Decluttering in 3 simple steps

We all have them, those spaces where you end up piling up boxes and stuff to sort later or store. Ours is under the stairs, for others it might be the garage, up in the attic, in that hall cupboard or even in a spare room. You try and close the door quickly as to not notice how messy and cluttered it is looking. Our space was getting worse, not helped by the kids rummaging through it, as you can see.  I got to the point where I had enough, so decided it was time to attack this. 

how to sort your cluttered storage space -Tidying with Tania

I did find that I put the job off for a while as it just seemed so overwhelming...it was such a mess and I just didn't know what to with all the stuff. What I did know is that I wanted the clutter gone and I wanted a really nice space to look at as well as a functional storage area and most importantly it had to be a no spend project. I decided to eat this elephant one bit at a time, planning, sorting and decorating.

  1. Planning

My starting point was planning out the space, for me this is the motivational part. I decided what I wanted it to look like, well within limits anyway. We have not renovated this part of the house as yet therefore it did not make any sense to do too much or spend any money on this space at this time. However like I say "you should always be beautiful with what you have"

The room is under the entrance landing and the stairway. I had a black netting type curtain which I used to hang in front the entrance to the space so to block the view of the clutter. However this meant that it was actually fairly dark downstairs and not very welcoming.  My goal was to open it up and bring the light back in. I also wanted to highlight the cool smokey window at the back which brings in heaps of morning sun.

The space still had to be essentially a place for storage however only for things we actually use, i.e seasonal and occasional items like luggage and picnic hampers. I did not want it to be filled back up with clutter again. 

The last step in the planning was to work out a timeframe. I gave myself two weekends to complete this job as I knew it would be big. Rushing a job is not a good idea for and I wanted to take my time and do it properly.  So I locked in the next two Saturdays. Lucky for me the first one rained all day so it was a perfect for a big inside job.

2. Sorting 

This was really scary, I mean look at all that stuff! What will be the best way to tackle this? When I had previously sorted out clutter I also ended up with piles for rubbish and recycling. So I decided to sort into rubbish, recycling, donations and selling. There was a one last category and that was "misplace" . Basically an item that actually lives somewhere else in the house.

What I found really important was while I was doing the sorting was to apply a one touch rule. An example is an item of rubbish, touch it and put it on the rubbish bag and when the bag is full place it out for collection. The same applied with recycling. In regards to the donation I put the items straight into the back of the car so I then had to take them.

I could not believe how much I actually removed. Almost all of the clutter went, mostly going to recycle and donation. The stuff that I have collected....boy oh boy! In the end the only items that I am keeping is our luggage, sleeping bags and picnic hampers. I put all these onto the shelves which meant that the rest of the area was actually free of clutter. Boy did it feel good.

3. Decorating

This was the fun part, well some of it. I gave the room a really good clean out and repainted the block walls. Paint left over from previous jobs came in handy here as did the left over carpet from the recent new carpet we had laid in the entertainment room. I just cut it down to fit and used double sided tape to hold it in place. 

Although the shelving was really efficient for the storage of the luggage it still looked untidy. To solve this I simply put up a curtain in front of the shelves, perfect !. To limit the potential for new clutter to establish itself again, I did two things;

  • set up two bins (old wash clothing bins) for storage

  • placed plants in the room as decor

The use of the storage bins means that when we place something in them it has to then be sorted into rubbish, recycle, donate or sell.

There was also method in my madness as to the where I placed the bins and this is solely due to the two fluffy hunters that we have. Yes our cats! they love to bring all their live and dead offerings to us through this space, note the cat flap. Therefore this area has been a corpse collection station at times, much to our horror. Also the dirty little beggars leave dirt marks on the wall when jumping up and down through the cat flap.

Now that I have done a Tidying with Tania on this space there is no way I was letting the cats mess it up again. Therefore to stop the bringing in of offerings, the cat flap is now only one way, out only, so at least they will not wake us up in the night for a pee. To stop the jumping up marks, I purposely placed the bins in front of the walls. This forces them to jump up and over the plant, on the right of the picture, and walk along the window ledge. I actually watched them to ensure that this worked and yep it did. 

The house plants are a simple decor idea to establish the space as part of the house and not a storage room to be shut off. 

Storage room

I am really pleased with how it turned out. It is such a nice space now and is open and connected to the rest of the house. Best of all it brings me joy!

What is your cluttered space? Need help with how to tackle the space?

Let me know, as a problem shared is a problem solved.

Have a great week

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meal planning for beginners

How many times have you heard "what's for dinner"? either from your nagging kids or your inner voice reminding you that you have to sort dinner out! If I told you that there was a way to make that stupid question go away would you believe me?  Well actually there is and it's called meal planning. I initially started meal planning when the kids were little, Pete and I both working full time. It made such a huge difference to our week and to this day, even though the kids have grown and flown, we still meal plan. Meal planning is really simple, easy, it saves heaps of time and your week feels a lot less crazy. And as a bonus it will actually save you money. It's a great way to manage the food budget. In this post I take you through all the steps to make this easy for you. I also have FREE printable for you and some great tips to get you on your way.

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Meal Planning is actually very easy, just plan in advance what meals you are going to cook each night over a week, fortnight or month. Easy eh!!!! For me I follow these simple steps;

  • Decide the planning cycle

  • Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  • Choose my meals to cook

  • Shop

  • Cook

The first step you want to do, is to work out how often you want to meal plan, I call this the planning cycle.

WOrk out your Planning Cycle

From my experience the best way to work this out is to line it up with your shopping routine. I plan our meals from Monday to Sunday as we shop on Sundays. When we shopped fortnightly, I planned fortnightly.

Just a quick tip, I find weekly planning  a lot easier, as you normally know what you will be doing during that week and able to plan the meals around that. However another week out there are likely to be things that come up that you have not planned for. So you do need to have flexibility in planning the longer your cycle is.

Check your upcoming events and activities

The first thing I do is to check  my planner, checking for what's on that week, evening activities and so on. I note which nights we can cook and which nights we will be really busy. Therefore planning out the best options for dinner to fit around our activities.

Let's take this weeks meal planning. This week we have extra visitors at the end of the week and I am travelling in the early part of the week. So for us this week, I know that for Friday night we will have more people to cook for and Saturday night we are hosting our party, so we need a quick gab dinner. Sunday will be late so we will have to do something quick and easy. 

So this week we need a variety of quick and easy meals and some pre made meals, like slow cooker meals.  

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Now that you have sorted what the week looks like and which nights you need to plan the meals for then, it's just a matter of choosing the meals.

Choosing the meals to cook

For me the meals need to be quick, easy, healthy and budget friendly. I also have to balance our different food tastes. Pete likes meaty, spicy and really hot food, more spicy hot Asian style, where as I like less spice and chillies and more vegetarian. The biggest challenge for meal planning is finding inspiration for meal ideas.

So how do I find meal ideas? 

There are great online food bloggers and pretty much any food genre you want. I would suggest using Pinterest for this, just set up your own recipe board, search for meal ideas and pin the recipes to your board. As you can see I have done that on my Pinterest page. Also check out some of your favourite chiefs and they are likely to have a website, sign up for their weekly newsletter and you can get meal inspiration to your inbox every week.

Also local supermarkets have great websites with food and meal inspiration and your can have the added bonus of shopping online.  Countdown is a good example and there is a great app that you can use as well. I also have one favourite cookbook on the go which I will refer to as well. Tip,  just as an idea you could have a monthly cookbook theme.

My favourite cookbook when the kids where at home and we were pressed for time was Jamie Olivers 15 min meals. I would go through his book every week and pick out yummy meals.

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It does make it easier and quicker if you have a good stock of recipes or meal ideas that you can refer to when planning them out. A good tip is to make up your own home recipe folder

Another tip, try and have meals that use seasonal ingredients as they are cheaper and fresher, like a cabbage and carrots in winter for slaw versus a lettuce variety salad. Also try to share ingredients across meals - mince 1kg - split in half over two meals.  Veges, like spinach, half bag for one meal, half for another. This really helps to reduce your food waste and is a cheaper way to shop.

Prepare your shopping list 

Once I have decided which meals to cook for the week , I then work out which ingredients we will need to buy. On my meal planning page I note beside the meal what I need to buy then just transfer that onto my catch all shopping list. The other thing that is really handy is that I note the reference, i.e where the recipe is from. E.g if it's from the cookbook I would just have the page number as the reference. As I have variety of sources of meal ideas this referencing is really helpful.

To make this easier for you I have a created a FREE weekly meal planner printable for you to use.  As you plan out your meals just note down the side what you need from the supermarket. It's really handy to have on you when doing the shopping. To receive this FREE weekly meal planner download just sign up below;

FREE Meal planner

Free meal planner printable pic
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Display your Meal Menu

This may seem a bit strange to display your meals for the week, but trust me it's worth it!. Firstly everyone can see the meals, so no need to ask what's for tea...."it's on the board" secondly if someone else has to cook they know which meal to make. And lastly it makes you accountable to actually cook the meals!  Once you have written them down and got them up for all to see if does commit you to making them. As in the end meal planning will not really be of any use if you just end up not cooking and getting takeaways instead!! (tempting as that may be sometimes)

My menu display board is just a photo frame with a piece of card stock behind and I use a whiteboard maker. I just wipe it down each week and write up the new menu....easy as that. 

Hints and Tips to help with meal planning

  • Try and maintain a pantry with the staple items, so all you need to do is to buy the meat and vegetables.

  • Collect recipes from magazines, cooking shows, subscribe to food blogs.

  • Use your family's favourites meals, when our kids were younger Shepherds Pie, Lasagne, Bolognase, Sausage Casserole and Homemade burgers were our high rotate.

Summary of steps

I hope this post has given you some useful information to help you get started with meal planning. Meal planning is such a simple and easy thing to do and does make such a difference to your life. Remember the 5 simple steps;

  1. Choose your planning cycle

  2. Check my planner for upcoming activities & events

  3. Choose my meals to cook

  4. Shop

  5. Cook

Get inspiration on a weekly basis on my facebook page, 7nightsaweek , it's dedicated to my weekly meal planning and so each week I share my meal plans, provide links to recipes and share any meal ideas and tips that I have come across.

Happy meal planning my friends!

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My 31Days2GetOrganized challenge

I had a brain wave at the start of the year and thought that it would be a good idea to do a declutter/organising challenge. There was method to my madness as I wanted to experience what it is like to actually complete one of these organising challenges, especially as I plan to run these challenges as my audience grows. So how did I go and what did I learn?

 

No More "Later"

Pete Walsh set the new year off with his 31Days2GetOrganized challenge and so I jumped right in, thinking it's only for a month and hey I am already pretty organised.

Each day Peter would post a link on his Facebook page with a short intro and the challenge of the day. 

I loved his videos, short and funny and ended with the challenge of the day.  In his very first video he used the phrase "no more later", explained that to maintain an organised and tidy home you have to stop saying "I`ll put that away later, I`ll do that later..." so his first challenge was to stop saying "Later"  I actually found that advise, up front, really helpful and I did reflect and realised that I would often put things down with the intention to put away later. I realised that I was wasting time by not putting things away straight away, it's actually a lot less work to put away immediately.  So learnings #1 you need a mission mantra to make the mind shift. So I now find that I actually put things away first time. And yes the house is tidier more of the time now. Can`t say the same for my son's room though!!!! That is a challenge for another day, well actually just wait until he moves out, it's probably a lot easier.

The Challenges

Over the 31 days we tidied and decluttered most areas of the house. Started off with a small and "ease us into' challenge, clearing the dining table of any unwanted papers and items that have collected on the table, followed by 30 more daily challenges as below;

  • Set up two bins by the door for Hospice  (donations) and Recycle
  • Decluttering the Christmas papers and bags
  • Purging the freezer 
  • Sorting out under the Laundry sink
  • Declutter the paperwork in the study
  • Purge your Shoes
  • Sorting the electronic cords 
  • Purging the underwear draw
  • Declutter and sort Luggage storage
  • Taking time out to chat with someone
  • Clear and sort the utensil drawer 
  • Manage the snail mail
  • Clear out cleaning products 
  • Clear out under beds
  • Purge magazines
  • Pens and pencils
  • Brooms and mops
  • Recipes n Cookbooks
  • Clothes closet
  • Tackling the hidden messy place
  • Clearing Kitchen bench tops
  • The Pantry 
  • The Linen Closet
  • The car
  • Managing receipts
  • Cups and Mugs
  • Sort boxes in the garage
  • Medicine Cabinet
  • Books 
  • Kitchen Containers

It was really good to be part of the challenge, sharing your efforts and challenges with others, in fact to share was a good motivation to keep on task.

Generally most of the challenges were not time consuming for me because I already have an organised home and systems in place to keep on top of "stuff" that accumulates in the house.  There were a couple that I did really enjoy, simply because they have been a "I must sort that out" problem, but I never took the time to actually do it. It was very satisfying to finally kick those to the curb. One in particular was the boxes in the garage. We have two boxes that had been following us around through 5 house moves......ridiculous really. Boy did it feel good to finally sort and get rid of those boxes. Most of the content we donated to the hospice and I actually found the lid of one of my favourite tea tins which I lost about a year ago.

 

The Challenging Challenges

Sorting the electronics cords turned out to be a mission, only because I had to involve my son and husband.  On the day of the challenge, I wanted to just get it all sorted and done, however Pete was 1) not ready 2) not keen and 3) "could use them one day".  So there was no way that I was going to achieve that challenge that day. However it did need to be done, so Pete was happy to sort them out another time. This actually meant in his world .....never!...but in my mind that was actually a step forward. I continue to mention that we should sort them out and then on a certain weekend (which I had planned in my head) I just said hey babe lets sort out the cords. So we did, and guess what it only took about about 30 mins and we were done. Most of the gear going to technical recycling and some to donation as they still worked and are useful. 

 

The Pantry was the other challenging challenge mainly because how we were using it had changed slightly and I needed to make some changes to the storage. See my video explaining the issues. Again it was not something that I could quickly do on the day, had to plan out another weekend to tackle that one, which by the way has now been done!

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What I Learnt

This challenge was a really great experience and it gave me a lot of things to ensure that I consider and incorporate into any challenges that I what to lead with my audience, the main learnings for me were;

  • You can`t rush it- may take several goes - little steps at a time
  • Motivation and accountability is very helpful and works
  • Sharing ideas and inspiration helps with motivation
  • It's a continuous process, needs and use change over time  
  • Change of habits - identify things that distract you from your goal and eliminate, like saying "Later"
  • Celebrate wins - always give yourself a little reward after each accomplishment
  • Be realistic with challenge - it can take time and you should only take little bites at a time.

If you do have an area that you do want to tackle it's a good idea to break the job into steps to help you complete the task. I have a previous post on how I tackle my secret messy space, here, which will give you helpful steps to get you on your way...

Have you done an organising challenge?, would love to hear from you, how did you find it?, what worked for you?

Until next time my friends


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How I did my Christmas decor on a budget

What would December be without a blog about Christmas decorations. It is a fun time of year, albeit busy and a time for us decorators to let loose on the house, making it as festive as we can. I could go crazy on Christmas decorations, however thankfully my wallet does not allow it at present....but I still want to be surrounded by nice decorations. So the challenge for me this year was to do my christmas decorating on a budget. I needed to get to a bit creative! See how I got on!

Say hi to an old family favourite, given to us by my beautiful Auntie Odette, he still holds pride of place with the Christmas stockings.

Colour Theme

To help keep some focus to my decorations this year...(my eyes do wander to bright shiny things) I chose a colour theme, something that suits the colour and tones of my home decor and incorporates my existing Christmas decorations. So gold and silver it is, I just needed to get a bit more silver to balance out the gold of which I have a lot.

There are so many beautiful colour themes, just go on Pinterest or on Instagram and you will get inspired left right and centre!

Bargain Hunting 

New lights for the Christmas Tree this year would be great, however I decided to wait for the New Year sales to pick up some good ones. So I just added some silver garland from the $2 Shop that helped to balance out the gold on the tree. 

In one of my Hospice Shop trips I managed to find a bag of silver decorations which I picked up for 50c.  I took the silver baubles and just put them into a glass vase. I placed them on a shelf that gets the afternoon sun, so when it shines through they look like lights!  Boom... free lights!

My favourite cheap xmas decoration find was three "wreaths", again from the $2 Shop. They had big, rather ugly red bows, on them and nothing else so they did look cheap. I simply took the bows off and used them to surround my table centre pieces, and I think they look awesome!

Yes that is supposed to be mistletoe! It was a whole bouquet which I just broke up and placed around some plain candles, simple and very inexpensive christmas decorations.

How cute are the reindeer, these and the new pine garland were the only items I splurged on. Well maybe not splurged. The reindeer were on special, 50% off, at Farmers. so I got both for $20, fyi, they still have great specials on all the Christmas decorations.

The new garland ($30) got to surround the stereo stand as that is our "fire place" where we hang the Santa sacks. As it was plain, I just used a jute ribbon that I had brought from Spotlight and placed some bows that were in the 50c Hospice Shop bag. I also managed to get some little LED lights at Kmart for $12 which I placed in the garland. Just a hint, if you like Jute, don't buy the Christmas themed ribbons, just got the craft section and get the plain/patterned jute. They are a lot cheaper and you get much better length.  I got both rolls of ribbons for $7 each.

Another use of the $2 Shop silver garland was to wrap around the stair banister, to add a bit of texture and colour I used a different jute ribbon, black and gold.

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This is not all my decoration, however it is the best examples on how to do Christmas decorating on a budget.  The great thing is that you can just keep adding to your collection each year.  And do make sure that you take advantage of the Christmas sales in the New Year. 

I hope I have inspired you with some cheap Xmas decoration ideas. 

Happy Decorating and don't forget to share your great decoration tips.

How to create a home folder

I am sure that we are like most families, with household and family information all over the place, in drawers, in piles of stuff on the desk, in files, it goes on....you get the picture!

One way we have found to remove this mess is to have one place to hold all, so for us it's a "Home Folder". It's sort of the one stop shop for key information about your home and family. So today I thought I`d take you through ours, and how I created it. Hopefully, you may find this helpful.

 

Decide on what information you need

The first step is to make a list of the types of information that's important for your home and family. Think about what you often look for, what's always lying around, what does everyone need to have access to and so on.

This can include calendars, weekly plans, to do lists, shopping lists, projects list, meal planning, cleaning plan, important contacts, school information, info for babysitter, maintenance schedules for house, cars and garden.

A helpful way to decide on these topics is to have a look at the free printables available on line. There is a lot of great information available on blogs as well as You Tube on this topic. I found a couple a really good sites with a lot of free printables, these are justagirlandherblog and scatteredsquirrel

What was useful for us, was to have all the "home" information together, especially for Pete.  I keep personal contacts and other important family information in my planner. It's totally personal how you do this, every family and home is different so you will need to work out what information is right for you.

So we decided on the following topics,

  • Calendar and Weekly Planner
  • Goals and Projects
  • Maintenance and Cleaning
  • Important Information
  • Local Information

Chose your folder

This folder I sourced from a folder from the local stationery shop, Whitcoulls . I know there are lots of different sizes and designs of folders/binders, again go with what you like and what will work for you.

I use plastic shelves to hold the printables/papers as it's easy to take in and out as information changes. What I also find helpful for the "Important Information" is to use business card inserts, rather than writing or typing the information in. Again, this is really handy when changing the information.

Divide the topics and Label

For each topic or subject I used "L" shaped pockets as the dividers and just punched holes in them for the folder. The L shaped pockets are great to insert information, like the latest menu from your favourite local restaurant. I created a tab on each of the pockets and labelled them. As an aside, a label maker at home is an essential tool, I use the P-touch Brother, it's great.

I also got an A5 zip wallet and did the same, as above. In this I hold a small amount of cash. It's great for those times when you need small change for kids school, donation, bus......coffeeeeee!

I found most of these items at Warehouse Stationery, again any stationery supplier will have these.

And, all importantly, make sure that you have the folder out in a central place so everyone can have access to it.

I hope this was useful to you, enjoy creating your folder!

Big hugs and smiles

Tania

Mum and Career, the 4 things you need to do to succeed in both

It was a conversation with one of my staff that lead me to this week's blog. With two young ones at school and working full time, she had a challenging week. Like a lot of women, she chose to work full time and have a career, and why not? However it can be a tough road being a Mum, whether working full time or at home, it can be a hard but rewarding road. Surprisingly enough we are not superwomen and we need to recognize this and give ourselves a break.

 

Having raised my kids and worked full time in my career I have learnt a few things on the way, so I thought I'd share some of these with you and, hopefully, you can take something from it to make your life a bit less chaotic.

You are not the only parent

Ok, so you’re the Mum and you think that because of this you should be the authority on your children……well, that is true, but there is another parent, so make sure you let them be the parent too.

One of the most frustrating things I hear is “hubby's babysitting the kids” or Dad saying “I'm babysitting the kids”. No you are not! They are your children, so you are actually simply doing what a parent should do - parenting.

I learnt this really early on with our daughter, first born. Within our first day back at home with her, Pete was bathing her and I was hovering over him…..”do it like this…..don't do it like that.. blah blah” He turned around and said to me “she is my child too and I`ll do this my way”. It really made me stop and realise that I didn't know any more about bathing, dressing, changing nappies etc than he did , we were both new at this. So yeah, I totally let go of feeling that I had to be the authority on our kids. From that day on I never had to plan or organize anything when Pete was with the kids, he did it his way and he did it well.

So as women we need to stop feeling precious about that and let go sometimes.

Let it out of your head and share

I don't know about you but I carry lots of crap in my head, you know the usual stuff, school stuff, dates, appointments, birthdays, sports… it goes on. You need to get this information out of your head and get the family aware of these things and involved in helping with them.

There are great ideas and tools that can really help with this

  • calendar
  • diary
  • to do list
  • family home folder

Whatever you chose to use, make sure you keep it for everyone to use and see.

We always had a big calendar that had everyone’s name on it, so you could easily see what was coming up for the family weekly and monthly. We found this kikki-k one worked really well.

Flexible work options

Ok, so we may not all be in a position to have flexibility in our work, but I strongly suggest that you do try and achieve this. If your present work environment doesn't support this, think about finding one that does.  I know this is easier said than done, but think about the difference it would make to your life and parenting ability.

One of the reasons I remained with my employer was because they are so supportive of work-life balance. I always made the effort to attend all the important events in my kids' lives - at school, on the sportsground, etc. It wasn't always easy, but I did it.  My husband did the same, between us we were always there.

I recall once at a parents' event at the school, a group of mums talking to me about how hard it must be working full time and raising a family. This was about fifteen years ago and a full time working Mum was still not that common. Obviously I talked about the challenge, but I did ask them if they had asked my husband the same question? And do they ask other fathers this question? I didn`t meant to be rude, but it’s important to change some perceptions and expectations that we place on ourselves.

Create the Social hub

My final word on this topic is, as far as I am concerned, the most important. No matter what else is going on in the world, your home must be the social hub for your family. It has to be the place from which their values, and their skills to get through life successfully, are developed . Yes, school and sports friends and other external factors help to broaden their skills and can influence them, but don't ever underestimate the importance of the home. Its one of the things you can actually control and achieve as parent, is to make your home a strong social hub. Always keep your kids close, and never, ever, stop communicating with them, especially in the teenage years.

I know we all have our own family experiences , but I hope this has helped in some way towards making your life easier.

I will be sharing a lot more practical ideas for organizing and planning in my upcoming blogs, so please “stay tuned”. Look forward to talking to you again soon.

Hugs and smiles

Tania