Why I’m embracing Second Hand September and more (in any month)
Holly's take on it
HOW TO GET ORGANISED:
9 TOP HACKS FROM HOLLY
There are three reasons I love September: seeing my niece Olive all giggly and excited on the first day of term, watching the celebration of colour as the garden turns from the quietness of greens to the most riotous of reds, and the annual talk of ‘getting organised’ — which to me, isn’t as much my happy place as full on nirvana. From how to organise your wardrobe, to how to organise your life, anything that saves time and stress is golden to me.
Yet why must we always wait until September? As women, we have a ton of invisible labour to do seven days a week, 12 months a year. If we’re not being efficient and orderly, bringing calm to chaos, our lives (and the lives of those around us) would disintegrate like a biscuit, triple-dipped in tea.
As much as we’d like to say ‘fuck it’ and down tools for the love of our life, our kids and very often our own sanity, it’s a slow burn to get things to move, so we need to find our own hacks to crack on. That’s why I’m sharing some of mine. From gift buying filing systems to monthly bill sorting, here are some of the foolproof ways I’ve learnt to organise life, the universe and everything — in fact, even my own death.
HACK ONE: WRITE DOWN YOUR HOUSEHOLD CHORES
Firstly, I encourage (implore even) everybody to have open and honest conversations with their other halves about who needs to do what at home. Invisible labour (ie. the reams of unpaid and often unrecognised work that requires hours of immense skill and mental juggling to deliver) is real and women bear the brunt of it. On average, we do three times more of this than men according to the Mental Health Network¹.
One of the exercises you can do to help mitigate this is to write down everything that needs to be done over the course of a month — from thinking about it or researching it to actually doing it — and see what happens. More than likely, this list will be a lot longer than expected.
You can then reallocate tasks fairly between you and any other members of your household — or if you don’t live with anyone and just have to suck it up, then write the jobs down anyway to mitigate the constant brain fatigue as you constantly think of them. Trust me, it helps. I truly believe the best way to get organised is to start by getting it out of your head and onto a to-do list.
HACK TWO: SET TIME ASIDE TO SORT YOUR FINANCES AND FILE THEM BEAUTIFULLY
Bill paying is my job at home so I keep a spreadsheet with every renewal date for every contract we have, so I never need to let these automatically run over and end up costing more than we really need to pay. Especially in times like these, when we’re all trying to save.
I usually go paperless where I can but there still seems to be a lot of bills through the post each month and so I make sure I open any nice-looking or urgent mail right away, then the rest all goes into a very lovely vintage box. Much to my father’s horror, it’s once a month that I sit down and go through everything. It works for me as it stays in its place. I keep beautiful box files so that once everything’s been dealt with, I file it all away for reference in the relevant colourful wallets inside, each labelled with names like ‘household bills’, ‘Harry’, ‘utilities’ etc. Forget those plastic, grey, office, lever arch numbers because you want your filing to be good looking so you can face doing it.
HACK THREE: ORGANISE YOUR GIFTING TO FIND MEANINGFUL PRESENTS
Gifting is extremely important to me. I’ve built a business on it, it’s a core part of my values and it makes my soul sing. Every quarter, I sit at my computer and do three months’ worth of birthdays in one go. So when I’m shopping and get inspired by something, even if a birthday’s coming up in two months’ time, I buy it there and then, so I know it’s in the bag and ready. I cross off each one as I go through them but only ever do three months at a time. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stress this reduces as if you’re anything like me, the idea of last minute panic buying for someone I really care about makes me feel sick. This solves it (and if you need a go-to present for the women in your life, a gift for the men in your life, or even a present idea for a tricky teen, read my posts).
HACK FOUR: HAVE A CARD FOR EVERYTHING
Making my card organiser was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It splits cards out between different categories (that go way beyond the obvious like ‘birthdays’ and ‘weddings’ and into niche things like ‘pet loss’ or ‘first tooth out’).
I also have categories for my best friends and family, so when I see a card that’s perfect for someone, I have it there ready and know that they’ll love it. This essentially means that I give myself permission to buy a shitload of cards so that for any occasion, and for any person, I have the perfect message ready to send some sunshine through the post. The downside is that Harry and Frank think I’m a free card shop but it also means that if a friend is having a hard time, I can let them know I’m thinking of them immediately when they need it and I don’t have to go out searching.
HACK FIVE: SORT OUT YOUR PHONE AND KEEP IT HANDY
We’re all spending waaaay too many hours on our phones as it is, and there’s really no need for us to have to be whizzing through pages trying to find an app in a sea of others every time we need it, too. So I curate all of mine into folders from travel, finance and utilities, to film, business, social media and so on. This means that rather than having hundreds of floating icons to sift through, I can find everything I need quickly in a handful of folders. I also love a phone strap so that it’s closeby when I need it and ensures I always have my hands free for whatever needs doing.
HACK SIX: FOR A SHORTCUT TO CREATIVITY, ENSURE EVERYTHING YOU WEAR HAS A HOME
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to getting dressed, I am meticulous about my wardrobe. The way I feel and how I express myself creatively is very linked to it. I like to have a new look every day and it’s very much part of my creative process. I am lucky enough to have carved out a number of cupboards at home (more than Frank gets!) and so I colour coordinate almost everything. So if I’m feeling red one day I can express myself accordingly and so on.
Everything has its own section and all arranged by hue to keep time-wasting down to a minimum. In fact, with trainers, because I wear them every single day and believe in maintaining them, I have a sponge set with them so when I give my face a wash at night I can give my trainers a quick clean at the same time. Jewellery is either on makeshift hooks (made from customised, cut-down curtain poles) or in beautiful boxes. It may sound intense but when you add up the time you waste trying to find an item or working out what to wear, multiplied by the frustration you feel when you’re having to wear the same thing each day for ease, this just works.
HACK SEVEN: SWAP YOUR EVERYDAY ORDERING TO SUBSCRIPTIONS
Upgrading much of my household shopping for the subscription model was huge for me. Now, if something has the option to come automatically, that’s what I’ll opt for, to save both time and often money, too. Whether it’s dog food from Lily’s Kitchen, toilet roll from Who Gives A Crap, drinks from DASH or face products from Beauty Pie for example (see more in this article), it now all just arrives without me having to think about it. In fact, I’ve been meaning to get my cards and stamps delivered monthly too from the brilliant Hadley Paper Goods, which must always be just such a lovely surprise. To me, convenience and efficiency like this are a key benefit of the 21st century and I, for one, am making the most of it.
HACK EIGHT: HAVE A JOINT FAMILY DIARY
In our house, if it’s not in the joint diary it’s not happening. We are — or rather I am, and then I annoy the shit out of Frank and Harry — fanatical about making sure everything is included. It means that any family logistical squabbles are kept to a minimum. I’ve tried progressing that into a to-do list and a food ordering list but they’ve fallen flat on their faces and there’s only so much energy I can spend organising the boys so I’ve accepted I have to pick my battles.
HACK NINE: DON’T LEAVE DEATH UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE
I bought this brilliant ‘Death Book’ by Spacemasks that helps you plan what happens after you’ve gone, to help make things easier for your family and loved ones. It sounds morbid but when you think about it, what could be more important? I’ve also bought one for each of my family members as I know when they go, it will be one of the saddest times in my life but if they do go before me, I will desperately wish I’d known what they wanted or that they’d had time to think about their funerals and who they wanted their most precious belongings to go to, and we all know how fallouts can happen so it just seems to make sense to me. It’s been a slow burn to get others to understand that they need to do it but I’m going to persevere! The books are so popular, they do sell out from time to time, but speaking of perseverance, they are worth the wait.
And those are my hacks. So if you want to channel your inner Anya (Hindmarch, who is the Queen of Organisation after all and self-confessed ‘label addict’), hear her share her ingenious ideas on my podcast. Her ‘Labelled’ shop is just one of the cleverest examples of delivering what women need I’ve ever seen — with a pouch or a pocket for everything.
Finally, don’t worry if getting organised takes time. For more ideas, read my article on why what you can and should do in a day aren’t necessarily the same thing.