Home help

How to tackle a never ending mountain of housework on top of your day job.

Workwear

When you get in from work put your shoes away on their rack/in their box/in the cupboard and either dump your dirty clothes in the laundry basket or hang your suit up. It sounds obvious but stripping down and leaving your clothes and bags strewn all over the place is an invite for a floordrobe and will lose you time scavenging the following morning. For those used to spending the rest of the evening in your workwear – try changing into something more comfortable and hanging your outfit up. This will take some of the creases out or give you more time to clean it for the next day.

If you’re trying to take out some creases in your shirts then throwing them in the dryer on a speed cycle with some ice cubes will release just enough steam to smooth things out. If you’re really short on time then hanging your shirt/dress up in the bathroom whilst you shower will also steam out some creases.

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preparation makes things run smoother in the morning

Laundry day

We have got into the habit of washing our clothes midweek. The idea of spending my weekends or a rare free day doing laundry and housework fills my heart with dread. If you live in a well sound-proofed flat then you should take advantage of running a wash cycle overnight and hanging the clothes up first thing in the morning. This means that the wash is working whilst you sleep and it’s not left too long to gather that horrible damp smell. One of the best tips my mother gave me was to wait until the clothes were bone dry before folding them away. Woe betide those who fold away damp clothes. If you don’t have a balcony or garden to hang the clothes out to dry then leave them in a room with the window open to allow the air to circulate and to get rid of any potential dam smell. Make sure the clothes aren’t too near to the kitchen, so that they don’t pick up any cooking smells or musty smoke.

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remember to wash on the cold cycle!

Dishes

We don’t have a dishwasher and I’m convinced that getting one would solve 90% of the arguments I have with my partner. Alas, we are living in rented accommodation and can’t install one. So, to make do with traditional washing at the sink tasks we have a couple of rules which might work for you too. 1) DO THEM IMMEDIATELY. The below image is tells a sad tale of what happens when you have friends round for dinner + not doing the dishes the morning after + leaving sticky foods like porridge and cereal to bowls. Just get them done as soon as you’ve finished eating. Then you can relax and not have to pick up the chore later (and it really is a chore). When cooking, clean as you go, don’t have any “dead time” where you’re just waiting for the food in the over to be ready, make sure you wash the utensils and pots once you’re done with that section of the meal. If you have friends round, I tend to boil a kettle and pour the hot water into sticky pots and pans to soak, so even if I’m not getting around to cleaning straight away the job is easier when I eventually get there. 2) Use as few pots, plates and utensils as possible. I you can double up cooking veg in the same pot (mixing carrots and peas etc.) then do so. Likewise for serving on plates – think more platter style where you can throw different foods together. This tip will also encourage people to eat a wider variety of foods at your table as it will be mixed in together.

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warning: explicit content

Hoovering/mopping

I have to confess that hoovering is probably my favourite household task. It makes such a difference and you get instant, visible results. I would guesstimate that I hoover about 3-4 times a week (which even I find excessive) but we are living in a rented flat and the flooring is just the worst to keep clean. You can still make things easier for you with this task by taking your shoes off at the door – think Japanese living! This stops you dragging muck throughout the home and keeps things tidy – see point above about workwear. Limiting your eating places to one or two areas of the home also helps. This stops crummies being dispersed all over your floors. I know exactly where the messiest places are and where I need to pay close attention to hoovering. The kitchen floor, just under the chopping board and bread bin and the ‘favourite’ corner of the sofa where countless TV snacks and game foods are consumed. These are the only 2 places were we’ve agreed eating and making a mess away from the dining table is ok. Otherwise, we’d spend a lifetime hoovering up all over the place. Also, as an aside, try not to eat in bed – I know it’s really good when you’re hungover or feeling under the weather but there’s nothing worse than biscuit crumbs under the duvet and ketchup stains on your blanket. We also bought a cordless hoover recently = game changer. It’s super fast, got great suction and you’re not hampered by the distance of a cord. I’m not going to recommend any particular brand in this post because there are so many good vacuum cleaners out there for a variety of budgets but make sure you get a really lightweight one which picks up dirt and hair really well.

Do you have any tips for making household task less of a chore? Or are you a weirdo like me and enjoy hoovering?

A helping hand

A lesson in acceptance and giving yourself a break

Since beginning work in a high-pressure environment, I have realised that so many young professionals, myself included, are breaking their backs every week to maintain the image of these perfect all-rounders who can hold down brilliant jobs, transform into domestic goddesses and maintain a vibrant social life which never impacts negatively on their figure or gives them bags under their eyes. This ‘image’, more often than not, is self imposed – and I’m as guilty as any. It’s easier said than done when fighting against this idea that all young professionals, and women in particular suffer from this, are able to attend 6am gym classes x5 weekly, furnish their penthouses immaculately with BoConcept furniture and have mastered Michelin star level cooking.

There are however ways around the madness of a busy work-life clash. A couple of tips colleagues and friends have given me along the way have ensured that life outside of the office doesn’t slip through the cracks and you can keep yourself sane.

 

Looking after yourself

There is no short cut way to truly looking after yourself other than finding a good work-life balance where you can manage your stress levels properly. There are, however, some helpful tricks that can make the morning rush less frantic and allow you some more ‘me time’ before the world comes at you.

Eyelash and eyebrow tinting. This one means that for roughly 4-6 weeks you don’t need anything other than a light sweep of foundation and lipstick before you leave home in the morning. If you’re someone who feels that they have to have more make-up on then this might not be the best tip for you, as you’ll probably make-up over eyelashes and brows in any case, but if you’re like me and unfailingly lazy when it comes to make-up then this one’s for you!

Hair care. Personally, I find that since growing my fringe out and allowing my hair to get longer, time spent on my hair has reduced. There’s no frustrating tidy up of the fringe and less need to style longer hair overall as it can be tied back on a bad hair day. Also, living in the UK where it rains a lot means that however you left your home in the morning will not translate exactly to the look you are pulling off as you walk into work. Hairspray and dry shampoo are very helpful.

Gel nails. These are good if you can commit to getting them re-done properly every 2-3 weeks, but it’s a great way to avoid chipped nails and having to re-paint in the morning – because you did them too close to bed time and they have the fabric imprint across the varnish. Bravo!

 

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A quick fix hair and make-up solution can save time and you’ll still feel great!

 

Looking after your home

We can’t all afford domestic staff, so unless you are able to pay for a cleaner to come on a weekly basis (I’m not judging anyone here, I have been SO tempted to call for help in this area, a weight is lifted and you’re giving someone employment) then you need to get your domestic chores down to a finely tuned art. There are ways of doing things around the home which are cost free and time saving. I’ll post an article on this shortly which goes into more detail on how the busy professional can score a few hat tricks at home! But for now, my top tips are as follows…

  1. Dedicate one evening a week to blitzing your flat – dust, hoover and disinfect toilets etc. I normally opt for a Friday as weekends are usually when I have people over and this saves me waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays before they come round. Also, if you life in a flat and you have to hoover in the evening your neighbours are less likely to be in and more likely to forgive a quick Friday blitz rather than a mid-week headache.
  2. Food shop online and get home delivery – you spend less money because most supermarkets will save your shopping list preferences so you don’t do that thing where you aimlessly wander the aisles chucking in a few extras, ahem. You also buy yourself a lot of time with this one.
  3. Fake flowers. Yes, the real ones are nice and they smell lovely, but it’s just something else to remember to throw away before they go mouldy. You can get some really authentic looking ones that don’t appear too trashy. Alternatively, cacti. Although these are just like flowers that die really, really slowly.
  4. Get a good dishwasher. The root of 90% of the arguments in our flat is around the subject of unwashed dishes. A good washer will avoid this and any other stress related to plates stacking up. You don’t have time, you don’t have the emotional stability by Thursday to go through another round of ‘whose turn is it’, just get it sorted.
  5. De-clutter x4 a year. It doesn’t need to be more than this if you’re serious about it each time you do it. You don’t want to be rummaging around in drawers at 6am in the dark looking for another black top – and by the way, when was the last time you saw that, has it been washed and where did you hang it? Cutting back on clothes you don’t wear, general bric-a-brac and ‘stuff’ will help you see clearer and have better access to the essentials as you fly out the door in the morning.

 

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Even the most lethal among us have to make an effort to kill cacti, a good option for those without green fingers.

 

Looking after life-admin

My mobile banking app has been the BEST thing that’s happened to me this year. Monday to Friday I’m too busy out making the money to actually manage where it goes, and as Monday to Friday coincides with banking hours then this can make keeping on top of your finances a bit tricky. The last time I went for an appointment at the bank I had to book a morning off in advance with 3 weeks notice! So, being able to transfer money, pay people back and move wages into savings accounts whilst walking to work is a massive benefit.

Opening your mail is one sure fire way to face up to all the business you’ve yet to get round to – which might be the main reason why my post piles up on tables dotted around my flat before I wonder why there are no more clear surfaces. Facing up to the post as it comes in is the best, and really only, way of dealing with it before it gets out of hand. To motivate yourself, think about it this way: that could be an outstanding bill (or, less likely but still possible, you might have money owed to you and this is a notification of such joy!), an important change to your current situation (speaking from experience I have allowed overpriced home and contents insurance to roll over for another year because I didn’t open my post in time – NEVER AGAIN!) or sometimes just a letter or a card from a friend – this would just be rude if you didn’t open this kind of mail in a timely manner!

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Finally, relax! We all mess up, we have all gone to work looking less than our best and we’ve all been that person who is frantically trying to hide dirty laundry and plates in cupboards and under beds before guests arrive. The only pressure you should ever feel to manage any of the above aspects is from yourself. So, give yourself a break and learn to accept that you are perfect already! Everything else is just details…

Do you have any tips for making life easier in the mornings or dealing with life admin? Please share below in the comments.

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PA OK

Surviving in a competitive working environment can often mean that you’ll face a certain degree of hierarchical snobbery. Particularly if you have landed the very underrated position of PA. Being personal assistant to the boss has connotations of dogsbody style working but in my experience it is anything but. Play your cards right and you can successfully put your stamp on a role that will allow you access to high level stakeholders and an address book of contacts that most heads of state would love to get their hands on.

Don’t let anyone look down on the important job you do. Often the people you are working to would be melting in a disorganised mess without your cool, prepared approach.

I have worked for a country leader for just over a year now and the role has brought with it a plethora of opportunities that wouldn’t be available to even the next-in-command. Attending meetings with the Head of the European Commission, Parliament key figureheads in the UN, Presidents and famous people with political messages to spread have all contacted me to get to my boss. I have sat in on those meetings and participated in the majority of those discussions, exchanging business cards with those who are keen to engage.

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Don’t let people push you out the frame. You may not be the President, but your contribution is valuable and people are always listening.

Stakeholders may not have come to see you expressly, it’s the ear of your boss they want, but don’t underestimate the power of being present and pro-active. They will remember your face, your name, your manners when you escorted them and advised them ahead of the meeting, your willingness to facilitate the discussion and your professionalism throughout. Of course, most stakeholders are wise to this, but they still know that you hold the key to the diary, to the relationship that continues outside of the meeting room and any future engagements.

Use the network that you build up as a platform for your career. You are your own brand. Supporting someone on a daily basis who is higher up the corporate chain from you is a testament to your capability, not a limit. As proof of this, many of my colleagues, who have a varied background of education and professional specialisation, have landed top jobs thanks to the contacts they made whilst working as PAs. When I was at school we were told that there are more paths to getting the job you really want. This is true, it’s not always a linear school-university-placement-job pattern that people work to. In fact, having experience in a coordinating and supporting role speaks for itself in competency based interviews and opens doors that the standard online applicants won’t have access to.

So next time you’re compiling that briefing or speaking note, or scavenging for fresh milk for the boss’s tea, just remember that it all counts towards the bigger picture and you’re honing your skills in multi-tasking, working under pressure and (more often than not!) patience.

 

Have you worked as a personal assistant? Or, have you been able to use your role as a trampoline for the next exciting opportunity? Feel free to leave a comment…