Are your mornings really stressful with everyone rushing around at the last minute, running out of the door with forgotten PE kits and work bags, arriving at school with no time to spare? If this sounds like you, it may be time to take a long hard look at your morning routine.
Sit down with pen and paper and work backwards. For example, if you have a school run, write down when you need to leave the house in order to ensure that you arrive calmly and panic free. Then work out how long it takes to get everyone up, washed, dressed and breakfasted and work backwards to give you a getting up time for everyone. In our house, we need to leave the house by around 7:50 which gets us to school in 15 minutes before the traffic builds up. My daughter then has about 10 minutes sitting in the car, listening to her music and generally chilling before walking into school. In order to achieve this, I get up at 6:30am and get her up at 7am. This gives her time not only to get up but also to pack her school bag. If I got up at 7, it would make the whole morning very rushed. Sometimes just getting up half an hour earlier makes a big difference.
Ideally of course her school bag would be packed the evening before but some battles are not worth fighting! Having said that, there are a few things you can do the night before to make the whole getting out of the house thing less stressful.
- Get as much ready the evening before as possible. If you make packed lunches, make sure the bags are visible for the morning and pack ahead anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated like crisps. It gives you a head start and you get that warm, organised glow when you totter down in the morning.
- School uniforms can be hung up ready to go which also means you can check that your child has a clean shirt, socks etc.
- Put anything that needs to go out with you the next day by the front door so that it isn’t forgotten, anything from musical instruments to ‘own clothes day’ money.
This can all be part of a written down evening routine which I find really helpful at the end of a day when you are feeling tired. You can just look at your routine and work your way through it. See my previous post about routines here.
Having an organised morning gets the day started off right and can make a real difference to how everyone feels.
I know, the very word ‘ROUTINE’ sounds dull and boring.’ I am a carefree spirit’, you say, ’a creative, I don’t do routines’. Or similar. But the fact is that we all have routines, whatever we choose to call them. Most people generally get up at the same time each morning, eat breakfast, wash their teeth, catch the bus or train etc. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a routine.
When you are busy, it can be easy to forget things in the morning rush or the evening exhaustion. That’s when routines come in to save your sanity. Following them each day will give you peace of mind and take some of the stress out of the everyday. They can make the difference between making dinner because you have defrosted the chicken and getting yet another take-away with all the expense and guilt. And they can help you keep your home on the right side of clean.
So, how to get started?
- First of all, grab a couple or three sheets of paper and a pen or pencil. I always find good old pen and paper work best for planning as you can cross out and rewrite easily. Using a different piece of paper for each routine, label them Morning, Afternoon, Evening. If you never have an afternoon at home, then just leave it out.
- You can start with either the Morning or the Evening. Start with the Morning and write down everything you currently do at that time, from getting dressed to leaving the house. My morning routine includes making packed lunches, checking what’s for dinner in case I need to defrost anything, putting on the washing machine as required, and washing up the breakfast things.
- Once you have everything you currently do, add in the things you know you ought to do but often forget such as putting on the washing machine or unloading the dishwasher. That might be something like ‘Put daughter’s snack and drink in book bag’. When my daughter was at primary school, the pupils had to take in a snack and drink and if I didn’t put the ‘Put in bag’ bit on my routine, it would be the kind of thing I would forget to do until we were going out to the car. I would then have to rush back inside, adding to school run stress.
- Now do the same for the Afternoon and Evening. The Evening routine is really important as a good evening routine will set you up for a less stressful morning. For example, my Evening routine includes checking what’s for dinner the next day so that I can defrost any meat or fish required overnight in the fridge rather than desperately soaking it in hot water just as I am about to start dinner – oops! If you add clearing up the kitchen after dinner, the following morning you will come down to a nice clean and clutter-free kitchen. Putting out younger children’s school uniform ready for the next day means you have time to quickly wash a shirt or socks if they have run out.
- Remember, these are your routines and no-one else’s so they must work for you. If the idea of creating one is sending you running for chocolate and a lie-down, make them really simple to start with. You can build on them as you go. Here are some examples to get you started.
Simple routine – Evening
Clean kitchen sink and sweep floor
Lunch bags out ready to pack in the morning
Set out school uniforms
Check diary for appointments, school activities etc
Check what’s for dinner tomorrow – defrost?
Anything I can do now to make tomorrow easier?
Simple routine – morning
Pack lunch for children and put by front door/in bags
Breakfast for all
Put breakfast cutlery and crockery in dishwasher
Load of washing in machine on timer (to finish when I am home)
Simple routine – afternoon
Unpack and clean lunch bags
Check homework plan
Snack and drink for all
Homework to be started
Dinner prep if required
Check diary in case anything needed for eg school trip
- Write up your routines – in whichever way you like. I usually create mine in Word using a large font size. When the children were younger I used to add in a column so that I could tick as I went along – the routine was in a plastic folder and I used a washable felt tip. But once you have practised your routines for a bit, they become automatic and it is difficult to remember that you once had to write it all down.
- Put them somewhere you will see them! – this is the most important. I file my routines in an A4 folder which I leave open at the next page I will need. Other ideas are to print out and stick on the fridge, put them out on a kitchen worktop where you are bound to see them or keep them near your house diary. Your life will get easier if you follow them, I promise!
One person’s clutter is another one’s treasure and EBay can be a good way of cashing in on items you no longer want. I last wrote about Ebay 5 years ago so thought it was worth an update.
Since I last used it a few years ago, Ebay has changed in a couple of major ways:
- It has become a lot more commercial with many more professional sellers and EBay shops. There is still room for personal sellers but you do sometimes feel that you have a bit of a disadvantage compared to businesses.
- Ebay now charges fees on POSTAGE & PACKING as well as on the winning bid price. (see Fees section below for more information).
But I still think it is worth using for higher value items as you will probably get more for them than selling at a Car Boot Sale for example.
So, how to sell on Ebay?
- Starting off – You have to register as a seller which is quite a simple process. You are also recommended to have a Paypal account in order to receive payments. Once you are set up, click on Sell to the right of your name on the top of the screen and Ebay walk you through the process.
- Number of items – You can list up to 20 items for free every month and the typical personal seller is unlikely to need more than that. You only pay if your item sells which is good. Ebay has some on how to list. What follows is my personal experience of using Ebay.
- Photographs – try and take as good a photo as possible, avoiding glare off surfaces if you can. And don’t forget to use editing software to crop your picture so that the item fills the frame. And keep bits of you out of the photo – hands and fingers can easily creep in. If there is any fault with your item, then it is a good idea to include pictures of it – the more honest you are, the better. Again Ebay has some great advice for taking photographs. They recommend using their App and adding photos directly from your mobile as you list. I have never tried that myself as I prefer to list using a bigger screen, but it would definitely save a bit of time. I always try and take photos against a plain background. It is easy to do, using whatever you have lying around, white printer paper, for example. You can add up to 12 pictures for free and I usually include photos of the back and front of an item as well as any parts or accessories. It all helps sell.
- Titles of listings – include as much information as you can in the 80 characters allowed. For example, we recently sold several of my daughter’s Kpop (Korean Pop Music for the uninitiated) albums. I gave a detailed description of what we were selling, eg ‘BTS Skool Luv Affair CD plus photobook & photocard Kpop’ and also included the term Kpop which is what most fans would be looking for. I avoid Subtitles as they cost £1 and I don’t think it’s worth it if you do a good title and description and your item is not high value.
- Description – here you can give more details such as all the songs on an album as well as giving more information on any issues, for example any damage to an album cover. It is always better to be honest about the condition of an item. Buyers leave feedback and ideally you want as many positive reviews as possible so the fewer surprises for your buyer, the better.
- Starting price & fees – you can decide to sell your item at auction or for a fixed price. I have always used auction as I think you usually get a better price. If you are unsure what you might get for an item, add similar items to a Watch list from the EBay control panel and check when how much they went for at the end of the auction. Bear in mind that Ebay fees (payable at the end of the month your auction finishes) are 10% of both the final list price and the postage & packing. And, in certain categories, there is a ceiling to the amount of postage and packing you can charge, whatever its real cost to you. The Kpop albums we sold had high gloss photobooks included with them so weighed far more than a normal CD album. The p&p cost me £4.89 (£3.40 postage and £1.49 for a size 5 jiffy bag) but I could only charge a maximum of £3.50. High volume sellers can take advantage of buying packaging in bulk but it is tough on personal sellers in these situations. People regularly complain about this in the Ebay user forums and the usual advice is to make sure your starting price plus postage covers your expenses and fees. I must admit I was quite shocked when I realised that I had to pay on p&p as well but it is to stop sellers avoiding Ebay fees by having a low selling price and whacking up the p&p. There are other options for your listing but bear in mind that they all cost extra. For more information, see https://sellercentre.ebay.co.uk/private/what-fees-youll-pay
On the subject of pricing, you also need to bear in mind that Paypal charge 3.4% plus 20p on the end price plus p&p so you end up paying 13.4% plus 20p on all sales which is worth bearing in mind when deciding on your starting price.
- Auction length – I usually go for 7 days so that the auction ends on the day and time you originally posted. It’s easier to remember and plan for. I try and post my items at about 8-9pm as I reckon most people have finished their evening meal by then and are more likely to have time to bid. I also avoid posting on a Friday or Saturday as you want people to be IN when your auction is reaching its last exciting bidding moments! Of course, people can use the app and bid from anywhere but I reckon people are less likely to forget to bid if they are at home.
- Communicating with the buyer – Once the auction ends and you have (hopefully!) sold your item, communicate with your buyer via the Ebay messaging system. Send them an invoice (available via the My Ebay control panel) if they haven’t paid. As soon as the buyer has paid, you should post the item as soon as possible and definitely within the number of days you stipulated when you set up your listing. Don’t forget to mark the item as ‘Dispatched’ via the My Ebay control panel. Your buyer will automatically get an email to let them know the item is on its way. It’s all part of providing a good customer service and hopefully getting positive feedback from your buyer, which in turn will encourage others to buy from you next time you list. Don’t forget to leave feedback for your buyer as that will encourage them to leave you feedback as well.
And that is my longish guide to Ebay. As stated above, I like to use it for items that I think are likely to make a bit of money. And as usual, Love2Declutter’s tip is to recycle any items that don’t sell by taking them to a charity shop so that they aren’t cluttering up your house!