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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
The shops have been filled with tinsel and trees since September.
Santa has taken up residence in all the shopping centres and Christmas craft is
starting to make its way home in the schoolbag.
You are already having nightmares about trying to find
presents in shopping centres resembling roller derby competitions at its worst.
The thought of decorating the house and creating gourmet meals while still
looking super cool, calm and collected is turning you to drink.
Before you reach for another Chardonnay, here are some tips
to help you plan out your Christmas and stagger out the drama into manageable
Budget: Work out your budget for presents, food
and wine to help reduce New Year bill shock.
List: Write out a list of the people
you need to buy for either on paper that you can keep in your wallet, or in a
note on your smartphone. Remember to include present ideas, sizes and colour
Online: This is the best week to shop online so your parcels arrive in time
for the big day.
Presents: Buy/make gifts for teachers and fellow classmates, as well as
adding in a few smaller gifts for unexpected presents that crop up.
Groceries: Buy your puddings and cake this
week (if you don't have them already or are not making them). The good ones
sell out quickly. Also buy your cards, gift tags and gift-wrap this week so you
can wrap your presents as you go rather than doing a marathon on Christmas Eve.
babysitters: If you have any Christmas functions in December without the
kids, lock in your babysitters this week (and your hairdresser, dog washer,
house-cleaner, gardener and nail salon).
Calendar: Write in all your family Christmas parties, carols, and school
functions into one calendar to keep track of everything.
back: Remember to add a few items for charity food collections or wishing
trees this week. It makes it easier for charities to distribute to those in
need if they receive donations early in the month rather than closer to
Decorate:While we would all love a home that is Pinterest worthy, the reality is
that a Christmas tree is the only real essential. Anything else is a bonus.
Remember to take a photo of the kids decorating the tree every year - it makes
a great memory.
cards: Write and mail out your Christmas cards this week unless you were
one of those super organised people who did them back in November. Buy post
office preferred cards to reduce mail costs.
Presents: This week is when you get present shopping in
earnest. Remember to keep to your budget. If you can, try and get all your
shopping done in one shopping trip (… this is where a great babysitter comes
into play, or swap caring for your friend's kids while they shop and then visa
versa. Shopping with kids in tow at Christmas is not fun!)
House Preparation:Having guests stay over Christmas? Time
to get the spare room clean and ready for guests and to check out if you need
any new towels or sheets.
Groceries: Plan your Christmas cooking menu and order your ham, turkey and seafood is
week. Add in bonbons and Christmas napkins to your shop.
gifts:This is the week to make
and package up any homemade Christmas gifts that won't spoil.
out of town presents: Christmas is
the busiest time for Australia Post, so get in early with your presents for
friends and family.
week: Stock up on wine, brandy and other drinks for Christmas this week so
you avoid the crush at the bottle shop in the days before Christmas.
Groceries:This is a great week to add in any longer life items such as Pavlova
shells, biscuits and nibbles. Top up all your AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries
this week so there are no tears on Christmas day if toys don't work.
Preparation: Clean out the fridge in readiness for the onslaught next week
and prepare the BBQ.
Light Displays: Avoid the Christmas week craziness and check out the
Christmas lights this week.
Groceries:This is the week for fresh ingredients. Aim to be at the shop when the
doors open to avoid the crowds. Remember to add in cookies for Santa and
carrots for the reindeer into your shop.
Preparation: Wash and prepare all the Christmas crockery and glasses you
only use once a year, and give the house a deep clean in readiness for your
Preparation: Recharge the batteries on your digital camera or video
recorder in readiness for capturing the magic moments.
Presents:Run out of ideas? Gift cards or vouchers are perfect last minute gifts.
Coles and Woolworths stock a massive range of cards for loads of stores and
experiences, or get in touch with your favourite service or concierge business
to give someone the gift of time.
Take advantage of the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, wrap and bon
bons for next year.
Christmas is naturally a busy time of year. With a bit of
planning, you can reduce your stress and serenely sail into the silly season.
Have you ever considered how much of your life is in your
mobile phone? When you need a contact phone number, you zip your phone out of
your handbag and open your contact app.
But what happens if your partner needs to contact someone on
your phone contacts app when you aren't there? Or your babysitter? Or when your
phone goes flat and the power is out?
This is where having a central, old-school pen and paper
version of your family's most important phone numbers stuck to your fridge or family
organisation board is worth its weight in gold.
Emergency Contacts Printable
I have put together a detailed printable designed for
Brisbane families. It has spaces for all of your regular essential contacts, as
well as spaces for critical contacts relevant for Queenslanders including the
SES, your friendly local snake catcher, and your gutter cleaner.
It also has spaces for you to record the key details of your
insurance policies. We heard of many locals who went through the Brisbane
floods and storms of recent years, who lost their insurance policies in the
disaster. It caused them additional stress trying to track down who they were
insured with and their policy details. By having all of these details in one
central place, you will be able to access them quickly in case of emergency.
How To Use This Printable
There are a couple of ways that you can use this printable:
Take some time over the next week to review the list and
fill in your details for your household. I suggest laminating your finished
version to stop it curling over time.
Add It To Your Emergency Kit
Laminating your list also helps to make it durable. Just
throw the completed printable into your emergency
kit at the beginning of storm season/fire season and you are ready to go in
case of emergency.
Finally, take a photo of your completed list and share the
photo with the adults in your household to save onto their mobile phones. (Let's
be honest - how many of your household will key in all the contacts you have in
You are not a true Brisbanite if you don't have fond
memories of strawberry sundaes and overpriced show bags from the Ekka. So how
to do create these same fabulous memories for your children and not go crazy in
Here are our top Ekka tips to help you not only survive, but
actually enjoy your day at the Ekka.
Top Ten Things To Do
With Younger Kids
1. Wander through the animal pavilions to see cows
and other animals up close and smelly.
2. Eat at least one Strawberry Sundae (suitably
photographed for posterity).
3. Watch a woodchop event and then hide anything
that looks like an axe at home.
4. If your kid is dinosaur mad, take in the
animatronic Dinosaur Adventures in the John Reid Pavilion.
5. Younger kids get a kick out of the Hoot &
Hootabelle show at the Entertainment and Fashion Stage at 10am, 11am and 12
noon daily. (You on the other hand may not be so thrilled and may take the
chance to upload some photos to Facebook during the performance).
6. Have your kids milked a cow before? The Milking
Barn has hands-on presentations on the hour between 10.30am and 3.30pm daily.
7. The RACQ Animal Nursery is always popular. Try to
get in early to avoid the queues and fights over the fluffiest lamb to feed.
8. Admire the fruit and vegetable district exhibits
and wonder at the giant vegetables in the Royal International Convention Centre
- Ground Floor.
9. Appreciate the amazing cake displays at the QLD
Cake Decorators exhibition in the Royal International Convention Centre -
Ground Floor (and then remind your kids that lopsided birthday cakes made by
mum taste twice as good).
the fireworks and evening ring performances (if your kids can stay awake that
long and are not terrified of loud explosions).
Things To Do With Older Kids
1. Check out the FMX Freestyle Kings - some of the
best FMX riders will push themselves and the machines to the limits 12-45-1pm
each day at the Energex Community Arena. Know that whatever you see will be
replicated in your backyard, so think carefully about this one!
2. X-Treme Action Monster Trucks featuring the
Transformers are on at 7.10-7.30pm each night at the Energex Community Arena.
More explosions, loud machinery and pyrotechnics to set off your headache.
3. Stand holding the bags while they tackle all the
Thrill Rides at Sideshow Alley.
4. Watch things explode at the Big Bang Education
science shows at the Education Stage upstairs at the Royal International
Convention Centre. (Can you sense a theme here about explosions?)
Rides at the Ekka are split between Sideshow Alley (up near
the RNA Showground) and the Children's Outdoor Carnival over at the other end
of the show near St Paul's Terrace. Sideshow Alley is more designed for the
older kids, while the Outdoor Carnival is perfect for the pre-school and early
primary aged kid set.
Some showbags have discount ride coupons included, so if
your goal is loads of rides, check out the showbag inclusions carefully.
Crowds plus kids over-awed with all the new sights is a
recipe for challenge.
Start by dressing your kids in super bright
colours to make them easier to spot in the crowd. Some mums dress their kids in
matching rainbow or red t-shirts and neon bright hats so make a separated child
easier to track down. We have even seen parents consider hi-vis vests (not that
we would judge you if went that far!)
Remember to take a fun happy snap on your phone
before you head out the door of your kids on their way to the Ekka. If you have
a great day, it will be a nice memory, if your child gets lost, then it is
easier to say, "Here is a photo of my child and what they were wearing."
Measuring current heights and taking fingerprints are optional extras.
Pick up child identification wristbands from QLD
Police. They are usually available just inside most gates or at the Gregory
Terrace Police Station just inside Gate 1.
If you do lose your child or partner, there's a
Lost Person's Station at the Gregory Terrace Police Station.
Parents' rooms at the Ekka
Having a toilet map is super handy for those "I have to
go NOW" moments. Download and print the map and highlight the toilets (it
was so much easier when they had an app!)
Parents' rooms are located next to the Woodchop Bar; in
Sideshow Alley; near the Beef Cattle Pavilion; across the road from the animal
nursery and at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion.
Showbags at the Ekka
There are two very different approaches to buying showbags.
1) Get in early.As the pavilion gets extremely crowded as the day progresses, some people buy
showbags as their first task for the day. This means they either have to carry
them all day (yay - NOT!) or they may hire one of the lockers outside the
Showbag Pavilion for $8 for the day. This works well as long as your showbags
are not heavily chocolate based.
2) Scout early - Buy
Late. The other school of thought is to do a wander through the showbag
hall early so the kids know exactly where the bags they want are located. You
then do a targeted attack run on your way out of the show. This means you have
bargaining leverage during the day (not that any parent at the Ekka ever needs
It also helps to give the kids a set budget for showbags,
and then let them browse the showbag section of the Ekka website. They will do
this for hours trying to work out what they want, and how to make their $
stretch the furthest possible. Showbag maths is the ultimate way to teach kids
Food at the Ekka
Many parents on a budget bring their own snacks and
sandwiches to enjoy. If you are looking for budget friendly kid food check out
the $2 cheese toasties at the Woolworths Pavilion.
One other hidden gem tip: The CWA has an old-school eatery
under the John McDonald stand near the Beef Cattle. That's where you pick up
the best scones, jam and cream at the Ekka.
Avoid People's Day and weekends if you are not a
fan of crowds. Seriously. Don't do it! Take a day off work if you have to - You
will have a much more enjoyable day!
If you want to see the animals and fruit
exhibits, go early in the 10 days the Ekka is open, as many leave part of the
way through the show.
If discounted showbags are your thing, go to the
Ekka on the last day. Sure, the popular bags will be sold out, but you will
pick up heaps of two or three for the price of one deals.
If you want to catch the night shows and
fireworks, grab your spots by 5pm as the seats fill early. This can create
problems for kids sitting nicely in one place from 5pm - 8pm without having to
duck out for wee breaks. If you are doing to do the Ekkanites thing, have at
least 2 adults to tag team with the kids and the seats.
Go to the earliest possible kids' shows each day
and get to each show at least 15 minutes early to have a chance of getting
Bring a stroller. It is an awfully long way to
carry little people!
Pre-purchase your tickets online or at RACQ offices to avoid the queues.
If you are travelling by public transport, you can buy a combined travel and entry ticket from any attended Queensland railway stations.
Public transport is the easiest option but
remember to avoid travelling home during peak hour if going midweek so your
over-tired kids are not crushed up against business commuters.
Parking is limited in the area. Your best options are the old Royal Children's Hospital car park or the Royal Brisbane Hospital Car Park, Parking for the day will set you back between $25 - $32.
Wear comfortable shoes designed for walking and tops that cover the shoulders to minimise sunburn lines. Yes, I know this is mum type advice, but 3-inch heels and strapless tops still make their regular appearance at the showgrounds.
Go in with the right mindset. The younger your kids the less you will see - make peace with that! Some kids are happy with one ride, a cuddle of a lamb and an ice cream and then want to go home. Other kids only want to ride the one ride over and over and over and …. Forget trying to tick off the "must see everything" box and go for the" whatever your kids enjoy" box.
Take loads of photos. Photos of your kids
patting animals, riding ponies, enjoying events and eating carnival food are
some of the best you can get for the family album. Just don't be so much behind
the camera that you miss fully experiencing the Ekka with them.
Things to Pack
Remember to pack
Panadol & bandaids
Water bottles to stay hydrated. There are water
fountains across from the animal nursery at Expo Place One; near the dog
pavilion; up near the Wood Chop bar as well as near the goat and cattle
Hand sanitiser & baby wipes (for the inevitable
Changes of undies for younger children
Phone battery charger pack
To find out more
Go to the Ekka website to download maps, get timetables of
events and to plan your day
It’s coming up to that time of year again — tax time, and if you’re among a large proportion of Australians, you may not quite be claiming everything that you're entitled to. With the 30th of June creeping up, it’s a good time to retrieve the shoebox full of receipts you've accumulated throughout the year and consider what you can and can't claim.
The ATO website provides a comprehensive list of deductions you're able to claim - and you might be surprised what's on the list that you may not have been claiming to date. For instance, if you work from home (even if you don’t own a business) you may be able to claim some of your workspace expenses including heating/cooling, cleaning, lighting and even office repairs.
Of course to claim most of these deductions you will need to have maintained clear records including receipts of purchases. Whilst receipts and tax invoices from people and businesses supplying the goods and services are some of the best evidence to use for your tax deductions, you can also use a combination of other documents to support your claims including:
Bank or financial institution documents
Credit card statements
Handwritten evidence in a diary or similar - so long as the individual claims are no more than $10 and aren't collectively more than $300
Paper or electronic copies of documents that are a true representation of the originals are also acceptable.
And whilst it might not help for the financial year just passed, there are a whole range of apps that can help you record and track your receipts on the fly like Shoeboxed Australia, Receipts and Expensify that you can start to implement and use for the coming tax year. All have different functionality that allows you to capture and store relevant tax info on the run and some apps will even consolidate that information with your accounting platform.
You can find out more about claimable tax deductions on the ATO website. And don't forget you need to retain your evidence for 5 years from the day your tax return is due or the day you lodge your tax return (whichever date is the latter).
PS: if the thought of getting yourself organised for tax time makes you nauseated then you know where I am.
The last week of school holidays can be tricky for everyone. That first term flies by and it often leaves us wondering if we’re even due for holidays, let alone having been given a chance to plan for them. If you’re running short of ideas, and your sanity is at an all-time low, here’s 6 things you can do to keep everyone happy.
Number 1: Get out into nature.
Kids have far more energy than parents that’s for sure, and unless you’re planning on some extreme sport, you’re not likely to use it all up. Getting outside, if only for a couple of hours helps. Nature has such a wonderful way of energising, refreshing and wearing you out, which makes it the perfect school holiday antidote. If you have some walking trails near you, this is the time to make use of them all, either on foot, scooter or bike. Alternatively you can hit the beach for a few hours if the weather agrees, or even head to a park. Older kids might scoff at the initial idea, but in my experience it doesn’t take long for them to start having fun. The getting out of the house gives everyone a break, and you can even organise it with a friend and a coffee, so the kids occupy themselves and you get adult conversation. Score!
Number 2: Have an at home movie day.
If you’re not into the outdoors, or the weather turns for the worse, an at home movie day is a great alternative. Sure it won’t use up huge amounts of energy, but it will occupy everyone’s minds for a little while and is a great way of winding the whole family down and giving everyone an opportunity for relaxation before getting back into the next school term. Whilst hitting the cinema is a great outing, it can be crazy and crowded over the school holidays. Pull the curtains closed, throw pillows and blankets everywhere and stock up on some special treats. A bag of popcorn, some ice cream in a cone and ice-magic, and you can keep everyone happy for about a quarter of the price the movies will charge you (plus you don't have to queue up for the loo).
Better yet, the arrival of Netflix means you can download the free trial, and have access to a whole range of movies you might not have at home. Sure they aren’t new releases, but if you haven’t seen them, it doesn’t matter.
Number 3: Have a loose routine.
One of the great things about school holidays is the break from routine. However for some kids, especially little ones who have a pretty detailed school schedule, the haphazard nature can get a bit overwhelming, leading to frustration and tantrums. Even a very simple holiday routine can help bring order for everyone; something as easy as having morning tea at the same time, or always having ‘outside play’in the afternoon before watching TV. The bonus of that, is it gives you something to look forward to, or to have a break; they watch Ben and Holly and you get an uninterrupted cuppa. Bliss.
Number 4: Go out for lunch.
Making lunch can be tedious, and sometimes sandwiches at home just don't quite cut it. Find a family-friendly restaurant or cafe and let someone else cook and clean up for a change. If you're stuck for ideas Eat out with Kidshave got a great list of family-friendly cafes and restaurants in and around Brisbane and other Australian capital cities.
Number 5: Have a dance party.
Dancing is one of those great mood changers and even if you do feel like a uncoordinated giraffe while doing it, it can be a lot of fun with the kids. And let's face it, the kids don’t care how you look, so long as you're having fun and they get to join in. Granted, this isn't an activity that’s going to take up a whole day, or even half a day, but when stress levels are high and everyone is ratty, play that funky music and just cut loose for half an hour. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better or at least give you a good laugh.
Bonus Number 6: Enjoy it.
School holidays can be a real juggle with some days spent wishing they'd end sooner rather than later. But in amongst the mayhem try and take a moment just to enjoy it. The days are long, but the years go by quick, and you before you know it, school holidays won't even be a bullet point on your agenda.
Tips for Transitioning Back to School Without the Craziness
Posted in 'Tips' on January 14, 2015
Sending the kids back to school for the start of a new year is an exciting time. But it can be a terrifying time too. For kids, because it's a change in their relaxed holiday routine. For parents, because they have to get the kids out of that relaxed holiday routine! So seeing as we still have less than a couple of weeks to go, here's some tips to save your sanity in transitioning the kids back into the school routine:
1. Sort your school calendar/diary NOW
Juggling work or business and family is busy enough but throw in school requirements and it's mayhem. Add a little organisation and planning ahead and it can certainly alleviate a little stress. Whether you run a paper diary, online diary, calendar or whatever, get access to important school dates and start writing/typing them in NOW. And make sure your partner's calendar is synced (or copied if you're that way inclined) so everyone know's what's going on. Be sure to include term dates, public holidays, student free days, school sports and any other relevant stuff that's important to your family.
2. Buy school shoes before they run out
Lots of parents tend to leave the school shoes purchases to the very last minute, because let's face it, kids' feet grow like weeds and we don't want them to grow out of shoes before the first day of school. But at this time of year, school shoes are a hot commodity. Head down and get your kids shod ASAP, otherwise you might find yourself cat-fighting with a bunch of crazy women over the last pair of black size 4 lace-ups. Heck, grab two pairs because chances are the first pair will only last one or two terms anyway!
3. Start the routine sooner rather than later
Whilst the relaxed school holiday mornings and late nights are nice for a while, they can make getting the kids back into a school routine a nightmare. Use the week before school starts to get the kids back into a bedtime routine and a morning routine to get ready, refreshed and prepared for the school morning craziness.
4. Check their lunchboxes
The start of the year usually means shiny new lunchboxes and to be honest I don't know who's usually more excited about them, the Mums or the kids. But it's worth taking a minute to check whether your children can manage opening their lunchboxes. The last thing you (and the teachers) need is a sobbing child on day one because they can't get to the sultanas and cheese tucked away in an ergo-enviro lunchbox in a thermo-sealed bag.
5. Label, label, label
Experienced school mums will chuckle at this one because as if you wouldn't label your child's things. But consider this, if you have a child starting prep, do they recognise their own name yet? If not, stick something else identifiable on things they use daily like water bottles, lunch boxes, hats and shoes. Lots of school labels have little icons that you can include when you order them making it more easily identifiable for little ones.
6. Check the school bag (just in case)
If you're using last years school bag for your child, best to hold your nose and open it now. Just in case. Enough said.
7. Set up a school filing box for each child
Before the kids start school, set up a filing box for each of them. Make it large enough to fit readers, homework books and anything else that needs to go to and from school regularly. Make this the first stop the kids make when they get home from school (before they raid the fridge) to unload any important documents, homework and notes.
Before you know it, we'll be back into the school year making lunches and ironing uniforms and happily waving our kids off at the school gate, hoorah!
So the tinsels already draped, the fake Santas litter the shelves and Christmas trees seem to be popping up like weeds. Yes we're well and truly into the Christmas seasons. But, have you started your shopping yet? Before you know it, Santa will be hauling his chunky backside into town so here's some tips to get you through the Christmas shopping shenanigans if you haven't already started.
Make a list and check it twice
Before you hit the shops (or your laptop), it's important to nail down a list of who's on your gift list, some gift ideas and most importantly a budget for each person. Drafting a list gives you clear direction, keeps you on task and not-to-mention helps to prevent missing anyone important. Oops, awkward!
Research If you're keen on nabbing a bargain or equally can't stand paying full price for Christmas presents, it's worth spending some time researching. Either grab a cuppa and trawl through the junk mail to mark out any relevant specials or alternatively scan websites like Lasoo which collate all the latest catalogues of most of the major department stores in one place. There's a lot of money to be saved if you're happy to research and then shop around for specials.
If you're a little crafty or don't mind hanging out in the kitchen from time to time, offering home-made gifts for friends and family is a great way of showing-up everyone else's gifts (as long as you nail it). Homemade jams or cookies (there's a nice recipe below), candles or crafts are nice. And there's more than 1000 things you can cram into pretty jars to give as gifts this year. Bling it up with ribbons and pretty labels and you've nailed it!
Buying gift vouchers for Christmas gifts can be a bit of a contentious issue. Some would argue that a voucher is an impersonal and thoughtless gift idea. I disagree. In fact, like anything, it's all in the pitch. Buying a voucher means taking the time to select the right store for the right person and then giving them the opportunity to buy something they really want. Buying Nanna a Spotlight voucher because she's so fond of scrapbooking, presenting your brother with a BCF voucher because he's an avid fisherman, presenting your niece with an iTunes voucher so she can download her own music on her iPod, or giving Mum a massage voucher (because what mum doesn't need a massage) is actually both thoughtful and personal.
Every year as soon as the Shopping Centre Santas start their Christmas photo gigs we also start to see the crowds gathering at our local stores. And the closer it gets to Christmas, the crazier things seem to become with people seemingly materialising from every nook and cranny. If you're not crowd-lover at the best of times then it's probably best to avoid the shops altogether if you can help it.
Thankfully there's plenty of online stores that offer a variety of options for Christmas gifts. If you're looking for handmade gifts then Etsy is one of your options. There's also eBay, Latest Buy, Gift Australia plus most of the major department stores offer online shopping as well. Some of them even offer a gift-wrapping service - ka-ching!
There's nothing quite like doing all your Christmas shopping in your pajamas whilst simultaneously drinking wine and watching re-runs of Grey's Anatomy! It's a win for everyone!
If you're finding yourself with less and less to do simple things like Christmas shopping and organising your Christmas parties, then it might be time to call in the big guns. Master of all things organisation, Kay can bring you one gift you just can't buy - time.
With Spring well underway it's a good time of year to start decluttering and organising areas of your home for the warmer months. If you're a little stuck as to where to begin, here are four simple ideas to get you started in the decluttering process:
If you don't use it, lose it
If you have clothes that you haven't worn in the past 6 months (weather dependant) start culling. Give your wardrobe an overhaul and find the things that you haven't worn in eons and truck them off to the op shop.
Replace, don't increase
Purchasing new items of furniture are a great way of freshening up a room however consider using the new item as a 'replacement' rather than a pure 'addition' to your room. This will help reduce clutter in that room and prevent over-furnishing.
If the thought of decluttering makes you immediately break into a nervous rash, start with the smallest (or easiest) room in the house and go from there. Bathrooms are always a great place to start. Sometimes surmounting even the tiniest area of your house is enough to get the 'organisation inertia' going. Alternatively if it's all too much, might be time to call in the heavies (aka Kay) to get your decluttering sorted.
'Never put off tomorrow what can be done today' - rings more true than ever when it comes to decluttering. If you're feeling the urge to declutter, the best time to start is now because tomorrow never comes.
Between homework with the kids, client appointments, meetings, managing your business/work schedule, keeping your house clean and your fridge stocked, it's easy to get to the point of burnout before even realising. Busy women tend to put themselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to self-care but at the end of the day, if you crash and burn there's a lot of people relying on you to get things done.
It's important to put preventative strategies in place to manage your work/life-load before you hit the point of 'crash and burn'. Here's a couple of tips to help you maintain some semblance of balance between work (or business) and life. It's all things you know, but every now and then it's nice to get a little reminder.
Schedule some downtime
Having a bit of 'down-time' is a bit of a no-brainer but sometimes we just don't make the time for it. Plan for it. Schedule it. And made sure you do it. Down time might be a date-night with your partner in front of the TV, coffee with friends, a pampering session, heading to a sporting event or a picnic with the kids. Anything that drags you from 'work mode' gives you the opportunity to recharge the batteries. Know what is a guaranteed destresser for you and schedule it in at least once a week.
Exercise is one of those things we know we need to do but is always put on the backburner when other things come up. Funny thing is, we know how good we feel after we do some exercise. When it comes to finding the time to get your heart-rate up, think outside the square a little. You don't need to be spending hours at the gym or going for 10km jogs every day but certainly walking the long way home from the bus stop to get an extra 10 minutes fast walking in here and there all contributes.
Learn to say no
As busy women we try to do everything for everyone but the reality is, sometimes we just can't. Over-committing to committees, community groups, P&Cs, charities, work events, functions, parties.....oh it's exhausting just thinking about trying to fit it all in. Learning to say 'no' to things that you realistically just can't do is both empowering and a great way of gaining back some valuable time. You can't be everything to everyone. Full stop.
Some of those tasks within your life and business or work are tedious and time-consuming but are have-to-be-done kind of jobs. However ask yourself, do you personally have to do them? Do you have to do the mail run, the book-keeping, the ordering, shopping, the ironing/cleaning/mowing?? Consider any of the jobs that can be outsourced and buy yourself back some time to do other things.
We all try (often in earnest) to maintain some semblance of work-life balance and the reality is, that life is constantly changing and it's a real juggling act. However sometimes it's the small things that make all the difference. Schedule a little time out, keep active, say no when you can and outsource anything that you don't personally need to be doing. Every little bit helps.
If you've succumbed to the 'please, please, pleases' of the kids and have decided you're going to brave the Ekka this year here's three things you might want to consider when taking children with you:
Have a plan
If your children are old enough create a plan if you happen to lose each other in the crowd. Include in your plan where they should go, what they should (and shouldn't) do and who they can speak to if they become lost.
Before you enter the Ekka grounds, take a clear photo of each of your children. If they happen to get lost, this is the best and most up-to-date information you can provide to police and might be critical to them being located quickly.
Write your number on them
Whether you have a specific safety wristband or you write on their backpack or write in biro/niko pen along their forearm, write your contact number on your child. Show them the number so that if they do get lost, they can ask a police officer or security officer to call you.
Note: Free safety wristbands are available from the Exhibition Police Station off Gregory Tce (opposite the Strawberry Sundae stall).
This week is the start of Toy Sale week! Mothers across the country are scouring catalogues and making lists for birthdays, Christmas and just because. Here's what's on where and when....
Big W starts their online sale from 9pm Wednesday night. The catalogue is here The sale starts in store from Thursday. Christmas Layby is available. On sale till July 10
Kmart is not running a "Toy Sale" this year. Instead they are offering their Endless Days of Play catalogue. These "non sale" prices are available online now and in store from Thursday. The catalogue is here They are not offering Christmas Layby this year but they do still have their regular 8 week layby available. Their biggest selling point is that these prices are available until Christmas Eve. They don't end after a 2 or 3 week sale period.
Myer has also joined the others and have started their sale online already. Their catalogue is available here. The sale starts instore on Thursday (about a week later than they usually do) and goes till 28th July.
Target as usual is hanging back and not starting till a week after the others. Last year they released their catalogue early, but didn't put pricing on until the last minute. It mustn't have been too successful for them because it is available online now. With pricing. You can find it here Their sale runs from 26th June till 17th July. Christmas layby is available.
ToysRus start their sale in store tomorrow through till the 9th July. You can take a look at their catalogue here
PS In case you didn't know, we can do your Toy Sales shopping for you if you don't have the time or the inclination. Just ask us !
Fruit flies are the bain of my existence at the moment. They seem to be everywhere. And from some Facebook conversations I've recently had, I'm not alone.
According to an article in the news yesterday it has something to do with the wet weather and high humidity we have been having. Regardless of what has caused it, everyone wants to know how to get rid of them. I asked a Pest Control expert at my Chamber of Commerce breakfast this morning and there is no magic answer.
Below are a few tips (some of which I have tried) that may help reduce the numbers.
1. A bowl of red wine vinegar with a teaspoon of salt and a couple of drops of washing detergent. Apparently apple cider vinegar also works.
2. A bowl of soy sauce with a couple of drops of detergent.
3. A plastic water bottle with the lid cut off. put some red wine vinegar in the bottom, then take the top that you cut off and turn it upside down into the base. The fruit flies will fly down but then struggle to find the hole to fly back out again.
4. Put your fruit in the fridge. Don't leave a food source out for them.
5. At night put the plug in the sink. They like to fly down and sit near the water in your drain.
6. Keep the dishwasher door closed. Again, they like to be near the water.
If you are like many people who want to help out with the flood relief but don't know what to do, there are plenty of options for you.
Jump into the kitchen and do some baking for the volunteers and workers who are out in the field. More info can be found on the Baked Relief Facebook page or or Digella's blog. Many of the SES sandbagging areas are winding up now, but there are still plenty of mud army workers, Energex crews, Firies, Ambos and Police who are working really long shifts in you local streets. Even if you can't bake, stop off at Coles or Woolies on the way home and pick up some pre baked goods. Alternatively, in this humid hot weather, a slab of water bottles would be greatly appreciated.
Adopt a Wash
Do you have electricity and a working washing machine? This community page has been set up to help flood affected homes and businesses who are in need of some help with washing or those in the community who do not currently have access to a working washing machine or electricity. If you can help, they are currently compiling a database of contact information on their Facebook page.
GIVIT is a web based philanthropic community where people donate items or time to people in need. They are a targeted giing service that finds new lives for your unwanted items with worthy recipients. GIVIT is officially endorsed by the Qld Dept of Community Safety as the way to donate items directly to those affected by the floods. More information can be found on their Facebook page or the GIVIT website
How to Make Oil of Cloves
Oil of cloves is great for killing mould spores. It can be bought from the chemist. Although at the moment it may be difficult to find as people try to get rid of the mould that will soon arrive after all this rain. It is quite easy to make your own.
2 dozen cloves
1tbsp methyolated spirits
20 tbsps boiling water
Grind the clove buds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Add the metho and grind until it becomes a paste.(Make sure to wash very well with hot soapy water afterwards). Add the boiling water and let it steep overnight in a bowl or bottle. The next day, strain through muslin (or a clean chux). Pour into a spray bottle and voila!
Yes I know it just seems like yesterday that we were Christmas shopping, but it's that time of year - Toy Sales time!
Here are my Top 5 tips to help keep you sane and get the most out of the Toy Sales
1. Be prepared - don't just go in and grab what looks good. You'll end up taking half of it back because it's not appropriate.
2. Spend some time going through the catalogues and comparing prices, quality etc. If you are buying 90% of your things in one place but there are one or two things on sale somewhere else, you need to ask yourself if the $5 saving is worth the extra trip and line up at the registers.
3. Make a list - If you are buying gifts, make a list of who you need to buy for and then write what you are planning on getting them (include the name of the store, brand, size and price)
4. If you can, get in early. It is surprising how much stock runs out on the first day.
5. If you can't get there, or don't want to fight the crowds, contact us about our Toy Sale Shopping Service. We can take your list and fight the crowds for you. There are limited spots available for this service.
On Friday morning, I received an email notification from Facebook that a friend had tagged me in a post. Curious, I logged on to see what I had been tagged in. Imagine my surprise to discover that Emily-Jade O'Keeffe from the Courier Mail had written a blog post about me. You can read all about it here
It made my day!
Thanks again EJ it was a pleasure working with you.
If you live in Brisbane and read the Sunday paper, you would have seen Hectic Helpers featured in the U on Sunday liftout. If not, here is the article.
Reproduced courtesy of U on Sunday magazine, The Sunday Mail, October 9
Is the back of your desk a mass of black cords all tangled together and
looking very unsightly? You can get cord tidiers to fix this or use
cable ties, but you are still left with visible cords. Pick up a cheap
piece of coreflute (couple of dollars at Bunnings) and sit it behind
your desk but in front of the cords and you won' be looking at a jungle
of cords next time you are in your office.
If you are friends with your neighbours, give them a set of your house keys
to keep in a safe place. A lot of people do that already, but also give your
neighbours a copy of emergency contact names and numbers. Just in case.
If you have ironed something and the fabric has gone shiny, spray a tea
towel with some white vinegar until it is slightly damp, lay it over the shiny
place and press with a cool iron. Respray as necessary.
I was pleased to be intereviewed by the Courier Mail last week regarding the Toy Sales. If you missed it, it was on Page 18/19 of Saturday's Courier Mail. If you don't have a copy of the paper, an edited version can be found here There are some great bargains to be had out there at the moment, so make sure you do your research and you can save some big bucks!
How often have you come home
and "filed" a piece of paperwork or a gift somewhere "safe"
and then when you needed it, have absolutely no idea where to even begin
searching?? Next time you do that, make a note on your calender (in a day later
in the year) of where you have put it. When you need it, check the calender and
no more searching. Obviously I'm not suggesting you bring home a wad of cash
and write where it is stashed for the world to see. You can make it a bit
cryptic if you want (but not too cryptic that you won't remember what it
Thanks Karen for this Tip!
Do you have any time saving tips to share? I'd love to hear them!
Hang a tennis ball from the ceiling of your garage so that when
you drive in, you know when to stop. Attach it to a piece of string in a
position where it touches your windscreen when your car is in enough to close
the garage door, but not touching the front wall of the garage.
No more having to do little paint touch ups when your car bumps
How often have you sworn at the sticky tape because you can't find the
end of it? Next time, save your breath and get some talcum powder or
cornflour on your finger and run it around the tape. The edge of it will
Have you ever opened the top off your boiled egg to discover that it's
not quite cooked enough yet? There is nothing worse than boiling eggs for a soldiers and finding the white isn't even set yet (and not a chance in the world the kids will eat it!)
Put the top back on and stick it in the
microwave on high for a few seconds to cook it a bit more. Phew, safe from another tantrum!
If your children are old enough to help out with some of the cleaning but are a bit hit and miss with what they do (even though they've said they completed the job), hide some money in places that you know aren't being cleaned and then drop a few hints. Sort of like hide and seek for pocket money, but your house gets cleaned in the process.
As the year progresses and kids grow, we inevitably reach the stage where school uniforms are too short. When you let the hem down, you are left with a crease that just never seems to go away and doesn't look the best. Next time, moisten a cloth with white vinegar, place it under the hem and iron it. The crease will disappear.
How is it that when you need to give an animal a tablet, they are worse than kids? Trying to get antibiotics down my cat's throat requires wearing a pair of gardening gloves to avoid red scratches up and down my arms.
Try this next time - get the tablet and crush it in a garlic press and then mix it through some of their favourite food. No large lumps means it will get eaten.
Thanks to Natascha Mirosch from The Courier Mail for this week's tip. With all the rain, everyone I know has problems with mould in their house. The word on the street is that Oil of Cloves is the best thing to break down the mould spores, but the shops seem to have sold out of them. Here is a recipe for making your own Oil of Cloves.
2 dozen cloves 1tbsp methyolated spirits 20 tbsps boiling water
Grind the clove buds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Add the metho and grind until it becomes a paste.(Make sure to wash very well with hot soapy water afterwards). Add the boiling water and let it steep overnight in a bowl or bottle. The next day, strain through muslin (or a clean chux). Pour into a spray bottle and voila!
We have a lovely outdoor area at our house, complete with outdoor setting. We love sitting out there. Unfortunately, when we aren't home, the crows also like to sit out there and leave a lovely reminder of their visit all down the front of our chairs.
A couple of months ago, I got sick of having to clean the chairs every week and I took a tip from the cyclists I see riding around in spring with cable ties sticking out of their helmets and tied some cable ties along the tops of our chairs. Although it doesn't look the most glamorous, we don't have crow droppings on our chairs anymore.
Glow sticks seem to be in abundance at this time of year. My kids are constantly asking for them at night time. Unfortunately they usually only get to use them for an hour or two before they have to go to bed and it seems like a bit of a waste.
To make them last longer, put them in the freezer till you want to use them again - they will come out still glowing! You can get 2-3 uses out of them before they stop working.
If you have cut flowers too short for the vase you want to put them in, use plastic drinking straws to extend the length of the stems. Obviously this won't work so well if you are using a clear glass vase. If that's the case, try dropping some marbles or glass beads in the bottom of the vase to raise the height.
Young girls tend to have lots of hair accessories (I'm sure they multiply when I'm not looking!). Keeping them all in one place and tidy can be quite difficult to do. Most of the time they end up looking like this:
In some sort of order, but not easily accessible withough pulling everything out.
By taking some time to sort through everything and throwing out the things that are no longer used, you will find things a lot easier. By going a step further and using containers that fit everything and allow you so see things easily, you can end up with a much better looking finished product:
The moral of the story here (apart from the fact that you end up with hair accessories that you can find when you need them) is that you need to find the right container for the job. Something that is sitting around the house not being used might be fantastic, but then again, it may not work. Spending a bit of time now finding the right container for the job could save dollars and time later on.
For those of you that are interested, the hair accessories were broken up into drawers - elastic head bands, ribbons, elastics and hair clips. Plastic headbands are kept together on the side. This way, miss 6 can find what sheis loking for without them being pulled out and strewn everywhere.
Do you struggle to know or remember whether things need to be washed in warm or cold water? Whether you shold dry clean or not? eLaundry have put together a great Fabric Care Table to sort out the confusion. You can take a look here. There is some great information to be found!
Keep a couple of plastic shopping bags in your glovebox so on rainy days when you get back into your car with your umbrella, you can put the end of the umbrella into a bag to catch the water and stop the water from pooling on your car mats
Having young kids means an avalanche of artwork treasures. Instead of piling them up on the kitchen counter, buy a corkboard for their room and let them pick which artwork is hung. When they bring new artwork home, they get to choose if it is "special" enough to go up on the board. Once the new artwork goes up, the old artwork that it is replacing is thrown away.
If you are really sentimental and want to be reminded of that painting of a dog/fairy in 10 years time, take a photo of the picture and then throw it out.
All those shower caps the hotels leave for you when you are travelling will make a great portable water bowl for your dog when you are out walking. Fill it with water and hold it for your pooch to take a drink.
Nagging your child to clean is NOT productive. It feels good, like you are being proactive but it doesn’t work!!!Remember that!
Consider doing this:Next time you have some spare time with your child and their room looks like a war zone, take them by the hand and discuss what needs to happen to keep Mummy sane.Use whatever verbal scenario aids you need, “cleaning fairies, Santa watching...” but explain that you are in it together and together you can turn them into a contestant for Mr/Miss Clean 2010!
Get down on your hands and knees so you are level with your ankle-biter and enter the room (Breathe!).You need to see the room as they use it at their height.Perhaps they do not put away their hair bands as they cannot reach the pretty box you bought for storage. The lovely funky cupboard door handles are just too high. Consider removing cupboard doors (only temporary, until all that Nutrigrain does its job), lowering cupboard rails, and labelling drawers. Talk with your child and see what they find hard to do in their daily use of their room.
Plastic storage boxes are great but not stacked. Open wooden under-bed storage boxes are fabulous because there are no lids and they are hidden!Consider plastic suction hooks placed low to hang up their PJs, school jumpers, kindy hats, items they use daily.
Once you have worked though the issues get them into the routine of mini-clean ups daily – use lolly bribes, stickers, charts or whatever works – to get them into a habit. Hopefully with the new set-up, life will be easier all around!
To keep your winter boots in good shape, buy one of those pool noodles from the cheapie shop and cut it so it fits your boots. Now your boots will stand tall without getting creases in the leather. Depending on the height of your boots, you may be able to get a couple of pairs out of each noodle.
If you need to search for something within your excel spreadsheet, you don't need to search sheet by sheet. When you CTRL F to bring up Find and Replace, click on Options, then click on the dropdown menu for Within and change it from Sheet to Workbook. It will now search your entire workbook for you and list all of the places your searched item can be found.
Moving a piece of furniture can have a lasting impression on your carpet - We moved into our house 4 years ago and there is still a kink in the carpet from where their TV unit used to sit.
You can get rid of the indent quite easily by holding a steam iron over the top of where the indent is. Don't let it touch the carpet or it will melt, but the steam should penetrate the fibres, allowing them to spring back into place.
Then fluff them up with a brush and the indent should have disappeared!
As the weather gets cooler, and we start to use the heater in the car, it means the return of the foggy windscreen. Buy yourself a cheap blackboard duster and keep it in the car. Next time you get fogged in, wipe with the duster. It works a lot better than the old tissue lurking at the bottom of the glove box!
Have you ever gone somewhere important and looked down and realised that half of your hem is hanging down? Slide a paperclip or two on the hem (preferably a similar colour) and it will hold the hem up till you have a chance to get it mended.
Before putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, check for stains. If you spot one, tie a knot in the sleeve or leg of the staind item so that you know which ones will need a squirt of preen when you do the washing
Next time you buy a carton of eggs and a few of them are stuck on the bottom, don't resign yourself to breaking them to get them out. Soak the carton in the sink for a few minutes. This will loosen the eggs and you will be able to remove them safely from the carton.
This Thursday is April 1, and apart from being April Fools Day and my cat Fudge's birthday, it is also the day that you should be changing the batteries in your smoke detector. Silence can kill. Don't risk your loved one's lives. For more information about this visit www.changeyourbattery.com.au
Picking cling wrap off the roll can be fiddly. Removing and using the cling wrap is easier if you store it in the fridge beforehand. This is because the majority of cling wraps have a component in them which adds to the "clingability" of the film and is heat affected. If your wrap is kept cool, it is much easier to peel off.
When kids rip open their presents at a party, it is almost impossible to know who gave which present. Have a parent on standby to write on the back of each card as the present is opened so you will know who to thank.
When kids are painting, use a moistened sponge to clean their brushes, rather than water. It avoids spills and drippy paint all over the table. It can also be used to clean messy fingers after the budding artists are finished.
Each time you change the photo in your photo frame, leave the old photo in there behind the new one. When you go to change it the time after that, it will be a lovely trip down memory lane for you (plus it saves having to find somewhere for the old photo to be kept once you remove it). I've been doing this since my kids were babies and it's a lovely reminder of how much they have grown.
Someone asked me the other day what I thought was the best way to store her handbags. There are lots of different ways to do this, many of which are dependent on the space you have in your room to store them. A few ways I would suggest are...
Cloth bags or pillowcases
Large Ziploc Bags
Store smaller bags inside larger bags
Plastic containers under the bed or on the shelf
Purchase a handbag holder such as this from Howards Storage World
If you are a regular reader, you would be familiar with our Tip of the Week. Each week I send a tip to my subscribers inbox as well as posting it here on my blog. I try to keep the tips short and sweet and it takes no effort to start using the tip.
I am always hearing from people about how much they love the tips and how they are quick and easy to implement into their lives. Thank you, I really appreciate and love the feedback.
It's time to turn the tables a bit and open it up to you. I would like to know who has a time saving, handy tip that they would like to share?
Until the 28th February, I would like to hear from you with your favourite tips.
Email me with your tip and at the end of the month, The winning tip which will be used as the following week's Tip of the Week.
I will also send the winner a waterproof notepad and pencil from My Aqua Notes. I wrote about these awesome notepads a couple of weeks ago - they come with suction caps and you stick them onto the shower wall. The paper is waterproof. So if you are like me and do your best thinking in the shower, these are fantastic!
So put your thinking caps on and let me know what you come up with!
I'm not sure why they do it, but 9 times out of 10, toy companies don't put a volume switch or quiet mode on toys. Half the time there isn't even an off switch. If you can see where the sound comes out of the toy, cover the little vents with some sticky tape and this will reduce the noise level considerably.
Lots of people I"ve met have curtains that look good, but when you close them, they don't quite meet so there is a strip of light that comes in as soon as the sun peers over the horizon. To fix this, buy some velcro (you need both hook and loop) and attach pieces of hook on the edge of one side of the curtain and loop on the other side (at the same height so they meet up) and then when you close your curtains, they will keep the pesky light out.
If you are like most people, you would have received at least one gift card for Christmas. I love them. Especially because you can take them shopping during the sales and receive more bang for your buck.
The problem I find though, is that I spend part of the $ amount on the card and then put it back in my wallet and forget that it is there. 2 months later I will be shopping and find something in that store that I want to buy. I'll pull out the gift card and have absolutely no idea how much is on there. It's a lovely surprise if there is lots on there, but pretty disappointing if I find out there is only 28 cents left on there.
Recently I was in a shop and the sales assistant processed my gift card and then before handing it back to me, took a nikko pen and wrote the balance on the card for me. Next time I am shopping I will know exactly how much is left on the card.
I thought this was a great idea and will be doing that from now on! Try it and see....
Everyone has somewhere that they do their best thinking. I do mine in the morning while I am in the shower. Being a Lifestyle Manager, I am constantly making lists of things that need to be done that day for my clients. While I am in the shower and have some peace and quiet, I write the list in my head. What I have always disliked about this though is that by the time I get out of the shower, get dressed and answer 20 questions from the kids, I have forgotten half of my list.
A few months ago I even said to one of my girlfriends that what I needed was a waterproof notepad. So I could put it in the shower and write my lists and not worry about forgetting anything. Well someone somewhere must have been listening because a company in the USA have released Aqua Notes. They are a waterproof notepad and the water just beads up and rolls off without wetting the paper. They are even environmentally friendly and recyclable.
I ordered a pack of 5 so I could test them out. They arrived last week and I love them. They even come with a waterproof pencil that has its own little suction cap.
If you do our best thinking in the shower like me, give these a try. You can find them at www.myaquanotes.com
Next time you are eating an icecream or sucking on a slurpie and get that unmistakable headache that is brain freeze, don't suffer with it. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. It warms your mouth up and stops the brain freeze in a second or two.
I don't usually do beauty tips because they aren't my area of expertise, but I felt this one was appropriate.
With most people spending a lot of time in the pool over the Summer months, we end up with dry and stringy hair from all of that chlorine. Mix a teaspoon of bicarb soda into your shampoo before you put it in you hair and you will be able to feel the chlorine coming out as you wash it.
Last year I was helping a client move out of her office and she offered me an entire range of desk accessories - in trays, magazine holders, file storage, little boxes with lids. You name it, she had it. They were only about 12 months old and barely used - we had bought them when she first moved into the office. They were a lovely gold colour and I immediately conjured up a whole range of uses for them.
The first thing I did when I got home with them was to throw out my old in-trays. They were the cheap black plastic type that I had bought years ago and they weren't all that attractive. Then I moved all of my magazines into the magazine holders and added a couple more to the book case for just in case. The rest of the accessories were placed in different areas around my office. SOme of them used, some not.
About 3 weeks later I noticed that my office had never been.....messier! It felt cluttered. There was stuff everywhere and I didn't like it. Although the idea of having all of these beautiful looking accessories to make my office look tidier was lovely, in reality, it was a bad idea.
The in-trays were too small. They didn't fit my notepads or half of the things I needed to keep in them. So everything end up covering my desk and my beautiful in-trays say empty.
The magazine racks worked for the ones that were full, but the extras were just taking up space in my book case causing me to stack books on top of each other.
The file storage made my files look tidy because they were hidden away, but they were a pain because I needed to access them on a regular basis.
So I got rid of it all (except a couple of the magazine racks that were being used). I bought some new black plastic in-trays (I took my notebook with me to make sure they would fit first) and now my desk, although it isn't all colour coordinated, is tidy and uncluttered.
The moral of my story is, think about how practical something is before you buy it.
Imagine this, you are writing your Christmas card to Grandma who lives in Spain. You finish writing, get the kids to write their names, seal the envelope and put the stamp on. All done.
You forgot to put the photos in from your last holiday so she can see how much the kids have grown. You don't want to rip open the envelope, because you have already put the stamp on and that would be a waste. So what do you do?
Stick it in the freezer. Yes you read right. Stick the envelope in the freezer for an hour or two and then the envelope will unseal without tearing. Pop your photos in, seal it up, and drop it in the mail box.
Posted in 'Clutter, Organising' on November 11, 2009
When my kids were babies, I asked my husband to put some hooks up in their rooms so that we could hang their hats and dressing gowns etc on them and keep them off the floor. Not wanting to have to put more holes in the walls as they got older, we reasoned that putting them up higher would stop them from pulling all of their hats off and throwing them on the floor.
What we failed to realise was that as they got a bit older (they are now 3 & 5) we would want them to be able to go and get their own hats before playing outside and then to hang them back on their hooks when they were done. Miss 5 is just tall enough to reach her hats now, (although she has pulled so hard sometimes she has pulled the anchors out of the wall), but Mr 3 is still a bit too short. So being children of a (mostly) organised person, they have started hanging their hats on the corner of their washing baskets. Great idea, but more often than not, they are ending up inside the washing basket with their dirty clothes and then I get "Mummy, I can't find my hat"
Recently though, I came across some new hooks by 3M - they are Disney/Pixar characters and they are the hooks that you can stick on and remove without any damage or residue. They will hold about 2 1/2kg You can check them out here There are 7 different designs to choose from. You can find them at Big W & KMart. I'll be heading out on the weekend to buy a few for the kids. Hopefully this will see the end of lost hats that are hiding with the dirty washing :)
They would also make a great idea for stocking stuffers!
Do you end up throwing out banana's at the end of the week because they are over ripe? When you get them home from the shops, break the bunch apart so that you have single banana's. This will stop them ripening so quickly.
Have you ever wanted to fold your fitted sheets so that they sit flat and pretty like the flat sheets?
1. Hold up the sheet so that it's inside out and then slip your hands inside the top 2 corners. The wrong side of the fabric should be facing you and the right side should be touching your hands.
2. Carefully lay the sheet down on a flat surface like your bed so that it is spread out smoothly. Fold the sheet right side together, slipping the top corners gently inside the two bottom corners. Arrange the corners neatly.
3. Fold the sheet edges to the inside. The flaps of fabric that hug the mattress should be neatly folded down in line with the corners, making a large rectangle with all loose ends tucked in smoothly.
4. Now fold the sheet in half, so that all 4 corners are on top of each other and are encasing the fitted sheet sides. The curved edges should be tucked down so that you create a pretty smooth triangle.
5. Fold the sheet in half again so that you have a long narrow strip. Try to make the folds tight and smooth so that there is less chance it will become crinkled.
6. Lastly fold the strip in half, then in half or thirds (depending on the size of your sheet) to make a compact rectangle.
Ironing can be a chore at the best of times. To make it easier, put your silk or linen clothes in the freezer for 30 minutes and when you remove, a single pass of the iron should do the trick! Of course, an even better tip is to get someone else to do your ironing for you :)
Do you have a rug on your floor that keeps sliding around when you walk on it? Lift up the corners and place some blutack on there. It will stop it sliding and won't leave a sticky residue when you want to move the rug.
As a follow up to last weeks tip about how to get flower pollen off without staining, here is a tip to prevent it happening in the first place... before you put the flowers in a vase, use some hairspray on the stamens to hold the pollen in place.
My husband is always complaining that when I take the rubbish out, I forget to put a new liner in the bin. So now I keep half a dozen liners in the bottom of the bin so that when I take the full bag out, I can immediately reline the bin.
Last weekend my daughter was very excited about wearing a new outfit. Being that spring has sprung, all of her outfits are new as she has gone up a clothes size. She went next door to play with the neighbours kids and when she came home there was a huge purple stamp mark in the middle of her shirt in the shape of Dora the Explorer. Great. New outfit, worn once and now it's only fit for kindy.
Usually when I have washing issues or stains that I can't get out, I just send them over to mum to fix (she's good like that), but this time I was cranky about her ruining a new outfit so I was determined to fix it myself. I googled the stain and came up with the solution - rubbing alcohol (known in our house as Isocol)
It was great. I just put the shirt on an old towel, poured some isocol on a rag and started rubbing. Sure enough, in a minute or two, the stain was gone. I was quite pleased with myself. As she is going to start school next year, I'd better make sure I am well stocked with Isocol from now on!
I've just managed to complete something that was on my To Do list for about 2 months. It wasn't that it was too hard, or too big to do, it was because it was one of those boring tasks that just kept getting skipped over on my list. The way I did it was that I logged in to do a webinar and while I was listening to the presentation, I was able to photocopy all of my tax receipts so that when they fade over time, I will still have a record of them. I didn't think about it, I just did it. Multi tasking at its best - I learnt new things with the ABN Strategic Webinar, and I crossed something off my To Do List
We women are fantastic at multi tasking when it comes to our families and home life. We find it easy to cook dinner while talking on the phone, helping the kids do their homework and watching the news. We do this usually because our day has been so jam packed with work and other things that we just do it without even thinking about it.
When it comes to our work though, our mindset seems to change somewhat. We will wait on hold to talk to somebody and do nothing but get frustrated that we are wasting our day on hold. We'll stop and chat to a work colleague and then at the end of the day it is a mad rush to get everything finished before going home.
Stop and have a think about all the little pockets of time in your day that are being wasted. I bet they add up. What could you be doing to make better use of that time? How much filing is sitting on your desk that just keeps piling up? How many emails are sitting in your inbox? When was the last time you saw the bottom of your intray? These are all tasks that get thrown into the "I'm too busy" pile on a day to day basis and eventually they end up in the "Where do I start? It's too big" pile.
Next time you are chatting or on hold, grab your intray and make a start. You don't have to finish it all in one go. Don't think about it, just do it!
I've recently been to visit a few prospective clients who have needed some help with the clutter in their homes. And I've found that the ones who book me to come in straight away go thorugh with it, and 90% of the ones that book me for a couple of weeks time end up cancelling. It is a big step to ring and ask for someone to help with this. It's a bit like making the decision to start a diet (I am speaking from experience here). Once you decide to do it, you need to start pretty much straight away. If you put it off for a week or so, the motivation that led you to the decision in the first place starts to disappear and it is easy to find excuses as to why you can't start. Then before you know it, you've gone back to accepting the clutter that is around your house.
Stop proctrastinating! If you have clutter that you want to get rid of, do something about it.
Set the timer for 15 mins and clear out a couple of drawers. Walk through the loungeroom with a rubbish bag and pick up anything that needs to be thrown out. Get the kids to put their stuff away in their own rooms. Sort through a cupboard while you are chatting on the phone Do some filing while you are watching a TV programme
You don't need to live with the clutter. If it's all too hard, call on someone to help you. We won't judge you or your clutter. We are there to help. We don't have the emotional attachment to your stuff that you do and we will work through it together with you.
Next time you break a glass, grab a couple of slices of bread and press them into the floor to pick up all of the little fragments that you can’t see. This should help stop those pesky little fragments ending up in your foot.
Next time you are on the phone and are placed on hold, or just chatting with a friend, open your pen drawer (or pencil case or container etc etc) and grab a piece of paper. Then go through each of your pens and check if they work. If they don't, toss them. Next time you need one in a hurry, you won't be stuck with a pen that doesn't work.
Pen Tip #2:
If you are like me, you are forever searching for a pen to write down a phone number or add to the shopping list. Keep a pen permanently on top of your fridge. It won't get lost underneath piles of papers and if it is always put back, noone will pick it up and move it.
Do you have any handy tips that you would like to share? This is the place to let us know about them!
This week’s tip is, not surprisingly, about planning for the Toy Sales (but can be translated into any sales, like the Boxing Day Sales)
1.Be prepared – don’t just go in and grab what looks good. You’ll end up taking half of it back because it’s not appropriate
2.Spend some time going through the catalogues and comparing prices, quality etc. If you are buying 90% of your things from one shop and are planning on buying 1 or 2 things from another, just to save $5, is it really worth the grief? Click here to compare the different Toy Sale catalogues
3.Make a list – If you are buying gifts, make a list of peoples names and then write what you are planning on getting for them (including brand and size).
4.Also write the name of the store you are planning on buying it from and how much it is.
5.If you can, get in early. It is surprising how much stock runs out on the first day.
If you can’t get there or don’t want to fight the crowds, check out our Toy Sale Shopping Service. We have limited spots available to go to Kmart & Big W on Thursday morning. If you would like to book, please contact me by 7pm Wednesday evening to ensure we can fit you in.
To stop the ends of your drawstrings from fraying, tie a
knot in the end of each side and then get a lighter and give the ends a slight
singe. Doing this will melt the ends of the string together so that they don’t
Toy Sale Update: For those of you that
aren’t aware, the Kmart and Big W Toy Sales start on Thursday 2nd
July (less than 2 weeks) with Target and Myer following closely behind them.
Some of you will be excited by this news, some of you won’t be really
interested, and the rest of you will be cringing at the thought of fighting the
crowds to get the toys you are after. Never fear, Hectic Helpers is here! We’ll
be attending the sales already for some of our clients, why not get us to do
your shopping as well. Click here for
Have you ever bought some shoes or a belt with some bling on it and one day pulled them out of the cupboard only to discover that some of the jewels are missing?
When you first buy them, take some time and give the bling a shot with some clear spray glue to set the stones a bit better or get a little pair of pliers and give them all a little tighten.
Have you signed up to get free entry to Movie World, Sea World or Wet & Wild for your kids on their birthday’s yet? You only have till June 30 to register at http://www.myfun.com.au au You can also purchase tickets for up to 4 people at a 50% discount to be used with the free kids ticket.
This week’s tip will be good timing for those of us who are starting to make big batches of soup and pasta sauce and freezing them for later use.
To stop your Tupperware and plastic containers from being stained by tomato based sauces and soups, give the container a spray with oil before filling and you will find that the container will remain stain free!
After last week’s tip on cleaning your jewellery with toothpaste, I had an email from Andrea from Mummys’ Little Helpers who’s husband is a jeweller and he advised the following information:
Apparently toothpaste is abrasive and wears away at precious metals. He suggests that as another low cost option to buying actual jewellery cleaning fluid, is to use a mix of - Household cloudy ammonia, any regular dishwashing detergent and hot water. Simply leave the jewellery to soak for 10 minutes and then clean with an old toothbrush. This will remove any dirt and other standard daily buildup. Please note that certain gems should only ever be cleaned professionally, such as, (but not limited to) natural emeralds, pearls and opals. He also recommends that everyone should remember to take their most precious items (such as engagement rings etc) in for regular inspections (6-12 mths) to ensure that general wear has not compromised the security of the stone in its setting. The majority of purchases these days include a warranty period whereby such inspections are free, but most customers simply do not get around to it due to other commitments. Having the checks done can save losing a treasured possession – and lots of money too!
Now for some shameless promotion of Hectic Helpers, I have had my profile featured on the Babes in Business site this month if you’d like to check me out
Does your chopping board always slide around when you are trying to cut things? Grab a couple of slices of paper towel and dampen them. Then lay them flat under your chopping board. No more slipping and sliding!
As the weather starts to turn cold, and the doonas come out of the cupboard, my first tip for this week is to wash your doona or get it dry cleaned to get rid of the musty smell from being in the cupboard for so long.
My second tip was suggested by my friend Deb.
Sew bits of velcro on each corner of your doona and then the inside corners of the doona cover. The doona will now stay in place and you won’t find yourself battling to stay warm in the middle of the night.
Before throwing out old birthday and Christmas cards, check the address on the back of the envelope and compare it against your address book to keep it up to date. Then, instead of throwing them out, why not put them in the craft box for the kids. They will get hours of fun out of them. If you don't have kids or they have outgrown doing craft, why not donate them to your local kindy or daycare?
Speaking of birthday and Christmas cards, are you always late in sending your cards, or just never get around to it at all? What if all you had to do was supply the names, addresses and birthday’s of all your friends and relatives and cards would magically get sent for you? Why not contact us today to find out how we can wave our magic wand and make it happen!
I was just chatting to a friend on the phone who was baking a cake. Unfortunately for her, the cake overflowed and baked onto the bottom of her oven. Has that ever happened to you? Can I introduce you now to my friend alfoil???
Line the bottom of your oven with alfoil and if there is ever a spill in your oven, you just need to change the alfoil instead of pulling out the rubber gloves and oven cleaner. I also line my grill tray with it so I don’t have to scrub it each time I make cheese on toast.
Have you opened a cupboard or walked into a room lately and it's been a bit stinky? Grab some cotton balls and put a drop or two of vanilla on them and put them in the stinky area to get rid of the smell.
This tip will take a while to do, but will be well worth it when you are done. If you look underneath your desk or behind your TV cabinet, do you see cables and cords running everywhere and all tangled up? If you were moving house tomorrow, would you have any idea what goes into where? Could you put them all back together again without losing it or needing a medicinal Chardy to calm your nerves?
Go behind your desk and grab the first cord you see and follow it up to the top. What does it come out of? Let's say it comes out of your computer monitor. Grab a pen and a sticky label and write "Back of Monitor", then wrap the label around the cord. Now follow the cord to the other end. In this case, it goes into the back of the hard drive. Do another label that says "Back of hard drive" Continue doing this with each of your cords till they are all labelled. You should also use this time to detangled the cords so they are a bit more organised.
Now you will always know what cord plugs into where and if you need to unplug something, all you need to look at is the labels on the cords in the power plugs and you won't accidentally unplug the TV when you meant to unplug the DVD Player.
On another note – Last week I talked about a client of mine who had 3000 items in her deleted box. I must apologise because I was inaccurate in my quote. She actually has 8500!!! I saw them with my own eyes! Of course, she and I are going to spend some time working on this electronic clutter in the NEAR future.
The clutter on your computer is just as stifling as the clutter in your house. I was talking to a client the other day (yes you know who you are) and she told me that she has over 3000 items in her deleted folder in outlook. 3000! It is called a deleted folder because you have decided you no longer need the email so you delete it. It is not just another folder to store electronic clutter. If there is a chance you might need the email in the future, file it in another folder. If you won't need it. Delete it. Set up Outlook so that everytime you close down, your deleted folder gets emptied. If you aren't sure how to do this. Go to Tools, Options, Other, then place a tick next to the box that says Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting. There, doesn't that feel better??
A friend of mine asked me last week how she could keep the inside of her car clean when the kids spend so much time in there and make such a mess.
Clean Car Tip: Do like the hire car companies do and always keep a plastic bag in the car. Once a week when you get the kids out, grab the bag and put the rubbish in the bag and throw it in the bin. If your kids are old enough, get them to grab the rubbish each day as they get out. If they are still quite young, and the mess is food mashed into car seats, grab the wipes and give the seat a wipe over once a week. It is a quick 2 minute job, but if you do it each week, your car will be cleaner and you will be happier. Don't try and eliminate food from the car, you might have a cleaner car, but your stress levels will go through the roof with screaming fighting kids.
A few months ago, I finished a book and went to put it back in my bookcase. You'd think that was a relatively easy job - not so much. My 5 shelf bookcase is overflowing with books. Some shelves even had 2 rows of books on them, just to make them fit. Something needed to be done.
The way I saw it, I had two options - I could buy a new bookcase (which I would probably fill straight away with the excess books on my original shelf, and then need another bookcase) or I could do some culling. Both options had their good and bad points. If I got a new shelf, I could keep all of my books, but where would I put the shelf??? If I got rid of some of my books, I would have more room in my bookcase, and would save some money by not having to buy a new one, but I would have to say goodbye to some treasured books. Decisions, decisions.....
I eventually came to a compromise. I would get rid of as many books as I could, and if I still needed it, I would go out an buy a new bookcase.
I am an avid reader. I love it. I can pick up a book on a Saturday morning and quite happily sit there all day, not talking to anyone and have it finished by late that night or early the next morning. My husband doesn't really share my love of books and isn't a fan of my all day reading sessions because I don't want to do anything but read. Once I've finished my book, I like to keep it. Sometimes, a few years later I might go back and read it again. Which is why getting rid of my books was a hard task to do.
I started off with the easy ones - the secondhand $2 books that I have picked up over the years from secondhand shops or lifeline book fests. A lot of these books were dog-eared and not in the best condition so out they went.
Next were the books that I loved 15 years ago, but would never read again. There were a lot of Stephen King books that I would never read again. Death and horror kind of loses its appeal once you have kids. Out they went.
There were also the Japanese language books that I collected when I was living there in the 90's. These were hard to part with so they went into the maybe pile.
All of my organising and business books got the green light to stay.
Lastly, there were all of the books that I have collected over the last 5 years or so that were really hard to part with... but I was brutal and put quite a few in the "out you go" pile.
At the end of all of this, I was left with a bookcase that was still overflowing (but nowhere near as badly as it was before), a pile of books to go and an empty glass of wine. The pile of books to go was broken into 2 categories. The lifeline/salvos pile and the eBay pile. Any books that were still quite current and in good condition went into this pile, and over the next few weeks, made me enough money to buy a few more books. Lifeline got some more books to recycle into its next book fest, and my wine glass got a refill :)
I then went out and bought another smaller bookcase and moved all of my business books into there and set it up in my office. Order was once more restored in my bookcase. Although looking over at it again now, it might be ready for another clean out
I think I have mentioned before that I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old, and they go to pre-prep and kindy 3 days a week. On these days, I used to really struggle to get out the door with any sanity left and most days, some sort of yelling would be involved. Even though we were doing the same things over and over again each day, I would spend the whole morning barking orders like a drill sergeant. This was not a great start to my day!
I had tried typing up reward charts for them before (I realise that the 2 year old really didn't have a concept about it, but had to do it for him because he likes to do what his big sister is doing). In doing this each morning I would still have to tell them what had to be done, the only difference was that they would then get a sticker when they did their jobs. So after a few days, the novelty would wear off, stuff would get forgotten and I would start yelling like a fish wife again.
Just before Christmas, we went to a friend's place for dinner and I noticed that their daughter had a chore chart, but it was different than the one's I had done before. It had pictures on it. Why had I never thought of that before?? That weekend, I made a simple chore chart up using clip art that had pictures of each job that I wanted the kids to do each morning. Then I sat down with the kids on Sunday afternoon and explained that we had a new list of jobs to do each morning, and when all of the jobs were completed, they could have a sticker and watch ABC kids before we went to kindy if we had time.
Why did I not think if this earlier?? Each morning now, the kids get up check their charts for the next jobs that they have to do. They go off and do them and they know that they won't get ABC kids if all jobs aren't done. I've even introduced new jobs for them to do. And they are doing them (woo hoo). It's been 4 weeks now that we have been doing the picture charts, and although we still have some raised voices and tears, our mornings are a lot more pleasant and organised.
Now if only I could get the toilet training of Master 2 to go as smoothly......
I can't believe the new year is here already. Where did 2008 go?? I do love the new year though. It means the slate can be wiped clean and you can start again. It's also a great time for a clean out and declutter. Each year, just before my husband starts holidays, we start our holiday jobs list. All of the jobs we have been meaning to get to during the year but somehow never got around to. My list for these holidays included: - Washing the house windows - Cleaning out the pantry. I got rid of all of those out of date cans and packets hiding at the back - Cleaning out the plastics cupboard. All those spare lids are gone. - Sorting out my desk. This is still a work in progress. - Photos in photo albums. I had 6 months of photos sitting in packets. Only took 1/2 hour. - Gurney the path at the side of our house. I love doing this. Yes I used tank water! - Get the toy room under control. New toys in so old toys out! - Sort out the kids books. All of the books that they have outgrown have gone to kindy or friends with kids around that age.
My most fulfilling achievement these holidays was a only a 5 minute job, but made me feel really good...... I cleaned out my bra drawer. Yep, you read that right. My drawer was so full that I could barely close it anymore. When I had pulled them all out, I found that there were 14 bras hiding in there that were either too small, wrong size or I just didn't like them anymore. It's amazing how easy it is to find the bra that I want now. I didn't want to just throw them in the bin. I was sure that someone would be in need of them so I googled bra donation and found this great website called Uplift Fiji that accepts bra donations and they send them to Fiji and give them to women who cannot afford to buy a bra.
Disadvantaged indigenous Fijians get much of their clothing from second hand Australian clothes shops. Australians don't put bras in the charity bins, so they are rare in these shops, particularly in sizes to suit the Fijian build. A new bra costs $40, and wages range from $1.50- $4.50/hour.With the humidity, fungal infections and abscesses occur between the breast and the chest wall. Bras will help.Since 2005,Uplift Fiji, through Rotary International World Community Service, has sent bras through secure channels, making sure they get to the women who need them without compromising their dignity.
Why not take 5 minutes out of your day and get rid of those bras you no longer wear?
Most people don't think about their computer when they think about clutter. When was the last time you went searching for an email that you had received or sent, but couldn't find it, or spent so long looking for it you got distracted by another email that you meant to action, but didn't get around to?
Flick away from this page for a minute hand take a look at how many emails are sitting in your in box. What about your sent items?
Let's look at some ways you can cut down on this electronic clutter.
1. Filing - Imagine all of those emails in your in box and sent box were pieces of paper sitting on your desk. Would you even be able to see your desk? Create some sub folders within your in box to file any emails that need to be kept. Delete the ones that don't. I find it easier to sort my emails by who I received it from rather than by date. That way you can see the history behind the emails and only keep the most recent ones.
2. Diarise. If there are emails that need to be actioned, set a reminder (with a date and time) for it to be completed. You'll be amazed at how annoying those little reminders can be, so it's easier to complete it rather than to keep postponing. Once you have completed the task, delete the email unless you need it for history, and then file.
3. Unsubscribe. We are all guilty of signing up to newsletters that we think we will get around to reading, but half the time they sit there unread until we delete them. If you have newsletters that you do this to, take 30 seconds to click on the unsubscribe button. If you have a quick scroll through and find an article you would like to read later, create a folder for newsletters and move it in there (after you have set a reminder date and time).
4. Delete. Do your deleted items get emptied every time you close outlook? If not, set it up so they are: tools..options..other click on Empty the deleted items upon exiting.
5. Schedule. Take 5 minutes every day to sort through your emails. A little at a time will get it under control in no time. I have some friends who by the end of the day have nothing sitting in their inbox. I'm not like that, but I try to never have more than 100. If I do, I stop what I am doing and give the delete button a workout.
I can organise everyone elses house but not my own!
Posted in 'Organising' on September 24, 2008
It's funny, I spend my days organising other peoples lives to make things easier for them, but like the chef that never cooks or the mechanic with the broken car, my house is quite disorganised a lot of the time.
I spent a couple of hours with a new client last month and she wanted to sort out her office and get rid of all the clutter. I took a look at it all and told her that she needed more storage and to get all the paperwork and mess off her desk and into some sort of order. This was all fine and we put together a plan of what needed to happen.
Then I came home and sat down at my desk and realised that I am not practising what I am preaching. My desk had at least 5 different piles of paper, 2 overflowing in trays, 6 reference books and countless random bits of paper, business cards and general rubbish, plus a computer somewhere under all that. So I decided it was time to do something about sorting all of this out. But.... if you don't have the correct tools, nothing is going to change. All of this 'stuff' was sitting on my desk because I had no storage. My filing cabinet is good for filing things, but not for storing stationery or magazines or reference books. I can't make piles on the floor because my office also doubles as the toy room and my 4 and 2 year olds would decide that mummy's papers were good for drawing on or throwing. The drawers in my desk we already overflowing, so that wasn't an option.
I battled with it trying to make it work (even though I knew I was fighting a losing battle) until yesterday when I went out and bought a cupboard with a bookcase on top that will hold all the bits and pieces I am currently storing on my desk. It'll be great and I'm really excited about it.
Now I just have to work out how to attach it to the wall so Mr 2 doesn't pull it over on himself when he tries to climb it :)
Every time I sit down to write a post on my blog, I check to see if anyone has left a comment form my previous blog. So far no one has posted a comment. I was beginning to think that I was writing this, hitting publish post and it was going off into cyberspace where there was so much other information that no one ever read it. I was getting a little discouraged.That was until I went to a networking lunch a couple of weeks ago and someone came up to me and told me that they enjoy reading my blog. I also realised that if I don't pose any questions on my blog, I'm not really likely to get any answers.
Now, on to the real blog post.....
I was at a morning tea today where we got onto the subject of emails. Mainly those that you receive after you have been at a networking function where a generic email is sent out to all those people who handed over business cards. The general concensus was that it if you are going to send an email like this out, please consider the wording that you use. If you didn't personally speak to everyone who gave you a card, don't start the email by saying "it was lovely chatting to you" This is more likely to turn people off from doing business with you. Perhaps you could break your list up into people that you did speak to and use that line and the people that you didn't speak to you could say something along the lines of "I'm sorry we didn't get the chance to chat at the ABC function, I found the speaker very interesting didn't you etc.
The other area that people seem to either not know about, or forget is BCC. When you are sending an email to a group of people that don't necessarily know each other ie your database, don't list all of their email addresses for everyone to see. Put them in the BCC box (which is located below the CC box) When your email is sent, their emails will be hidden and their privacy will be respected. If your BCC box doesn't automatically open in a new email, you can click on the To or CC buttons and this will open up a box to select names from your address book. There will also be a BCC box to put your names in.
I'd like to ask now if anyone has any other tips for email etiquette that they would like to share.
This time of year is a very busy time of year for birthday's in our house. Between my husband's birthday in August, and my birthday in October, we have 9 family members (including our 2 kids) and 10 kids of close family friends having a birthday. There seems to be at least 1 party every weekend. My husband keeps telling my daughter to stop being so popular but she's about to turn 4 and doesn't understand what the all the fuss is about - she loves parties! I used to struggle to find wrapping paper and cards for each of these parties. Every Friday night would be the same - I'd be tearing the drawers and cupboards apart trying to find something to wrap tomorrow's present in. Last weeks Sunday Mail doesn't really cut it for wrapping paper! My husband being as helpful as he could, would just sit there hiding behind his book so I couldn't make eye contact and make him get up and help (he hates wrapping presents). I am now way more organised than that. I have a gift wrapping box. I went to the two dollar shop and bought one of those plastic see through boxes with a lid. While I was there I also thought about all of the birthdays that were coming up and stocked up on the one dollar cards (with a couple of extra ones for just in case) and the cheap wrapping paper. When I got home I placed the cards and paper that I had purchased in my new box. I also emptied the various drawers and cupboards around the house of the cards and paper that had been sitting there for years and put them in my box. My gift wrapping box now sits in the store room waiting for the next present to be wrapped. Every couple of months I head back to the two dollar shop to stock up on cards and paper again. It has made things so easy, I can even occasionally get my husband to wrap a present or 2!
I cleaned out my chest freezer on the weekend - something that was long overdue. Mixed in with all the ice down the bottom were all these little packets of sausages and chops that I had painstakingly separated into kid sized portions and put them into the freezer for those nights when I am making something they won't eat. Each time I went searching for them, I couldn't find them. It's easy to lose a packet of 2 chops or sausages in a 250 litre chest freezer.
I decided that something needed to be done about it. So I grabbed all of these little packets and put them inside a Tupperware container and put the lid on. Now I have all of the kids meals in one place and they won't be lost.
This will also work well for breaking packets of meals up into single sized portions. You could have a container for chicken and one for lamb etc.
One night last week after dinner I wiped down the benches and after I had finished I noticed this awful smell. I couldn't work out where it was coming from and then I smelt my hands. STINKY!!! as Miss 3 1/2 would say. Then I smelt the cloth I had wiped the benches with - double STINKY!!! Needless to say I also realised that my benches probably weren't as clean as they looked after being wiped down with a germy cloth. I was about to throw it out and get a new cloth, but because I was about to put the dishwasher on, I rolled it up and put it in the cutlery tray to see if that would work. Lo and behold, when I opened the dishwasher the next morning, I not only had clean dishes, but I also had a clean dishcloth.
So now each time I am about to put the dishwasher on, I throw the cloth in as well and I don't have a stinky cloth anymore!
I've spent the long weekend looking at the mess that is my house and have realised that I need to do something about it. I'm forever telling my clients to start small and work on one thing at a time, but like the mechanic that has a broken car and the chef that never cooks at home, my house has "suddenly" become full of clutter.
So today while my husband went to work, I parked the kids in front of ABC Kids and set to work on sorting out some of the mess. First thing to do was to make a list. I jotted down everything I could think of and then added as I thought of more. This list wasn't a list of things that had to be achieved today, but I did want to cross off a few things if I could. Some things could be completed in 2 minutes and some would take 2-3 hours, but I needed them to be all listed together so they weren't put off for another 6 months.
So I am sitting here now with my list in front of me and have managed to cross off 7 things (this Blog entry being one of them), My desk no longer looks like a tornado has swept through and the paperwork in my in tray has been filed. About a quarter of the things I wanted to list on eBay have been listed, and I have taken photos of a whole heap of things that will be listed in the coming week.
Things don't seem so overwhelming now that I have them written down.
I am so tired of getting the Yellow pages out only to discover that I have pulled out A-K when I really need L-Z. Seriously, I think that there must be some sort of jinx or something on my copies of Yellow Pages, I don't think I ever pull the correct one out first. I know the sensible thing to do would be to have them sitting on the shelf with the spine facing out, but I don't. I have then end facing out. But....I came across a very easy to implement tip though that has eliminated this problem....
Get a nikko pen and write either A-K or L-Z on the end that is facing out. That way you always know which is the one you need.
Now if I could just work out how to magically know what everything is listed under........
This week I have been doing battle with Miss 3 1/2 and Master 20 months over the state of our toyroom/office. Like most parents, I am constantly tripping over things and asking for them to be picked up. Only to get the response "I'm sick of tidying up mummy" or "I'm still playing with all of my barbie dolls and my dressups and my doctors kit" or best of all, no response!
So I am now practising what I preach and have implemented this weeks tip into our house:
Just before dinner each night, set the timer on the oven for 7 minutes and get everyone in the house to do a bit of a tidy up. You can make it a game for the kids to see who can clean the fastest. Put away the clothes that are sitting on the couch. Empty the bin, sort through the junk mail and through out the ones you don't want to look at, empty the dishwasher (or the washing up rack), toys back to where they belong. 7 minutes isn't a long time but it will make a difference and you will start tomorrow with a cleaner house.
For those of you that have younger kids like I do, I sometimes do multiple 3 minute cleans well before dinner time. I turn the oven timer on for 3 minutes and they clean up till it goes off. Then they can watch TV or play for a little longer, then the timer goes on again. That way they are trying to tidy as quickly as they can so they can get back to doing fun stuff!
Whenever I go into someone's house to help them declutter, I always get told that they aren't really sure if it is clutter or should be kept, so it just gets kept. Here are a few rules to help you decide whether it should be kept or thrown out:
Is it clutter? Ask yourself these 7 questions to help you decide.
1. If I haven't used it within the last year or probably never will – It's clutter 2. If it's broken and has been broken for the last year, I have no intention of ever fixing it or using it – so it's clutter. 3. If it doesn't fit me, and hasn't fit me for a year - it's clutter. 4. If it's valuable or an heirloom, and I want to keep it for my children I'll keep it. If I have no intention of having children I will give it to the next closest relative. 5. If it's a gift I am hanging on to because it was a gift, not because I like it or use it – it's clutter. 6. If I have 25 sets of the same thing – it's clutter 7. If it's past its use by date – it's clutter .
This week's tip comes as I have just finished doing the floors...
Special mops for wooden floors or 'static' types are very expensive. You can modify your old broom by fitting a stocking over the bristle part and then simply sweep the floors as usual. Animal hair will stick to the stocking like a magnet and dust and dirt will collect far better than using a broom alone.
Today I'd like to talk about grocery shopping. Most of you are probably shuddering when thinking about it - especially if you have kids. As a personal concierge (and a mum!), it is part of my job to do grocery shopping and sometimes, Miss 3 1/2 and Mr 18 months come along for the ride so I need to be prepared.
I always take along more than enough healthy snacks for the kids to munch on. If I run out of food along the way, it is too tempting to go via the lolly aisle and grab something for them. Usually we have grapes and or apple, some rice crackers and some sultanas. If they are really good, they might get a cheerio from the deli. Don't forget the water bottle!
I tell them both they are going to be my helpers. In the fruit and veg area, they take it in turns to hold the plastic bag open, or put the items in the bag. I also use this time to practice counting with Miss 3. If I am buying food for them, I try to give them a choice of 2 items so they feel like they have a say.
The most important part of grocery shopping though, is to come with a fully written list!!! Don't just try and "wing" it. It doesn't work. You might remember most of the things you thought you needed, but you will also end up with at least $50 of extra things you didn't need. Plus, if you have the kids with you, they won't be impressed by going up and down aisles numerous times because you just remembered something that was back in aisle 2 when you are in aisle 10.
Before leaving for the supermarket, take the time to think about the meals you might like to eat that week and write down the ingredients required. If you are really organised, you can even break your list up into areas such as fruit & veg, deli, dairy, cleaning etc so you don't miss items on your list as you go.
Get one of those magnetised shopping lists and put it on your fridge, so that everytime you use something in your cupboard or fridge, you can add it straight onto the list.
How exciting! My very first blog. Setting this up has been on my 'to do' list for months now and I haven't made the time to do it. Yesterday I went to a Mums In Business Business Building Session and we talked about blogs. That was just the motivation I needed to get started!
As a personal concierge, my job is to make my client's lives easier and give them back some of the valuable time they spend doing everyday tasks. My aim for this blog is to post some useful tips for people to use in everyday life to save time and money. I'd love to hear from you once you've used my tip. I'd also love to hear about any tips you have.
So let's get this started....
Today's tip is:
Does your pantry have sauce packets and dried pasta & sauce packets just laying around in a pile and you never know what you have because it's too hard to go looking through it all? Get one of those large plastic containers that has been sitting in the plastic cupboard with nothing to do (you know the one that is too big for leftovers, but too small for cakes) and place all of your packets in there standing up. That way when you need a sauce packet or pasta packet, you just need to flick through to see what is there. You'll also find you have a lot more space in your pantry.
Kay from Hectic Helpers has always been on the ball and ready to help with everything I need done at a moment's notice. She always has the best interests of my business in mind. In our business we need to maintain high levels of confidentiality; Kay can always be trusted to maintain this and to instill in others.