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Organising & planning ahead help please!

(49 Posts)
Trickymoments Mon 23-May-16 08:23:44

I am permanently struggling to keep on top of things and am looking for tips please to get organised.

I'm always running late, can never find what I need & this leads to me
feeling stressed and grumpy with everyone. I find it difficult to plan ahead for some reason and I'm dure this is where it is all going wrong e.g.

I go to Sainsburys pretty much every day to get dinner for that day as I can't seem to think of enough meals to plan for a whole week and do it in one go. I either end up rushing there between work & school pick up or after school with 2 tired & grumpy dc's - not fun!!

Clothes - have loads but nothing to wear! Nothing matches or goes together & when it comes to needing an outfit for an event I waste time late night shopping in a desperate attempt to find somethinf which is never quite right so ends up being worn once.

Washing/ironing - endless amounts all over the house. Can never get on top of it. DC's will end up with a drawer full of clean but odd socks. Yesterday we went out for a family meal for my dad's birthday and because I hadn't planned ahead the clothes I wanted dd to wear weren't clean & I was scrambling around ten minutes before we left trying to find something for me to wear that wasn't dirty, crumpled, tatty.

Events eg birthdays/parties. I always think oh yes that's a way off I've got
ages to buy a present for that. Then it gets to the day before and I spend hours traipsing round the shops trying to find 'the perfect present' and then feeling guilty that I've wasted so much time when we could be doing fun family stuff.

School events - dress up days etc. Always left too late, stressing to find an outfit, donation for school fair etc etc.

House - full of clutter despite me getting rid of stuff on a weekly basis, it's still cluttered! Can't find anything so end up buying more of the same.

Prescriptions - leaving until last minute or just forgetting to place repeat order and so delaying taking my meds.

General admin, school forms, money stuff, booking grooming appointments for haircuts, waxing etc.

I just can't seem to plan ahead to get it all done in a stress free way. Feel permanently frazzled, overwhelemed and useless!

Please share your tips with me as I really want to sort this.

wobblywonderwoman Mon 23-May-16 08:30:20

That's a hard way to live op, as you know

I am managing well at the moment but I block time to wash and iron and don't sit down until it's all done. So last Sunday I sorted the docs clothes- paired socks, separated summer gear including hats and cream into an ottoman so I know that's where everything is.

Yesterday I did over an hours ironing.

You really need to declutter - three years ago when expecting my first I got rid of twelve black bags. To this day I haven't let things creep back in

I usually sort admin type things (book hair, pay bills) in my lunchbreak and do them as soon as I they come in or a night out is arranged

I buy the stash of cards from the book company at work so Father's Day is coming up- I will sort something this week. I have two teaching assistants to buy for - I have that done

I think you need to get in there first. What about a family organiser calendar

wobblywonderwoman Mon 23-May-16 08:32:20

Sorry in terms of food

I rely on my freezer so I buy a stash of salmon fillets, chicken fillets and they are always ready for a quick meal.

Tuesday its pasta pesto - job done and saves money.

I batch cook bolognese sauce and stew so that's tonnes of time sorted as no cleaning that night (just the potato saucepan)

freshprincess Mon 23-May-16 08:42:54

With the food thing, I sat down with my DCs and we drew up a list of our favourite meals. i make a 7 day list of all those things and then shop to that list. I switch it around and we've added a few extra things over time, but it means I've always got at least 5 meals I can do without thinking about it. I stopped the mid week shops completely. If we run out, we run out till next shopping day.

With any school stuff, it goes straight onto the calendar app on my phone as soon as I know about it. I'll never remember it otherwise. I also have a box file in the kitchen which I put all letters in, so I know where they are. In fact anything which requires me to do something prescriptions, dentist etc, goes straight onto my calendar. It syncs with work diary so I see those things all day so I'm much less likely to forget them.

Clutter, blush mmmm. I need help with that myself.

noisyrice Mon 23-May-16 08:53:41

First things I would do is write down everything you have to do..

Admin - all of the school forms, bills, etc put into a filing system, with labels.

Meal planning - go to your fridge, what have you got? For example, I see eggs, onions and cheese - make an omelette. Use up frozen food and packets and tins. You may have really weird meals to begin with, but as the random stuff is eaten, you will have more space to get in 'properly' planned meals.

PinkBallerina Mon 23-May-16 08:54:45

I have an out draw. It is a designated draw in the console table in the hall for anything that needs to leave the house eg. School work book to be returned, borrowed items, things to be returned to shops.

It is a small change but has revolutionised my household. Every house needs a return draw IMHO

Standingonmytippytoes Mon 23-May-16 08:55:31

You need an odd sock box. Have the kids sit in front of the tv and sort them one evening. Get baskets for each person in the house and as you take the clothes of the line/out of the dryer it goes in each persons basket and that person is responsible for putting them away. this obviously depends on the child's age forget about ironing.
I agree with PP about getting cards in advance.
Maybe try online food shopping.
Go through your clothes take out anything that doesn't fit or you're just not comfortable in. Then you'll know where to go from there.
I but quite alot of clothes online try them on and if I don't like them return. This helps me find outfits for occasions and things.

Flackgirl Mon 23-May-16 09:01:53

I have a spreadsheet of our favourite lunches and dinners with links to recipes where needed. I sit down for 30 mins on a Sunday and plan meals for week ahead, then order ingredients online for Tesco delivery. Saves loads of time, though my friends think it's tragic ;)

Also buy cards when I see one I like, then squirrel them away.

When I have time on a Sunday too, I will sometimes pull out the 5 outfits I'll wear that week and hang them together in the wardrobe after ironing that really needs it.

I worked these systems and others out after spending much of my 20s in a perpetual state of panic and discombobulation.

Kim82 Mon 23-May-16 09:09:12

Re the shopping could you sit down one night a week, ask everyone for one or two meal suggestions each then when you have seven meals order an Internet shop with the ingredients for those meals then add what you'll need for breakfast and lunch for the week too so you're not shopping daily.

School admin deal with as soon as it comes in and put straight back into their school bag so it goes back to school the next day.

Meds - if it comes in blister packs could you put a red mark on the outside of the pack indicating when you would only have 7 days worth left and then you know it needs re-ordering when you get to that particular tablet.

Washing - do at least one load per day and when it's dry put it away straight away so it's not hanging around the house. I only iron school uniforms so I did enough for the whole week yesterday - that means I know there is enough clean uniform for the week and I don't have to think about ironing until next week now. Wash uniforms on a Friday night/Saturday morning so there is plenty time to get it dried and ironed by Sunday night.

Presents/occasions/parties - plan one month ahead. Eg today I will be looking at what we have planned for June - camping, Father's Day and my nephews birthday. I've sorted our camping equipment for the weekend and the kids know which clothes they're not to touch this week as they're needed for our trip this weekend and I don't want to have a last minute washing panic. I will buy my nephew's card and present next week ready for his birthday on the 14th and will sort out Dh's Father's Day present at the same time.

Lists, lists and more lists! That's how I manage to keep organised with 4 dc. Dh laughs at me for them but if I write everything down its there in black and white and I will only cross it off once that item is dealt with.

NoCapes Mon 23-May-16 09:09:55

Ooo I feel stressed just reading your OP

Washing - 1 load a day every single day until you get ontop of it
Also get rid of loads of it, take it to C4C, the less clothes you have the less washing you have

Food - when I meal plan I try to do 2 chicken meals, 2 fish, 2 red meat and 1 vegetarian each week, this way instead of going 'omg I have to think of 7 meals' I have less to think about because it's just 'what shall I do with chicken this week' much easier

Life admin - get a whiteboard weekly wall calendar, it has changed my life
Also when you get your hair done/get a wax whatever, make your next appointment at the salon. Don't have to think about it again then

And declutter declutter declutter!

BiddyPop Mon 23-May-16 09:17:54

It's hard to go from disorganised to organized in 1 leap.

So, perhaps when you are in Sainsbo's tonight, think about tonight's dinner and one for tomorrow. Maybe, on the way there, think ahead to what is happening tomorrow (any kids needing gear for sports/hobbies? anyone going to be later than normal, or reason for an early dinner? etc) - and plan an easy meal around that. Even better if its a meal that you can do something about tonight (peel and chop vegetables, peel potatoes, marinade meat, dice meat, make a spaghetti sauce...) so that tomorrow is just about turning on pots/oven when you get in rather than starting from scratch.

And you've also done another part of getting organized - you know what gear/equipment might be needed for sports/hobbies/extracurricular lessons. So get those organized tonight as well.

On laundry, I'm a slight slattern. I will put on a wash most days - my aim is to keep the dirty clothes hamper as empty as possible (within reason - I still only put on a load if the machine is full). But as things get dried (clothes horse, tumble dryer or outdoor line), I throw them into a clean clothes hamper downstairs. I only fold on Saturday nights - if people need clean clothes before then, they can root in the clean clothes pile. DH does any ironing on Sunday nights. It does help though that I have pretty well stocked wardrobes for everyone.

And use a diary for family events, general admin, bookings, parties etc. Get in the habit of looking at the diary on the weekend, before going out and about, to see if there's anything you need to buy for the coming week and NEXT weekend (this weekend MUST already be done). And looking on a Sunday night to see what phonecalls to make on Monday about appointments, meds or whatever.

TheSpottedZebra Mon 23-May-16 09:36:45

Is there a behaviour here where you're putting off doing/deciding on things, as you need the 'perfect one', then as you don't have it, you panic, and end up with the last minute rush? Eg outfits, meals, presents...

If so, maybe there is something about accepting that ok is good enough? And that allows you to get prepped earlier on? Apols if I'm off track.

unlucky83 Mon 23-May-16 09:46:40

School notes, permission slips, requests for money etc - check their bag as soon as you/they get home and deal with it - straight onto calendar (use google calendar with email reminders), have a 'to do' app (ticktick) so any presents/dress up things/packed lunch for a trip get put on there with a date a week or 2 days or whatever I need in advance. Sign notes, pay money, take a photo of letter - I put photo into google keep but you could just keep it on your phone - then the paper in the paper mountain! Signed notes/money etc go straight back in the bag to go back the next day. They also have a bag for every activity they do - I do the same for notes etc for them (and they have all the kit they need in them, when I wash kit I put it straight back in the bag except for one thing I have two kits so I have a clean kit to put straight in the bag when I take dirty kit out)
If I have to keep paper for anything I have an A4 ring binder with poly pockets in it and I pop things in there and then every so often go through it.
Things like haircuts or MOTS or boiler service or worming the cat I have set up as recurrent events on Google calendar - so it tells me a week or whatever is needed in advance something is due so I can make the appt asap.
With a teen on medication that suppresses appetite I have to be more flexible now but I used to have a 4 week rotating meal plan.
I had a routine - did certain things on certain days and so on shopping night I would have something easy. I batch cook bolognaise and chilli and freeze in portion sizes - that meal is defrost the sauce and cook pasta/rice.
Shopping I have a shopping list of most things that I buy on a regular basis - coffee, vinegar, oil, fruit, etc - it was an excel file and I printed out a few and kept them on a notice board - I would circle things I definitely needed or add 'unusual' things to the bottom and before I went shopping checked through it and crossed off what I didn't need and added detail - so eg it said 'meat' if that week it was roast chicken one night I'd add that.
Now I have it in Keep as a checklist - I make a copy and do the same thing but on my phone and use it as a list round the supermarket.
Laundry - I said I have a routine. Sunday is my main washing day - I do the bulk of my washing then (DDs have an activity late morning so we can't go anywhere exciting anyway until the afternoon) I do one load after another. Hang them out, when I run out of space take the first load in and finish off in tumble. Lots of stuff -like school uniform- onto hangers, rest is folded to air in a basket and put away on a Monday (I don't iron any more but when I did Monday night was ironing night) Washing done in the week might not get put away till Monday - but it does then.
To put things away you need enough space - I store out of season clothes in vac bags in the airing cupboard. I have a clothes recycling bag constantly on the go - our drawers have enough space for the clothes we need. If I go to eg DDs drawer and I can't fit a tshirt in - one has to go. I am ruthless about it. (If you are handing down clothes you need two bags -one to go and one to keep) And how many sets of bedding, PJs, pants, etc do you need? I have two sets of bedding for each bed and one spare for guests/sick/accidents. I have also vertically folded (Kondo'd) the drawers - so you can easily see what you have.
Clothes I always wear the same things! ....not really my thing - but you need to cull them and then sort outfits. So work clothes, home clothes etc. For DD1 at nursery I used to have 8 outfits for her (and a few spare trousers etc) -I kept them all on one hanger per outfit - inc cardigans/tights. (7 in the washed and one to wear on Mon before I'd done the Ironing in the evening) As she grew out of things/got new things I got rid of an outfit. Maybe you could do similar for eg your work clothes?

Flumpnugget Mon 23-May-16 09:50:08

From your list of areas that you feel need your attention, OP, prioritise. Once you have established what you would like to tackle first, break it down and attack it. Only cross it off your list once it's completely organised and you feel in control of it and you are managing it well and comfortably. Then move onto the next area.

For me personally, I would tackle the house clutter. Hire a skip, or buy a hippo bag; buy lots of bin bags and set about getting on top of each room - one weekend at a time. Then 2-5 mins a day; make sure all detritus is moved to a) the bottom of the stairs where you give yourself an aim to have returned things / allocated the return of things by bedtime or b) thrown away or recycled.

Think of organising your home space like an illustration of your mind- once it looks and feels clear, you have free space to turn your attention to other things.

Lots of MN'ers love Marie Kondo who apparently does wonders for house organisation if you need a starting point.

CotswoldStrife Mon 23-May-16 09:52:49

Come and join us on the Flylady thread if you'd like some daily accountability!

I find the mornings run much smoother if I can prepare a bit in the evenings. Getting the clothes ready that we'll wear the following day, etc. Meal planning really does help - if you can't think ahead write down the meals this week as you eat them and you'll have a plan for next week!

Are you a SAHM (you don't mention work although that could be because you are the model of efficiency there and home loses out been there ) as I find I need to plan my day a bit otherwise it gets away from me a bit like mumsnetting now

Would recommend Flylady or Crystal Paine for inspiration. You can do this!

Trickymoments Mon 23-May-16 11:21:46

Thank you very much for the replies. Just to answer a few points quickly;

Yes I do work every weekday until 1.00pm. Sometimes I stay on a little longer if something needs finishing
off - when this happens I'm even more rushed as I have to get back by 2.45pm for school & nursery pick ups. I am more organised at work, i think I'd have been in trouble by now if I wasn't!

SpottedZebra I think you're right, I am often looking for the perfect solution to things but don't find them so either end up with something not suitable or I just do nothing! I think I'm looking for perfection that doesn't exist but I see other people doing things well so then think why can't I?!

I find it really hard to get anything at all done in the afternoons as my dd who is 4 wants me to play with her etc all the time. I feel guilty if I don't. What do other people do if you're at home in the afternoons with young

I could do more in the evenings but am often ready to just collapse in a heap as soon as dc sorted and in bed and we've eaten.

I really need to make time to exercise as I have a physical condition & my consultant is always telling me it's important to keep my fitness up! I never seem to find time to fit exercise in with everything else there is to do so then I feel crap as I think I'm not making the effort to look after myself!

I think I get easily distracted too so I'll start something and then leave it to go and do something else; result lots of unfinished things & a fair bit of chaos to live in.

Trickymoments Mon 23-May-16 11:29:20

I also get very distracted by mn and the internet in general again I think looking for the perfect solutions to everything, how to be a good mum/wife etc...
I probably spend far more time than I should online which I realise doesn't help, perhaps I'm addicted!

I have a day off today so I'm not posting while at work. I thought I'd take a day off to try and get sorted
out but so far I've just been sat in garden talking with dh and enjoying the sunshine!

BiddyPop Mon 23-May-16 13:06:41

So sit with DH and a sheet of paper, and think about meals you all like and eat. Divide that into: need to prepare fresh, can be prepped ahead, good for bulk cooking and freezing.

Bulk cooking - start small. Say you are making a spaghetti bolognaise sauce for tonight - make a double batch instead and freeze the second portion for another night next week. So its just reheat sauce and cook pasta - mostly ignoring cooker for the 15 mins involved. An extra 12-13 mins to do something else.

Prep ahead ones mean peeling and chopping vegetables, maybe making a sauce, maybe putting together a lasagna or shepherd's pie or something - and just cooking that the following day. I love doing small midweek roasts or lasagnas or pies that I can set the oven to cook and it's just done as we walk in the door from work. It's great if you have that function on the oven. But even being able to just turn on the pots - either to ignore once boiled (give the occasional stir) or to start cooking a stirfry type meal straight away rather than chopping etc first, makes a big difference.

And when I said to think about 2 days of shopping today, that was only to take a small bite of the elephant. If you reduce the shopping to every 2nd day, that will free up more time. But using the list above should help you to think about what you might eat for 3-4 days, or even a whole week, ahead of time. And only need to go shopping once a week - and maybe even the odd week doing a big shop on the internet to get the bulk items (pasta, rice, baking ingredients, cleaning items, cereals, etc) for a few weeks and you only have to get milk and dairy, meat/fish, fruit and veggies, in between.

But - eat the elephant in small bites and don't try to run before you can walk!

Exercise - combining play - go for a "nature walk" every couple of weeks, a swim some afternoons, or just running around playing "chase" with your DD. They will all help to build up your exercise minutes.

I put paperwork/post with the diary on the high part of the kitchen counter, and deal with everything after dinner most days. So bills to pay, school notes, reminders to make appointments or whatever. But I don't deal with it as I get the post and arrive in the door (I only get home at 6pm, so dinner and feeding the roaring dinosaur (aka 10 yr old!) are priorities).

Get the 4 yr old to help with some chores. For example, she may not be able to ball up socks, but she could put them into pairs for you to ball up much quicker. Make it a game. Get her to fetch ingredients as you start dinners, and even teach her the bits she can help with - stand her up at the kitchen counter, give her an apron and let her get stuck in. She can do the small brush and pan part of sweeping the floor, after you do the big brush making the pile of dirt in 1 place. Teach her how to set the table - starting with helping get the dishes and cutlery out but move on to fully laying them out. And to help clearing/washing up. It may all take longer, certainly initially, but she'll learn valuable skills and you are still having quality time together. (And washing up is so much fun with all those suds and splashing!!).

Cards drawer is invaluable. Especially a stock of age cards in the same age range as DD and 1 year ahead, and non-age child birthday and non-age adult birthday ones, but also anniversaries, get well soon, mass cards, acceptances/rejections for invites (probably mostly adult invites) and thank you notelets. If you have the budget for it, head to a toy store one night when you have the headspace, and buy a bunch of nice toys for class parties (board games, jigsaws, generic lego sets etc), and see if there are good solutions for family birthdays etc coming up in the next month or 2 as well to pick up. Lay in a small stock of nice smellies or some nice candles or nice mugs and select teas/coffees for adult presents, or a nice beer mug and craft beer for gents. If you can, try to do this in sales (post Christmas and summer sales tend to be best, but there are so many sales these days!). And if you are addicted to the internet, use that and do some online purchasing so you can get some really interesting things for the same price. Only buy though what you would be happy to give - try to have some idea of the people you are buying for and then lay their specific things aside for when they're needed. But have a few more generic presents available too, for last minute invites or ones that slipped through the diary.

I also use a notebook, to make lists of things I need to get (some are urgent, others I spot that need replacing or the event is a while away yet) - but they are all there when I am out shopping or browsing. And other lists in there of things coming up, or other jobs that need doing.

DH and I also tend to do a blitz of the cleaning once a week - and we are seriously contemplating getting a cleaning service back in again once a fortnight for the heavy stuff. But we spend an hour or so doing the bathrooms, sweeping floors, hoovering, changing sheets and towels, mop floors if needed etc. We tend to keep the kitchen tidy as we go and pick up clutter every night (and sweep kitchen/diner floor most nights too). We organize the laundry by pre-setting the machine (late in the evening) to turn on while we're out next day, and it's done when we get in at 6 - if weather is good, it goes on the line while dinner is cooking; if not, the dryer goes on then while noisy things are happening rather than later when we want to sit and relax. And we fold it ALL on a Saturday/Sunday evening while watching tv, so it actually isn't a dreadful task then.

Sorry, I'll shut up now, unintentional lecture over....

ginorwine Mon 23-May-16 15:04:27

What I would do now is
Meal plan for the next 7 days and order on line tonight . Something achieved now - you will feel good !
Room by room take a bin bag and de clutter , tidy clean
Once a month I
Do a huge in line shop for tea bags
Loo rolls stamp s tins etc so I just need fresh stuff weekly . Order chicken , mince for the month too and freeze so it's always in .
Then sort w robe
Order on line and get go to outfits - I often order from Boden for matching / co ordinating things but it can be expensive but I have several go to dresses for work . I struggle with going out outfits tho !
Have a present drawer - I buy thro the year as I see things - trick is to list what you have or you can but twice !
I follow fly lady loosely and when I follow it well it's fab
For me it's about a regular routine such as - am quick clean bathroom, laundry to dry - do that it feels like cleaning teeth ie you just do it - saying that I've slipped recently as son around on gap year and I m discombobulated!! Thanks yr post reminds me to get organised a little more as am slipping and it much easier to be organised . Do it u will enjoy !!!!

PinkBallerina Mon 23-May-16 18:42:16

I was very much like you a couple of years ago OP.

I think you need to a major declutter and then establish cleaning etc routines.

And i would step away from the laptop/ipad. I know i shouldn't say this on MN but if you are a perfectionist procrastinator, which is me, joining a flylady thread isn't going to help it is just another distraction. Buy the book instead and lock your technology in a cupboard until you have achieved some decluttering. Goodluck

lljkk Mon 23-May-16 19:06:41

Meal plan: use up what you find in the fridge before you buy anything else.

Check the Laundry basket every morning & determine if you can do a load.

Do you use something like Google calendar or a reminder system on your phone? Putting reminders in there would be a big help, I reckon. Everything that comes into your life put a reminder about when you need to deal with it and DO IT.

How many events do you go to? confused

Could ask a friend to help you declutter house... nobody can really do that for you.

Trickymoments Mon 23-May-16 19:48:28

Thanks for all the helpful tips. I do have a family calendar on the wall & I do put things I need to remember as alerts in my phone. It's just doing the things that's the problem!
I think it's planning ahead that's the problem. I don't allow myself enough time for anything or to get anywhere (apart from work) so am always in a rushed state. I don't think about things that are coming up far enough in advance.

Instead of thinking now about getting things ready for tomorrow I'm thinking phew they're in bed, time to eat & relax until it all starts again tomorrow! I realise I can't have it both ways & if I want less stress & chaos I need to use my time better.

Bellatrixurstrange Mon 23-May-16 22:20:40
Bullet Journal. Watch the video. Grab a notebook. Try it for a month. Good luck!

didireallysaythat Mon 23-May-16 23:12:39

Meal plan with tesco or whatever online shopping. Always have a basket on the go so when you finish something you immediately add. Oh, and add a boom of stamps. And cheap envelopes for letters to school etc. I go for a 4 week plan. Pasta once a week, breaded fish once a week, wraps once a week etc. Probably only do 5 meals a week - 7 would be rather prescriptive for me.

Amazon prime is your friend for birthday presents. I try and find two things for one present for the age range. Bit dull but you can then give the main sane gift to all (in this household nerf throwing things) and supplement with a smaller something else (whoopee cushions..) And add cards to your basket. Amazon is tedious for gift wrap - maybe tesco here.

I do just laundry Saturday. And once again mid week. I put clothes away while trying to get kids into bed. Uniforms for the next day are put back on the windowsill - I put a set out Sunday pm while putting the rest away.

Declutter. Get a box. Fill it with stuff. Seal it, out your oxfam nectar sticker on it and get rid of it or put it in the garage. Always have a box open for this. Hang bin bag on back of spare room door and keep on adding to it, and empty into those charity collection bags that you get.

unlucky83 Mon 23-May-16 23:34:40

I like the look of bullet journals but I don't like rewriting things and worried about losing it - so it isn't for me - I'm more of an app person!
I mentioned it before but I have an app 'ticktick' it is basically a to do list -it sync with my laptop, phone and tablet.
You can have different categories (lists) , set dates and use # and it ties into google calendar. And you can set recurrent tasks (like pay credit card!)
So for a birthday present - the invite arrives - I add it to google calendar. I go to Ticktick and in my list shopping (where I put odd things I need to buy but that aren't urgent- like more wrapping paper). I'll add #town present for X on a Saturday (when I know I can definitely get to the shops) at least a week before - then I'll add to my 'to do' list two days before 'wrap x's present and make card'. And take a photo of the invite, put it in Keep (cloud storage so if my phone dies I can still access it) and bin it.
I can view all my lists together in date order - today and the next 7 days... so plan ahead. But also I can view everything #town -so if I happen to be in town or am going I can see what I need to do there. If whatever reason I don't make it to the shops to buy the present on the day I've said I will I'll order something online...and the wrap present reminds me too!
For family birthday etc they are google calendar and I get an email reminder a week or two in advance...then I'll add buy present/then post card etc to my tick tick.

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