Friday, July 15, 2016

Taming the Paper Clutter

Over the past 6 months, my desk has been piling on the papers and I can't quite shake them. The idea of having to sit down and tackle this mountain of receipts, bills and class notes is more than I can take at the moment. The problem is that the longer I leave it, the more I want to put it off.

But enough is enough.

My initial idea was to sort through this mountain of paper clutter, organize it beautifully and post photos of the wonderful space AFTER it was complete. However, I know myself too well and each day I walk into the study, I tell myself "I need to get round to sorting that out" but time goes by and "sorting that out" never comes around. So I thought I'd force myself to do it by publicly setting the goal. What's left of this month of July is going to be my own personal "Taming The Paper Clutter Challenge" (you're welcome to join me if you want, I'd love to see how you get on in your own homes).

The first thing I have to do to escape this never-ending circle is to EVALUATE my current system. Paper clutter comes in all shapes and sizes and there is definitely not a one size fits all way to tackle it. So, the first thing to do is to decide what categories I need to divide my papers into. For example:

  • Personal documents (passports, birth certificates)
  • Work stuff (contracts, pay slips, social security papers)
  • User manuals and instructions
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Medical (doctor, dentist)
  • Class notes 
  • Receipts
  • Other bits and bobs

Once this is done, it's time to get to the "sorting" part of the job. It's time to sit down with all my paper and divide them into categories. A nice wide flat surface is perfect for this, like say, the floor. Don't forget to THROW things away if they're no longer useful (mental note taken). 

Once I have my categories and my papers sorted out, it's time to create SYSTEMS for each group. For example:
  • Hanging folders
  • Accordeon files
  • Binders
  • Folders
  • Document boxes

How many papers are in each group? Is a folder enough or will I need a binder? Can I keep these documents in a box on the shelf rather than in the filing cabinet? Papers that you need to reach often our best kept at arm's length. Old documents you rarely use (like old bank statements) can easily be kept in a document box on a shelf. 

And last but not least, make it PRETTY. You now have everything in it's place but it's still looking rather bleh? Time to break out the markers and the washi tape and the patterned paper and start color-coding it all!!! Ok...might have gotten carried away there... It's time to personalize each system to make it look that much prettier (and hopefully get you to keep the system always organized). 

Okay, so enough scribbling about what I'm going to do. I better actually get to it. I may even pin some inspiration on my Pinterest boards. Hopefully, I can share the results with you by next month!!

Do you find dealing with paper clutter difficult too? What systems do you use to keep it under control? I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below!!

Sam 
xx

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Time Management 101

It's been difficult to decide what my first post back was going to be about. There are so many things I have already written about on this blog. However, over the last 4 years, my thoughts and habits about some of them have changed. It may have something to do with how my life has evolved during the few years.

I started this blog back in 2012, while I was in my third year of university. I needed something to distract me from all the studying and projects and papers. I wanted to concentrate on something I enjoyed and was passionate about. At the time that was personal organization. It may be true that I focused on the subject too much, maybe even trying to get others to follow in my steps without realizing. My drawers and wardrobes were neatly folded and separated into categories, my daily routine was sacred, my meal plan and budget were followed precisely and my cleaning schedule was a little obsessive.

Since then things have winded down a little. I am no longer a student but have a full time job, that sometimes involves working extra hours. I no longer live alone (or have my own room for that matter) but share my home and my life with my now husband. I have a cat who leaves her hair on every piece of clothing and furniture I own. It is definitely not easy to be as obsessive with cleaning as I once was. It's harder to control how two people spend their money and it's strange to have to deal with "I don't feel like eating that today" or "I'll just have fried chicken for dinner".

So over the past year and half especially, it's sort of gone downhill. Ever since I started preparing my exam to work in Hospital Pharmacy (which I didn't pass, another story for another day), it all started to spin out of control. We currently don't have meal plans, don't track our budget monthly, don't have a cleaning schedule and my wardrobe is most certainly not folded and categorized. Most days I don't have the energy to think about ironing and folding items of clothing or thinking about what we're going to eat the next day. Luckily, Adrian's at home most of the time and is currently in charge of making lunch and dinner, as well as most of the household chores (including kitty litter).

However, I miss the feeling of having everything in it's place. I miss filling out my budget sheet and checking I have something to save for the next month. I miss knowing exactly what I have on my to do list for the week and my nearest deadlines. I miss my organized self. That is why I'm determined to get back a little bit of that old me. I don't want to go all the way, though. Looking back, I can definitely see I was a little OTT.

So, where to start?
For me I'd definitely say time management is of utmost importance nowadays. Especially at work, I have a never-ending list of to-do's and deadlines I need to keep track of. I've now added going to the gym to my schedule and I participate in the church choir, which requires weekly rehearsals. Luckily for me, Summer is officially here (a little hotter than hoped for - she said while staring at the 40ºC on her phone screen). It always seems like I have more time on my hands when the days are longer. In Winter, it gets dark around 6.30pm and my brain is programmed to switch off once the sun is gone. It makes using the extra 5 hours in a day a lot harder.

I've figured if what I'm looking for is to start up good habits, I should focus on trying to establish them now while I'm still wide awake at 10pm, instead of waiting for the cold darkness to creep around in a couple months time.

In a previous post about time management I wrote something I continue to believe to this day: if you can't organizing yourself, you'll have a hard time organizing your stuff. I definitely find that when I organize my time efficiently and tick things off my to do list, I feel a whole lot more productive and am inclined to continue to "do" things, be that cleaning, cooking, etc.

For me the number 1 tip would be to PRIORITIZE. Keep a master to-do list with everything you have to do. If any of them have a deadline, write it down next to the task. Now start to break it down and take it one day at a time. At the beginning of the day, or as soon as you sit down at your desk if it is work-related, ask yourself: what needs to be finished first? Have a look at your deadlines and organize them from closest to furthest away.

When each task has a deadline, it's pretty easy to prioritize. For example (bearing in mind I work with databases and clinical trials):

TO DO:
- Database 1 --> Deadline 3 September
- Database 2 --> Deadline 14 August
- Abstract 1 --> Deadline 29 July
- Abstract 2 --> Deadline 9 August

The prioritized list would be:
1. Abstract 1
2. Abstract 2
3. Database 2
4. Database 1

If we're talking about home-related to-do list, it may look something like the following:

TO DO:
- Put on a load of laundry
- Clean out kitty litter tray
- Cook lunch
- Call Mum
- Pay Electric bill --> Deadline Tomorrow
- Give back Library books --> Deadline 3 days from now

In this case, deadlines aren't enough to decide what needs to be done first. Plus, it you look at this list, there are a few things you can do to make it more time efficient. For example, let's say you start your day by putting on a load of laundry. While the clothes are in the wash you can clear out the kitty tray (a priority for hygienic reasons). Next, perhaps you can pay the electric bill, since this has the closest deadline and then cook lunch (assuming you actually want to eat that day).

Unfortunately, to-do lists never seem to be this short. I usually have bigger things on my master to-do list such as painting the patio, or buying a wardrobe, or making our yearly album (speaking of which, still haven't done last years...oops). My advice would be to pick 3 things you NEED to get done today and do them. Once you're done you'll feel much more productive and will probably still feel energized enough to keep up the rhythm.

On another note, there are such things as planners. For me, these little books work wonders. If it were for my head, I would never get anything done, at home or at work, because I'd never remember anything. But this is a whole topic for another day that may or may not even include some color-coding. In the meanwhile, maybe you'd like to have a look at the planner I purchased about a year ago (click here to read more).

These few tips are the most important to me when it comes to organizing my time. In the past I may have gone to extra lengths to define my free time and decide what to do with it, but making a list that includes it all and picking 3 to do every day make it a lot more manageable.

I hope you enjoyed this intense first post back and hope to see you around soon. Until then, maybe you'd like to scribble a quick comment about how you organize you time in the comment section below! Thanks for stopping by!

Sam 
xx

[Note: I posted a previous post about time management back in 2012, though it's a little OTT for me at the moment. However, if you want to check it out you can read more here.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Get Back On the Organizing Horse

On the 11th March of this year I announced I would be returning to blogging. Well, that hasn't exactly gone to plan seeing as I haven't posted anything. I've been taking some time to sit back and decide which direction I want the blog to go. For me, sitting down and deciding to get back into the blogging mood, after more that a year without doing anything blog-related, was a tough decision on it's own, never mind trying to come up with more content.

So far I've only come to one conclusion: I want to start fresh, with a clean slate.

At some point over the last couple of years I fell off the metaphorical organizing wagon. I look back to a time when I used my household binder regularly, made monthly meal plans and filled in budget trackers religiously. I color-coded my daily planner and had a healthy (I assume) love affair with Pinterest. Now I look to where I am today, with piles of receipts and bills and random papers sitting on my desk (and at the bottom of my handbag), a half empty fridge and no meal plan, and a budget that runs out before the month is over.

The picture is quite unnerving.

So, I'm guessing one of the best ways to get back into blogging is by getting back into organizing and sharing the process on here with you guys. I'll have to go through all the paper clutter and put my systems back into place. I'll have to revise my meal planning strategy and elaborate some sort of cleaning routine. I'll have to go through our home room by room and make sure everything has a place and create a system for those things that don't. I'll have to clean out my wardrobe and have a major decluttering session.

I have a few posts already up on these topics, so I've decided to repost them with the tweaks I may have made (and hopefully, better photos).

And to prove I'm serious, here's my new blog planner for my...third? time blogging!!!


So, without further ado, I'm going to let my wheels start turning and come up with some great projects to share! 


Have you ever fallen off the organizing wagon?

Sam 
xx



Friday, March 11, 2016

Let's Give This Another Try

Hello, you!!!!

I know, I know. It's been aaaaaaages. It's been almost a year, actually. With starting a new job and becoming an adult, there's been little time to blog. To be honest, I wasn't really feeling that motivated to write either. I felt I had nothing interesting to share. My salary just about covered the bills, so I had no money for projects. But now I feel like giving this another try...

It feels strange, and somewhat awkward, to be sitting here behind the keyboard, typing away. I'm trying to remember how I used to carefully plan by blog posts every week, with a calendar and some sticky notes. It was fun constantly coming up with new content to share with the world wide web.

Now I feel I'm entering a new stage in my life and I'd like to pick up my blog where I left off. Adri and I have been talking about "adult topics" like buying a new car and looking for our new home. I actually have some very exciting news that I'll be sharing with you very shortly in a future post.

This quick post is just my way of letting you know I'm back! I don't know how often I'll be posting yet, or if it will be anything particularly interesting, but I'd like to think I can go back to my Auber-organized posting schedule.

I hope you'll give me a second chance!

Sam
xx


Friday, May 8, 2015

Fitness Friday!!

One of the things I set out to accomplish this year is to start living a healthier lifestyle. That includes more exercise, more veggies and less processed food. I don't usually talk about this stuff on the blog, but lately these small changes are a big part of my day to day. Pinterest is usually my go-to site to look for new healthy recipes (check out my healthy living board and my food board here) and I'm slowly incorporating more vegetables to my everyday recipes, like beef and brocolli on rice or asparragus pasta salud (both delicious!!).

Before jumping in to healthy recipes and workouts, I thought I'd use this first post to tell you guys about myself, fitness-wise.

When I was in second year of uni, I was really good about doing exercise. I started to go running at the beginning of April, starting with about 15-20min about 2-3 times a week with my roommate, but slowly managed to do 40-45min from Monday to Friday. That for me was a great achievement. However, the years passed and days got busier and I got lazier, to be honest. Exercise was probably a 3-4 times a month sort of thing. I did do a lot of walking but not very many heart-pumping activities.

When you're young you don't usually give health too much thought, but suddenly I was diagnosed with two problems. First, hypothyrodism (I will tend to gain weight) and varicose veins, grade II. The first of the two is currently under control and without symptoms, which is great. It will progress over time but as long as I have my regular check ups everything should be okey dokey.

However, the second one is really what got my thinking about exercise more often. I first started noticing darker, greener veins on the back of my calves when I was about 17. Nothing major, just a little green spot. It was when I started working my first Summer job the following year, when it got worse. I was standing up for over 6 hours, so my veins started to show even more. That said, they still weren't very bad. But over the last 2-3 years things have gone from bad to worse. I'm not too bothered about the vein showing, so much as I am about the pain and water retention (edema) in my left leg.

There's nothing I can really do to make these veins go away but there are things I can do to help and stop them from getting worse:

1. Exercise! Which is why I'm writing this post, to share my fitness progress with you. When you move your leg muscles, it helps pump the blood back up to the heart and stops the blood from accumulating in the lower body.
2. Medication. I do take medicine for my veins from April until the end of Summer, which is when they get worse.
3. Hot-cold showers. I like to end my showers with some cold water on the legs to get my circulation going.
4. Lifting my legs as often as I can.
5. Not sitting down or standing for long periods of time. I like to get up every hour or so and give my legs a bit of a shake.

The next thing I wanted to share is my weight fluctuation throughout the year. My average weight is around 54,5-55,5 kg and has been for the past 3 years (I'm only 1,62m tall). But when Winter comes around, and with it cold weather and rain, I tend to exercise less and eat more. So I usually gain around 2kg by Christmas. When Spring is back two things happen: I realise I've gained weight and also realise I've gained about a kilo of water retention. With warmer weather, we usually go out more, take longer walks, eat healthier, greener meals and around July I seem to loose all that extra weight and am back to about 54kg. This never-ending cycle has been going on for the past 3 years. Yes, guys, THREE years. And this year isn't any different.

So, with all that said, I'd like to share my fitness goals and progress for this year. I started about 2 weeks ago and for now I'm doing pretty well with exercise: 30min of eliptic bike, 3-4 times a week. Veggie-wise, we've been adding brocolli and asparragus to a lot of things lately, as well as parmesan cauliflower, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, sweetcorn, etc.

I mean, come on, look at this heatlhy dinner I had on Tuesday:


Turkey, asparragus and potato. Yum!! And for dessert: pineapple!

I'm still not sure how often I'll keep you updated, whether it's once a week or once a month but I will update!

I'd love to hear from you guys, if you're getting bikini ready or if you've already switched to a healthier way of living. Please share your experiences and opinions in the comments below!!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Days Off

We had a day off this week, so I decided to make the most of it making extra food and sorting out the garden.

While Adri was getting splattered with paint in the bathroom upstairs (we had a bit of a mould problem this winter), I spent my morning in the kitchen. Rice with veggies, fish and potatoes, tsatziki, rice crackers and apple crumble were made in a three hour cooking marathon.



The day before we went to the garden center with Adri's parents, where I had to come to terms with the fact that I may have a serious addiction to flowers. Here are some of the newbies:








I know, I have a problem.

So I spent the afternoon transplanting them and weeding the rest of the garden (it's a very long process).

I think days off are a great opportunity to get those chores done. It's also nice to sleep in every once in a while, but sometimes all it takes is one really productive day to get things under control and organized. Note: I'll be talking about this more in a future post about how I use my weekends to organize my week. 

The only thing I still haven't been able to get under control is my study schedule. I may have one really good day, where I sit down for a few hours and learn loads, but then another two days go by and nothing gets done. I'm going to focus on setting a schedule this month of May and sticking to it. The most important thing is creating a habit and getting used to the routine. Wish me luck!!



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time

Lately, I've noticed that my weeks just fly by and my weekends are basically non-existent. I don't know what it is about this year that is making it so short!! Maybe it's this new stage of life, having a job and having a home to look after that is speeding things up.

To be honest, sometimes it can all get a bit overwhelming. Some days I get up at 7am, go to work, get off work at about 3pm, have lunch with colleagues, have a meeting/course from 4-9pm, get home at 10pm, take off makeup and clothes, shower, change into PJs, snack (or not), and go to bed by 11-ish.

I'm supposed to be making time to study for this important exam again this year and the house doesn't clean itself. Tomorrow's food needs to be made. But when? Luckily, I have a great boyfriend who does help out a great deal and usually does his fair share of work around the house, but even still, with my OCD high standards,I always feel it's not finished.

It got me thinking about breaks again. I've written about this subject quite a few times on this blog because it's something I tend to need quite a lot of. I push myself to breaking point and always forget that sometimes all I need is to stop and breathe. "I can't do it all", I tell myself. I need time for me.

I'm determined to stop stressing so much this year. Most of the time it's my own fault, I just don't know how to say no. If someone needs a hand, Sam is available. Someone needs a database for next week at work, Sam can do it. However, Sam is now realizing she can't. I need to find time to unwind. Time to spend with loved ones. Just time.