Monthly Archives: September 2012

My Martha House the Mary Way

Ever keen to find a better way to keep my life and home organised I have worked my way through Flylady, Side Tracked Home Executives, Bonnie McCulloch and any number of similar systems.  I’ve got a pretty good one that works for me but ….. there’s always a bit of green over the other side that needs to be checked out.

This bit of green was a little bit different, actually it was a lot different, it wasn’t so much green as shimmery with promise.  All the colours of a peacock tail.  It had me at hello (well it would have done if it could speak).


A Martha House the Mary way.  No not that Martha, this one hobnobbed not with Presidents and other cons but with Jesus.  Luke 10:38 At home with Mary and Martha, Mary cosies up to Jesus for a chat and Martha gets stroppy and martyr like as she does the dishes.  Sound familiar?  I can do martyrdom to a tee.  I can give postgraduate seminars on the best stance, facial expression and just how heavily to walk to give the perfect underdog overworked martyr impression (and I’m currently available in the run up to Christmas – a perfect time for the martyr to come out of the kitchen cupboard).

Ah ha!  The perfect book for me.  In fact it was but not for the reasons I had thought.  In theory the book takes you through your entire house in 31 days.  I’m working through it marginally more slowly.  The big difference though is that it isn’t a cleaning system nor is it an organisational system.  You can create those  yourself to suit you and your home.  This is about the approach and why you want to have clean and tidy home and HOW clean and tidy you want it to be.  Each day there are two challenges one is practical (Martha) and the other spiritual (Mary).  The very first Mary Challenge is to identify the specific reasons you want your home to be a haven and then write your own home mission statement.  Sound a bit iffy, a bit too touchy feely?  Think of the times you have had a mental list of all the things that need doing round the house, from the major decorating and repair jobs to putting away the washing.  How many times have you found something else to do?  But if you knew why you had to do them and what you would have when you did would you not be more likely to do them?

So I sat down to write our mission statement.  It was hard, it was very hard, but this is what I came up with eventually:

Our home is a place for laughter, for tranquillity, for celebrations, for rest. But most of all it is our refuge and the place where we can always return, where the welcome is honest, warm and inspired by the love of God

I’m only on Day 10 but it’s not a race and there are other things to do in life and other jobs and crises to manage.  Plodding along we’re sparkling a few rooms and tidied out some cupboards and drawers and learned a little more about ourselves as we go along.


What to put in wicker office

I am a peripatetic worker.  That is a posh way of saying a do a lot of different things to pay my daughters’ Top Shop bills.  My favourite desk is the kitchen table in our morning room but life and work is such that I have to be able to move around, and work as and where I can.  So my office has to come with me.

Meet my office.

I bought her last summer at (which is well worth a visit if you are in Wensleydale) and she has transformed my life.  She holds my A5 Filofax folder with the Uncalendar, my coloured fineliners, a box of various post-its, my splendiferous selection of highlighters, my laptop, my morning pages book, New Daylight, Simple Abundance, Keels Simple Diary and my filofax writing planner and still has plenty of room for a packed lunch, a wrap and my handbag on the top.

Hey ho and we’re ready to go.

The other big advantage is now I know where everything is.  If it’s not on the shelf in the morning room (my favourite desk remember) then it’s in the basket.

The only thing she can’t do is finish my novel for me …

The non list

It’s just over a week until my birthday and I realised today that there is nothing that I want.  Well that’s not strictly true in that there are a large number of things which I would I would happily accept if they turned up on my doorstep but nothing that I want enough to ask for it.

I haven’t needed anything for a long while,  I have everything I need and a lot more, but that hasn’t stopped me yearning for things.  Cashmere socks are a particular favourite,  in fact cashmere anything has been on my wanted list for many years.  But I have two pairs of lovely cashmere socks, I have a cashmere wrap, cashmere fingerless gloves (the latter two make the perfect working in a cold house outfit) and any  number of cashmere jumpers and cardigans.  I don’t need anymore.

But it’s not the not needing that has surprised me,  I have known I didn’t need anything for a long time.   It’s the not wanting,  I really don’t want anything in particular.

During Lent I stopped buying anything but essentials.  Friends mocked and suggested I could make anything an essential if I put my mind to it.  Indeed I could, but I didn’t.  Partly because I didn’t want to prove them right, but partly because I needed to see if I could do it.  It was surprisingly easy.

Before the internet if I wanted to go shopping I had to get in  my car and drive  to Durham, which is not a shoppers’ paradise, or head further afield to York or Newcastle.  Now I can buy almost anything I want from my kitchen table.  There is less effort and less thought.  Not shopping for Lent forced me to think before I made every purchase and for the most part I didn’t buy.

After Lent I started to fall back into my old ways,  although I did notice that I had become far more discerning and put things back down far more often (other than perhaps stationery!).  Perhaps the Lenten experience affected me more than I realised for all I really want for my birthday is to have a lovely day with my family.  Priceless but free.
BTW One of the suggested tags by WordPress for this post was “Mongolian Language”  anybody care to suggest where that came from?

Decision time. Erin Condren v Personal Planner UK

This is going to be such a hard blog to write because I know deep in my heart that I have already decided which planner I prefer and maintaining a fair and non-biased approach is going to be difficult.  So full steam ahead.

The PPUK is a true A5 whilst the EC is slightly larger.  Weightwise they are pretty much the same.  If size were to be an issue I can see that the EC might be a bit big to carry around with  you, but as my planner will be staying at home it’s not a problem for me.

The paper in the PPUKK is slightly thicker than EC.  I’m not much good at guessing paper weights but I would say that the PPUK is close to 110gsm whereas the EC is about 90gsm.  Now for the pen test.  I only use fountain pen, pencil or fineliners.  I would rather write in my own blood with a stick than use a biro or rollerball.  But for both there is no bleed and no show through on the other side.  So far so good.

Both have sturdy  metal ringbinders,  although the EC is considerably more sturdy than the PPUK.  With no more use other than sitting on the windowsill this week, the PPUK is slightly wonky around the bottom two rings.  Because they are ring binders they both lie completely flat, but the downside is that the rings will get in your way when you are writing (on the left page if you are right handed, on the right page if you are left handed.)

The EC comes with the option to purchase (at additional cost) an elasticated pen holder.  The PPUK doesn’t, but as they are freely available elsewhere it isn’t much of an issue.

There is an elasticated closure for the PPUK which is absent from the EC.  Again as my planner will be living at home this isn’t a problem, but if you are planning to chuck it in and out of bags you might want to find an alternative means of keeping it shut.

Both have wipe clean plastic covers.  In the case of the EC the coloured  cover IS the cover, in the case of the PPUK there are two clear plastic covers front and back.

Both come with plastic bookmarks.  The EC is the full size of the planner, the PPUK one is about 2/3 of the length of the planner.

Both come with clear plastic pockets.  The EC pocket is slightly smaller than the planner, is not removable but is sealable.  The PPUK pocket is the same size as the planner and removable but is open at the top.  The EC has an extra pocket at the back which is unsealed but the height of the pocket front is such that most things seem to be reasonably secure.

So to the inside.  The PPUK goes straight to calendar.  After the front page (which you can personalise with your own message and contact details) the first page is the week to a view of the first week of September.  The overview is at the back.  Personally I found this a bit odd, but there is nothing wrong with it.

The inside is where it gets a little hard to compare because you can personalise how the week to a view is set out in terms of plain, lined or a combination of the two.  You can also chose the colour of the paper and what you put in the little boxes across the bottom.  I can only compare with the options I chose.

I don’t do lines so I opted for completely blank  I did opt for the little weather and exercise boxes but in retrospect I think they were a bit of a waste of time.  I couldn’t bear not to put anything in the bottom so I opted for squared, list and plain.  Again if I was re-ordering I would go for plain all the way across.

EC gives equal space to all days of the week (HURRAH !) whereas the PPUK gives only half a column to Saturday and Sunday.  For some of us these are the busiest days of the week.  On the other hand I do like the completely blank columns of the PPUK whereas the EC breaks them up into Morning, Day and Night. If I decided to use this planner I think I will keep the top half for the day blocking and the other two sections for planning and notes.

Both planners have space for phone numbers and addresses, the PPUK has much more at 9 pages, whilst the EC has only 1 plus a page for important numbers (schools, doctor etc.)  As my planner doesn’t leave the house and all these numbers are in my house manual, I don’t need the A-Z

I have some plain and some lined paper at the back of the PPUK and that’s about it.

The EC has in addition Birthdays and Anniversaries.

Large monthly planner at the beginning of each month and plain and lined paper.

Year calendars for 2013 and 2014.

The EC also has laminated tabs for each month.

Now the key point for the PPUK is the personalisation, the ability to chose exactly how your planner looks and to print key personal dates in the diary for you.  I thought this would be great.  But the text is SO tiny!  Also the dates come with a little balloon next to them which frankly I thought was twee and also meant that dates which were important but not birthdays also had a balloon next to them.  I’m not sure my daughters actually celebrate the beginning of term!

Looking at the yearly overview the dates are inserted here too.  But again the text is so tiny that it seems a bit of a waste.

So have you guessed?  I’m sorry to say that even though I would always encourage people to buy British – this time I am going with the EC.  It just looks and feels better, it is laid out in a way I can use and frankly is a lot prettier!  But this comes at a price and if you are in the UK the shipping is almost as much as the planner itself.  Time will tell if I am prepared to shell out the eyewatering amount required again next year.

In which I explain

In the interests of balance between writing and planning  I was delighted that this arrived this morning.

However, so did this.

I cannot review the book until I have read it so writing followers who are bored to tears by endless pictures of planners, I am afraid you are going to have a wait a little longer.  Look upon it as patience practice.  You have just sent off your outline and first three chapters, each edited to the closest thing to perfection since Pippa Middleton’s bum and now you have to wait, feigning nonchalance until the reply floats onto your doormat some three months later.  I won’t make you wait three months.

I could review the Personal Planner UK, but even though it won’t take me as long to read as Julia Cameron it does merit a good going over.  Furthermore I promised Laurie at that I would do a comparison between the A5 Personal Planner UK and the Erin Condren and that will take some time.

So I shall stick to my original plan and give you a sneaky peek into how I am currently running my life with three planners (plus a few more  ….)  Planner and stationery freaks settle down and get comfortable, everyone else – normal service will resume next week.

Currently I am using three planners.  One is with me all the time, one is more of a working book for notes and comes with me when I am working, the last is the stay at home everything is in it planner

The Textagenda comes everywhere with me as a combined diary and notebook. There is a diary section at the top, not huge but enough.  I use the priority section underneath for a summary of the day’s pick up/drop offs/after school activities etc.  With three children two schools and a plethora of music lessons, running practice etc I need a quick reminder of where I have to be and when.  That leaves the rest of the page for notes, ideas on the move and rough journaling.

The Uncalendar is my daily planner.  Wherever and whenever I sit down to work I have it open next to me.  The daily to do list (colour coded so I can group types of activities together such as phone calls, errands, housework, research, paperwork etc.) goes under each day.  In the notes section at the back I have a rolling to do list.  I start the day with some reading, meditation and write my morning pages. Then I write out everything I have to do that day and then check the rolling to do list to see what other things I can shift from there onto today.  The colour coding is ideal for this if my day looks as if I am going to have to spend it out and about then I can take all the out and about items of the rolling list and do them at the same time.  Any key appointments or things I have to do are written in the yellow box at the top.

The other boxes are used for various things depending on the week.  The little graph is a visual record of goal achievements for that week.  The rest are used for notes/lists as appropriate for the week.

Finally the Erin Condren (or will it be the Personal Planner UK?) is the at home master planner.  Despite its beauty it does not leave the house and lives with my lap top and note books on the shelf in the morning room where I usually work.  The monthly pages are synched with the diary for appointments.

The week at a view is where this system has really come into its own for me.  I tend to work on a timer system.  As a writer I found if I set the kitchen timer and wrote solidly for 30 minutes I tended to reset the timer and write for another 30 minutes when it went off.  Without the timer I became distracted.  I have now applied that to my day as a whole.  As I usually work from home I have to have the discipline not to spend the entire day sorting out the cupboards (which I would much rather do!).  So once I have finished my to do list I chunk all the similar items (in the same colour) and allocate them chunks of time which I write in each day.  I can’t show you in the Erin Condren as it doesn’t start until the end of this month, up until now I have been writing the timetable in one of the boxes in my UC but it is messy and I prefer to see it set out chronologically on each day.

I have two other files but they are not planners as such.  One is the housebook.  This is a straightforward ring binder with two sets of dividers.  The first set is divided into each month.  At the beginning of each month is a sheet with a list of the birthdays and things that have to be done every year during that month.  Behind that goes any paperwork related to events happening that month.  This includes travel tickets, information or forms about school events, Family Railcard receipt; as soon as they arrive they are filed in the appropriate month.

After that there are sections for each member of the family to record ideas for presents, information my eldest has collected about universities etc.


There is a section for useful telephone numbers (two pages long, I put everything here, so much easier to have it all in one place) and personal numbers (passports, driving licences, policies, memberships etc.)

I write a menu plan each week and I clip or copy these in here so that I can see what I’ve cooked (and which book it came from) and whether it was a success or not.  Some unexpected meals have been huge hits and one or two sure fire hits were a pain in the neck to prepare and not all that great.

Finally there is a section for term cards.  One for each school, plus the dance school(s), choirs, Harriers and anybody else who sends me an annual calendar I need to keep.

The final file is my compact chameleon filofax which is my writing notebook.  Ideas as I have them are written on the go in my Textagenda and then transferred to the appropriate section in my filofax.  There are sections for each of three books, for short stories, blog, competitions, contacts and a record of what work I have sent to which agent or publisher.

That’s all folks, and frankly I think it’s quite enough.



I didn’t really ………. did I?

You know that moment when you wake up in the morning and as the light comes through the window reality hits you and you bury your head in the pillow and ask yourself, more in hope than expectation, “did I really do that?”  Well my email pinged yesterday and as I read the message that sinking feeling swept upon me.  Had I really done that?  Twice in one week?  Could I keep it a secret from my husband or was it better to be honest and upfront?  I was momentarily grateful that unlike those early compuserve days we no longer share the same email address.

Several cups of tea and a dog walk later the future was looking less bleak.  In fact it had become decidedly rosy.  I wasn’t being disloyal I was considering all the options for the best future.

For today I received the email that informed me that my Personal Planner UK had been dispatched and was on its way to me.  A mere two days after the arrival of the soon to be beatified Erin Condren Planner the personalised Personal Planner UK will make its entrance.

I spent the afternoon rearranging planners and have what I think is frankly a spiffing system.  However, even I can only incorporate one personalised A5 planner into the programme.  Will this be the cuckoo in the nest or can absorption be achieved?  Tomorrow I reveal the current game plan.

In the meantime have you managed multiple planner paradise?

Dare I open the box?

This is fast turning into a planner blog rather than a writing blog.  But as it is my new year and the time when I succumb to my love of all things stationery and it is my blog after all, planners it is again.

This arrived yesterday.

Inside was this.

Inside that was this.

And inside that was this.

And now we can open the book….

Welcome to my new best friend 🙂

Cheery reminder to be more mindful of the here and now.

Lists for birthdays and all the other important dates.  I actually have these on our family home book in each month section and again listed on the Dodo pad on the wall but it’s good to have them all in one place here.

I do like a decent sized full year calendar, my eyesight is not what it was and my glasses frequently upsticks and hide.  When taking bookings for our holiday home it’s helpful to have a full year calendar easily to hand to check in and out dates.

Month to a view.  With three sets of school terms (all slightly different) and a husband who is frequently away it is vital that I can see at a glance who is where and then work out how I am going to get them home again!

Week to a view.  I am not entirely sure how I am going to best use this as I can’t give up my uncalendar.  I am thinking blocking and planning, but more of that in the next post when I work out how I am linking all this together.

Pretty pages for doodling.  There are lined pages too, but I don’t really do lines!

Useful numbers – or perhaps not.  Some are superfluous, but we’ll see.

Lots of stickers for all sorts of events from birthdays to baby showers, date nights to pay day.  Why we can’t just write them in the diary I’m not sure.  Also there are four stickers for no school – if my kids only had four days off school each year there would be hell to pay!  But hey ho, they came with the kit and they are in pretty colours.  There are a couple of pages of blank ones as well.  You can ever buy extras should you feel so inclined ….

Pocket for loose bits of paper.  Reasonably sturdy and as it’s deep there is less likelihood of said bits of paper taking flight.

Finally a plastic pocket at the back.  As it also came with a whole load of free stickers, cards and labels, I think for the time being they will live in here, but I suspect that my mini moleskine would be happiest in here.

Later this week – how all my lovely planners link together.  And just in case the cynics amongst you were wondering …..I’ve written 4 thousand words this week.