Before we get into today’s post, I must announce the winner of the 3M Expressions tape giveaway. The winner, chosen at random by Random.org, is Melody Tan! Congrats Melody, I will email you for details.

Recipe folder and app

As I look around my home, I can see the supplies for the finishing touches to our bathroom makeover that began last winter, craft supplies left out after long-forgotten projects, pictures framed yet unhung, invitations that I have designed but not photographed or launched, half-full garbage bags from my partially decluttered wardrobe.

Not to mention the things you can’t see: my 176 draft blog posts (really), the nagging ‘we must catch up soon’ mental reminders, years worth of digital photos gathering virtual dust on my harddrive instead of being put in albums…

Oh my.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Further to this new years post, I am in the midst of reevaluating my to-do list. I had long known that I had far too many commitments than were realistic. I knew the overscheduling left me stressed and drained.

What I hadn’t fully grasped was how my overcommitting was actually directly contributing to my underachieving.

The reason the once-enthusiastic digitisation of my recipe folder finds itself abandoned – 18 months on – is purely because the deadline for the next project was breathing down my neck. Then the next one… and the one after that.

Instead of flitting between so many competing priorities, I’m limiting myself to one project each for home, business and blog at a time. Of course there are the smaller everyday tasks (cooking dinner, client work, writing blog posts) that need to be kept on top of, so this approach is more for bigger, one-off projects.

Not only am I feeling less overwhelmed (no more ‘Should I be working on x, y, or z right now?’) but focusing all my energy and time onto one thing means I am actually ticking things off at a faster rate.

It is going to require all my restraint not to start a million projects at once on the new house because I know I am going to want to do ALL. THE. THINGS. Whenever I find myself wanting to dive into something new, I need to take a deep breath, put it on my ‘later list’ and get back to finishing the projects I’ve already started.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to type out a bunch more recipes.

Tell me I’m not the only one. What projects of yours are draaaaaagging?

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As I mentioned the other day, 2013 was a very hectic and draining year for me.

It was not without highlights – in fact, there were many brilliant experiences – but I had way too much on my plate so I was too frantic to properly enjoy any of it.

Instead of loving living my dream job, I was dreading my unachievable to-do list and spending most of my day doing things that weren’t really getting me anywhere.

Instead of building the wonderful community around this blog, I felt so drained by constantly being online that I switched off from social media and was just ‘keeping up’ with the blog, rather than it being a joy.

Instead of spending our young, child-free years blissfully indulging in all the travel, me-time and socialising we could handle, I was avoiding commitments because I ‘didn’t have time’ and feeling guilty when I did do something fun.

In short, I can now see that I was doing so much that I could do none of it well.

This year, my plan is to get back to basics.

That’s not to say I plan to do the bare minimum and not have any lofty goals – far from it – it’s more about focussing my time and energy on doing a small amount of things to my very best ability. I still have the same areas of commitment to juggle (home, business, blog and work) and that’s not going to change, so it’s a matter of narrowing down the amount I take on for each.

Home:

For the first couple of years that The Man and I lived together, we really enjoyed our home. Keeping it clean and organised meant I felt relaxed and there was room for spontaneity. Now I feel overwhelmed by the chaos caused by housekeeping being squeezed out of an overstuffed schedule.

I want to get back to doing more of what I love about home: entertaining friends and family, cooking, reading, decorating and improvement projects and just pottering around. And god forbid as a decorating and organising blogger I might actually want an attractive and organised home!

Business:

Trial and error is how I learnt so much as a fledgling business owner. But three years on, I now need to focus on what works and what is the core of my business. This year I am cutting off the to-do list any projects that won’t contribute to the long-term success of Akimbo.

My business is still my baby and I love it, but the amount I was taking on was affecting other areas of my life too much and for too long. By cutting back to a more sane workload I will not only love my life more, but also my business.

Blog: 

With a growing business along with a new part-time job, I now have less time to commit to Atypical Type A. It is still very much a priority for me though, so I need to make sure I dedicate regular chunks of time to it.

I realise that now I have the shop and need to deal with sponsors I need to be even smarter with my time to ensure my most important work (original posts about creating a home) is always maintained. Having a whole new home to tackle is making it easy to get excited about though!

So my plan this year is to…

Do the important things and do them well.

Everything else doesn’t matter.

Heart-Centred Living

When my bloggy friend Deb from Home Life Simplified asked if I wanted to design an e-book she was working on, I jumped at the chance. I love her blog and the book sounded right up my alley.

The result is Heart-Centred Living, a free e-book filled with inspiring stories from women all over the world.

You can pick up your free copy here.

Why-don't-you-have-a-planning-session

 

Have you got any projects on your to-do list that have stalled before you’ve even begun because you haven’t done any preparation or don’t know where to start? I know I have!

Joint projects are particularly susceptible; The Man and I will often go back and forth with emails and quick convos and wonder why the project is taking so long. When we sit down together and focus on something though, even if it’s only for a short time, we get a ton done.

This approach will work for your upcoming holiday, renovation, party… any kind of project really. By the end of your session the aim is to have done your research, worked out what tools/resources you need and created a plan of attack. From there you’ll have a much clearer outline of what needs to be done.

So this weekend, why don’t you have a planning session?

This post is sponsored by Fisher & Paykel.

Living in a small space can be a double-edged sword when it comes to housekeeping. There is less to clean (yay!) but it also means that it can get chaotic very quickly if we’re not vigilant.

Any home, no matter the size, needs a well-functioning system to keep the household running smoothly. Adopt a mix of new labour-saving appliances, clever space-saving tricks and good old fashioned chore routines and you’ll be well on your way.

Make it shared

Many hands make light work, so divvy up the responsibilities around the house with your family (yes, including kids). How you split it will be up to your individual circumstances, as well as ability, interest and other commitments.

Even if you do already share the housework, it can be helpful to discuss a more specific arrangement so that you can take responsibility for your own tasks and not have to worry about the rest.

Make it multi-function

Only have space in the laundry for one major appliance? Instead of having to sacrifice a dryer, opt for a washer-dryer combo for maximum convenience in a single appliance.

On a smaller scale, choose all-purpose cleaners so you don’t need a cupboard full of specialist products (plus you’ll win points from Mother Nature).

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Make it space-saving

These days space isn’t the limiting factor it once was when selecting appliances. For example, you can replace one drawer in your kitchen with a Dishdrawer for all the time-saving bliss of a dishwasher while maintaining your storage space.

Also available are cabinet-depth fridges and under-bench fridge drawers for a streamlined look in even the tiniest of kitchens.

Make it fun

No really! Cranking up some upbeat tunes or listening to an interesting podcast will make your housework feel like less of a chore.

Make it easy

Dry-clean only? Porous kitchen counters? No thank you. Select easy-care surfaces and materials for your home and clothing to make maintenance a breeze.

laundry after3

Make it ergonomic

Housework isn’t just a drain on your time, it can also be physically demanding. Take a load off and try back-friendly appliances such as dishdrawers, upright vacuum cleaners and wall ovens.

Make it automatic

Embrace amazing new innovations such as self-cleaning ovens and robotic vacuum cleaners to put your housekeeping on autopilot. Plus set timers for things like your washing machine and coffee machine to do their thing ready for you to wake up.

Make it routine

Setting aside certain times for each chore is the easiest way to prevent things getting out of control. Just as importantly, make sure everyone in the household is clear on the schedule too, so that they can do their bit when wash day or bin day rolls around.

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What are your favourite tips for easy housekeeping? Tell us in the comments!

family-meeting

I recently posted about how we go about organising our household finances. What I didn’t go into was when we actually sit down to update and review our budget.

Every Sunday morning we sit down with a tea or coffee and laptop/iPad and categorise our transactions and see which areas we’re on track with and which we might need to work on.

After we’ve updated the budget, we discuss any issues/projects and plan our schedules and social events. The idea is that when we’re done, our finances, calendars and to-do lists are all up to date.

The whole process usually takes around half an hour, but if we have time we then spend a bit longer working on a ‘current project’ such as holiday planning (fun!) or doing the filing (admittedly not so fun). Sometimes we’ll really get into the swing of it and achieve a lot.

It’s only the two of us but we call it our Family Meeting as we think of ourselves as a little family. Of course there are other things we’d rather be doing with our weekend but it only takes a short time and is well worth it. We’ve been doing it for around six months and we’ve definitely noticed an improvement in organisation and communication. We even schedule it on our calendars so that we stick to it.

Do you have any kind of regular family meeting or budget review?

carrot-soup
Carrot & orange soup using ingredients from my home-delivered veggie box

I’ve written about our meal planning before but it is definitely a system that continues to evolve over time.

While I had been consistently been able to come up with plans that were within our grocery budget and were quick to make on weeknights, I’d actually gone too far towards quick’n'cheap at the expense of varied meals with plenty of fresh veggies like we used to have.

To kick myself out of my food rut, I was planning on creating a set of meal plans, ultimately building up to having several weekly plans for each season, plus a few special plans for weeks where the priorities might be super healthy or super easy or super cheap.

I was going to do my research to make sure the plans were centred around seasonal produce – something which I’m quite hopeless at – to keep things as nutritious, cheap and local as possible.

The only problem with my plan was that I was already too slack to go to the greengrocer to get the fresh produce (I’d been buying it at the supermarket), let alone schlepping to a farmer’s market on my already hectic weekends.

I then discovered that a grocery delivery service that I’d been interested in for ages (Aussie Farmers Direct) had finally added a round in our neighbourhood. You can select your own fruit and veg, but I thought I’d give the seasonal box a go.

It’s delivered on a Thursday which means I can still plan our meals around the ingredients in the box in time to do a quick supermarket run on Saturday for the pantry and household items. (They do offer meat and fish as well but unfortunately it’s 2-3 times more expensive than our local butcher so we can’t really justify that at this stage and will still make a trip to the butcher once every week or two.)

It didn’t take any longer than usual to plan the meals, but I’ve ended up with a much more interesting and healthy plan than my recent attempts. And I love that I can set up recurring favourites, such as bread, milk and the fruit & veg box every week which will save a ton of time.

We’re only a week in so it’s too early to tell how it will go long-term. But so far we’ve spent less than normal on our weekly groceries and we’ve been eating so much more fresh, quality food. All because we’re buying seasonally.

What are your tips for keeping your grocery budget in check while still eating well?

P.S. I haven’t been paid to write a review, I’m simply sharing my experience.

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Why don't you... start a Christmas savings fund

“Christmas?! What the hell, woman, it’s barely the middle of the year!’

To that I say, YES I am talking about Christmas now – for good reason.

The Man and I recently added a Christmas fund to our variety of mini savings accounts. We put in $10 a week, which we don’t miss at all, but will net us $520 by the time Santa shows up. Even if you start mid-year you’ll have $260 which is a big help.

Gifts are the most obvious expense but there’s also travel, entertaining, activities, Christmas cards, extra groceries, perhaps new party outfits, the list goes on… All these expenses at once can turn a fun time into a stressful one (or worse, one that you’re paying off well into next year).

Just a few dollars a week – whatever you can spare – will have you on your way to a relaxed and fun holiday season.

So this weekend, why don’t you start a Christmas savings fund?

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My workload reached unprecedented levels of crazy last year, a situation that I’ve been determined not to repeat this year. I am planning to do a whole lot more of the things that make me happy and healthy. (Note: I confess I had a fleeting thought to describe it as things that ‘feed my soul’ but I rejected this Oprah-esque nonsense. You’re welcome.)

I did so much working on and in my home that somewhere along the line I forgot to live in it.

I’ve been trying to regain my weekends as a time of rest and fun. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation to me I want you to as well!

I’m the first to admit I’m not always successful at this, but I have been better about making time for friends and family and switching off the computer on weekends.

With that in mind, I am starting a new column that will be all about cultivating simplicity and joy at home. Every Friday I’ll be encouraging you to join me in a fun weekend challenge. Some of the topics will be a bit more about obvious relaxation and others will be satisfying projects that involve a bit more effort, but they will all have the same goal of making your home a more fun, relaxing and fulfilling place to be.

I really hope you enjoy it!

Why don't you... have a technology free weekend

By necessity of my work, I spend long hours all week on the computer and by the end of the week I am drained from being constantly connected. I have found the single biggest factor to me returning to work on Monday feeling refreshed and raring to face the week is limiting my screen time over the weekend.

It’s true I still do a lot of work-related tasks on the weekend but I make sure they’re easier / more fun / offline (eg. buying supplies, taking pictures, working on blog projects) so that it doesn’t turn into just another work day.

Try turning off the TV and computer for a weekend and limit your social media usage and see how much more relaxed you feel. Not only that, you’ll have way more time to spend on the things you love doing and with your family.

So this weekend, why don’t you have a tech-free weekend?

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Atypical Type A Book Nook: The Happiness Project

Alright, it’s time for the June book nook!

I had been following Gretchen Rubin’s blog on and off for quite a while and enjoyed her bite-sized morsels of food for thought so I was really looking forward to digging a bit deeper in her book The Happiness Project.

So what’s it all about then?

The premise is that Gretchen decided to undertake a year-long experiment to see if she could improve her own happiness. She established 12 resolutions, starting with one in January and adding a new one each month until she was practicing all 12 by the year’s end. Each resolution was paired up with a relevant Commandment (such as ‘remember love’ for the marriage month).

Gretchen then shares her own experiences, punctuated by the wisdom of philosophers and snippets from her blog readers. She also weaves in so-called Secrets of Adulthood and Splendid Truths as additional guiding principles.

Personal highlights

I won’t analyse each chapter individually since there are so many (it’s a much longer and denser book than what I would typically be reviewing here). Instead, I’ll share a few of my personal highlights.

  • I found it funny that the opening chapter recommends getting enough sleep and uncluttering your home as the first step since I was in this process before I started the book. She is right: it has decreased my stress levels and given me more energy during the day.
  • Tackle a nagging task – left undone they drain your energy and make you feel guilty (don’t I know all about that!). I had been thinking about implementing a semi-regular Get It Done Day so this gives me more motivation to do so. Oh, and I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.
  • One of her Secrets of Adulthood is ‘act the way you want to feel‘. You know what? It works. After weeks of unsuccessfully trying to drag my arse out of bed early I changed my attitude this morning and bounded out of bed looking forward to getting a head start on my day. (Okay, I lied, there was definitely no bounding but I did get up at 6.20 without hitting the snooze button.)
  • Happy and unhappy are not two sides of the same coin, they are independent. You need to work on increasing happiness and also reducing unhappiness. I have never thought about it like that before but it’s true for me that if I minimise the negative (stress, clutter, money worries) there is more opportunity for happiness.
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories by keeping photo albums, stories and keepsakes. Note to self: need to get on to updating those photo albums!
  • Find more fun in your life – and be honest about what you actually find fun as it may not be the same as what others enjoy.
  • Buy some happiness by directing your money (within reason of course) toward things that bring you joy, strengthen bonds with others or reduce unpleasantness in your life. (We already do this with things like travel and socialising but totally need to take her advice of treating myself to a decent pen!)
  • Practice gratitude and mindfulness in everything from food to spiritual matters.
  • Make time for your passions (if you don’t know what you’re passionate about, ask yourself what you did in your spare time when you were 10 years old).
  • I need to try to forget about results and enjoy the process.
  • Growth is more important than achievement. I am constantly growing in my professional life but I need to cultivate the same atmosphere in my personal life.

Summary

I’m not into the woo-woo meditating brand of finding happiness so I was delighted to discover someone tackling this big topic on a practical, every day level. Her Happiness Project was not about running away from her life to some exotic locale on a soul-searching mission; it was about finding the pleasure and joy in the moments of daily life.

Like Gretchen, I’m not unhappy, but I often find myself losing patience easily, being too hard on myself and focusing too much on ‘getting things done’ at the expense of enjoying the moment. Most of all, I am such a goal oriented person that I have trouble enjoying the process.

I have a lot of similar personality traits as her so I found her struggles very relatable (almost uncomfortably so at times!) but she does share other people’s experiences too to give a broader relevance.

I didn’t necessarily agree with everything she advocates (e.g. keep an empty shelf and a junk drawer) but everything is presented in a non-preachy way that encourages readers to find what works for them.

The only minor issue I had was that there were a few too many Lists of Things in Title Case (12 Resolutions, 12 Commandments, Secrets of Adulthood, Splendid Truths, True Rules…). The wisdom in these were great but there are so many I can’t possibly remember them all which loses some of the effectiveness.

It was gratifying to find that some of the recommended actions I was already doing (maintaining relationships, getting enough sleep, fighting right, asking for help, making time for passions) however there is still a lot of room for improvement in a bunch of other areas (ahemexerciseahem).

While I don’t have any plans to do some kind of formal, documented Happiness Project, I’ve been given some great ideas to try as well as the methods and motivation to get me there.

The Happiness Project was one of those books I can see myself re-reading year after year gaining something each time.

Buy this book if you:

  • Find yourself just ‘going through the motions’ and want to experience more joy.
  • Know that you want to improve yourself but aren’t sure how to go about it.
  • Are going through an upheaval or transition in your life (e.g. bereavement, graduation, career change, break-up, empty nest, retirement, children, marriage).
  • Are generally happy but want the best out of life.
  • Are a person. Any person. Read it.

This book may not be for you if you:

  • Are looking for a book with advice about depression.
  • Are looking for spiritual guidance to find happiness.

Buy the book here!

Have you read The Happiness Project? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Post contains affiliate links.

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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