Why I decluttered during a power cut and how it made me feel

Yes I hate me too. I thought I had better start with that! On Tuesday night, I arrived home after taking my daughter to her swimming lesson to discover my house in complete darkness. No security lights activated when we drove in and the lights I had left on as we left were no longer illuminated. Joy. After a quick walk round the house to establish that we hadn’t had a break in or a fuse had tripped, I called our local electrician. He told me to call the electricity board. To cut a long story short, the electricity supply to our house had stopped working. It ended up taking over 18 hours for the electricity to be back to normal and included at least 8 trucks parked up our road.

On Wednesday, it became clear that this was a serious problem and would not fixed in an hour or two. That meant I had no chance of doing any work as a) there wasn’t any internet b) my battery life on my laptop isn’t as good as it used to be and c) I wasn’t ‘feeling’ work. I was stressed, distracted and a bit twitchy.

So after trying to read a book, making drinks and doing a bit of tidying up, I decided to tackle the two shelves in our bookcase that holds all my work ‘stuff’. This included old Accounts files, many receipts, notebooks (new and old), a broken paper cutter, printer paper, card, label packs, random notes and lots of plastic wallets. There was also a hideous amount of old project files that I hadn’t emptied and removed. All piled together across two shelves and looking a bit of a state. It had sort of grown across the room as I couldn’t locate say, new A4 paper, so I would go and order more off Amazon. Ridiculous but I had been putting clearing it up for ages because I always had something more pressing.

This Girl Can Organise Instagram account
Fully recommend This Girl Can Organise – her stories are really helpful.

There are some brilliant organising and decluttering blogs and Instagram accounts out there (my favourites include: This Girl Can Organise, Just a Girl and her Blog and The Home Edit) so I’m not going to tell you how to declutter but I will share why it helped me:

  1. I couldn’t actually access my emails or any work projects because of the lack of power
  2. I still had 9 to 3 hours that I needed to use
  3. The mess was getting worse and I was wasting money buying stuff that I already had but just couldn’t be bothered to look for
  4. I didn’t have an excuse not to do it.

So, I pulled everything out off the shelves, created a bin, keep, recycle or shred pile system and just moved each bit to the according pile. It took awhile and looked terrible but I soon realised what I had, didn’t want and discovered a few gems that had been forgotten about including a few notebooks from Rome which I love.

I was then able to remove the bin pile out of the room which instantly gave me more space and made everything look so much better. Then I created smaller keep piles – segregating the stationary, finding a new home for the old accounts folders and popped the new notebooks together. Suddenly my massive mess was quite small and easy to put back onto the shelves.

As I’m a fan of organising blogs, I instantly went onto Amazon to buy in trays and box files, but actually I realised that I didn’t need any of them – yet. Instead, I used neat piles where I can see everything and after the declutter a lot of space was revealed. I could have fit everything onto one shelf but using two makes it more accessible. My takeaway – you don’t always need to spend money when decluttering, take time out after sorting through it all to see what space you actually have and then after a day or two see if you do need anything to help.

I will never declutter for the sake of it but it did keep me distracted from what else was going on outside my house, lowered my stress levels and gave me the ability to locate A4 envelopes instantly. I’m hoping I have also saved myself some cash by seeing that I do already own quite a bit of essential work ‘stuff.’ Hurrah!

Recommended reading:

An Edited Life by Anna Newton – I’m currently still reading this and I’m hoping to do a round up of great books that are helping me in the next month or so. Her YouTube channel is great too.

This Girl Can Organise Instagram – Nicola is currently writing a book but her account is really helpful – especially her stories.

This article in Psychology Today about the scientific reasons to declutter.

Ps I realise that I should have taken photos of my decluttering to help illustrate this blog but I’m not that organised!

This was the scene on Wednesday morning. What you can’t see are the other 6 vans down the road…

My Friday favourites: (08/02/19)

My Friday Favourites!

It has been awhile since I wrote one of these! Simply because I have been so busy with my working 9 to 3 that I haven’t had much of a chance to share what has been inspiring/helping me over the past month.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama: this was a very much wanted Christmas present and it didn’t disappoint. She’s quite something – what an inspiration and I loved the story that she had to tell. It felt very truthful and I don’t always get that feeling with every autobiography I’ve read. I read a lot of books for my work (I’m a book publicist) so it was lovely to switch off from work mode and just enjoy the writing. Her upbringing is fascinating and the first chapters are really what I enjoyed the most – you learn where she gets her drive from and yearning to keep learning. I particularly enjoyed the stories about her family and growing up in Chicago.

CTRL+ALT+DELETE podcast by Emma Gannon: Sarah Knight. I’m still getting my head round podcasts (I still get a small thrill when I hear them swearing – it just feels deliciously wrong!) and I know that a lot of people really enjoy these Emma Gannon podcasts. This episode with Sarah Knight (the author of the No F***s Given series of books) really shone for me. I think it has more to do with Sarah then Emma though! I’ve not read her books but have seen them everywhere (Jess Soothill wrote a great blog post about her reaction to reading one of Knight’s books) and was intrigued to hear what she has to say. Simply put – she’s another great one. Shoots from the hip, says it how it truly is and still has vulnerability when she discusses her books, life choices and how she learnt to really not care what people think. If I can just get a pinch of Sarah Knight attitude then I’ll be happy.

Vego mini choc bar

Vego Mini Choc Bar: this is the dreamiest dairy free chocolate bar I have ever eaten. It fits into my handbag and lets me have something ‘treaty’ when I’m out and about. I was introduced to it at my local Holland & Barrett and I’ve been in love ever since. Full of sugar though but it is just like Nutella. Yum! Even better, it comes as a spread in a jar too. Perfect for pancakes, toast and bagel toppings.

Sex Education on Netflix. This is a very funny, Skins -esque drama series that currently everyone I know is watching and with good reason. It stars Gillian Anderson and anything that she’s in is usually superb. Set in a school, it’s about a boy trying to make his way through the ravages of high school and counselling his fellow students with their sexual adventures. Hilarious, sometimes a bit emotional and brilliantly acted. My favourite is Eric. (love him!)

I’ve also read some other brilliant books (currently loving An Edited Life by Anna Newton and will report back on that one) and listening to podcasts such as I’m Absolutely Fine and The High Low. Oh and I’m watching Dancing on Ice with Amy. We both love it.

Have a lovely weekend!

9 to 3 wardrobe: My best purchase

How pleather trousers changed my wardrobe

I know I know, I’m not saying anything new here but I’m writing this from a Cafe Nero on a really wet and windy rain. It is the type of day that you wouldn’t venture out of the house unless you HAVE to and sadly, today I did. It’s my dog’s (Maggie) time to have a haircut and it means driving into the local town.

What has this got to do with my best purchase? Well because my pleather (faux leather if you prefer) trousers were the only clothes that I could contemplate wearing. Again. I’ve realised that I have been wearing them pretty much at least 2-3 times a week.

Why? Well they are super comfy (hello elasticated waist band), go with everything I own and are waterproof. They are also really warm and are wipe clean. Need I say anymore?

Wearing Next faux leather trousers
Me wearing my pleather (and faux fur!) with Maggie

The important bit is that you can wear them with everything – trainers, heels, jumpers and ‘dressy tops.’ They never look wrong and I love them for this. I can wear them from the school run to a business meeting, for school assembly and a networking event. I even wear them under dresses if I can’t face tights.

I’ve had this pair (bought from Next for I think £28) for two years. The first year doesn’t count because I felt too self-conscious to wear them. They were too far removed from my jumper/jeans wardrobe but since I “got over myself” and needed to wear clothes that are suitable for school run and business meetings, I have found these indispensable.

Holly Willoughby wears loose leather trousers
Holly Willoughby wears a looser style

There are loads of options to try from super tight leggings to a looser fit and I’m definitely thinking of purchasing some more in a different colour or fit. If you are looking for a bit of inspiration, then I can recommend looking at Cara Suthers Instagram/blog because she styles them brilliantly. I’ve also set up a Pinterest board called The 9 to 3 Work Style Inspirations that you can see a few other stylish ladies wearing them in a way that I would like to.

Cara Suthers
I’m a big fan of Cara Suther’s style choices.

This isn’t my attempt at becoming a fashion or style blog. It is just following the ethos that I set myself when I started this blog – if I find a book, app, system or something that works for me, then I will share it with you. I’m all for making a very busy and complicated life a bit easier. Pleather for life!

These are the ones I have my eyes on to move me into the Spring…

Cropped faux leather jeans from Next
These are Next at £28

How to find your 9 to 3

How I got to working the 9 to 3

One of the questions I get asked the most on Instagram Direct Message is how to start working 9 to 3. It is also one of the hardest to answer! For me, I decided that this was the only way I could work and be the parent that I wanted to be. I make no judgement on anyone that needs to work longer or actually prefers to work. I’m all for the idea of ‘do what feels good’ for you. (thank you Adriene Mishler for that great quote!)

My example was set by my Mum who worked as a playgroup supervisor when I was little, before coming a Teachers Assistant whilst studying part-time through the wonderful Open University and finally qualifying as a teacher when I was 14 years old. I always took her presence for granted – she was there for every assembly, sports event and after school group.

Open University

We weren’t loaded and I understand now why we weren’t taking foreign holidays or why I attended the local community college and not a private school. These things didn’t really matter to me – my mum was there when I wanted her.

So when Amy was born, I felt that if I could, I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps – minus the teaching bit. It took time though, I went back to work 3 days a week 3 months after she was born and that increased to 4 days a week for a bit before we moved to the countryside and I went fully freelance (i.e. I was the main childcarer). Do I regret any of it? Not at all.

“The courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel

Here is my biggest takeaway from my decision – it hits your financial outlook massively. I now earn less than half what I did when I was full-time but my income is growing year by year. It is scary and we should budget a lot more then we do – I am getting better with meal planning so not to waste food/money and we aren’t having meals out every week, let alone every month. We choose carefully where we spend our disposable income – which for us is travel. Our holidays and trips are very important to us as a family and therefore I can *just* about handle not having the wardrobe all my favourite Instagram accounts seem to have. (where do they put all their clothes?).

Don’t get me wrong, I would like more £££ but I’m playing the long game – time with my daughter will fly by so I’m willing to keep my business ticking over and then hopefully step it up as Amy gets older.

So… here are my initial questions when looking to go 9 to 3:

  1. Are you currently employed? Is there room for movement with hours?
  2. Are you qualified to work in a particular area?
  3. Did you LOVE your job/previous employment?
  4. Can you work from home?

Then my next set of questions would be:

  1. Do you want to still work in the same/previous industry?
  2. Are you able to take a refresher course/update your skill set?
  3. How much do you need to earn to keep you afloat?

Finally, I would ask:

  1. What is it that I really want to do with my time?
  2. What are my passions?
  3. What are my dislikes?

After that, I’d look through my answers and see what I could do. Look for examples of people doing the work that you want to do. With publicity, I’m able to work from home, yes, I do travel sometimes and I am trying to look for more local clients instead of travelling to London every 6 weeks. I love reading, admire all creatives and I know I’m good at selling their book/exhibitions to editors. I’m enthused by it. So when I was thinking about my 9 to 3, I knew that the job I already had, really was the best one for me.

If you are unsure or haven’t been working for awhile, I would recommend that after answering the questions above, that you consider:

I have a neighbour that trained as a beautician when her daughter was at pre-school to supplement her income as a personal trainer and another that trained as a Teachers Assistant and volunteered at a local school to get experience. It may be that that job you find yourself doing isn’t what you want in the long-term – that’s absolutely fine! My friend cleans houses 3 days a week but ultimately intends to be a Veterinary Assistant. The cleaning helps to pay her course fees AND gives her a bit of extra income too. I was considering setting up an Ironing business until I remembered that I hate ironing and I’m terrible at it.

It is a bitch but time really does make a huge difference. Plan what you want and then execute it with small steps and realistic expectations. You might not earn vast amounts but hopefully it will help to supplement your lifestyle and get you living the life that you want.

Resources to look at:

  • The Open University offer courses for you to do part-time.
  • I discussed in a previous blog post how I have used Future Learn to help update my skills. These are free online course. Read the post here.
  • 923 have a great blog which feature ideas on how to work 923. You’ll find my post here.
  • I’ve just come across The Early Hour which I’m really enjoying. The creator of the site, Annie Ridout has just published a book, The Freelance Mum that I’m hoping to read soon.

Why I wrote to Hi Mama

Hi Mama logo to their website

I was really nervous about writing this letter to Hi Mama (a brilliant blog/website where mother’s share their experiences) because it was very personal. I’m not sure if I want this blog to be that personal but it was a story that I wanted, needed to share.

As some of you may know, I was born without a right hand. No one really knows why and it was a complete surprise to my parents. It has never stopped me from doing anything – well except maybe learning to play the piano so when I was pregnant with my daughter, I was completely in the belief that I would be fine.

Which was all great until I started reading parenting books and looking at the photos of mothers washing their babies in the bath – with two hands. Cue complete meltdown on my part and this incessant voice inside my head that I couldn’t look after my baby. Which now, really seems idiotic but at the time it was very real. After having Amy, more meltdowns when I realised I couldn’t lift her head to put her vests on but thank goodness for my parents who swooped in with solutions. (It was these brilliant crossover clothes by JoJo Maman Bebe)

I was very low – always second guessing what everyone thought and deciding that they thought I couldn’t look after her. I stayed inside more often because I felt so self conscious. It wasn’t until she started getting bigger, or I was out with friends that I felt happier. The Health Visitors I discuss in my letter were not helpful and yet I have seen my friends have amazing relationships with their HV’s. I think I just got unlucky. The truth is, I didn’t need these women to question my mothering. I’m not perfect but I do work really hard to make sure she is looked after and loved. Which I think is the most important thing!

I wrote the letter because I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did and feel alone. That is why I think Hi Mama is brilliant – it gives many voices an outlet to share their experiences with parents who are just starting out.

Have a look at my letter here.

Me and Amy during those early days.