Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ma folie française. Dieu aidez-moi!

Finally signing for the French house (circa 1759) this week. Original condition, complete with a dank cave (cellar), a clos lit, flag stones, dirt floor, no sanitation, stone sink, dodgy wiring, a leaking roof and an oak beam which has to be replaced……..Another long story……Beware of vendors (not French) bearing gifts in the form of promises.  It’s challenging carrying out a transaction by email, which involves foreign law; a 14 page compris (contract) and 24 page obligatory inspection report in French. Google translate gives a rough outline of the documents’ contents but many paragraphs just convert into English babble. Must work harder at my French lessons and find a suitable translator toute de suite. 
Hmmm…. I think I need a shrink - or perhaps a whole professorial department of psychiatrists. I’m sure this whole saga is shortening my telomeres. So why do I persist?
In a nutshell life is always interesting, and a touch unpredictable here!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Passionate about France or Menopausal Madness?

I’m about to become an expert on 17th century houses and the art of traditional basket weaving. Handy – if polite dinner conversation falters. Achievable, if I wasn’t approaching retirement with lean superannuation savings and only a paltry sum in the bank. And perhaps realistic for one who is energetic and didn’t live as far away from France as possible. Then there is motion sickness, a fear of flying and a lack of French language skills to further complicate the issue. My partner patiently refers to my current state of affairs as my mid-life crisis. Family members bluntly call it menopausal madness. Despite being very cautious by nature, I recently paid a deposit on a house in France prior to inspecting it! Perhaps it’s time for some French lessons?
Photo: courtesy of the real estate agent

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Personal Organisation: The New Cost of Time

Courtesy of free downloads
“Nurture ourselves first so we can nurture others” say the life coaches. So I’ve taken their advice and at the cost of $120 per hour (excluding GST), with a 3 hour minimum appointment, I have employed a professional organizer to help pries me out of the clutter that permeates my office and now creeps throughout the house.
I am now suffering a panic attack over my dwindling bank account and stressing - how I can be so “reckless”.
Who have I become? In the past I have been an extremely well organized person, proficient with a diary, to-do lists, time management and filing. But lately  my familiar systems and focus have  been abandoned and replaced by the “Fire Brigade” system: responding to the most urgent problem and then once the “fire” has been doused, I walk away without cleaning up “properly”. Order has morphed into chaos which heightens my anxiety level – I am so overwhelmed that despite the professional time management course I have attended and the relevant books I have read on this topic, I’ve now reached the point of paralysis.
The idea of returning to work in a week brings anxiety attacks.
As a maths teacher I am in a role in which I have to be extremely well organized for others, but my desks and filing cabinets at work and home are pillars of paper and folders. There is less time to sit and reflect on the day and deal with any issues, including filing, as they arise. Technology – the thing which was going to save us - has created a paper trifid and a screen jungle as I try to locate electronic files on one of my many USBs or computers at work and home.
Professional organizers have become the new magicians. Appointments have to be made months in advance. Their waiting lists are long.
It’s reassuring to know that there are many other people need their services but why is it that our lives are so out of control that this new industry of professional organisers is in such great demand?
Why has our external world become so cluttered? We appear to have only one gear – fast forward. Victims of the time robbers, people are constantly “on tap” via email mobile phones, or worst still their sophisticated relative-the PDA.
In order to protect ourselves from our increasing litigious society we have created a paper trail that defies common sense and eats into our time.  Dealing with the red tape of regulations increasingly comsumes precious hours and develops more information that must be filed somewhere- and be able to be easily retrieved. 
Time is money. Translate that as “ do more in less time.”
Television, DVDs and computer games enable us to come home from the office and switch off , distracting us from doing those tasks that will actually let us be better organized and calm.
Retail “therapy”, that great stress-buster brings home more clutter.
The relative affluence and mobility of our society have also allowed us to have too many choices: we over commit ourselves and are constantly “on the go”.
Weekend and 24 hour trading have also interrupted the rhythm of the week. Mundane shopping tasks have infiltrated the “down time” of the weekend. It is interesting to observe life in Switzerland where the shops are closed on Saturday afternoon and on Sundays. People manage their time, as I once did, to shop within the prescribed hours, so the majority of their time in the weekend is free for leisure, the family and to organize the coming week. There is also a stronger sense of community in Switzerland that appears to have been eroded in Australia due to our frenetic lifestyle.
Are the explosion of violence and increased demand for psychological services in the community an indication that our internal world is staring to mirror our external cluttered world?
The cost of being disorganized can be far reaching. With each gain we choose we also experience a loss, and for many it is a loss of physical and emotional clarity. With a minimum appointment cost for a professional organizer of almost $400, it would be reasonable to ask “Do we value organizational skills more highly than other skills?” This is very basic work.  I think what is really prized is the emotional unburdening that occurs when one is physically well organized.
So what have I learnt from my nurture session? The key to success and emotional calm is straight forward, simplify your life by daily practising the four F’s; Finish it , Forward it, File it or Flick it.
And being told this has turned into a luxury item