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This was the month that was October 2015

I had such big plans for October. But because I sometimes don’t consider the wider implications of things – I completely failed to take into account how having my bathroom remodelled would have a knock on effect on other areas of my home.

This was my family room for most of the month.

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The cloud of dust generated by the work meant my grand project to do full-on Autumn cleaning fell to the wayside. No problem, I’ll do an abridged version in the run up to Christmas. Just need to make a project plan for it.

In October I made a (hopefully final) decision on the direction I want to go in for YouTube. I now have two channels. Ru Undiluted remains my family and lifestyle channel but I also have My Kind Of Organised which is about organisation, productivity and planners. I created a schedule for the YouTube videos I wanted to upload but having contractors in the house during the day wasn’t conducive to filming. I always felt too tired to film in the evenings and my general social media output declined.

Of course having insomnia since September really hasn’t helped my productivity.

At first I thought I knew the reason. My daughter is in the final year of junior school. We live in an area where state secondary schools are grammar or comprehensive and grammar school choices are only available if you pass a test. Over the last few years the competition for grammar school places has led to a lucrative business in exam tuition but, for many reasons, I don’t agree with tutoring to help pass the test. However I do realise tutition skews the pass mark and this has become worse over recent years. Anyway, after her test, I spent a sleepless month feeling like such a guilty mother for not going against my own principles and sending my daughter for tuition. Of course now we have the results and she passed without tuition I do have a sense of smug superiority.

I’m still suffering from insomnia so that actually wasn’t the reason.

The bathroom work finished at the end of October but then we had the neverending half-term. Usually it’s a one week holiday at the end of October. This year my son was off from 19 October until 2 November and my daughter was off from 26 October and will return on 9 November. So life is almost back to normal, but not quite.

As always I have high hopes for November, which is of course NaNoWriMo time. I hope your Octobers were more successful.

 

This was the month that was September 2015

I started preparing for hibernation in the last few weeks of September. The start of the month is always filled with back to school preparations. My son starts his GCSEs and my daughter is in Year 6. Important times for both of them. It’s probably not surprising it took a little longer for routines to develop.

My daughter decided to walk to school with a friend (school is literally down the road from us) and I feel rather redundant. Luckily she still wants me to collect her from school so I’m not totally useless but it does inevitably start me thinking about my return to work. Do I really want to return?

I think my decision will be based on whether I can find a role which allows me to commute into London a maximum of 3 days each week. Frankly I don’t care what I do the other 2 days, work from home or be part time. I could try finding a role closer to home but they have to be the right kind of mentally challenging – I don’t feel the need to work just for the sake of working. Luckily my husband doesn’t think I need to either. No decisions really need to be made until January.

On the home front our bathroom remodel started. Because we’re doing (well the contractors are doing) our master bedroom ensuite we’ve had to move out of our bedroom for the duration. For me this meant planning in my new project notebook.

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I don’t really decorate for the seasons but I do like adding a few touches for autumn, and I’ve swapped out my summer candle scents.

IMG_0211As a planner geek I love September for the release of new planners. I have planners from Emily Ley, Inkwell Press and other brands on their way for review and there are a few crowdfunding notebooks I’m eagerly following production of. Post coming soon on my October planning system (probably).

With hibernation comes the binge watching of many TV series. I’m currently on Season 1 of Scandal and Madam Secretary and Season 2 of Criminal Minds. In between these I’ll be keeping up with Downton Abbey (I binge watched 5 series in 10 days over the summer) and Once Upon a Time. Busy times.

Lacking Motivation – 15 minute decluttering

Do you ever have those days, or months, when you can’t seem to get anything done? I’ve been desperately seeking motivation since the beginning of the year. Believe me, I know there are hundreds of suggestions out there for kick-starting your motivation, but I’m a master at finding excuses for not trying any of them.

For example, one tip is to tackle a small project – one with an easy outcome to achieve – such as organising a drawer. One of the risks of this is these ‘small projects’ end up being prorastinating tasks. Sure you feel great by doing them, and you may even feel more motivated to tackle further projects. But unless those further projects fit into your overarching goals, in reality it’s just a slightly more productive way of procrastinating.

I decided to try using a timer to see whether it could rev up my motivation. I show you the results in this video.

In the video, I mentioned I’d share lessons learned. I did some lessons learned after my Family Room declutter project, which you can read about here. Funnily enough, pretty much all my lessons from that project are the same for this. Perhaps the real lesson here is I should pay more attention to the lessons I’m supposed to have already learned. Here are a few more variations on the theme –

  1. Normally it’s important to begin a project keeping the end in mind. For some reason I don’t see decluttering as an objective in itself. It feels like it should be part of a process; the end result ought to be an organised area or an organisational system. Recently I’ve come to realise this way of thinking is entirely incorrect. To that end, I’m going to make decluttering a large overarching project in itself and work on some areas where there will be no organisational area as the final result. I need to have simply the decluttered area as the end in mind.

  2. Thinking in time periods helps schedule your available time. If the end I have in mind is ‘to have a clutter free and organised under sink cupboard’ tackling the project could still be an issue unless appropriate time can be allocated. If it takes 2 hours to organise the cupboard then either I need to schedule the activity when I have a period of 2 hours free OR I need to break the project into shorter time periods AND each of these time periods need to have their own defined end goal (unless you can live with everything out and in a mess while working on the task).

  3. Without time restrictions a task can seem daunting. I recently asked my daughter to tidy her room. She complained that it would take all day, and an argument ensued. The next time I asked her to spend 20 minutes tidying her room. She went to her room and got it tidied. It’s a simple matter of reframing, but it works.

  4. Don’t over plan – just start.

 

This was the month that was August 2015

Decluttering and being productive are never my main priorities during summer holidays. Good job really.

I’ve been looking for a family activity which would particularly appeal to my 14 year old. I thought I may have hit gold with the Escape Rooms, a hidden puzzle game based near London Bridge. We chose Room 33. When you enter the building it doesn’t seem particularly inspiring but don’t let this put you off. The puzzles are challenging but fun. We love puzzles so we may have been arrogant in thinking we’d finish the room quite easily. In reality we even had some difficulty working out what were puzzles and what was decor. They say the puzzles are suitable for 12 years +  but my 10 year old was able to enjoy a lot of them too.

We spent two weeks in Avalon and were generally lucky with the weather, although only the dog felt it was warm enough to swim outside.

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We visited Cotswold Country Park and Beach and it wasn’t bad. We’re lucky it’s 5 minutes from Avalon so we don’t have to plan our visits in advance. I’m not sure I’d find it the most interesting day trip if I had to travel though. We also explored Swindon and Cirencester. When I say explored of course I mean went shopping, although one discovery in Cirencester was He Said She Waffles with their slightly unusal waffle dogs.

I did try vlogging our holiday but got bored of it after the second day.

I’m finishing David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done‘ and Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying‘ which has inspired me to start a productivity series in September. I am, however, spending an unnecessary amount of time trying to work out why the UK dropped ‘up’ from Kondo’s title. Which isn’t the most productive use of my time.

 

Hello and Goodbye July 2015

Two years gone. Yikes!

July is actually a great time for me to take stock. Not only is it the anniversary of my career break but it conveniently marks the middle of the calendar year. And it’s been a funny year so far. So many unexpected things came up which meant I didn’t get as much accomplished as I’d hoped. In fact I’ve made so little progress with my goals and resolutions, I’ve forgotten what they were.

Little things around the house have been completed but not really in a purposeful way. Often I suddenly get the urge to organise something and I do it. And I guess there’s nothing dreadfully wrong with this method since it does get things done, but there’s always the risk I’m doing procrastinating projects.

I’ve been reflecting on why I’m struggling with motivation during my career break whereas at work I was incredibly efficient and productive. I know being at work is different from being home all day but the basic core of productivity shouldn’t change that much. I’ve identified the main issues –

First I work much better when I have a deadline. I will always meet an externally set deadline. I don’t always meet self-set deadlines but if I announce them to work colleagues, making myself accountable, then I usually meet them. I need to set myself some deadlines for my home projects and find a way to be held accountable. I did think posting on social media would help with accountability, but not so much.

The second issue is I’m basically lazy. My work was cerebral in nature so even if the final product was a presentation or paper most of the work was completed in my head prior to writing. My home organisation projects require some physical exertion and even a minimal amount of effort can stop me in my tracks. To counter my inherent laziness I may need to introduce either a stick or a carrot.

I did the #OneBookJuly2015 challenge on YouTube which tries to get planning back to basics.

I’m planning to do an update video this week but suffice to say, I’m definitely not a one planner person. I’m currently reading and listening to David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I’ve been thinking I need to set up some kind of project notebook but I haven’t decided exactly what I need from it. Sometimes I feel it’s so grandiose using the term ‘project’ for the kind of things I need to do but as a method of thinking about the collection of all actions which have more than one step it really fits the bill.

I’m pretty sure one of my words for this year was ‘Creativity’ and this is the one area I have definitely let slip. I haven’t even done any writing or thought about writing for months. I’m more ‘right-brained’ than I thought so I’m going to make creative projects a priority for the rest of the year. Probably. It seems like a general goal reset is necessary so who knows what the outcome of my navel-gazing will be.

I did have one major achievement recently. I completed a 5K Race For Life. Since I hadn’t done any exercise until about 3 weeks before my race (see earlier comment about being lazy) there was some doubt about whether I would finish the course at all but I managed to part jog/part walk the 5K in 40 minutes. Yay me. The other benefit is I realised I quite enjoy running so now I’m doing the NHS Choices Couchto5K programme to get me running for 30 minutes.

And finally, and most importantly, my family. My son is now 14 and we seem to be navigating the teenage years quite safely so far. I really believe my time at home has helped cement our relationship. He’s visibly happier and now willingly takes part in family activities; he even instigated a shopping trip for clothes. He has a very dry sarcastic sense of humour – a true mini-me despite being 6 inches taller. My 10 year old daughter on the other hand already seems to have developed the tantrums and teenager’s sense of fairness. However she’s still very much a mummy’s girl and as she gets older she is developing many of the same interests as me.

I may a feel unproductive and a little bit useless, and I may be making no progress on my goals, but because my family was the reason I took a career break, overall I can’t view the past year as anything but a success.

 

 

 

 

Those were the months that were March and April 2015

Wow, it’s hard to believe I could get any more unproductive than I was during March and April.

March started well. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary with a weekend in London. We started with afternoon tea at our hotel

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I have to say, I’m rather boring and prefer my sandwiches to be made from normal bread. Spinach or mango bread would not be my first choices.

We followed that with a lovely walk around Westfields shopping centre. My husband’s gift to me was following me around while I shopped, although he was disappointed nothing in the Village caught my eye. A reminder of why I married him, dear Reader.

And then it all seemed to zoom by, perhaps because the schools tried to fit in hundreds of end of term activities in a couple of weeks.

In March, I finally found an organisational system for my pantry that worked! Unfortunately the only solution was to set up a completely new system, effectively throwing money at the problem.

IMG_0073On the positive side, I now also have lots more space in my kitchen to organise everything else. I’m very confident by the end of the year I’ll meet my goal to have my kitchen organised.

And actually, I’m giving myself a pass for April. We spent most of the Easter holidays at Avalon. The unexpected glorious weather even tempted my teenage son outside.

IMG_0038I did organise our understairs closet while I was there. (Video here). And I discovered the joys of shopping in Swindon.

IMG_0044If you follow my stationery blog, stationerybydefault, you’ll see most of my haul.

I turned another year old and a couple of days later I had implantable contact lens surgery on my left eye, followed a week later by surgery on my right eye.

IMG_0050It’s hard to express what a difference this has made, but I’ll be trying in a separate post.

May isn’t looking like it will be any more productive, mainly because I’m going through Planner Pandemonium. But we’ll see.

A Little Bit Pointless

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As it’s almost the end of the first quarter, I’m getting ready to plan my home projects for April to June and doing my usual review of my home.

I’ve come to the conclusion it’s all a little bit pointless.

My family room is a mess – despite the declutter a year ago
My daughter’s room is a mess – despite the declutter 6 months ago
My annex is a mess – despite the almost constant decluttering
My kitchen – actually my kitchen isn’t too bad. I’ve been working on organising my pantry (again) which has led to an organisation of my other cupboards.

But it just seems never-ending.

I presume if we can’t keep the house organised it’s a combination of having too much stuff, the organisation not functioning for us, and…my kids.

I think a lot of it’s the latter. Before I continue trying to work on organisational projects, I need to work on getting a good chore system for the family.

Of course when I mentioned this to my son, and told him he treated our home like a hotel his comeback was “I’m so giving you a one star on Tripadvisor”. So I’m not overly optimistic.

 

 

 

This was the month that was February 2015

I’m beginning to resent the shortness of February. I know it’s only a few days shorter than the other months but I always feel slightly short-changed. Perhaps I resented it more this year in particular because I seemed to lose much of February to illness and the children’s half term.

We finally got the painting completed in the kitchen, hall and landing. This has been on the docket for years but finding decorators was surprisingly harder than I imagined. The height of walls and amount of cutting in I’d need to do it meant this wasn’t something I wanted to tackle myself.

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I also finally got tiles for a backsplash behind my hob. I can’t believe it took me almost 10 years to get round to doing this.

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We went to Avalon for half term and the weather was glorious.

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A lovely week of relaxing and recharging, especially needed this time since I’d been ill with a flu-type thing the previous week. On a side note, yay for high speed internet.

When I came back it was full steam ahead with getting the house back in order after the new floors and painting. Although slightly out of my control, I was still annoyed it took me 3 weeks to complete the declutter. Naturally I made YouTube videos of the process.

 

And I have been making some changes to my social media, a couple of which have already happened.

I’ve published my book reviews here and closed down my readwritereview blog. I hope to get a book related post up every 4-6 weeks but of course that depends on how much I read and/or how many books I buy.

Another change is that I’m moving my planner reviews to this blog. I’m not sure why I started doing them on my stationery blog but to me they’re part of time management, which I talk about on this blog. For a while the old planner reviews will be on both blogs but any new reviews will only be published here. StationeryByDefault will go back to its original intention to be about hauls, notebooks and general stationery items.

Onward to March. It’s the last month of this quarter so I’d better get cracking on my home organisation projects.

 

 

 

This was the month that was January 2015

Wow January was a crazy month with exciting stuff happening at home.

The refurbishment work finally started in the house. These were some simple changes I’d been planning since September (when we make our home improvement list for the year).

First up was replacing the floors in our Master bedroom and landing. In my experience white carpets with children and dogs are a bad idea.

IMG_0178 IMG_0181Much as I would love hardwood floors one day, on the advice of flooring specialists I went with Amtico because they wear better with pets and don’t need as much upkeep.

IMG_1597I love how our bedroom turned out. Obviously one way of having a major declutter is finding a reason to empty your whole room but I probably shouldn’t rely on this method.

Before the floors were laid I was trying to work out where all the furniture could go and I was inspired to move my dressing table and makeup storage into our guest room. I knew we’d have to move it there while the floors were being replaced but it suddenly made sense to keep it in the guest room permanently. We have guests maybe 2 or 3 times a year and we have another spare room on the ground floor so our guest room doesn’t get much use. Moving my dressing table and vanity would create so much space in our master bedroom and the mismatching woods wouldn’t grate on me so much.

IMG_1066I had to change the room layout to fit my table in but I think the room really works. I’m also planning to add some bookshelves or cubby storage and move my handbags into this room, which I now call my dressing room. I may have to fight my son for use of this room because he claims the feng shui is right for him! More posts coming up as I continue to work on the room.

Unfortunately, my husband’s study remains in a state because the painting of the hall, landing and kitchen has started.

IMG_1591I’ve been thinking about social media and what I want to do with my blogs and YouTube channel, also called Ru Undiluted. There are some ideas I have about the direction for this blog in particular but I’m still weighing up the pros and cons. Changes are afoot.

On my YouTube channel I started a new series called My Kind Of Organised and my plan is to upload an ‘organisational’ video every Thursday. I kinda see my channel moving away from a lifestyle channel towards organisational/planner/book-related content. We’ll see.

It was my daughter’s birthday and I have to say I throw excellent children’s parties. Excellent enough to warrant their own posts.

Other than that family, friends, no studying, no writing, blah blah blah. And that was my January.

How was yours?

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