Don’t start clearing the loft on a Friday night

I’m big on clearing out the house. A while ago my friend Stu and I nicknamed it ‘project zero’ the idea is that we really don’t need that much to live happy, fulfilling lives and most of us are just surrounded by clutter.

I may have taken this a little far when a friend visited from America last year and commented that it looked like I’d been burgled. Oh well, you live and learn. Still, I feel uncomfortable if I’m surrounded by too much stuff and never pass up an opportunity to clear out stuff we’re no longer using.

With a visit to family last Saturday providing the perfect opportunity to pass on what’s left of the baby stuff, I couldn’t resist the temptation to venture into the loft to see what we could get rid of.

On reflection, starting at 6pm on Friday, when everyone else is trying to wind down for the weekend was possibly not the best idea. However I was determined and decided I’d just ‘quickly’ nip up there before my partner came home from work.

It wasn’t quick. It was dusty, dirty work and about 5 minutes into the task I started to regret my actions. In the end I perfected the system of anything not valuable and not heavy was thrown out the loft hatch and down the stairs, anything that could be passed on got thrown in the direction of our bedroom, ready to be sorted out.

Obviously my partner was thrilled after a 10 hour shift to come home and immediately be tasked with breaking up all the dusty, dirty rubbish. Fair play to him he did not complain, not even once and looked particularly pleased the next day when we’d dumped everything on family and left home with an empty car.

In future I’ll try and find a more appropriate time to empty the loft. Hopefully there’s not that much more stuff to be cleared as there’s much more exciting things to be doing on a Friday night.

Changing your routine can change your mindset

Last Friday my partner’s car died bringing us down to a one car household. As he has to drive to work and I work from the comfort of my sofa, it was quickly decided that he would have the car for most of this week.

This has led to a change of routine for me and the boys. We used to walk to school, then a combination of being lazy, me not being an autumn weather kind of person and driving to and from school meaning I get an extra 30 mins of work a day in, means a lot of school runs are done in the car. This is something I was vaguely aware needed to change but I always gave into the temptation of being able to squeeze in extra minutes of work. This week as my partner’s driven off, taking my freedom on wheels with him, the boys and I have walked to and from school. I’ve really noticed the changes this has meant:

The beginning and the end of the day feel like they’re happening at a more relaxed, less heart palpitating pace.

The dog gets walked to and from school and I don’t spend all day feeling guilty I haven’t walked him yet and stressing about when I’m going to have to stop working to walk him.

I have great conversations with the boys, learning all about their day before the get home and glue themselves to their iPads.

Even though it takes more time, everything feels more manageable

All these things has fed into what goes on after school at home. Every night I’ve ordered the boys off their iPads (after a while of them catching up on the latest games) and we’ve played proper games. Hide and seek, Uno, board games etc. Bedtimes have become easier and everyone in the house feels more relaxed (other than my partner who still has to battle the traffic to and from work).

Whilst not having a car certainly hasn’t been my favourite part of the week and I’ve not liked the cut off feeling it’s given me at times, the change in mindset and being forced to not rush around has done wonders for my mindset.

Progression means change

None of us like change right? I don’t know if it’s the fear of the unknown or what it is that means that we’ll often stay in a routine that doesn’t suit us rather than get into a better one.

I’ve been kind of like that with my business. This Demanding Life came out of a blog site I had been running for a few years which I turned it into a freelance consultancy. Last month after a lot of consideration, a lot of weighing up pros and cons, I took the plunge and incorporated as a company.

With doing this there has had to be a lot of change. For one I’ve had to be more organised with accounts. Secondly it’s motivated me to be more consistent with my marketing plan. This should come as second nature to me, having been a Marketing & Comms Manager for the majority of the last decade but it’s always harder to promote yourself, rather than someone else.

Not all change will be noticeable to anyone, other than my accountant who will hopefully thank me for finally conforming and using accounts software. One of the big changes I have been grappling with, which you will notice, will be that my Social Media hopefully becomes more consistent and this will mean having 2 Instagram accounts – 1 personal and 1 aimed at work. In theory this will be great. People wanting to see work related inspiration can hop onto the work account. People wanting to keep up with my crazy chaotic household can do so on my personal account.

I feel the flaw in this plan is that I’ll have 2 IG accounts. Already I tend to post different stuff to my Facebook and IG accounts because I’m too lazy to post twice when it comes to my personal pages. Will this be the case? Who knows? But I’ll let you know when the new work account is set up and you can decide for yourselves.

When in doubt, bribe the kids

I know I’m not the only parent who struggles to get a five year old to do as he’s told. This extends to pretty much everything but there are some specifics that he fights as part of his routine. At the beginning of this week I thought enough was enough. it should not be such a battle to clean teeth, leave the house for school without making a fuss and going to bed well. In the 3 minutes between having actually got him to clean his teeth and leaving for school I knocked up a quick reward chart and printed it out.

My little one has a will of iron, nerves of steel and needs a bigger incentive than just colouring in a reward chart, to do as he’s asked. With this in mind I told him every time he did something well, he could colour in the correlating symbol and it would go towards some pocket money for him. I asked how much he thought each symbol would be worth and he suggested five thousand. A little on the high side so we agreed on 10p each.

It may have taken me just over 9 years of parenting but this is the best idea I’ve had. We’ve had a week of good behaviour, he’s enjoyed colouring in the symbols and the best bit of all is he’s totally forgotten that each one has a monetary value. Something I can use at a later date to carry on bribing him with.

I have a feeling that trying to bribe the older kids to behave on occasion will take a lot more than a printed piece of paper where some of the pictures, hastily downloaded from Google, are still watermarked, some colouring pencils and a 10p reward. However I’m liking the bribery theory and will let you know what we settle on the next time I have to bribe them to behave.

Bravery pays off

I love the quote ‘the only thing to fear is fear itself’. Brené Brown also says that the biggest marker of courage is vulnerability and we often feel we’re having to be brave in the times when we’re making ourselves vulnerable.

Being quite shy, bravery for me can mean having to ask people something that draws attention to me or asking them to do something for me. The ridiculous thing is that very rarely people say no and if they do, it’s usually gentle and with good reason behind it.

Setting up 5 Things I Learned This Week was a big step of bravery for me. It was letting people into my life and I couldn’t control who would and wouldn’t be reading it. I know there are people who are screen shotting all my work, keeping files and hoping that somewhere along the line they can trip me up and use it against me. I knew I had to push on even though this was happening and I see other bloggers get trolled and a lot of hate posts and still carry on with what they’re doing. The fact that 5 Things has gone on to be loved by lots of people and had an almost unanimously positive response has been amazing.

With my new project, 5 Minutes With, I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone and ask people to do interviews. It’s good for the people being interviewed because their interview gets shared with my audience so it’s more exposure for them and it’s good for me because their audience gets made aware of my work. It’s win-win. However I have had an underlying feeling of ‘but who am I to do this? Why would people be interested in my work?’ etc…. So far I’ve asked 20 people for interviews and only 2 have (very gently) said no.

Years ago I was chatting with a couple of (well known) authors on Twitter and one (Sibel Hodge) asked me if I’d like to review her books prior to release. I love her style of writing so said yes. I was also very flattered, she’s won multiple awards and chose me as one of her reviewers. We’ve built a good relationship since then, chatting when new books come out and it was after seeing her interview with a blogger that I got the idea for Five Minutes With.

Earlier this week Sibel sent me her latest book, we got chatting and I asked her if she’d do an interview for me. Even though it was over email I felt so nervous – here’s a lady who’s published numerous books, is working around the clock and I’m asking her to do an interview so my readers can get to know her a bit better. Sibel was so lovely and said YES!! So there we go. Bravery pays off. In dividends. Now to work up the courage to ask the other people on my list.