Organising to simplicity part 4

The final post in the series for now is my ensuite.

I have seriously reduced the products I need for my hair, face and feet. I’m also becoming more conscious of the chemicals that I put on my face, in my hair, and so I am slowly moving to more natural products as I use up old products.

For example, I am slowly moving my skin care over to Aesops, which I love.  I have made my own deodorant and lip balm following some youtube video.

So again – this is a journey.  The journey for me began with throwing out the things that were really old, out of date or no longer relevant to my hairstyle/make up look of today, which has been simplifying significantly.

Then I packed away doubles of whatever I have and created a list of those items in my purse so I don’t forget and buy more.

So the dreaded before shots:

hair drawer before

 nails drawer before make up drawer before

Stage 1 of my clean up got me to here:

hair drawer after make up drawer after nail drawer after

Pretty good effort.  I organised my multiples of everything and got a system going.  But…

I still felt controlled by my stuff.

I still had way too much of everything.

So my efforts now are even simpler again – and I’m sure this will reduce even further with the next cull.

I only have minimal make up in a make up acrylic organiser. I have two mascaras, two eyeliners, four different eye shadows and four different make up brushers in the drawers.  I have my Foundation, eye cream, toner, home made deodorant and lip balm on the top of the organiser.

make up tray

My bath products are right near the bath tub.

bath products aesops bath

And my hair, blow-dryer and nails drawers are looking a whole less busy.

hair draw  feet drawer

And I feel like I could simplify a lot more from here.  It’s a work in progress. I’m aiming to get everything down to two drawers and the acrylic organiser.

What is your next household simplicity project?

Organising to simplicity part 3

The third part of my breaking up with organising series – this is all a work in progress, and I will continue to update as I simplify.  Today’s photo series are focused on my study area – and I apologise in advance for the dark before shot.  Nonetheless – easy to see it is clutter heaven.  This is where I process our admin and do our scanning/filing – more scanning and less filing these days as I try to cut down on the paper I store.

You can see there are some attempts to organise (containers for things, desk top filing units) but it wasn’t a picture of simplicity.

before photos study

And here is my after attempt – less stuff, less to organise and more peaceful.


Organising to simplicity part 2

Part 2 of my breaking up with organising series – this time, the linen cupboards in our house.

Six beds and seven people equals at least double of that, in sheets, towels, beach towels and extra bedding for guests.

You can see in the first set of photos, a decent attempt at getting organised (still lots of things, now in neat boxes)

 linen before

 Revolting amounts of excess linen here…

The first attempt after shots (not bad – a few less things and neater in boxes):

linen after 3 linen after 4 kids linen before2

And in the second attempt earlier this year – less things, in neat boxes.

linen after kids linen after2 kids linen afterlinen spider 

And one little scary creature that I found while tidying again EEK!

Organising – you and me are breaking up.

I’ve always been a relatively tidy person. My mum was a little OCD on the cleaning and tidying front. Kids often rebel or subscribe (with some modifications) to their parents way of living, and I went down the latter path. I’m nowhere near as tidy or clean, but I like order – my brain hurts when the house is disorganised.

When my husband and I moved in together (we are a blended family) we had two households of stuff. Three kettles. Two sandwich toasters. Three fridge/freezers. Four televisions. You get the picture.

Over time, we have been reducing the volume of repeat items and just generally things in the household. I had a small operation a couple of years ago and while I was recuperating and mindlessly googling for organising ideas, I came across the goddess of organising, Alejandra Costello, who is based in Virginia in the US. Her site is and her videos are absolutely fantastic, if you haven’t seen them before and you are early in your journey towards a simpler life.

Organising is great first step. Everything has a home and everything (should be) in its home.

But I found I wanted more. I was organised but still super busy. I was organised – every cable was corralled and labelled; every cupboard looked sorted and gorgeous – but I still felt overwhelmed by my stuff.

I found a few websites on minimalism and I liked 75% of what I was reading. Your stuff should not own you, and book out valuable chunks of your time to maintain it.

So – a few months ago, while I was urgently google-searching again for my next movement away from consumerism, I came across Brooke McAlary at . Firstly – so great to see an Australian movement achieving a ground swell. Simple, slow living can be achieved through planning (in the first stages), establishing gentler routines, and by prioritising experiences over things.

A few ebooks by later and a read of a few blog posts from,I have worked out what I need.

I don’t need organised stuff – I just need less stuff to organise.

So I move on to my next part of the journey to a slower life. Less stuff to organise. The above is a classic move from organising and decluttering, to simplifying. I realise many people before me have been down this road before.

Goodbye to organising products = hello to less things to organise. Over the next couple of weeks I will post a series of photo-based posts to illustrate the difference.

Today – let’s begin with my bedroom. Here it is in all its messy glory in 2010 (shame!)

IMG_0929 IMG_0928

And after a “decluttering and organising session”…. (looking better)…..just after in 2010


And finally, after a real look at my room – what colours calm me, what simplicity could offer and what I actually needed to use beside my bed – in 2014 (ahhh – peaceful… to me).


We’ve just pressed STOP on the treadmill of life…


Yep – we’ve done it. Metaphorically at this stage. We’ve hit the button and are reassessing our life choices.

I’ve reached that critical half way point in my working life, at age 42, and a series of questions have started to emerge in my mind:

  • What am I working for?
  • How much do I actually need to work?
  • What will be the big expenditure items that I need to save for between now and retirement?
  • What do I need to live comfortably in retirement?

As part of slowing it all down, my husband and I took some proactive steps to find out the answers to these questions. And the results have surprised us.

We can actually work much less than we are currently


(cue fireworks)

To get to a point of knowing an answer, we went through the following process.

  1. We have virtually paid down our mortgage over the last year of self-imposed austerity measures.  We have set a pretty rigid budget since last September, and it has worked.  Our mortgage will be paid down in November.  I’ll post more detail on how we achieved this at a later stage.
  2. We have taken time to understand, and have sought advice on our superannuation funds.  My husband’s fund is a defined benefits scheme, which means he receives a multiplier of his final average salary as a lump sum, as well as an indexed pension for life (I didn’t just marry for love alone….).  To understand these figures, my husband contacted his superannuation fund and was provided access to a calculator that spelled it all out.
  3. My superannuation fund is just an accumulated benefits scheme, but I have been making some voluntary contributions in the past few years and I have accumulated a reasonable amount that will “top up” any further living expenses that we might require in retirement.  I found a useful calculator at If you plug in your super balance, and adjust for your anticipated weekly expenses, you can work out how long your super will last you for.  For my purposes, I just added on what we would need on top of my husband’s pension, and we will be able to live until we are 104.
  4. We then went through a process of understanding what our retirement income will need to be in today’s dollars.  To do this, we went through a budget that included a little overseas holiday each year and worked out a budget of $75k per annum, in today’s terms.  We also benchmarked this against other retirees of today (our parents, for example) to understand whether that was reasonable.
  5. Between now and retirement – we have worked out what are major items of expenditure will be:
    1. Small house renovation ($100k)
    2. Savings funds for each of the kids and their homes or educations ($100k)
    3. A couple of car upgrades ($80K)
    4. Downsizing to a nicer, solar efficient home ($300k extra)
  6. We are now working on a spreadsheet to develop just exactly how much we need to earn between now and retirement, so we can achieve some balance between what we do to earn money, and how we want to live.

I’m no financial planner – I’d suggest you absolutely get your own advice, but this process has been completely liberating. Instead of thinking that I would need to maintain or increase my current salary levels and keep working forever, I’ve actually learned that I can decrease my salary. I can take a career break. I can earn less. I can do less.

Sobbing at the sink…. oh dear….


A couple of weeks ago, I felt completely overwhelmed. I had been through the first winter sports weekend of the season, realising my children had to be three different places at once on a Saturday morning with their sport. I had to clean the house, do the shopping, fit in the gym and then have my beautiful inlaws around for dinner, who are no trouble at all. And I found myself at the kitchen sink, sobbing as I was cooking dinner. Too tired to even flip the grilling chicken. Too tired to speak nicely to my husband who was looking on, helplessly. I had reached the point of complete overwhelm. Life felt like every minute was accounted for, there was no time for me, and not time for quality time with my family. I felt like I had not even achieved the first step in slowing it all down – in fact I felt more out of control than ever before. I’d like to say since those two weeks had passed, I had made some remarkable changes in my life, but no. Things have persisted and now I find myself unwell with a chest infection. Sigh. If you are like me, sometimes you need multiple reminders that your life needs to change. Sitting in bed, in between intermittent coughing fits, I have been reading The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. Of course he knows all of the answers and principles, because he has put them into place in his own life. Leo recommends choosing one monthly goal at a time, being accountable for that goal and doing a daily task to get you closer to that goal. So here’s mine: My first monthly goal is to have enjoy the weekends when I have my children. I want to slow down and be present, and not stressed and rushing around. I want my kids to remember their childhood with affection, remembering doing simple things with their mother (and be able to erase from their memories the frazzled mother that they currently live with!) To achieve this goal, I will:

  1. Slow the pace of the weekend, by reducing the things we have scheduled.  For example, I will now shop on the weekends when the kids are not with me
  2. Choose a piece of sacred time, where no matter what, we will take it slow.  I will keep Sunday mornings as sacred and have a lie in, followed by bacon and eggs with everyone
  3. Chose one small activity that we can do together that does not create a logistics nightmare, like go for a walk, go to the movies, making home made food = small, simple acts of spending time together without too much fuss
  4. Practise a bit of gratitude – even when I am running around to three different places, I need to remind myself to be grateful that my children are actively participating in sporting activities that they love. They are fit and healthy and able!

I have told my children of the new plan, and they are agreeable. I’ll let you know how I progress. Baby steps. How do you handle the feeling of being overwhelmed?