New year's resolutions - should we bother?

A friend once told me to list everything I'd achieved at the end of every year.  I now have a list  dating back to 2009.  Its only a simple list, kept on the 'Notes' pages of my phone and also includes social reminders such as who got married, who was born...etc. But it's the more poignant and specific achievements I like to look back upon, such as:

  • Set up Organisation Unlimited OU;
  • Secured my Xth client;  
  • Reached my Year 2 goals;
  • Redesigned and decorated then upstairs of my house;  
  • Learned how to ride a motorbike... etc.  
  • Oh, and also the odd Bridget Jones-style entry such as lost / gained xlbs!

Its the only New Years resolution that Ive ever really stuck to, but adding to that list throughout the year on a quiet Sunday night and then looking back on it afterwards has given me an enormous amount of self pride.  We are all too quick to overlook our achievements and forget that just living is hard work. And doing it well is even harder.  Remember to take care of yourself and as you make your New Years resolutions, make them challenging but achievable.  

Some of us struggle to organise ourselves, to delegate, and to maintain a general air of calm and order.  The solution? Implement processes into your life to make it more manageable. Routine is often described as a bore, but some routine is essential and, after a while, it becomes a habit rather than a chore.   Routines for personal life

  • Declutter: use Storage Solutions to efficiently store items you only use occasionally; this will enable you to find them easily when you next need them, rather than searching through a clutter junk area.
  • Detach: remove all electronic devices from the bedroom. It is amazing how much better you sleep without the interference of phones beeping, flashing and buzzing around you.  You think you don't notice it but once you remove them, you will realise that they are disturbing.
  • Discover: Make a New Year resolution to improve on a skill or learn a new one. – you will love yourself for it! Spend a weekend on a butchery course, take up a new fitness class, become a master of wine, join a camera club, put some time aside to finally learn how to garden and develop your own garden at the same time.  The choices are endless.

Routines for work life

  • Email etiquette – remember the mantra:
    • Do - use flags and colour coding
    • Delegate– use reminders and sub-folders
    • Delete– and  learn how to use the archive function
  • Set rules for regular emails like newsletters; send them to a Read folder to be accessed on a quiet day, but keep them out of your inbox! I try to have no more than 50 emails at any one time in my inbox, and all those emails require some form of action.
  • Colour code your calendar - internal, external, fee-earning, social....etc – this will give you a really good quick look at how you are spending your time and, therefore, how you might manage it more effectively.
  • Stop multi-tasking - you are much more productive when you concentrate on one task at a time. Making a concentrated effort on a task with minimal distractions will lead to better work and fewer mistakes which, in turn, means less  time and energy being wasted by going back to fix those mistakes.
  • Time your activities.You will be surprised how long it can take to achieve many mundane and everyday tasks; in your mind its 2 minutes, but in reality its 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Plan ahead. Taking the time to plan your day or your project is always time well spent.  Effort is only wasted when there is not a clear path....impatience is the enemy of efficiency!  

In summary, its up to you to manage your personal/work life balance – it is said that one amazing employee is as effective as 3 average you want to be average, or amazing?!

Are you winter woolly ready?

Autumn. When there's a nip in the air, the nights start to draw in, and the trees shed their summer finery. Talking of wood though, when it comes to heating your home, how well are you prepared for the colder months? 

Wood burners have become increasingly popular in recent years, but how well do you know yours? 

1. Which wood is best for burning? [See our table below] 

2. How dry is your wood?  

  • What is the water content? 'Green' wood can be as high as 50% water content Is your supplier accredited?

  • Wood should be dried for a minimum of one year, preferably two;  for example, an accreditation scheme such as Woodsure audits log suppliers 

What are the consequences of burning 'the wrong type' of wood?  

  • Chimney cleaning issues 

  • Interior pollution 

Kiln dried logs v seasoned: 

There are 2 major factors in burning wood which affect its calorific value (heat output): 

1. Moisture content 

2. Wood density

Moisture content has far the greatest effect on wood-burning efficiency as any water in the timber has to boil away before the wood will burn.  If you can get them to light at all, logs that aren’t dry will result in a fire that smoulder and creates lots of tar and smoke significantly increasing the danger of a chimney fire. 

Wood density - hardwoods (deciduous broadleaved species) tend to be denser than softwoods (evergreen, coniferous species). This means that a tonne of hardwood logs will take up less space than a tonne of softwood logs, but will be heavier per log and will burn for longer. 

Did you know? 

  • Well-seasoned logs have twice the calorific value of green logs.   

  • Kiln-dried logs have a higher calorific value than seasoned logs as they are drier and less densebut can be very expensive. 

  • Radial cracks and bark that comes off easily suggests well-seasoned wood. 


Which wood is best for burning? 

We recommend Layton Timber who supply logs which come already split3 years'-dried, barn-stored, and offers a prompt, all year-round delivery. Tel 01491 613 222 

Their recommended best woods for burning are: 

Produces a steady flame and good heat output; can be burnt when green, although is always best when dry and aged 

Similar to ash, but does not burn well when green 

A traditional wood with a slow burn and good heat output 

Horse Chestnut 
Great for stoves but don’t use it on open fires as it spits a lot! Gives a good flame and heat output in a log burner 

Also good for stoves but don’t use it on open fires as it produces an acrid and dense smoke.   


Caring for your stove and your chimney 

For your chimney’s health to compliment the logs you are burning and ensure your safety within the home we recommend Sweep Dreams Chimney Services. Tel 07913 905 042.   

  • HETAS is the trade body for wood burners, 

  • It recommends a chimney is swept twice a year, although this can be reduced to once if you are using multi-fuel in your stove.  

  • Book your chimney sweep to attend just before you want to begin using your stove on a regular basis again; this is particularly important if you haven’t used your stove for a while. 


Organisation Unlimited can provide the spark 

Or, simply ask OU to arrange everything for you.

By grouping orders together, we can often arrange bulk discounts and also have preferential client status with chimney sweep services.  

What the Uni websites don't tell you about preparing to study in the UK!


The UK is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for overseas students, with the number of non-EU students rising +3% to 310,000 in 2013/14 [Higher Education Standards Agency].

For many this is the first time they have left home and they need to learn the different customs, cultures and norms of an entirely new society at the same time as coping with all the pressures of studying at University.

Is it any wonder they might need a helping hand from time to time? 

"UK institutions need to work harder to take into account what a big step it is for young people from a radically different culture to get to grips with student life in the UK" 
- Guardian article
Getting grips with student life in the UK

Consider a student arriving from the far east, for the first time to study in the UK (note: Chinese students numbers increased +60% over the past 5 years, the fastest growth from any overseas country) and what they might be faced with upon arrival?

Arrival in the UK: how to get from the airport via the train station to the University?
# OU will prepare a Travel Itinerary, complete with timetables, connections which need to be made, costs, methods of payment,etc. and can arrange a door to door chauffeur service for those not wishing to brave the London Underground on day one!

Arrival at University: how to settle in to University accommodation?
# OU will help to open bank accounts, credit cards, mobile phone contracts and manage utilities including any other lifestyle concerns that may arise.

Day to day life in the UK: how to integrate?
# OU can arrange for days out to visit places in the UK, to develop and understand the culture, and to have fun - and to shop!
Survive and thrive with OU's help
In short, OU's assistance will allow foreign students to survive and thrive in the UK, taking away the hassle, leaving them free to study and to get the best value out of their time spent in the UK.

Have a look at our TOP TIPS 'Settling In' checklist for University for an idea of the sort of services we offer, or get in contact with us and have a chat. 


Things to think of / be are of / remember when heading to university for the first time

1.    Where is your accommodation?
a.    Halls?
b.    Flat / house share:
i.    Have you checked your lease
ii.    What is insured – what do you need to insure
iii.    What break clauses do you have
iv.    Be sure you know what you are committing to

2.    Can you park your car?
a.    Do you need a permit – where do you get one from?

3.    Are bills included or additional?
a.    Gas / water / electric
i.    Are they on a key that needs topping up?
ii.    Are they on a monthly contract
iii.    Take meter readings when moving in
b.    TV licence
c.    Internet
d.    Council tax- remember as a student you can get this reduced to ‘0’-but you do have to register (not just don’t pay!)

4.    How to get from accommodation to uni
a.    Time it takes
b.    Route
c.    Where to park your car / bike
d.    Do you need a bus pass
5.    How much money you have
a.    How much you may need
b.    Do you need a job as well
c.    Where to apply for work
d.    Is it best to apply to start as soon as you get there or apply with all the other students on arrival?

6.    Where are you lectures?
a.    All on the same campus?
b.    How to get to each?
c.    Who are your tutors
d.    Where is the careers office
e.    Where is the student hub (volunteering centre)
f.    Where is the student union

a.    Pretty much everywhere – get a NUS card
i.    Bank account
ii.    Gym
iii.    Travel card
iv.    Restaurants
v.    Bars
vi.    Musems
vii.    Theatre /cinema
viii.    ALWAYS ASK

8.    Remember to enrol
a.    Freshers week is so much fun, you may forget to actually let your uni know you have arrived!

9.    Bursaries
a.    Investigate extra funding. It is amazing what you may be eligible for!

10.    Where are you going to live next year?
a.    It may seem strange but you need to get this in place by Christmas!  The best accommodation goes early so plan ahead

11.    Enjoy your first year.  Year 2 & 3 you will need to knuckle down and do some work!

12.    Invest in a decent lap top and BACK EVERYTHING UP.  Note making and essays. If your lap top crashes or gets stolen.  Don’t be without your work.

13.    If you haven’t joined FB –do.  You don’t have to share your life with the world but it will keep you linked in with what is going on and where it is happening.


Halloween, Half Term, and Little Horrors

Phew, so the kids have all been back at school for a couple of weeks now, life has returned to normal and, what?! Half-term is already just around the corner?! [cue outright panic] 

Never fear, OU is here to help you get prepared and ahead of the crowds. These split into two groups: 

1. Do it yourself activities 

2. Days' Out activities 

 Do it yourself activities

Making stuff for Halloween - cheap and easy ways to make Halloween go with a bang: 

  • Plan a trip to the vegetable markets – an early start but such fun!  Kids can choose their own pumpkin for an activity later on in the day/week.  Plus it's educational too, as the kids see the all the different fruits, and the market hard at work....well before 9am! 

  • Roast up the leftover pumpkin seeds to start the Halloween cooking with the kids and have to eat as snacks later; they are gorgeous fresh from the oven. 

  • Kitchen peepers - Using old loo rolls or kitchen rolls, cut out eye shapes and put a glow stick in them for scary glowing eyes in the windows! 

  • Scary trees - If you have a couple of white beach balls, blow them up and paint eyes on them with a black marker pen then put them in a tree as a pair of eyeballs. 

  • Bloody windows - use childrens' waxy white glue along with red food colouring to make bloody hand prints which you can then stick to windows. 

  • Ghost Garland - use your Christmas fairy lights (it’s worth getting them out now so you know how many bulbs need replacing before Christmas starts!), wrap them in white squares of linendraw 3 dots to make a face, then tie for a ghost garland.  

Halloween safety tips: 

  • Use face paints rather than masks - masks obscure vision 

  • Carry glow sticks or flashlights when trick or treating – more visibility for drivers

  • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and ribbon 

  • Hem costumes to avoid trips and falls. 


Days' Out activities 

Sometimes though, you can just run out of creative energy yourself, and need a little external helping hand. Here are a few suggestions 

  • Ultimate Activity Camps – 24th-28th October running in Abingdon, Newbury, Oxford, Wallingford provides an exciting range of sport, art and games activities for children of all ages, from swimming and fencing to art and zorbing. 

  • The Ashmolean Museum runs 'Little Ash Moles' - a programme specifically aimed at under 5s (check out their Saturday Ash-ventures)This year, the big attraction isthe  celebraton of Diwali; create your own Rangoli patters and make a clay Diwali lamp. 

  • The Story Museum has Julia Golding returning, by popular demand, for a spooky stories writing workshop on Saturday 24th October aimed at children aged 8-12 as well as lots of other half term projects and fun. 

  • Or travel further afield go to London’s Hyde Park for a Hair Raising Halloween Discovery Day.  Little ones can explore the witches den, make their way through a nature trail and create potions using herbs and plants from the garden. There will also be bat mask making and the chance to make a bat box to take home.  Spaces are limited to avoid over-crowding. 

  • Something different – jazz for kids at the Royal Albert Hall?   


Leave the organisation to us 

Organisation Unlimited. As the name suggests, that's what we do best – organise. 

So, if you'd like to get ahead of the crowds, let us help arrange your Half Term activities – think how relaxed you'll feel when you're all ready and prepared!  

Did you know ....

In our newsletter we have a feature called 'Did you know?'  You can find the answers here ...

All of a sudden it's New Year!

Penguins are the symbol of love. Humans give flowers and candy when wooing a lady. Penguins give rocks. Not just any rocks, though -- male gentoo penguins search through piles of pebbles to find the smoothest, most perfect ones. When a penguin has selected his pebble, he presents it to his intended companion. If she approves, she puts the stone in her nest and the two are well on their way to becoming mommy and daddy birds. Pebbles are so important to the penguins that males often fight over the prettiest selections.

The circles on the Olympic flag are coloured the five colours, red, green, yellow, blue and black because at least one of those colours is found on every flag on the planet.

Although scissors are popularly thought to have been one of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, earlier examples of the device have been dated to between 3000 and 4000 years ago. While a single original inventor is not known, the earliest scissors are attributed to people of the Middle East. Ancient Egyptian scissors were made of bronze and incorporated a spring-like mechanism that kept the blades apart until squeezed together.  The modern pivoted or cross-blade scissors are thought to have been a Roman invention, appearing around 100 A.D. Like the Ancient Egyptian scissors, these were also commonly made of bronze or iron. This pivoted design was adapted for mass-production in 1761 by the Sheffield, England-based manufacturer, Robert Hinchliffe.

Prepping for Christmas-November 2016

Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.

All the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas would equal 364 gifts.  

In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ

Wood for warmth this winter 2016

  • The average UK family throws awa 6 trees of paper in the household bin each year.
  • It is estimated that the standard wooden pencil writes 45,000 words or a line that is 35 miles long before the lead is finished.
  • Woodpeckers have zygodactl feet which means that they have toes facing the front and toes facing the back to help them grip trees and poles vertically.

Half Term / Halloween Newsletter 2016

  • Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • The moving of the clocks was first introduced during World War One by Germany and Austria, and then by the allies, to save on coal usage.

    It was invented by George Vincent Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist in 1895, while British businessman William Willett is also credited with the idea as a way of getting up earlier and so having more daylight hours after work.

    While the UK has always had daylight savings time since it was first introduced, it came into widespread use across the world during the 1970s because of the energy crisis

  • An estimated 1 million spiders live in one acre of land. The number might be closer to 3 million in the tropics. It is estimated that a human is never more than 10 feet away from a spider—ever.

University Newsletter 2016

The academic year at Oxford runs from October to June. The year is divided into three terms: Michaelmas (autumn), Hilary (spring), and Trinity (summer).Michaelmas Term derives its name from the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, which falls on 29 September.

The dot on top of the 'i' is called a 'tittle' 

The word testify derives from testicles as they were under the threat of severance if the truth not be told!

August 2016

The University of York is famous for its duck population. It is suggested that 14 ducks inhabit every 1/4 of an acre on campus. Students have even named a particularly aggressive red and yellow head duck ‘Beer Monster’. And one horror story involves a student rumoured to have caught, killed and ate one of the campus ducks, discovered when a cleaner found a pair of the ill-fated bird’s feet in his bin.

Led Zeppelin played their first ever gig in the Great Hall at the original Surrey University site in Battersea on Friday 25 October 1968.

In the 19th century the poet Lord Byron tried to keep a pet dog while he attended the University of Cambridge but was made to get rid of it. In protest he got himself a pet bear instead and as there was nothing in the statute to state that he couldn’t have one, the university had no legal argument against him.

July 2016

The way to stop your furniture scratching when moving house is to unscrew the handles and screw them back on the inside - not only do you not lose the handles but they also won't scratch other pieces of furniture.

To stop your shirts creasing when travelling, use vacuum pack plastic bags and roll your clothes - they stop friction which means your shirts are less likely to crease.

The best way to get a room upgrade is to stay for short amounts of time in hotels, they are more likely to upgrade you if they can't sell that room in the next few nights.

June 2016

A human will eat an average of 70 insects and 10 spiders whilst sleeping.

89% of respondents in one survey said they experienced a significant drop in stress after one day of travel.  Here are some other ways to reduce your stress levels.

Brazil gives 30 paid vacation days + 11 paid holidays (the equivalent of our bank holidays). Not only do Brasileiros get the highest number of vacation days, they also have their country essentially shut down every February for what is arguably the world's biggest annual party: Carnival.  Ahh, to be Brazilian!

May 2016

The best place to find airline error fares for cheap flights is airfare watchdog and secret flying.

The best way to stop yourself crying when peeling onions is by chewing gum.

The country that consumes more coca cola per capita than any other country is Iceland.

April 2016

The best way to get a table at a fully booked restaurant is to use Open Table online reservation, book for noon, 1415 or 2100, ask to dine at the bar or have concierge connections!

Les Terrasses Bleu is a French pop-up club that started as a pop-up dining experience and everybody must wear blue. 

Cambridge’s award winning pint shop is opening in Oxford. Specialising in meat, bread, gin and beer – who else thinks this will be a good place to watch next year’s Boat Race?!


With the official ‘sandwich week’ fast approaching on 8th- 14th May, we thought it was a great time to celebrate everything about this wonderful British classic!

 The first sandwich ever was supposedly given to the Earl of Sandwich, Lord John Montagu in 1762. He was a big gambler and needed a meal which required no utensils to eat it so it didn’t interfere with his card game – this is when the first sandwich was eaten, a simple ‘meat’ sandwich. These days though, the sandwich is a complex matter offering a myriad of alternatives, from breadless sandwiches, to The Lasandwich (lasagna sandwich), to a super-sized 50,000 calorie sandwich.

 The sandwich will always be a firm favourite of the British public. In fact according to the British Sandwich Association (yes, it’s a thing) Britain’s favourite sandwich is now the classic chicken and bacon sandwich. Closely followed by the prawn mayo and then the ever loved, BLT.

 Restaurants these days are offering us an array of sandwich delicacies: -

  • Burger and Lobster – Lobster brioche roll with wasabi mayo.
  • Quo Vadis – Smoked eel sandwich on sourdough bread.
  • The Glade at Sketch – Caviar and quail’s egg sandwich.
  • Mishkins in London – Reuben and Rye with pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing.
  • Royal Oak – luxury sausage open sandwich with a honey mustard glaze.

 But unfortunately, sandwiches aren’t always recognised as the best choice for the waistline. The high carbohydrates and often fattening fillings like cheese, mayonnaise and salami mean it’s not necessarily the healthiest option for lunch, but not to be deterred we Brits are now thinking about healthier ways to adapt the standard sandwich:

  • Breadless sandwiches: Replacing the bread of the sandwich with a different ingredient means you’re cutting the carb but not missing out on your favourite lunch. Popular substitutes are sweet potato, Portobello mushrooms, cucumber and omelette.
  • Gluten-free sandwiches: for the rising number of people with a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease it used to be that sandwiches were completely off the limit but supermarkets and cafes are increasingly offering a big range of gluten-free bread including the Genius or Udis loaves.
  • Shop-bought sandwiches usually contain an acidic mayonnaise that is high in calories in order to stop the ingredients going bad. The longer a sandwich is on the shelf for, the more chance that the healthier ingredients lose their nutrients and so offer no benefits to the consumer. Make your own sandwiches or buy them from a café that makes them fresh in front of you.

 It’s safe to say that sandwiches are a firm favourite of the Brits so to help us celebrate sandwich week here are some crazy facts about our bread filled friend.

  •  Six chicken sandwiches are consumed in the UK every second.
  • The annual weight of shop bought sandwiches sold came to 379,900 tonnes!
  • Britain spends £7.5 million on sandwiches per year.
  • 12 billion sandwiches are eaten every year in Britain.
  • A chef called Tom Bridge sold a Lancaster cheese sandwich on ebay for £345.
  • A sandwich that had a burn mark that looked like the Virgin Mary sold on ebay for $28,0000 in 2004.
  • The world record for the most people making sandwiches simultaneously is 607 and the British Sandwich Association holds the record.

 Happy Sandwich Week!

Travel tips for every trip

We all know travelling can be extremely stressful, especially if you’re trying to organise a trip for your whole family. Being in a new country where the language might be unfamiliar and you don’t know the roads can be a recipe for disaster. But we have some tips for you that will ensure that you finally have a relaxing, carefree holiday you deserve.

The sheer number of options that are available can be extremely daunting. It’s nearly impossible to know where you can trust. has compiled all the ways you could get to any given destination and the prices of all of those different modes of transport - so you can easily compare the cheapest prices without having to jump from one website to another.

Scan a copy of your passport and credit cards (front and back) and emergency details then store them in a cloud storage location such as Dropbox so if your cards or passport are stolen, you'll have a backup copy of what you need to report the loss and the telephone numbers of who to ring.  

Particularly if you are travelling to a high risk area for theft, avoid finding yourself in an unfamiliar country with no money or cards by spreading your cash about your person - maybe keep some in your pocket, some in your bag and some in the hotel safe.

For someone who has travelled lots, I should be good at packing light and well but the truth is I’m not!  I find it is really useful in the run up to your holiday, to keep a list on you at all times and as soon as you think of an item you should take - write it down! Plan packing well in advance so you don’t have that last minute panic day before you leave and forget something. You don’t want to end up taking your expensive camera without a camera charger… Better still have a saved travel luggage list on your computer that you just tweak each trip.  If you want to be very organized, note what stayed in your suitcase completely unworn so you know not to take it next time!

Mini bars are expensive. If you don’t want to buy anything from the minibar, ask the hotel to empty the refrigerator, it not only stops you spending well over the odds for a cold drink but also means you have an empty fridge you can stock with your own goodies.

Communication is key.  Always learn the words for “hello, please, thank you, delicious and goodbye” to bring smiles to the locals you meet.  A little effort in a local language, goes a long way.

Do make sure you have adequate travel insurance especially if you have any existing medical conditions.  There are many specialist insurance companies including International Travel and Healthcare, and Pearson Insurance.  Travelling in Europe?  Get an EHIC card it gives you discounted medical assistance across all 28 European countries.  Do note though that an EHIC card does not replace the need for standard insurance.

If you want a free room upgrade then book for a non-peak time.  It often helps to let the reception desk know that you’re celebrating a special occasion. If that fails, ask if they’re doing any incentives - you might find that a room upgrade is extremely reasonable. Tripadvisor is often a good indicator in finding out if your hotel is easily persuaded in giving upgrades.

If you’re travelling with your family then mix up each person’s luggage between all the suitcases so if someone’s luggage goes missing, they still have something to wear on holiday until it is found! 

Your hotel concierge is a great source of information but for the really local advice on bars and restaurants, approach the bartender whose friends may work in local restaurants and will know the hottest place for the best price. And when staying at hotels abroad, grab one of the hotel's business cards and keep it on you at all times to explain your address to a taxi driver. 

Top tip for glam girls  …  save yourself effort by getting semi-permanent eyelash dye before you go away. It won’t smudge like mascara, which is particularly useful for long flights, swimming and hotter climes!

But remember,when you’re out having fun though, don’t forget about home. Do not put a luggage tag with your name and address on it.  If you feel the urge to use one, put your name and phone number. At the end of the day, your luggage is not going to be posted to you, someone will want to call you if they have inadvertently picked up your case. The insurance industry say proof is hard but they are certain this information is sold as it passes through baggage handling.  And keep your social media sites private – and make sure your children’s sites are private too. Instagram, Facebook, and many more social media sites are open to a wealth of people and vast networks who can see you are on holiday – which means your house is empty.  Without being too boring about it, manage your risk.

Finally though, remember you’re on holiday. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Be patient, enjoy and absorb the different cultures that you come across and observe the life around you.  If the cash machine is out of cash – fantastic – make an unplanned journey across town to find another. Relax.  Enjoy.  Experience