Rhythm and Routine

The school year started for our family yesterday. The boys enjoyed their first day. One in year four and the other in year one.

My focus at the moment is restoring rhythm to our house. Kids thrive on predictability, rhythm and structure. They learn that they are safe, secure and become personally disciplined. Adults are the same to a certain degree. There is a peace in a steady routine and we often feel at our worst when things are happening all over the place and we don't get the basics done each week.

Because I work four days per week I think the evening rhythm is the most important that needs restoring. Bedtimes are usually all over the place during the long summer school holidays. With daylight savings it's not getting dark until after 8.30pm, so it's really important to get the kids to wind down before attempting to put them to bed.

Our evenings will flow like this:

- after school the children can play.
- homework - once I arrive home
- Dinner about 6.15
- shower after dinner
- reading aloud to children ( at the moment we are ready the Spiderwick Chronicles)
- children in their beds - I will let them read or draw for 20 minutes before turning their lights off.

I make sure that the TV is off so that we don't compete with the noise. I have noticed that the kids choose better activities and use their imaginations better when there is no TV.

Let's hope the grand plan works well !

Savings or " Not Spendings"

We hear all the time about how much money we can save. We see it in shops - save $15, save 30% or we read about people cutting $25 a week off their groceries.

But are these really savings ? and if they are where does the money go ? I am quickly realising that most so called ' savings' should really be called ' not spending', in that unless you were actually intending to spend, for example, $100 on an item and you only had to spend $80 and invested the $20 - then that is a true 'saving'.

Lets look at it this way.

When doing our budgets we go through and 'reduce' our outgoings - $5 a month here, $2 a month there etc etc. - adding up to $400 saving a month and a whopping $5000 saving a year. But do we actually invest that saving and earn interest off it and add to it and make it grow ? Or is it simply money that we could have spent but didn't!

I am going to make sure that I 'scoop off' all the little 'savings' I find. For example, when I budget $150 for the weekly groceries but only spend $125 I will put some aside for weeks when I need to spend more to stock up and I will scoop off some and put in my 'never to be touched' savings account. I think in this category a 50/50 split with the leftovers will be good.

Are you frugal, do you work hard to save money .... do you channel that money into savings or into debt reduction ? Post your ideas here.


Back to Busyness

My holidays are over and life slowly returns to 'normal'.

On holidays this year Hubbie and I promised each other that we would try and retain that 'holiday' feeling when we got home, that is, to relax and remain calm and contented. Day by day, however, that seems to be slipping out the window.

I have been back at work for one week now and find myself longing for a little bit more time at home to ' get on top of things', although. I am not really sure what those ' things' are.

I did achieve a lot on my three week break. We got through quite a bit of decluttering - something which always feels good. It seems, however, that there is always more to do.

This year I have been fully implementing the GTD or 'Getting Things Done' management system, not only for work but for home as well. I have 'dabbled' with it before, but this time I think I have it set up much better. If you have not heard of this before it is a cult movement based on a book by David Allen. Probably the best place to start reading would be to search in Wikipedia. Note, however, that my version is slightly different and true GTDers might be critical of my sidestepping of the system.

The basis of the whole system is this flow chart:

The first time I looked at and followed it through I thought 'yeah yeah - that's obvious'. But the beauty of this system is fully understanding it all and being able to consistently implement it.

So...... I will give my 'at home' example because if you are a professional you probably have something similar to this running at work.


This is the point where you write down any little ( and I mean little) thing that comes into your head. It could be anything from "buy cat food" to " backpack Europe".
 Don't sensor it, don't sort it- just write it all down.
There is no correct way to do this - digital or paperbased is fine, but you must only have one "collection" point so there is no use having it on your computer if you can't add to it at a moments notice. If you are away from the house or the computer is off it's impractical. I have chosen a gorgeous little notebook with a sturdy cover that is small enough to fit in my handbag. ( BTW I have a small stationery fetish !)

The notebook is your 'mental' inbox and you also need a physical 'inbox'. Start with a tray - but if you are tackling many aspects of your life you may need an 'in box' or an 'in bench'. LOL.

So... the idea is that everything filters through your inbox. So when I am doing something and have a thought such as " I must remember to do the ...." or " I'd really like to put hooks on the back of the doors for the boys' hats" I write it down. The idea is to get EVERYTHING out of your brain.

To process the 'stuff' firstly you see if anything can be done with it. Say you pick up a piece of paper from your intray. If there's nothing to do on it straight away - you either trash it, put it in your someday/maybe file and add it to you someday/maybe list or file it for reference.

If there is something that needs to be done you either - do it - if it will take less than two minutes, Defer it - put it on your calendar/ diary for when you will do or delegate it - get someone to do it or deal with it.


If something has multiple steps to completion it is called a 'project' and needs to be added to your projects group. You also have a series on lists called 'contexts'. So I have lists page headings @SHOPS, @SCRAPBOOKING. @HOUSE, @COOKING. @KIDS, @PERSONAL CARE

So, for example, when I am checking through and processing my list of dumped items from my brain I move the note that says "buy scrubbing brush" to the @SHOPS" list so that when I am at the shops I look at my list and everything is there.


Each week you look through your system and work out your MIT ( Most important tasks). I usually do a daily scan of my notebook - takes about 30 secs. Then work out the next actions for any projects you are working on.

David Allen also uses a Tickler or 43 Folders. The 43 folders are a folder for each day (31) of the month and 12 for each month. If, for example, you want to pay a bill or read an article but not until Thursday 29 March you put it in the 29 folder behind March. Google '43 folders' images and you will see lots of folks using this system.


The idea is that when things re systemised, organised and you know what the next action is it will prevent procrastination.

THE STORY SO FAR.......................

As you know I am obsessed with the 6 Principle anyway. Having everything downloaded from my brain is very freeing. I like the way it breaks things into contexts so that I can think in terms of 'boxes' that i can section off my life into rather than having a 'jumble'.

Modern Retro Housewives

Take this job and love it!
By Ami Thomas

Her alarm clock chimes before the sun rises. She's not only up and at 'em, she's dressed to the nines in heels and a full face, wearing perfume. Her apron is starched and matches her outfit, and breakfast is on the table. Her husband and children come to the table dressed and pressed: they've been raised that way, and she's done the ironing.

The year is not 1944, or even 1954...it's 2004, and the modern retro housewife is keeping house like Grandma did. She’s starting early and staying up late. Her day begins just after daybreak, when she gets up and gets dressed. No sweats or boxer shorts and t-shirts for her, she's wearing silk pajamas and pin curls. She bathes, dresses, combs out her hair and does her face. She's a modern-day Donna Reed, and she doesn't wear Donna Karan.

Home-Cooked Meals

When her family leaves for school and work, after a hot breakfast, the kitchen is cleaned, beds made, house straightened. If it's Monday, it's wash day, but whatever the day, you can bet her home is in order. The cupboards are never bare and dinner is ready when Father comes home in the evening. Meals are simple and nourishing. Breakfast and lunch are served in the kitchen, dinner is served in the dining room, and little boys tuck in their shirts before coming to the table.

Once a week, she gets her hair done and a manicure. If the budget is tight that week, she does it herself, but "going without" or cultivating "bedhead" is no more an option than wearing a jogging suit to the grocery store or going to the mailbox without lipstick.

She may be just an old-fashioned gal, or a semi-retired bombshell. She’s mastered the art of cleaning the cat box in a pencil skirt and stockings. She can sweep, mop and clean the toilet without chipping a nail or losing a bobby pin. These dames can keep house and keep the home fires burning. And really, what's sexier than a woman who can cook and doesn't mind cleaning up afterwards?

Taking Pride in Pleasing Others

These retrophiles and their mates are happily living in their own little time warps, raising their families the old-fashioned way, with good manners and knowledge of some basic social graces. Their children know who Alfred Hitchcock is and can sing Cole Porter tunes in the bath.

The little ones look up to Daniel Boone and Amelia Earhardt, and when they say the Pledge of Allegiance in the neighborhood grade school, they understand it and it means something. The kids wear plaid skirts and saddle shoes and turned-up dungarees with striped t-shirts and Beaver Cleaver caps. They say "ma'am" and "sir" and know which fork to use.

I know, it all sounds so nice, so perfect. Well, it is nice. Maybe it isn't perfect for everyone, but for a few of us, it's heaven. We were born too late. We live in that fabulous era of the mid-20th Century, when we'd just won The War and the whole country was overflowing with optimism about things to come. Good had triumphed over Evil, just as it should, and all was right with the world. The guys in White Hats would keep on winning and we'd all be safe from those guys in the Black Hats. It was as simple as that. The Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. What could be more wholesome?

The Retro Housewife's Office

It just so happens that we don't think all things referred to as "progress" really are moving us forward. And it isn't just about the clothing that kids are wearing today (or, more accurately, not wearing these days). Looking at style trends is a good barometer for where we are as a society. When it just doesn’t matter to you how you look when you leave the house, it probably doesn't matter to you how you do your job. It probably doesn't matter to you how you drive or how you keep your lawn or anything else. If you can't take pride in yourself, then what can you take pride in?

For the modern retro housewife, our lifestyle is a show of respect—respect for ourselves and others. Housewives dress each morning just as if they're going to an outside job because keeping house and caring for their families is a job. It's a serious job and we respect that work. We show that respect by not showing up for work wearing velour sweats and un-brushed hair. (And for the record, flip-flops are not shoes, just in case you're on the fence about that one.)

Modern Conveniences

Sure, we take advantage of some modern conveniences: good dishwashers, advancements in vacuum cleaners, a good TV to watch those films noirs. A big refrigerator with water in the door definitely saves steps, and I can't live without my garbage disposal. I also really like the coffee maker…but I have a percolator and I know how to use it. We have cell phones and pink princess phones. We have CD players and Victrolas. We have new cars and old cars. We have DVDs of our favorite classics, because we like to preserve what's important to us.

Living this way every day is a real commitment. We have to mean it, because we are outnumbered exponentially and sometimes it feels like Us or Them, especially when we're trying to teach our children some values and morals. You know, simple things, like buy pants that fit and no one else wants to see your underwear.

Going to the grocery store is better at the local market, not the big chains, since most of the customers are dressed like I am. Granted, most of them are in their dotage, but they don't look at me like I'm wearing a costume. (It's easier in a bigger city, too, when you're likely to just be considered "eccentric", and since I live in the same town as John Waters, I figure I'm OK.)
'Granny Chic'?

If you've seen the August and September issues of Vogue magazine, you'll know that I am at the height of couture fashion this season. "Granny Chic" as it's called, is all the rage. (This outraged me and some of my friends at first, because all the "good stuff" we’ve loved all our lives is going to be outrageously priced and hard to find.)

Looking like I care what is going on at Fashion Week is anathema. I don't want to be trendy. I don't believe in trendy. The upside (my fellow retrophiles decided) is that in a few months, all those designer retro suits are going to be in the thrift stores and all over eBay. We can wait.

You know, the whole thing really comes down to how you want to live and what you want out of living. Frank Sinatra said, "You only live once, but if you live like me, once is enough." We believe that, in theory, though most of us can't live like the Chairman of the Board. Mostly, we try to live like we mean it, like it matters, not like we're just killing time or getting through one thing and onto the next. Every day matters when you live simply and honestly and know what's important to you. We look at our children and we're proud of them. When we're old, we can look back at our lives and be proud also—proud that we were modern retro housewives.


New Planner

Here is this years cover for my Home Management Binder. It's a bit "pretty" this year. I have really taken to dusty pinks and greens at the moment.

One of the things I love about the New Year is when you take some time to get on top of everything. You finally get to do the jobs that you have been putting off, you know the ones - where you just hang on until the end of the year passes and then you can finally breath out and start afresh.

Today ...

Until Next Year Little Friends...


What Is Simple Living To Me ......Thinking Out Loud.....( Thinking Allowed)

This is Hubby's sister's property in NW New South Wales.

I have really been thinking about what I mean when I say that we live a simple life. Simplicity is different for every person. For some it may be as little as a way of thinking or philosophy whilst for others it may mean complete self sufficiency. We are all at different stages and phases in our lives and no one way is correct. So my question to you is.... if you say you live simply, how do you define it ?

Over the years since our first child was born we seem to phase in and out of our simple living mode. It seems that we are on track for a while then slowly drift off the path until we have totally lost the plot and then we have a giant revamp and get it all back on track again.

When we first started trying to be more frugal and live a bit more old fashioned I used to joke about how I could close the front gate and feel as though I was on 30,000 acres. We used to laugh and say our family motto was "peace, love and vegetables".

Over time the idea of simplicity has changed somewhat, particularly as the children got older. When I think of living simply now I think of the following things that suit us as a family:

1. Cooking from scratch - for that 'old fashioned feeling', less food additives and much cheaper and healthier.

2. Working with a cash budget

3. Planning Menus

4. Not watching commercial TV - minimising advertising exposure

5. Playing together as a family

6. Living in a home that we own - not living beyond our means

7. Working part time

8. Growing what we can

9. Reducing belongings and clutter

10. Eating locally where possible

11. Having a grocery stockpile

12. Making our own bread

13. Composting our food scraps

14. Riding our bicycles instead of using the car

15. Thinking before we buy anything

The list goes on. I guess the biggest thing for me is a sense of control. Not feeling as though we are adrift in the ocean being knocked around by every wave that comes in.

I believe that when you are living a life authentic to your inner values you will experience a sense of peace. Once you have this feeling, it is easy to know when you go off the path and it's great to have that sense of peace return when you are back on track.

I would love to know your thoughts on this. Drop me a line.


Joy Joy Joy .......down in my heart !

The Christmas Season is over for another year. We had a really lovely day. We went to my Sister and Brother In Law's house. They live on a property about 10 minutes from a little town in north west New South Wales. The weather was really kind to us in that it wasn't too hot.

We had quite a lean Christmas.

We made a real effort this year to buy our boys things that they could use rather than heaps of toys with thousands of parts that are broken by New Year. We also tried to avoid over priced licenced merchandise, you know the ones, where the price is doubled because the item has a picture from some movie. For the grown ups this year we did a 'Secret Santa' - where everyone's name goes into a hat and you buy just for one person.

On Boxing Day we headed off on our holiday and stayed at our favourite resort. It was VERY relaxing. We really took the time to wind down. We also spoke about our goals and plans for 2008.

Now we are refreshed and ready to tackle the new year. I love the new year time. It's a chance to draw a line under everything that's happened and start afresh.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...