted one thing but planned for something else?

You know what’s coming … once we had kids, everything changed! It didn’t happen right away of course. It actually happened after we moved to Australia… a whole new culture to contend with. You see, I was a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers (one and three years old). My husband’s workplace offered a canteen but he’d rarely eat there. And, this is when I found myself cooking dinner every single night.

It was becoming quite clear that meal planning may be a good idea after all. So, I started it and tried several things. When you check out Pinterest, you get all kinds of ideas and pictures on meal planning systems. The reality though is who has time for doing all of this so elegantly and beautifully? I don’t, and I don’t really care to do it so creatively. If you are the creative type, more power to you and have fun!

Let me share what worked for me.

 

3 Helpful Tips To Create Your Own Easy-To-Follow Meal Plans

 

Do Your Math

Meal planners are going to tell you that you save yourself a ton of time. However, I’m a bit of a skeptic so I sat down and did some calculations. If I did a weekly plan and the grocery shopping takes me roughly an hour and half each week for a family of four (combining my trip with a school run and shopping), I spent about 78 hour or three and quarter days a year doing this.

If, for some reason, I have to shop more than once a week, I’d still need approximately the same amount of time to do the shopping. However, no meal plan and a trip to the grocery store all the time would take me three hours a week or nearly one week a year. And, that cuts into my work hours or dragging the kids to the shop. Talk about added stress there!

So, what did I learn? I learned that meal planning is a big payoff for both me and my family.

school equation with apples

 

 

Find Your Best Day For Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping

I used to do my meal planning on a Monday morning before school and doing the shopping first thing after the school run. Right now, I am doing my meal planning on Saturday. We talk about the next week over breakfast and consider what everybody’s plans are … sports, business trips, doctor visits, extracurricular activities, etc.

For instance, I don’t cook fish on Monday night because one of the boys and hubby come home after 7 p.m. My other son and I don’t want to eat that late and have dinner shortly after 6 pm. Keeping this kind of meal warm is not an option. And, I don’t feel like cooking twice. Therefore, I need a meal I can re-heat or keep warm easily, such as a one pot meal (find interesting recipes here).

I then pick the menus. During school holidays, each boy gets to choose the meals for one week. This encourages them to help with the cooking and, in my eyes, learn an important skill without even noticing. I see it as an added bonus.

Grocery_Shopping_Trolley_Depositphotos_24389341_l-2015 small

Find A Planning System That Works For You 

I tried meal planning using my computer, but I found that didn’t work for me. And, doing a paper and pencil system seemed too wasteful and time consuming (of course you could keep the plans and re-use them some weeks later).

What I did was create little cards using thick paper, printed the meals on them, laminated them and cut them into card size. You could also use empty laminated cards and write on them using a whiteboard marker.

I then used a cheap Ikea photo frame and put some fabric in the frame behind the glass, painted seven wooden pegs and glued them onto the glass. I didn’t bother writing the names of the days on them since we know the first day is Monday. Now, all I have to do is add one card per day. The board is situated in the kitchen and everybody can see it.

2015_12_18_Business_Blog_Meal_Planning

Our Meal Plan

My meal planning doesn’t include breakfast or lunches. That’s because breakfast is generally the same every day. As for lunches, I don’t list them on the plan but they are considered. I don’t like giving our kids sandwiches. Perhaps that’s a cultural thing because, in Switzerland, we don’t have them for lunch. Rather, I give them the night before’s leftovers. I give them their food in Tupperware Heat ‘N Eat containers so they can use the school’s microwave to re-heat them.

Once I’m done with the planning, I make the shopping list, which can be done quickly. I go shopping and that’s it for the week. I rarely ever have to visit the shops again during the week for fresher vegetables and/or meat. If stored right, you can keep vegetables and fruit fresh for the week and I freeze the meat.

 

 

 

Extra Time Saver Tip: Combine Your Errands
Try combining your grocery shopping with other errands to save yourself time and petrol money.

Errands List

 

 

 

Remember earlier when I said I was afraid of losing my freedom, flexibility and spontaneity? Well, doing this for several years now, I can tell you that this just isn’t true. I am still flexible, and in fact often do move menus around the week. However, since everything is at home already, I don’t need to do any last minute shopping trips.

 

What kind of meal planning system do you use (if any)? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? If you have a picture of your system, I’m sure we’d all love to see it!

How to organise food leftovers

How can you organise food? Today, I’m not talking about meal planning (of which I am a big advocate). Instead, I’d like to share an easy method to organise food leftovers.

 

Despite the best planning and organising efforts, we all will have food leftovers from time to time. I actually cook too much on purpose because I’m not a big fan of sandwiches. Whenever I do give our boys a sandwich for practical reasons, I can be sure to be greeted (if greeted at all that is …) by really hungry and grumpy children when I pick them up from school. Hence, I prefer to give them leftovers from the night before for lunch. They have a microwave at school and can heat it up themselves. When they were younger, I heated it up at home and used a food thermos to keep it warm. Often, I would have leftovers for lunch, too.

 

So, how do we make sure that we are not throwing out leftovers because we forget about them or can’t remember how old they are? If you are meal planning, you might think that you can just look at your plan and find out when you had which meal. However, if you’re anything like me, this is not always reliable. I do plan and do go shopping once a week. This means I have everything I need at home and sometimes we move things around. Because I then don’t change things on my plan, it’s not very reliable anymore.

 

So, I have come up with my own method to keep track of our leftovers which I share in this little video.

 

I hope you find this useful and – as always – I would love to hear about your method or experience.

 

 

 

How to Establish Routines for Children

Do you find routines and habits boring? Think they take out all the fun of your days? Hinder your children’s or your creativity and spontaneity? Well … I don’t agree. I believe that routines are very important to have for children (and for adults for that matter) and that they actually give us more freedom to be creative, spontaneous and relaxed.

 

Our family has definitely benefited from routines. They even more importantly help our children to establish habits and teach them important basic skills such as brushing their teeth, washing their hands after using the toilet or preparing their own snacks etc. After all, we expect them to become independent, sensible and responsible adults and these kinds of skills are part of it all.

Routines don’t necessarily have to be boring chores. They can be fun or beautiful and relationship building activities like reading a story together every night. Furthermore, they make children feel safe and secure because their environment becomes more predictable.

Here are a few tips and ideas to consider when you want to introduce routines:

 

One At A Time

Decide what your top priority is and concentrate on that. Then, only introduce one new routine at a time. Once it is well established, you can build on this basis and introduce the next routine.

 

Plan Wisely

Manage your family’s time well – there are only 24 hours in a day! Not everything always goes as planned, especially with very young children. Therefore, allow buffers and downtime. Using a diary or a time map might be helpful to visualise how filled your day is so that you can plan accordingly. One of the best tips I ever received after we had our first baby was from a yoga teacher. She recommended to plan only one thing per day when you have a new baby. She didn’t talk about the daily housework tasks but things like running errands. Only plan the grocery shopping, not coffee with friend afterwards and then baby swimming. For me, that worked wonders.

 

Be Realistic

Keep the age of your children in mind when you introduce new routines. Also, keep your expectations low. Make sure they are able to do what you expect from them. Talk about the routine and help them, at least at the beginning. “Tidy up your room” probably doesn’t work. “Please, pick up all the blocks and put them in this box’ is much more clear.

 

Stay Flexible

Create routines that meet your family’s needs at this point in time. Children grow and situations change. Life is happening fast. Tweak existing routines or implement new ones when necessary.

 

Dare To Be Unique

Routines don’t necessarily work for your family just because they – seemingly – work for everyone else. Your family is unique, so find routines that work for you. (If you have a routine that you think is unique, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section if you’d like to share).

 

Facilitate

Make it easy for your family members to follow routines. If you want your children to dress themselves in the morning, make sure they can do it easily, maybe by putting out their clothes the night before. If they’re old enough to do this themselves, they can do that part as well. Also make sure they can access everything they need easily. Too often I see kid’s wardrobes with their clothes hung up too high for them to take down.

 

Make It Fun

Routines don’t have to be dull and dreaded times. Make picking up toys at the end of the day or brushing teeth fun by having the children listen to their favourite songs.

 

Visualise

Help children to remember their routines until they have become habits. Use checklists that show all the things they need to do in the order they should be done. Pictures work great for children that can’t read yet and also for older kids. They’re just more fun for everyone!! Your kids will have fun making the charts.

 

Chores

Chores can be a part of a routine. Be sure that the child is capable to fulfil the chore you give him/her to avoid frustration. Visual checklists help here, too.

 

Have a look here for some visual inspiration regarding routines and chores.

 

Mini-Challenge

Over the next week, think about one new routine that you would like to introduce in your household and share it in the comments or on our Facebook page!

7 tips for hosting a relaxed Easter weekend

More often than not, holiday meals and festivities are a source of stress rather than a time for relaxation and fun. However, with a little bit of planning and organising, stress will be a thing of the past, and you will be able to enjoy time with your loved ones.

 

7 tips for hosting a relaxed Easter weekend

 

Here are my 7 tips for organising and planning your Easter weekend:

1. Invite your guests early

Many people go away during long weekends, so make sure you invite your guests early enough (at least four weeks in advance).

 

2. Plan your meals in detail

Take some time to plan the menus for the Easter weekend, plus at least one day before and after. Include every single meal—breakfasts, snacks, and even leftovers. Once you know what you want to cook, make a shopping list and schedule some time to do the shopping in your diary.

 

3. Prepare as much as you can

The idea of family getting together shouldn’t include you standing in the kitchen all the time. If you want to enjoy some relaxed time with your loved ones, prepare as much as you can in advance. You might even be able to pre-cook and/or freeze certain things.

 

4. Have some fun decorating your home

If you like to add some seasonal decoration to your home and table, plan early enough and make sure you have everything you need. If you are lost for ideas, have a look on Pinterest for inspiration. Maybe you can involve your children or other family members to create a beautiful centrepiece.

 

5. Plan the Easter egg hunt

The children (and adults :-)) will love the Easter egg hunt. Prepare it well in advance and have everything ready to go so you or another adult can hide the eggs the night before the hunt. Useful hint: note how many eggs you hide to make sure the kiddies search until they have found every egg!

 

6. Delegate and ask for help

Just because you’re hosting the Easter meal doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Most guests ask whether they can contribute in one way or another, so don’t just dismiss them—accept the help. If they don’t come forward, ask someone to bring a dessert or nibbles. Getting an entrée such as a seafood platter or even a main meal (or parts of it) prepared by your local deli might be another option. Think about what you could outsource, and don’t forget to make a note in your planner so you don’t forget to order in time.

 

7. Plan fun activities

Keep the children entertained and happy with some fun (and sugar-free) activities such as competing in an egg and spoon race, creating bonnets, colouring eggs or decorating egg- or bunny-shaped biscuits.
Wishing you a wonderful and relaxed Easter!

Alone Time versus Me Time or How to Refill Your Watering Can

Do you ever feel exhausted? Do you neglect yourself because you’re always there for everyone but you? Do you feel you’re giving all the time? Then let me share something with you: a lesson I learned last year about the importance of recharging my batteries.

I feel soooo exhausted!

I started my organising business almost two years ago and have really enjoyed what I’ve done during that time. However, towards the end of last year I started to feel exhausted. Everything was going well and I was loving my work, but still, something wasn’t feeling quite right. It felt like my brain couldn’t take in anything anymore; I felt mentally exhausted and too tired to think.

During the summer holidays, having the kids at home, I had time to take a step back, have a good long look at my life and do some thinking. I had long conversations with a couple of very good friends that changed my perspective quite a bit, too. One day I listened to an interview given by my lovely yoga teacher (http://www.olgadossa.com), and it was such an eye-opener for me! You might have heard the ‘empty cup analogy’ – I had. Several times. But somehow, this time it really struck a chord!

It goes something like this: We are like a cup full of water – or if we use my preferred container, a watering can. But we can only give and share if there is enough water in it. If the watering can is empty, there is nothing to give. So we need to fill and top up our watering can regularly.

Very logical, don’t you think? And so true, I find. Thinking about this a lot in the last couple of months, I realised something. I had made a mistake – a big one! For some reason I had confused alone time with me time. Since our boys started school about four years ago, I’ve basically had six hours a day to myself (yeahhh). And this was my me time – right? Wrong! I misinterpreted it as my me time and thought I had plenty of it because I was mostly on my own – that is, if I wasn’t working with clients or meeting a friend or doing the grocery shopping or running some other errands. But being without kids or husband doesn’t mean that I automatically recharge my batteries. Of course not. But it took me until now to realise this. I did and still do enjoy my work. Working does top up my watering can to a certain degree because it gives me a great sense of satisfaction and fulfilment when I get to help my clients on their journey. But it also involves a lot of giving. Giving time to do marketing and administrative tasks that honestly don’t really fill my watering can, even though I like these tasks, too. And of course there are many other giving activities involved in a typical day, especially if you’re a mother. Often, we simply forget to put ourselves first and recharge our batteries.

If this sounds familiar, read on to find out how I fixed it.

 

How to fill and top up the watering can

1. What fills my batteries?
I had to think about what I actually need to recharge my batteries. It can be so many different things and it is different for each and every one of us. For me, it included doing Pilates and yoga, amongst a few other things. I noticed that this is how I can get grounded and connect with myself best. What fills your batteries?

2. Schedule, schedule, schedule!
Once I had defined what I need and want to refill my watering can, I sat down and scheduled time for it. This was quite easy for Pilates and yoga because I go to lessons and can write them in my diary. Other things, like reading a good book for pure pleasure or going for a walk, are a bit trickier because there is no day and time dictated by a teacher. So it takes a bit of discipline to schedule these activities. Look at them as you would any other important appointments. The only difference is that these are appointments with yourself.

3. Review and adapt
After a while, it’s important to think about what works and what doesn’t. Things change all the time. Maybe you thought that reading would recharge your batteries, but after a while you realise it doesn’t give you as much pleasure as you thought. Or maybe you did it during a time of the day that wasn’t ideal, or it was simply the wrong book. Find something else or reschedule it to a different day or time. I love walks, but more so in spring and autumn, when it’s not too hot and the air is so beautifully fresh and crisp. I don’t walk as often in winter and almost never in summer, but I do other things instead. Tweak the system as much as you want until it suits your needs.

As we all know, life happens. Sometimes we might not be able to invest enough time in our well-being. If this happens from time to time, it won’t be the end of the world. However, if we are constantly giving more than we’re refilling, we will feel the consequences sooner or later and burn out. So take care of yourselves – take the time you need. This is not being selfish. Because if your watering can is full and is constantly topped up, there will be plenty to give. And that is definitely not selfish, is it?

 

What do you do to recharge your batteries? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

 

Update 3rd December 2015: I came across this wonderful blog post that I think ties in nicely with the above-mentioned tips: 55 gentle ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy busy busy. Just before Christmas, many of us are really stressed and also emotional. Try a few of the tips Marthe suggests to stay sane during this season.

 

 

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