8 January 2018

January - thinking about the year ahead and organising as much as you can

January, week 1 in The Simple Home

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln

January in Australia is pretty laid-back. It's summer time, the kids are on school holidays and many people take the opportunity to take a break with the family or sit in a cool room watching test cricket on TV. Cough, cough. 😉 In the northern hemisphere, winter has set in and even though life continues as normal, the weather encourages hours spent by the fire, with some relaxing and others remaining productive with knitting, quilting, mending or other quiet work. It's good for us to sit back and slow down with our family in the one place where we should feel comfortable and secure - our homes. January is a very good time to disconnect, in varying degrees, from the internet too. I have various accounts on social media and even though I visit those accounts infrequently during the year, I make a conscious decision in December and January to step back from them and clear my mind. I want to see my own and my family's priorities rather than have those thoughts diluted with all the noise that goes with social media. I stop blogging then too. I rethink my goals, work on strengthening my values and reconnect with my family and home, with no distractions. I use the time to organise the year ahead, think about what I hope to achieve and put as much in place as I can at this slow time of year. I know that if I use January to think about my year and organise as much as I can, the better off I'll be when I'm busier.

Home is the place where we can be ourselves, kick off our shoes and enjoy every passing hour. Home is important and whether you live in an ordinary house like I do, on a farm, or in an apartment, a caravan, an RV travelling country roads, a mansion or a tiny house, all our homes need our time and energy. They can withstand periods of neglect but all homes function better and support us more if they're well ordered and maintained.

Lists can help you clarify what you want to achieve and your calendar and the emails/messages it sends will remind you to get those things done.  If you set your calendar up with the information you have at hand now, then add to it over the coming months, you'll be able to concentrate on other things during the year and know you'll be reminded of birthdays, important events and that you wanted to clean the windows when the mild weather sets in.

There is no recipe for organising a house, no website you can go to to find the list of what you need to do. We all have to create our own unique list and it's always changing. Every home requires thought, plans, routines and organisation that suit the people who live there. For instance, I have lived in this house since I arrived here at age 49, in a few months time I'll be 70. We've moved things around, changed wall colours, blinds and curtains, installed new energy efficient appliances and lights, we've put up barriers so crawling babies stayed safe, put up fences and took them down again, changed a bedroom into a writing room, then a writing and sewing room and now a writing, sewing and ironing room. All those changes and more have been part of my lists and organisational strategy over the years and helped us do the work this home needs.

What work does your home need? This week we'll concentrate on organising ourselves in our homes so that we get things done but also have time to relax and spend time with loved ones.  Putting some time into this will make a difference during the year when you're concentrating on other things and you receive an email from yourself with a reminder to give your dog his flea and tick treatments. It will help you make time to make gifts, do running repairs on your clothes, or invite family and friends over without having to doing a major clean up before they arrive. Who knows what your changes will be. I only know that if you commit yourself to this, there will be changes, and every month you'll move closer to living a simpler life.

I used to have a much better memory than I do now. In the past I knew what I had to do, now I organise myself on my computer. In January, I set up my calendar for the year and add to it as the weeks go by. I use the clock for daily reminders and to set timers for myself. Most computer calendars have the ability to alert you or send emails reminding you of appointments, birthdays and various events.

This is a screen print of my current calendar.

I use a little notes app to take notes if I'm out but mostly I use a notebook and pen because I love to write by hand.  All my contacts are in my phone's contacts list but I have a separate list for family and friends just in case I lose my phone or the data is corrupted. All the business addresses I can find again in the Yellow Pages, the written list is kept in my Home Folder.  My calendar, times, notes and phone contacts are all synced with my phone.  Remember, this is what I do. I want to know what works for you too. You may not use a calendar or diary, if not, tell us how you organise yourself and remember birthdays, school holidays, immunisations, doctors appointments, sports days etc.

Just make sure you don't overdo it when you're planning your calendar. Most of us are full of energy and optimism at the beginning of the year and you don't want to set yourself up to fail. Be prudent with what you think you'll do. It's always an option to add to your plans later in the year.

It's a good idea to create a Home Folder to store the day-to-day details of your simple life. A folder will kept them safe and in one place. Add whatever you think is relevant to your Home Folder. I have my calendar print out, contacts list and health details such as immunisation dates and vaccination records, support groups, doctor's details and open hours, after hours doctor contact number, and information about health insurance.  It's also a good place for your menu plans, permanent shopping lists, recipes, weight and temperature conversions, grocery flyers, website details of bulk foods sites, farmers markets etc.

I covered an old three-ring binder with fabric and use plastic sleeves to hold the information. 

You can also store the following in your Home Folder so you always have your current information in one spot:

Budget and Finances
A copy of your budget
Gas, water and electricity bills - until they are paid or if you wish to keep them on hand to compare with previous and following accounts. If these arrive online, just print out a reminder for your folder and enter the due date on your calendar
Meter readings

School and after school
School curriculum
Letters from teachers
Term dates
Teachers' names for all your children

Cleaning instructions and recipes
Recipes for laundry liquid and soap
Recipes for all your green cleaners
Special cleaning instructions for any of your appliances

Knitting and crochet patterns
List of needle sizes in UK and US
List of knitting abbreviations
Yarn suppliers
Details of craft groups
Details of your craft accounts on Ravelry, Pinterest or Knitty

Warranty documents
New appliance receipts

Household inventories, list or take photos of the following:
Household furniture, cutlery and silverware, glasses etc
Appliances with model numbers and date of purchase
Electronics and technology - computers tables phones etc
Sports equipment
Outdoor furniture and equipment - mowers, pool filters etc,
Clothes, shoes and jewellery

Drawing of your current garden plan
Seasonal planting guide for your area
Ideas for next planting season
Seed, fruit and nut catalogues
Record of rainfall
Record of harvests
Mower maintenance

Pets and livestock
Vet details
Pet details
Livestock details
Recipes for pet food
Record of vaccinations, tick and flea treatments - these can be entered on your calendar as well

Gifts - homemade and purchased
List of your yearly gifts
List of gifts already in the cupboard
Gift ideas and patterns

And speaking of gifts, it's a really good idea to plan out who you'll be making or buying gifts for during the year. This will give you enough time to make something nice or add the expense of gifts to your budget so you have money put aside. I like giving a couple of hand knitted cotton dishcloths wrapped around a bar of my homemade calendula soap. It is always well received and I feel good giving a gift that I've spent time on.  Some of my gifts over the years are featured below.

You can also give cordials, jams, relish, aprons, creams, knitted hats, tote bags.  Look in Pinterest for more interesting ideas for homemade gifts.

So there we have it, friends. Use some of your time in January to start organising yourself through your calendar, set up alerts and emails, create a Home Folder and think about your gift list. These are all small steps that add up to a big difference. Please add a comment about what you're doing and if it's something different to this, describe what you do and why. I'm sure many of us will be very interested in looking at different ways to do our house and craft work.

Next Monday we'll discuss food and menu planning. The Monday after that our two topics will be customising your home and looking after your things. Our final January topic will be the ever popular routines.  In February, when the pace of life speeds up again, we'll move on to Your Money and Your Life. Then you'll look back on this time and be pleased you took the opportunity to organise as much as you could.

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