Lifestyle tips



Tips for Planning Your Post-Christmas Sale Blitz

Posted in 'Tips' on December 14, 2016

Post Christmas Sale tipsBeing so close to Christmas means just one thing. Post-Christmas sales!

For those who love a bargain, with a bit of planning, you can make the most of the sales, without tearing out your hair or ending up in the casualty ward from a wayward elbow from that fierce lady aiming for the last pair of size 8 black stilettos in the shoe area of Myers.

Before Christmas

Book babysitters – Sales are no place for kids! Organise a friend or relative to keep the kids safe and occupied while you make the most of the bargains on offer.

Scour catalogue websites – Sites such as Lasoo round up the catalogues of most of the major brands. Be aware that you need to go directly to the Kmart website to find their catalogues. Check out current prices to make sure you are genuinely getting a bargain.

Grab early bargains - In the week before Christmas, you can usually pick up heavily discounted hampers and gift boxed beauty kits. These make great gifts throughout the year with a clever bit of repackaging. You can also pick up discounted Christmas trees and ornaments to be put away ready for next year.

Sort your linen cupboard – Linen is usually one of the hot items in the post-Christmas sales. Do an inventory of your current cupboard, so you know exactly what you need (and what you don’t).

Update your size list – Every phone needs a note section with the current size and preferred colours of everyone in the family. Kids grow faster than you can blink. By having a list of current sizes in your phone, you are not stuck buying something fabulous in the wrong size and then having to brave the returns queue. 

Add your stationery list – Back to school starts the second the tinsel starts to droop. Many specialist stores such as Officeworks have their full back to school range already on display in the store the week before Christmas. Knock that off your to-do list in one quick shop!

Check out online sales – Many retailers start their online sales on Christmas Eve. Rather than another re-run of "It’s a Wonderful Life”, you may want to add in a sneaky browse through the bargains.

Check opening hours – Store trading hours have changed in Queensland this year, so check out the revised store opening hours during the post-sale period to ensure you arrive on time. Plan to arrive as soon as the store opens and be out before lunch time (the busiest shopping time).

Work out your budget – It’s easy to get carried away by the scent of a good bargain. Run your numbers before you head out to ensure that you really can afford that stainless steel roasting pan you have your eye on.

Typical Bargains In Post-Christmas Sales

Post-Christmas sales typically are strongest in:

  • Men’s shirts
  • Women’s Shoes
  • Fashion & Lingerie
  • Linen
  • Homewares
  • Electrical appliances
  • Christmas stock
  • Make-up
  • Video games
  • Calendars

It’s Sale Day!

Wear comfortable shoes – Sales are one time when beauty needs to fly out the door in favour of shoes that don’t pinch, rub or otherwise restrict your movement. Also, have shoes and clothes that are easy to quickly remove and replace so you can try on items without struggling for hours with fiddly buttons.

Carry water (and headache tablets) – It’s thirsty work searching for bargains. Stay hydrated while you shop!

Fold out bags – Every woman needs at least one fold-out shopping bag that folds away into nothing. Sale day means loads of little parcels and bags that are more easily carried in one bigger shopping bag.

Choose your handbag carefully – We know bags that you carry by little handles look cute, but they are hell for serious shopping. Post-Christmas sales are when you dig out your cross-body shoulder bag, so you have both hands free to browse without worrying about juggling your bag.

A word on safety – Crowds also bring out people who like to steal. Keep your handbag zipped at all times to reduce wallet and mobile phone theft. Many of our clients prefer RFID wallets and purses to reduce the risk of card skimming in crowds.

Prioritise your trip – Work out the most important things you want to get on your list and start with those items first. If your store is multi-level like Myer in Queen Street, aim to go in on the same level as your item rather than the ground floor and then racing up the escalators.

Arrive and park early – You thought car parking rage was only limited to Christmas? Try and get to the centre early and enjoy easy parking and a relaxing coffee in the centre before the stores open.

Choose carefully – Not all sale items can be returned for an exchange or refund, so choose items carefully and be aware of the sale terms.

Check out of season clothes – Summer sales are the best time to pick up winter clothes. They are already heavily discounted, and get an extra discount during sale time.

Be Nice – Grabbing items from the hands of other shoppers, or running over wayward kids with your shopping trolley is not a good look (and guarantees the shopping karma fairy will bless you with breaking shopping bags and the checkout operators from hell). Even with all the stress, it doesn’t hurt to be nice.

Finally, remember it is not a bargain if it puts you into debt. While sales are great fun, stick to your budget and your shopping list!





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Your Clutter May Be Someone’s Perfect Find

Posted in 'Clutter, Organising, Tips' on October 24, 2016

DonationsCongratulations! You have tackled the clutter piles scattered throughout your home and garage. Before you load up the car and drive it to the tip to end up in landfill, do a quick sort and see if any of the items can be recycled or donated to people or animals in need.

Here’s a stack of ideas to get you started.

Towels, Blankets, Bean Bags & Baby mattresses (that are not good enough to donate to people)

Call your local vet or animal rescue charity. They often need bedding and things to dry off soggy animals after a bath. 

Green Waste

If you are having a tree or large shrub cut down, you can often ask that they leave the mulched greenery behind. It makes great mulch for your garden, although you may need to let it sit for a few weeks to let the heat out of it before spreading it around your garden beds.

If you have been on a DIY garden kick, many Council tips have a separate green garden waste area at the tip. Council then mulches all green waste and uses it in parks and public areas.

Brisbane City Council regularly offers free green waste tipping weekends so check the website for dates and locations.

https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/environment-waste/rubbish-tips-bins/waste-recycling-facilities/transfer-stations/acceptable-recycling-waste#green

Electronic Waste

Old computers, televisions, printers, old stereos, keyboards, electronic game consoles, DVD players, and all of the thousands or random electrical cords and plugs … turn your back, and they breed faster than rabbits in springtime.

Some items can be refurbished, which is where programs such as Substation33 come into play by providing skills for disadvantaged job seekers in Logan.

If you are in the Brisbane City Council area, you can drop off your electronic clutter at the following Council recovery and recycling centres: Chandler, Ferny Grove, Nudgee, Willawong.

https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/environment-waste/rubbish-tips-bins/waste-recycling-facilities/resource-recovery-centres

If you are in the Moreton Bay Regional Council areas, e-waste can be dropped off at the Waste Centres at Bunya, Caboolture, Dakabin, and Redcliffe.

https://www.moretonbay.qld.gov.au/general.aspx?id=98245

Other Household Items & Clothing

Before we start, let’s have a bit of a person-to-person chat. While donating stuff from your home that you no longer need may feel good, before you donate take a good, long, hard, critical look at it. If the item is broken, damaged, soiled or stained then donating it is not a kindness. You are simply transferring your rubbish to someone else to throw out on your behalf.

Number one rule of thumb: Only donate clean items that are in good condition!

While most of us automatically think of donating things to Vinnies, Lifeline or the Salvos, there are other alternatives.

Independent or Smaller Charity Op Shops. Many suburbs have smaller OP shops linked to specific charities supporting a range of causes from Asthma through to Aid for the Blind and the RSPCA.

Check to see if there is a smaller charity near you that would welcome your donation: http://opshop.org/list/QLD/BRISBANE

Givit is another great option. It is where charities and other organisations list a specific need they have to help an individual or family in the community, and you can choose to donate directly to that person or group of people.

Other charities where you match your donation to their need include:

  • RizeUp Australia which supports people and families leaving domestic violence situations.
  • My Friends Place based on the Gold Coast, which supports homeless women and families.

Schools, Kindys, Childcare centres and After School Hours Care often are looking for extra dress-up items and kitchenware for their home corner areas, as well as books and toys in good condition.

Council run Trash & Treasure Markets. Most local councils now have Trash and Treasure Stores aligned with their local waste centres.  You can usually drop off unwanted furniture or other household items at your local larger council waste centre and they will transfer them to the Treasure Market for you.

Donating Business Clothes

Your outgrown suit or workwear can help a job seeker help land that all important job. Check out Dress for Success, Suit of Change and Suited to Success.

Bras

Most of us don’t realise that bras are one of the least donated items, and yet in many parts of the world are one of the most needed clothing items for women.

 The Uplift Project sends donated bras to areas where women need them most (without compromising their dignity). New or lightly used nursing bras, mastectomy bras and even good old everyday bras are always needed.

Give things away online

Another way to clear unwanted household items is by simply giving them away.

Groups such as Freecycle allow you to list the thing you want to give away, and then people contact you. You choose the person who will become the owner of your item, and you arrange for them to come and pick it up. Simple!

You can also do something similar using Gumtree or any of the many local Buy, Swap, Sell groups that exist on Facebook.

What about Industrial or Commercial Waste?

One of our favourite locations for great materials for craft is Reverse Garbage. They also collect certain types of commercial and industrial waste to be turned into clever creations by schools and artistic types across Brisbane. Check out their website for more information.

I hope this has given you inspiration for great place that need your unwanted items. Enjoy your clutter clearing!



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14 Tips for Organising Your Paper Clutter

Posted in 'Clutter, Organising' on August 23, 2016

ClutterMany busy parents have the same problem. Piles and piles of paper. The problem is, when paper piles up then things get lost.

The trick is to question the right of each piece of paper to be in your home, and then make a decision about its future before it slides into a "someday” pile. You want to sort all your paper into Toss, File or Act.


Questions to ask for each piece of paper

Does this need to be actioned soon?

Bills, invitations and school notes all have to be actioned so deserve special treatment.

Can I get the information elsewhere?

Few bits of paper only exist in one place. If you can get the information somewhere else online if you need it, then toss it away.

Do I need the information for my tax, warranties, legal requirements?

If you do, then keep it, BUT work out if you need a hard paper copy or if a scanned copy will do.

Is the information still current?

Unless a letter or invitation has sentimental value, if it is out of date then bin it.


Here are some specific tips to help tame the paper monster in your home

1.    Urgent stuff - Have one in-tray or folder in your home for bills that have to be paid, school slips that need to be signed and invitations to be responded to. Nothing else goes in there. Ever! You get extra bonus points if you clip the papers together with a bulldog clip (so they don’t blow away), and super bonus points if you put them in date order so you know that the ones on the top have to be dealt with first.

2.    Recurring Bills – Add each recurring or regular bill to your electronic calendar and set it as an "recurring event” so you know when to expect that once a year RACQ bill or quarterly electric bill.

3.    Manuals – Download an electronic copy of your product manuals to one folder in your computer and then bin the paper version. If possible, scan the receipt for the item and store it with the manual in case you need it for a warranty claim down the track.

4.    Shred – Invest in a good quality shredder so you can shred any personally identifiable bits of paper such as envelopes, receipts etc. Either pop the paper into a shredding basket and merrily shred once a week, or have your shredder next to where you open your mail and empty your wallet and shred as you go. Add the shredded paper to your garden as mulch when you are done.

5.    Filing – Keep your filing system simple. Most people create too many folders and subcategories for expenses. Keep your categories high level and simple.

6.    Security – Invest in a quality fireproof safe, and store your passport, insurance policies, birth certificates and other important records in the safe. Keep a photo of your insurance policy number and company details in your phone in case of emergency.

7.    Tax receipts – Scan or photograph all receipts you need for your tax rather than storing mounds of paper.

8.    Recipes – If you like collecting magazines for the recipes, then rip out the important pages, scan them and then ditch the magazine. Some magazines have their recipes online, so simply download the relevant recipe from the site and store it in a recipe folder on your computer.

9.    Magazines - Keep all magazines that you are still reading to just one magazine rack or one box. If the rack or box overflows, it is time to throw away old magazines before buying new ones.

10.  Photos – If you have drawers full of old photos that you want to keep, scan the negatives (if you still have them) or scan the most important photos into your computer (and make sure you have offline backup to keep your precious memories safe).

11.  Kids art – Not all pieces of art are Picasso worthy. Display the best ones and photograph the rest before sneaking them into the bin in the dead of night or recycling them as wrapping paper for gifts.

12.  Old homework & schoolbooks – Do you REALLY need to keep all of the old schoolbooks for your children? Most old schoolbooks can disappear into the bin at the end of each school year. If there is a particular poem or story that has deep meaning, scan it and store the photo rather than the book.

13.  Takeaway Menus – These can also breed if you are not careful. Keep only the menus of places where you regularly phone in your order for delivery or pick up. Ideally keep all the menus together in one place – either on a bulldog clip or in a plastic envelope.

14.  Clear flat surfaces – If it is flat, it attracts clutter. Tables, benches and counters are magnets for paper piles. Have one paper location in your home (ideally near your computer), and put pretty things such as an ornament or flower arrangement on the other surfaces. If the space is blocked, it is harder to pile things up. 



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5 Quick Tips for Getting Your Finances Organised

Posted in 'Organising, Tips' on June 7, 2016

Organising your financesEven the most organised person at work may still have challenges with getting their personal and household finances sorted. They may have their to do lists tweaked within an inch of their lives, but would rather take 20 kids filled with red cordial to a theme park than declutter their personal finances.

Given the end of financial year is racing up on us faster than a horde of teenagers when you say the word "pizza”, here are a few tips to get your finances prepared and organised.

1)    Sort The Shoebox of Receipts

Hands up who has a shoebox crammed to overflowing with receipts that possibly, maybe, potentially relate to your tax return?

The most expensive way to handle this is to deliver it to your accountant or bookkeeper to sort and do their thing with. It takes them hours to comb through your receipts to try and work out what is valid. They then have a few days of backwards and forwards emails or calls trying to answer questions with you. All of this work is billed in 15 minute increments at premium rates – especially during peak times of the year. Yes, it works, but there are other options.

If you are super busy and can’t tackle this yourself, you could hire a VA, temp agency admin person or personal concierge to tackle this task for you instead of your accountant.

There are even technical solutions on the market. Shoeboxed www.shoeboxed.com.au is an innovative business that has been around for a number of years. You just send your receipts away to them in one of their magic envelopes or via snapping a photo of your receipt, and they sort them out and digitise them ready for you to import into your preferred accounting software.

Whichever option you choose, now is the time to get that shoebox sorted. Handing anyone a massive shoebox in a month’s time and expecting a fast turnaround in readiness for your tax return is a recipe for voodoo dolls being created in your image. Get in now before the rush!

2)    The Bulldog Clip of Relevance

Not all receipts are tax related. Clothes, shoes, electronic games etc., all may need to be returned if they are faulty within their warranty period. For receipts for items with a shorter warranty period, just clip the receipts you may need as proof of purchase into one big bulldog clip. Every few months go through and throw out receipts that are no longer needed.

3)    Build a Bill Station

Over 25% of people admit to being late in paying a bill because they misplaced it somewhere in the home. With bills hitting us via paper, email, and BPay view, it is easy to lose track of what is due when.

Late payments create problems with your credit rating and can attract late fees. A little bit of organising can make the difference.

Set up a bill station in one part of your house. It can be a large magnetic bulldog clip on the fridge, a plastic envelope type folder (so things don’t drop out), an old fashioned spike or a ring binder. Just don’t throw your bills loose into an in-tray as they will get mixed with other things – whatever solution you choose, it needs to keep your bills together.

As a new bill comes in – print it (if it isn’t in hard copy) and add it to the bill station. Keep your bills sorted by due date, with the closest due date at the top, so you know which bill has to be paid next.

The easiest location for your bill station is right near your computer and printer. That way there is less distance for you to travel and you are more likely to add the bill to your Bill Station.

4)    Create a Mega Bills Calendar

Most fixed bills such as electricity, rates, rent/mortgage are not a surprise. They come around regularly each month or every few months.

One way to keep track of what is coming up is to create a mega bills calendar. This can be a hard copy calendar which means you need to create it each year.

The easiest solution is to simply set up your bills as a recurring event in your Outlook/Google/Other digital calendar and colour code the events with a special colour that you only use for bills.

You can build your calendar over the year as you receive your bills, or you can invest some time into building it once for the whole year by combing back through your past bills for the previous year.

Whichever way you create your bills calendar, you make your future financial years easier as you can see at a glance what bills you will be receiving and how much each bill is likely to be.

5)    Get into a Routine

Routines are essential for busy people. Carve out a set time each week or fortnight to pay bills, update your account balances, plan for the coming week, work out your budget, empty your purse of receipts, write notes and file those receipts that are tax related and shred receipts that are no longer needed. 

Link your routine to a particular event to make the habit more likely to stick: The evening of payday; The first day of the month when you change the calendar over; Sunday nights when you prepare for the week ahead. Set it as an appointment in your own calendar and stick to it.

Fixing your financial clutter is the perfect new financial year resolution. It doesn’t need massive filing cabinets and thousands of Kikki K folders and planners (unless you want it to). It can be as simple as a few bulldog clips and a simple routine.



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Have You Ever Considered A Career As a Concierge?

Posted in 'Organising' on February 18, 2016

While most of you know that I am a Personal Concierge for a select handful of wonderful clients, not many people know of my other business – as Co-Director of the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers (iCALM) and co-owner of the Diploma of Personal Concierge Services.

Today, I thought I would give you an exclusive look at the other side of my world.

A Quick History of Personal Concierges

Most people when they think of Concierge's, think of high class hotels. The Concierge is the person you talk with to organise theatre tickets, get a reservation at booked out restaurants, rearrange travel arrangements, and sort out parcel deliveries … along with a host of random requests.

Need a private dinner party catered by a top chef? Want five dozen roses delivered precisely at 7.10pm to coincide with you popping the question? Want your mini-bar emptied and refilled with vegan snacks and drinks? That's where a good Concierge comes in.

A Concierge is the ultimate "go to" person, and has a long list of contacts available to solve every issue or crisis.

In recent years, Concierges have moved out from the hotel lobby and into private homes.

Concierges now work with individuals, couples and families and take care of everything from getting quotes on repairs, through to making sure there is bread, milk and groceries at home when the owner flies back from their overseas trip or FIFO role.

You can also find Concierges in banks, hospitals, retail stores, private clubs, academic institutions and commercial buildings.

People have realised the lifestyle and productivity benefits that having a Concierge to assist you can bring, and it is now a fast growing industry sector world-wide.

Australia Was Left Behind

The demand for Personal Concierges has skyrocketed in Australia and New Zealand in the past decade.

The problem was that the professional industry bodies that existed were based over in the USA and focussed almost exclusively on USA issues. Being on the other side of the world has its drawbacks when trying to build networks and solve local challenges.

iCALM

In May 2011 my fellow Director Adele Blair and I founded the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers (iCALM). Our goal was to support fellow Australian and New Zealand concierges through networking, education and employment.

iCALM sets a high Code of Ethics for our members and we have worked tirelessly to provide networking and development opportunities to build the skills of people within our profession.

Training & Education

One of the key issues we found as part of iCALM was that there was no consistent training offered, and concierges had to pick up their skills as they went along.

There are private courses and professional development opportunities offered in other countries, but there was no one who offered an accredited qualification. Until now.

In 2016 iCALM launched the world’s first accredited Concierge qualification.

We have partnered with Entamio Education Group and have jumped through every hoop to have a Diploma of Personal Concierge Services formally accredited, with our first students starting in early 2016.

The Diploma of Personal Concierge Services

The Diploma is self-paced and offered via online learning, with direct support by Adele and myself to our students

Students will complete 20 units covering core skills across business, project management, professional development and finance well as units specific to the role of a Concierge.

Completing the Diploma gives Concierges a well-rounded entry into the industry, backed by an accredited qualification.

Who Becomes a Concierge?

People choosing to become a Personal Concierge have a variety of backgrounds. Many concierges have had early careers as event managers, personal assistants or nurses and become a concierge as part of a career change.

If you are organised, a "go to" person, are great at juggling multiple projects and priorities and have high levels of discretion, then being a Concierge is the ideal career.

The other key skill needed is the ability to form close networks. Being a Concierge is being part of an industry where turf wars and competition is an alien concept. Success only comes from working closely with others in the industry and pooling networks and expertise to help deliver results for your clients.

Combining your background and skills with formal training, opens the door to an exciting new career where no two days are the same.

More Information?

If you would like to know more about the Diploma, visit the iCALM website http://www.icalm.com.au/the-diploma/.







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I wish I could keep Kay all to myself.....she just handles what needs to be handled.....easily, effortlessly and without drama.

— C Matson, Alito

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