Learning to let go

This weekend I disabled the auto-renew on four of my domain names. When they expire, they’ll no longer be mine – and this is a rather strange feeling.

Some are old, some are ones I’ve not used yet, some I had great plans for but things have changed.

Mostly, there just physically isn’t enough time for me to maintain fourteen websites. Disabling these and letting them go leaves me with ten domain names and seven actual sites – carlalouise.com / carlawatkins.com / carlawatkinsphotography.com / runawaydays.co.uk / unfurlingyourwings.com / sillykittens.co.uk are all sites that I use and maintain and develop, plus of course inkdrops.co.uk which sits separately.

duckingfabulous.com / mermaiding.co.uk / mermaiding.uk / paperdollsburlesque.co.uk are all redirects, but valuable to me nonetheless.

So what am I giving up and saying goodbye to?

The Website Beautician

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The Website Beautician is officially retiring when the domain expires in early December – I’ve been doing minimal maintenance work for a good 18 months now, and avoiding taking on any more website work. I loved the clients I had and their glorious small businesses, but it was one of those times where following your passion isn’t the answer to everything.

It turns out that though I enjoy fiddling with my own sites, and will happily sit up till 2am tweaking CSS, that joy turns to terror and heavy responsibility when someone else’s site, livelihood and money are involved.

Girl Meets Van

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Girl Meets Van has also sadly come to a halt, because I accidentally bought a house last summer, it’s needed a lot more work to it than I anticipated, and the last of my camper van savings are going on the studio build which is starting at the end of October – I’ll finally have an office/studio space again and I can’t wait!

(I’m typing this to you from the bureau in my living room, where both laptops balance precariously among filing, the mic and piles of post its. My wall planner is draped over the sofa. It is driving me INSANE.)

While I’m letting girlmeetsvan go somewhat reluctantly, I’m also acknowledging that actually, my life goals and what I want have changed since I started that fund and blog.

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A peek inside my handbag

It’s almost two years since I last did a “what’s in my bag” post, and today I was doing some product shots anyway, so I emptied my bag.

in my handbag March 2016

Definitely doing better than before… though no kitty helper in this picture!

My purse: pretty standard object for a handbag, this one is the one that was stolen when I was visiting a friend, and then found its way back to me eight months later, courtesy of Reading police station.

My phone: another pretty standard item, this is my Honor 7 – I made the leap away from Samsung a month or so ago, when prices got ridiculous. So far, I’m delighted with my choice!

Burts Bees lipbalm: winter essential. This one’s mango flavoured, I love it.

Emergency charger: not that necessary yet as new phone has amazing battery life. Which is just as well, given I appear to have misplaced the actual lead to connect it to my phone…

Tangle Teezer hairbrush: my new favourite thing. I left my hairbrush on my day job desk before the bank holiday weekend, and rather than go in to fetch it, just didn’t brush my (waist length) hair for two days. Bought this, spent 20 mins brushing my hair, it was soft and smooth and tangle-free again. Properly impressed.

Four pens: an improvement on the last time I did this, when I had a pencilcase containing 15! The last of these is also a stylus and torch.

Tissues: because I’m permanently sniffly.

Mermaid tail fabric sample: I mean, who doesn’t carry one of these in their bags?! I’ve been bikini shopping and wanted to see which ones best suited my tail, as I rarely swim without it any more.

Antihistamine tablets: See tissues. (Also an improvement on the half a pharmacy I usually cart around)

Keys: I have no idea why these keys are in my bag, they’re not my front door keys or my car keys. But at least I now know where they are!

Sleek pout polish: instant lip balm and blusher. Which is 90% of the makeup I wear most days.

My Winter fabric swatch pack from In Love With Colour: Since having my colours done I carry this everywhere – the colours I choose are mostly instinctively Winter, but it’s nice to have confirmation when I’m out and about

A Creme Egg and a Wispa: my all time favourite chocolates. Just in case I get munchy.

My beloved Fuji point-and-shoot: I use this camera like other people use notebooks, and record stuff that’s happening, people and life, and also the things and places and ideas I want to come back and shoot with my full kit. It’s also a really pretty camera!

Chewing gum and YET ANOTHER LIP BALM: apparently I really, REALLY like lipbalm – three in one tiny bag!

What this stuff says about me? I hope it says I’m excited, happy and ready for anything. What I suspect it says is that I’m dreamy, super-connected, and always sneezing…

What’s in your everyday bag?

Goodbye 2015, you were epic

A whole year has passed, and this one so full of enormous and life changing events I don’t even know where to start.

The first and most obvious was buying my house – after endless viewings of places that were either too big, too small, too expensive or in the wrong place, the truth leapt out at me that the house I was renting was the place I loved most in the world. It was home for my kitties and me, and it was just right for the three of us, if in need of a bit of modernising.

So I asked my lovely landlord if buying this house was a possibility, and a few months later, we completed the sale. Then the most whirlwind few months of my life began – with the help of my parents and some bloody brilliant trades, I took down trees, changed the entire inside layout of the house, stripped and redid the wiring and plumbing, had a new kitchen, most of a new bathroom (I put a new bath panel in but left the bath & tiling – it’s already pale blue from my hair dye so figured there was no point buying a shiny new white one to dye that blue too…!), carpets, furniture, a sofa, a new mattress, a new base because I bought a heavy mattress… you name it, I think I’ve done it in the last four months.

In that time, I also moved back in with my parents for five weeks (I can cope without heating or internet but not without either), lost and found (but didn’t really lose, she’s just good at hiding) Clover-kitty, laughed, cried, rediscovered how much I love DIY and my overalls, found out I hate painting after the novelty has worn off, and got rid of a good 50% of what I owned.

Luna, Clover and I moved back in on October 10th, and though at that point I didn’t have flooring, a sofa or a proper bed, it was wonderful to be home. Now everything is more or less finished and it’s just the last lot of unpacking and the garden & studio to go, I am overcome every morning that this is my home, my permanent home, my kitties’ forever home – that it’s so beautiful, and it’s ours, and we get to stay.

There’s a profound change in mindset when you go from renting to owning, and it seems more pronounced for me here as it’s the same house I’ve lived in for a few years. It’s funny how protective I suddenly am of my carpet now I know I’ve paid for it and will have to replace it if anything happens! It’s been the biggest creative project I’ve ever undertaken, and in a weird way it’s also only just started – having sorted out the basics, I can now focus on decor, furnishings, fabrics, art and really putting my stamp on it. Eeeee!

So it’s also been the year I’ve put down roots – I have amazing friends locally for the first time since I left uni, and they are a wonderful addition to my far-flung friends, who I think now span every corner of the world!

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The undisputed highlight of this year was the trip to Texas to see Alan Jackson play live. I still can’t believe we got tickets, and such good tickets – we were right at the front, he was no further away than the length of my living room. I’ve rarely been so emotional, and it really was the trip and the gig of a lifetime – and a dream come true. I never thought I’d get to see him play live, and I’m so very glad to have been able to do it with both Mum & Dad with me.

The rest of the trip was incredible too – it was utterly lovely to catch up with all our friends over there. And I’ve found somewhere else in Texas that I could happily call home. I’ll always love Fort Worth, but the island of Galveston, with sea, sand and shops called The Witchery and The Naked Mermaid stole a little piece of my heart. I’ll go back one day…

My businesses have been a bit quieter in the second half of the year – partly because of the house, and partly because I finally got out of my own way and allowed myself to explore the possibility of making photography part of my business model. It’s my first love, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t constantly accompanied by a camera. As part of that shift and commitment, I have joined Shining Lights, an ongoing mentoring programme for creatives that started out specifically for female photographers. I joined in November this year and it has been transformative already. I’ve also booked a one to one day with my favourite photographer, Kerrie Mitchell – it’s in March and I’m already overexcited! I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Unfurling Your Wings was officially born this year after 18 months of dreaming, writing and rewriting.  22 brave ladies worked through the first ever live course, sharing insights and connection, and generally humbling me with the way they handled some quite big life shifts. I’m now making tweaks following their brilliant feedback, and will be launching properly later next year. This year, as I’m blatantly not going to get round to publishing this post till after midnight!

I have a new venture (well, several actually – when don’t I have new projects on the go?!) and the stock from the shop here will shortly be moving over to the Unicornery, which will launch in Spring/Summer 2016 with unicorns, mermaids and mythical, magical goodness galore!

I did manage a three day business retreat with the gorgeous Louise Rose Couture, down in Wincanton for the weekend that Hogswatch would have been.  We’re agreed that it was one of the best things we’ve ever done for our businesses – getting away from real life and all the endless things that need to be done when you’re in your own home, escaping to where nobody knew us, and spending three whole days working on our directions, our ideas, our thoughts and dreams and hopes. With a healthy dose of common sense from the other, because both of us can get carried away on occasion!

Out of that I found myself ditching some domains and blogs I no longer use (goodbye, Letters from my Twenties, Girl Meets Van and the Website Beautician), and simplifying and clarifying what I do have, so they fit with my new direction. Which is awesome.

Ink Drops continues to thrive, selling out two to three months in advance, as I write. Turns out there are a lot of stationery addicts like us out there! I love it so much, and I’m so excited to grow our little company in 2016.

I’m feeling more fired up about my businesses than I have been for ages, and I am determined that 2016 is the year I make some really big steps forward!

Kitteny cats and other pets.

a pile of kittens (Luna and Clover)

Oh, my beloved kitteny cats. June saw their 2nd birthday, and November the two year anniversary of when they came home to live with me forever. I am still slightly bemused that I spent so much of my life thinking I wasn’t a cat person – I am SO A CAT PERSON!! They make me laugh every day, they’re snuggly and silly and loving and ridiculous by turns, and I can’t imagine life without them nor remember what life was like before them.

We’ve had our share of frights this year – in February Clovie gave me quite a lot more grey hairs, by falling over and lying sadly on the floor, then spending the whole of the following day at the vet on a drip. She came home that night with a bandage around her leg and generally milked it for all she was worth – bounding around on three legs and demanding to be hand fed chunks of tuna, as they had fed her at the surgery. I believe I have a diva on my hands. Anyway, she was fine in the end, and to my very great relief it wasn’t the antifreeze poisoning we had initially suspected and feared.

The day before I moved out of my house for the main works to start, and just a few hours before they were due to go on their initial holiday to Hilltop, Clover failed to come home after lunch. Though she’s the treat monster of the house, even rattling her favourites failed to bring her home, and by 7pm I was a snivelling mess, wandering the streets with treats in hand, calling brokenly for my lost kitty. Just as I was about to give up and lose the plot entirely, my lovely neighbour turned up looking a bit sheepish and with a rather large scratch – he’d accidentally shut her in his garage in the pouring rain at 8.30am, and when he’d opened it in the evening she’d been spitting mad and starving hungry (she’s always hungry, lol). I definitely could have reacted better to that particular incident, but I was already so rattled by my house being all over the place and moving out, I wasn’t in the greatest of mental places.

While at my parents, Clover (again!) managed to scare the life out of all of us by finding the smallest, darkest, most hidden place in the whole flat and curl up for a nice long sleep. For four hours, she snoozed undiscovered while we assumed she’d escaped out of the sash windows and fallen to her death. We cried, shouted at each other, printed lost posters (to distribute to all the flats we were trying not to alert to the cats’ presence in the first place, as they’re not really allowed there), and generally experienced heartbreak on a scale I hadn’t even imagined. I had no idea how much it would hurt, to believe my kitty truly lost to me, and possibly dead.

So when, after all that heartache, Dad discovered her inches from him, hidden in the tiniest possible space under the printer, I could happily have smacked her furry little bottom (!) and I have a lot more sympathy for parents who shout from pure relief when they think their children are lost and then they come back. And of course I’d never hurt my kitties. Instead I showered her with love, with which she was distinctly unimpressed, shut all the windows, retrieved Luna from where she’d retreated into the bottom of the cupboard to escape her mad sobbing human, and proceeded to take both of them to bed. Where they both refused to sleep in their usual places on my head and my feet. But I had them both back safely. Worst day ever with the best possible ending.

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And just this morning, I heard an ominous thump, then found Luna crouched on the floor rather than sprinting away. When I picked her up and put her down again, she sort of crouch-limped across the conservatory floor, nearly giving me a heart attack, so I rang the vet and made an emergency appointment. Of course, ten minutes later I caught her bounding across the house at full speed, with nothing at all wrong with her. Cats!! Took her in anyway so that I could relax today, and it turns out she has one, possibly two, dislocating knees that she’s had since birth. They don’t cause her pain, but they do sometimes pop out which will cause her to shake her leg around until they pop back in. Le sigh!

But those incidents aside, they’re beautiful and gorgeous and snuggly and wonderful, and I’m immensely grateful to have had another year with them. And so glad we get to stay in the home they’ve known since they were six months old, and that they are so happy in.

harriet and me

In sad animal news, this year we lost my beloved Harriet, who got me through so much pain and heartache when I first moved to Essex. I credit her with keeping me sane and alive on my worst days, and though she isn’t my own dog, she’s left a border collie shaped hole in my heart that no animal will ever be able to fill. I’m immensely grateful for a random series of events in September which meant that I got to spend an hour or so snuggled with her on the forbidden sofa for belly rubs before the rest of the household woke up, and which turned out to be the last time I ever saw my gorgeous girl.

My lovely friend Lizzie also lost her wonderful cat Mr M in December – he was one of my favourite ever cats and he is very much missed. <3

2015 has been gloriously full of fantasy and fun.

I had a steampunk and fae alter ego shoot with the fabulous Grace Hill earlier in the year, and introduced my steampunk gypsy alter ego, Petronella ‘Nell’ Blythe Merriman, to the world; there were unicorns aplenty, including an incredible cross stitched one by Sarah; and I finally got my longed for mermaid tail. I’m taking it for a spin on Monday – and I hope to add mermaiding to my income streams as well as keep it as a hobby.

I tried (and loved, despite the bruises) hula hooping with Anna the Hulagan, returned to line dancing, and I took up regular burlesque again as the Jems brought a class to Colchester, yay! I’ve cross stitched and coloured in, tried my hand at NaNoWriMo (I’m still shit at writing fiction but I really enjoy the challenge) and our Crafty Coffee group has grown. I met up and shot with the Colchester photographers’ group, and 2016 holds a writers’ meetup and a photography group at work, too.

2015 has been the year I have properly embraced single-at-heart. I didn’t actually know it was a thing until relatively recently, but oh, god, the relief of finding hundreds of other people in the world who just aren’t that bothered about finding love – like me, they’re too busy with their lives and business and animals and friends. And the concept of your primary relationship being with yourself, always – I can’t begin to describe how much that resonated. Though I’m sure I’ll waffle about it on here at times. I love my life, and I especially love my freedom. It can take some explaining, as people tend to assume that if you’re single, you’re looking for a man, even when you assure them you’re not – but it’s lovely to have found a niche at last.

Perhaps that’s part of being nearly 30… I feel like I’ve spent the last decade searching for where I fit and belong, and where I proudly stand out, and what I really want out of life. If that’s the case, I’m extra excited for my thirties!!

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Family and friends – this year would have been completely impossible if not for my incredible parents. My house is a monument of their love for me – from them being there every day to project manage, to diving in and doing the DIY despite their health issues, to housing me and the kitties for far longer than they expected without a murmur of protest, they have made my dream life leap closer and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put my gratitude into words. (Though I’ve tried, with a Spotify subscription, C2C tickets for March and a yet-to-be-chosen treat for Mum, plus lots of Christmas presents).

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We also had Christmas at my house this year which was really lovely – though we escaped to my favourite pub for actual lunch, it was so good to host in the house we’d worked so hard on!

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I’ve not seen as much of Gran as I normally do because the house took up every waking moment, but I’m looking forward to seeing her more regularly next year. Here we are in the summer – she takes a great selfie!

I am now the proud cousin of 43 and one on the way – and my eldest odd-daughter (we’re not religious and we prefer odd-daughter and odd-parent to goddaughter and godparent) and her other half have acquired an adorable puppy called Dexter. He’s a puggle. He is ridiculous and glorious. My middle odd-daughter is starting to visit universities and my youngest is halfway through GCSEs. I suddenly feel almost like a grown up- albeit one who swims like a mermaid, wears wings and fervently believes in unicorns. The rest of my extended family is as fabulous as ever, though my aunt and I have been hilariously successfully booking and cancelling lunch with each other for months as life conspires against us… perhaps 2016 will be our year?!

My gorgeous friends. The old and the new, the geographically distant and the ones just up the road. I’d be lost without you and I love you all. There have definitely been some shifts in my friendships over the last few years, as we’ve all grown into ourselves and started building our lives – hopefully the lives we dreamed of. There have been some drifts and some unexpected reunions, some people I get on far better with now than I did growing up, and some whose lives are so different now that though we love each other, we don’t have a lot in common any more.

There are always the people who, no matter how long it’s been since we last talked, even if that’s counted in years rather than months, always feel like I saw them yesterday, and we pick up just where we left off. And then there are my new friends, who have all solidified from acquaintances this year. As always, when I click with new people, I rapidly can’t imagine life without them. I’ve not managed to scare any of them off (yet)! And all of them, old and new, feel like blessings.

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Two of my best friends got married this year – one in May, one in March. I was bridesmaid at one and photographer and witness at the other, and oh, it was so wonderful to see two of the girls I love the most formalise their relationships with their frankly awesome men. I’m proud to have them both as honorary brothers in law.

One of my gorgeous uni girls had a baby in November, a seismic shift but a good one for our university group. More or less everyone my age is getting engaged or married, including my first love – we must be getting old! I am delighted for them all but a bit nervous about how I fit eight weddings in next year and possibly more in 2017. My sister-by-choice is pregnant and due in January – I’m unbelievably excited but also apprehensive, as though nothing could ever hurt our friendship, children do change things.

There has been a rash of house buying too – we must be at that age, all of a sudden. But I’m very much looking forward to a 2016 full of weekends away, at weddings, at hen gatherings and at people’s new homes.

Work wise, I passed the three year mark at the university – I have never in my life stayed in a job more than 21 months at the outside, so this was a major milestone.  Having panicked a bit and then realised my panicking was just habit, I’ve come to the conclusion that because I have an incredible amount of freedom on campus, to work how and where best suits me, I’m not finding it as restraining and draining as my previous jobs have been.

I think I’ve also started feeling differently about my day job since I agreed the sale of the house – suddenly regular income has a lot more appeal than it used to! And the people at work are amazing… it never ceases to astound me how lovely it is to find likeminded people who get me, who think like me and who accept me heart and soul for who I am. Mermaiding obsessions and all!

The day job highlights have to be the day the Comms office called me to say they’d saved some newspaper clippings of me in my knickers (promoting the new burlesque classes) and the sheer enthusiasm that followed the stunned silence when I told my team I was phoning our leisure centre to get permission to swim in my mermaid tail. I can’t begin to express how much it means that I work with people who understand how important everything out of work is!

There has been so much more to this year, and intriguingly this isn’t the post I thought I was going to write – but it’s an apt summary of one of the most rollercoaster years I’ve had. I hope that 2016 is just as epic but a little calmer – I’d like to have some time to breathe without worrying about what I’ve missed, not done or am getting behind on.

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As a final note, my words for 2015 were Freedom, Magic and Simplicity. I think I’ve achieved them all in spades – and they all helped in all sorts of unexpected ways. Simplicity especially, as in January I had no intention of buying a house, but by August I had – and in packing everything up so I could renovate, keeping a focus on the simplicity I craved but had never mastered made it much easier to get rid of stuff. It’s also making it easier to unpack and be very selective about what makes it back into my house from the garage.

There is always magic in my life, but far more so now I have my own house. And I think more than a little magic is in my mermaid tail and my friendships, my family and my kitties being safe and sound despite their tendency to get into mischief. I’ve found the magic of belonging and of finding my place in the world – the home I want to live in for a long time to come, and also greater clarity in my businesses and projects than I’ve ever had before. The confidence I’ve found in my photography after a decade of fear is also nothing short of pure magic. (or PFM, as my Dad would say).

Freedom… has come to me in an unexpected way. I don’t have the full self employed freedom I always thought I wanted, and do still eventually want. What I have instead is a steady income with an amazing manager who understands that I work best when I’m not cooped up – so I can work wherever and whenever is best for me as long as I’m on campus during the working day. Which is fine by me. I suddenly have freedom from renting and the security that comes from making payments towards your own place – sounds odd I know, but it makes such a difference to how I feel. And for the first time in my life I have better control over my money and no debt except for the house – which is giving me unprecedented creative freedom, as I stop wasting energy worrying about my overdraft and instead pour it into my imagination.

And on that note, I’m off to work through Unravelling and Leonie’s planners, and get my bullet journal sorted for next year… and think about what words I want to fuel my 2016.

Happy new year, my loves – congratulations if you read this far, and thank you, always, for reading at all. I can’t imagine my life without blogging and while I’d do it anyway, you guys are the best reason to keep showing up and waffling into my keyboard.

With love, unicorns and narwhals,

Carla xx

Can tidying up really be life changing?

I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.

As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates/visitors are also messy by nature!)

My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.

*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.

I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).

Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!

But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.

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But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)

Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?

Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!

Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.

And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.

Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.

And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!

So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?

  • Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
  • Read the book
  • Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
  • Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
  • Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…

With love and unicorns,

Carla xx

Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes – how I plan and stay organised

It’s no secret by now that I am a stationery addict, and I’m also a bit obsessed with Filofaxes, notebooks and the wondrous world of organising – even though I am one of the least naturally organised people ever.

Back in my uni days I kept all my appointments, engagements and deadlines in what my friends affectionately referred to as my Head Diary. I rarely wrote anything down, but never actually missed anything.

Clearly, the addition of a home, two businesses and a day job, not to mention the kitties and the birthdays/weddings/anniversaries of my loved ones, mean that this is no longer possible – most days I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, never mind what I’m meant to be doing in three weeks’ time!

Enter my Organising Kit For 2015. It’s epic, but it works for me.

Planning on paper

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Filofax: Raspberry leather Finsbury A5

A present from my colleagues when I left the library, I’ve updated this with custom sections and planner printouts, and it’s the hub of more or less everything – it has a section for home, day job and each of my businesses, as well as self development, contacts and money, and sheets for meal planning too.

filofax-inner-1

 

Eventually I’d like to split this out into a home planner and a business planner, as it’s getting a bit full, but it’s perfect for now and the colour always makes me smile.

Daybook: Paperblanks Maya blue silver filigree with clasp

The most beautiful notebook in the world, and this year it’s helped me break the habit of buying gorgeous notebooks and then leaving them blank on the shelf.

daybook-side

This one is with me every day, and serves as one of the two places where I capture all my thoughts, ideas, to do lists and things I’m tracking (including my attempts at inbox zero, but more of that later).

daybook

It’s just bigger than A6, and is hardback so survives being bashed around in my handbag. I haven’t left the house without it since I bought it – and I hope it will be a record of 2015 as well as being the way to catch all my thoughts so they don’t run around my head and drive me mad. I borrowed the idea from Annastasia.

daybook-inner

Out-and-about diary: Simon’s Cat mini diary

More of a social diary than a business one, this has short notes of everything I’m doing scribbled in, so that I can schedule in time with friends and family, or slot in new experiences and days out, when I’m with the relevant people, rather than spending ages emailing back and forth afterwards.

everyday-diary

Plus I love Simon’s cat (and think it should be required reading/watching for anyone considering getting a cat of their own…)

Blog planning: mini diary and A6 notebook

This year I’m trying to make sure I get as many of my ideas as possible out into the world, and I’m experimenting with a dedicated blog notebook and diary set to do this. The notebook is a place exclusively for blog scribblings, but isn’t the only place I keep post ideas. It’s really useful for expanding on an initial idea and getting to draft form though.

blogging-books

 

The diary is a week-to-view layout and gives me a better idea of when is a good time to post things – making sure that there’s plenty of fresh posts here, and also that I’m not posting the same subject too often. It helps to plan year-long challenges like the 52 project, and also to make sure any series that I write are evenly spaced out (and that they actually get finished…). I’m still being flexible with exact posting schedules, but so far it’s working well!

Spirituality and knowing wtf the moon is doing: Witches’ Datebook 2015

 

witches-daybook

I’m always subconsciously aware of this stuff anyway, so it’s good to be able to track it – and I’m hoping it might give me some insight into my bizarre up and down energy levels, too. My Saturn return starts in December so I suspect I will be having one of these next year too…

Calendar & wall planner

A calendar in my kitchen has sections for “Life”, “Biz”, “Ink Drops” and “Appointments/Occasions” – meaning I keep up to date with birthdays, Ink Drops post days and the cats’ injections/worming etc. It has a shopping list attached, so I can write down what I run out of immediately, and means I never run out of vital things like cat food, bin bags or chocolate (ahem).

A small wall planner lives on my studio door – it’s less detailed, but means I have an at-a-glance idea of when I’m free and when I can fit things in when I’m Skyping with clients or friends, or writing a sales page or a blog post and trying to work out a deadline.

Digital planning

tech-planning

Google Calendar

A digital version of all the above put together, I have 14 colour coded calendars and every event, phone call, appointment and social gathering goes into it. It syncs across my home and work PCs, my tablet, my phone and my work laptop, and means I am never trying to guess what is happening on a particular day.

Each month, I print out a new version of the next six months and add it to my Filofax. At the same time, I’ll flick through my various reminders and the list of events/shows/trade shows I want to go to, and note the dates of them – I don’t make it to them all, but it helps me plan around them if I do want to go.

I can also set recurring events and reminders – crucial for not forgetting my MOT again!

Evernote

The digital equivalent of my gorgeous daybook, I have Evernote open whenever I’m on a computer. I keep notes, drafts, clippings from the web, pictures, receipts, photos – you name it, it’s probably in there. It’s the digital catch-all for the jumble of thoughts that is always in my brain, and I’ve found it especially useful for holding something interesting or exciting I’ve tripped over during my day job, until I have time to go and look at it properly at home.

The notebook stacks are also brilliant – for someone who has loads of different interests on the go, plus a near-addiction to lists, it’s lovely to be able to organise them all so easily.

{app} Business Calendar for Android

mobile-calendar

This syncs with Google Calendar and is the easiest and most comprehensive calendar app I’ve found – and bizarrely, much more intuitive to use than Google’s own calendar app.

You Need A Budget

I’ve been trying to take my money management more seriously for ages, and as this year I have a lot of outgoings (buying a house!) and am also trying to add to various funds (photography training! coaching! jewellery workshops!) and build up my businesses, I need to track where my day job money vanishes to, and start reversing that process.

Enter YNAB. It’s terrifying to put the figures in in real time (and you can upload your bank statements, so you can’t pretend you haven’t bought things) – but actually, after only a month of using it, it is already making me more aware of my money mindset, and how I don’t actually ever reduce my spending in a category if I overspend in another. Which, of course, is the only way to ensure I don’t go back into my overdraft month after month!

Dropbox

More storage than planning, but I have recently overhauled it to automatically back up my photos from my phone and tablet, which is a weight off my mind, and it is an absolute lifesaver for being able to work on my own stuff at lunchtimes, and for sending big files to friends/clients/colleagues, without trekking endless USB sticks in and out of the office.

I’m also starting to plan my Instagram posts more, and Dropbox is great for that as I can upload direct to Instagram from my phone, even if the original image came from my DLSR and is on my computer.

Dictaphone

I had an old style one for years, and then acquired this one in my final year of uni. It’s brilliant for taking notes while in the car, recording my thoughts out loud and getting a more conversational tone for copywriting (especially for the day job, where I have to do this in really scientific subjects – not my forte!).

dictaphone

Hardware

A non techie friend commented the other day that my studio at home looks a bit like an international newsroom. Currently I rely on:

one 17.5 inch HP laptop
one main Acer monitor with my laptop acting as second monitor
one Samsung mobile phone (Galaxy S4 mini) with SD card
one netbook which technically belongs to my day job but goes everywhere with me
one Samsung 8 inch tablet which is mine, but which doesn’t hold charge as well as I’d like it to
one Canon 70D and various lenses (separate post on my photography kit coming!)
and one Olympus digital voice recorder – which is rather a nice step up from the tape dictaphone I had for years.

That’s more or less it – I have another set of products for recording and journalling life, but I shall share those in another post.

What do you use to organise your life?

 

Three words for the year ahead

There is a definite trend towards choosing a word for the year, a word to keep in mind through all you do and experience over the following twelve months.

magic-bracelet

2014’s words – how did that go?

Last year I chose Abundance and Balance, and they played out in interesting ways for me. Not as I expected, but the next time something goes to plan will be the first, so that was no real surprise.

I learned that I have far more than I had first assumed, and, led by the abundance mindset, I started to get control of my finances for the first time in my life. Little things, like paying my insurance for my beloved car Poppy in full, from money I’d saved instead of overdraft or borrowing from parents. There’s a way to go before I’m properly sorted on the financial front, but I’m getting there, and it feels brilliant.

Balance was also intriguing – I had intended to have a better balance between all the things I do – my day job, my own businesses, my family and my friends (kitties come under family, in case anyone thinks I’ve forgotten them), as well as fitting in time for self care and doing fun stuff.

But 2014 turned out to be the year I hit burnout in quite a big way, and by November I was unproductive, forgetful, snappy, tearful, struggling to wake up, struggling to sleep and sleepwalking through my days while doing the absolute bare minimum essential to appearing reasonably human. And how did this relate to my declared value of ‘balance’? Well, Naomi summed it up for me – you have to experience life out of balance to realise how important it is, and to put measures in place to maintain it.

Taking what Balance taught me last year, I rested as much as I could over Christmas (could do with another month, but 12 days was pretty good going) am putting up a solid fence around my alone time and breathing space, making sure I have at least one weekend a month free of any commitments at all, and learning to say no. I’ve given up the SW class I was at with my mum in favour of dancing, resting or creative fun on a Tuesday, and I’m allowing myself to have whole afternoons or evenings just talking to people rather than endlessly following my to do lists regardless of how I feel – and 2015 is already happier for it.

So what are this year’s words?

As ever, I couldn’t settle on just one, so I’ve gone for three.

2015 will be my year of Freedom, Magic and Simplicity.

freedom

Freedom – of all kinds. Freedom to choose what I do and when, freedom from the 9-5 arbitrary working times is my ultimate goal, but I’m also aiming for financial freedom, improving my ability to say no to things that won’t enrich my life, and true emotional freedom (I’ve come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years, but there’s always more work to do).

magic-ring

Magic – because if I had to choose one word that I embody, it would be magic. I feel magic, I make magic, I am magic – and with each day that passes I relax into that and stop worrying about what people will think. This year I want to make sure I never forget to appreciate the magic and wonder all around me, and embed my own magic into my signature programme Unfurling Your Wings, and my free e-course Everyday Magic, so I can share it with as many other people as possible.

simplicity

Simplicity – because by goddess I am fed up to the back teeth of my clutter! I love my creative home, but it is truly full to overflowing and I need to simplify down – one girl and two cats do not need more possessions than an average family of five. And the more I clear, the more space I’ll create for more gorgeous stuff/things to enter my life.

I’m also using simplicity in terms of arrangements, plans and thoughts. Trying to take the simplest path through everything, and it should also apply to my work, or at least my day job work – the past of least resistance and most efficiency is often the simplest. And just applying it to the 40-odd hours a week I spend at my day job would improve my life enormously.

They’re in the front of my daybook and on the bracelet and ring I made for these photos so will be with me every day of 2015. I wonder what the next year will bring…

PS I’m planning to add custom stamped jewellery to my shop – let me know if there’s a particular word or phrase you’d like!

On my desk: Planning geek heaven! (contains Filofax goodness)

open-filofax-1

My love affair with Filofaxes blows hot and cold, but I am certain it will never blow over.

It’s that time of year when I start needing to write stuff in my diary for the following January and February (and March, given our upcoming trip) and my stationery addiction comes out to play. (Oh, who am I kidding – it comes out to play most days!!)

I blogged over on Ink Drops recently about my custom daily planner, and I have been really enjoying using it. However, when three months of the year is chunkier and heavier than a standard A4 hardback notebook, it’s not the most practical for planning – and it’s become more of a daybook – somewhere to record what I do, spend my time and money on, am grateful for, would like to do next, and all the random thoughts that occur throughout the day.

Then I ambled into my friend Nic’s office and found her pulling apart an A5 Filofax, while her printer churned out some beautiful planner pages. And a little light went “ding” in my head.

closed-filofaxc

On leaving the library in 2011, I was given a Paperchase voucher (because they knew me well) and I bought myself… yep, you guessed it,  the most glorious plum leather A5 Filofax. I adored it and I’m not entirely sure when or why I stopped using it.

And wouldn’t you know, there is a whole world of Filofax and personal planner customising out there – a way for me to let my inner crafter loose!

open-filofax-2

I’ve spent most of my spare moments this week creating dividers from scrapbooking card, joyfully making lists of what sections and sub-sections I want to have in there (I’m in geek heaven) and Nic and I have even bought a proper hole punch between us so we can easily add more custom bits to our planners.  I’m also working on a whole bunch of custom inserts, which I might chuck in the Etsy shop if I ever finish a cohesive set of them!

I’ll reveal it in more detail at some point, and review the punch too (you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find one, but this one was reasonable at £32 and has worked exceptionally well so far).

open-filofax-0

The best part? Except for the punch, I’ve not spent a penny – I’ve used scrapbooking card & papers I already owned, Project Life cards and stickers from my stash to jazz it up, and I even already had colour coded pens (why does that surprise no one?) to keep with it.

 

 

A peek into my life, through my handbag

Good grief. I work almost exclusively online – here, with The Website Beautician, and as a web content editor at the university. So what I want to know is, how on earth has my daily handbag ended up full of all of this?!

bag-april-14

Yeah, not Clover – she was just being “helpful”.

That’s a makeup bag, four eyeliners, two blushers, three lipglosses, a mascara, two mirrors, a pair of tweezers and foundation – and I don’t wear makeup during the day at work.

A CD (wtf?!), a pencil case with 15 (15!) pens and one pencil, chocolate, biz cards in a Loughborough holder, a notebook (green) for a course I’m doing, my beloved Moleskine diary, £20 I’d forgotten I’d got out of the cash machine, my little camera, half a pharmacy (ibuprofen, iron supplement, antihistamine, rescue remedy), my clip in dreads, various hairbands, my purse, two forks, a spoon, a cloth for cleaning my glasses, a plug for a phone charger (but no cable) and a USB stick. And a half written letter to Chloe.

Which would kind of be ok, if a) I didn’t also carry a bag with lunch and two big folders in it everywhere and b) I hadn’t cleared it out literally two days ago. At which point I removed two types of eczema cream, antiseptic cream, more pens, my TV remote control (again, wtf?!), the cable for the charger, two books, a magazine, the beads I bought on Thursday, half a brownie, four packs of tissues and a necklace. And today I left tap shoes and a scarf on my desk at work.

No wonder my back and shoulder hurt!

What the contents of my bag say about me: I reckon I’m prepared for just about anything, but that I REALLY need to pay more attention to the state of clutter in my life. So it’s just as well that the fantastic Anna Kunnecke is teaching the Queen Sweep course for free. It sarted on Monday and prompted this post. And, well – if the rest of the course is as effective as this first week, hopefully I’ll be much more aware and much less cluttered in the not too distant future!

What’s in your handbag? I suspect I’m not alone in my delusions of travelling light…