Monday, 23 February 2015

Less But Better: 10 things we have too many of....

The most important thing I have discovered about living with less is that this is not some peculiar project in suffering or going without. For me, it has become a way of learning to appreciate our belongings, knowing their purpose in our home and understanding how much of something is 'enough'.
When we first started this journey, we had too much of everything. My love of grabbing a bargain from car boot sales and flea markets meant that we soon filled our house and finding homes for all the stuff became a real problem. Cleaning was a massive chore and I was forever sorting and organizing.

We definitely hit the point where we had many, many multiples of everything. We didn't just have enough bedding sets, we had a cupboard absolutely crammed full. And seriously, how many tea towels or tablecloths do two people and a baby actually need?! Certainly not drawers full!

Owning multiples of things because a primary source of anxiety for me. I could never find anything, nowhere had anywhere to live. I guess this is another reason why aspiring to lead a more minimalist life appealed to me so much.  I wanted to enjoy our house and I wanted to enjoy owning things again.

One of my favourite quotes defining minimalism is this....

"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it."
Looking round our home, it was pretty easy to see where I had purchased too much of something. These were the areas that I wanted to start with in terms of reducing and/or removing. Today i'm going to share what our 10 main offenders were (and still are to some extent!)....

1. Ornaments
Including ceramic animals, candle holders, vintage toys and dolls. My goodness, these are a nightmare to dust and it is a chore i'd rather do without! Most of these will be leaving our home via eBay or charity shop donations.

2. Clothes and accessories
I'm guilty of having a wardrobe crammed full of clothes but reaching for the same 4 or 5 outfits repeatedly. The same goes for accessories, shoes and jewellery. I'm aiming to get rid of anything that I haven't worn in the past year.

3. Bathroom & Bedroom textiles
Main offenders include bedding sets, vintage eiderdowns, quilts, blankets, throws, bath mats and towels. I'll be donating/eBaying everything that isn't essential.

4. Perfume
Perfume is my beauty downfall but after a good session on eBay (people go absolutely nuts for half used bottles of perfume, I have no idea why!), i'm now down to two bottles..... one for day time and one for special occasions/nights out. 

5. Paperwork
Including old letters, receipts, bills, bank statements, payslips. Anything not important will be going on a permanent holiday to the recycling bin!

6. Soft toys and holiday souvenirs
Soft toys from trips to Disneyland each year, snowglobes, postcards, etc. I'm not really sure where to start with these as a lot of it is sentimental. In the future though we'll certainly not be designating the bulk of holiday money for souvenirs and instead we will spend more time out of souvenir shops whilst on holiday!  

7. Kitchen and dining textiles
Tea towels, tablecloths, placemats, etc. Most of these have already gone via eBay or charity shop donations.

8. Magazines
I'm one of those who keep old copies of magazines, or I used to be anyway! It's not like i'm ever actually going to sit down and read an out of date issue of Country Living, is it?!

9. Virtual clutter
Old and unused files on my laptop. Apps on my phone/iPad. Bye bye!

10. Craft items
I love making things but I really need to admit I probably have too many hobbies and things I like to do! I rarely get chance now looking after a busy toddler so i'll be taking a good look at what I have and selling on anything I won't be using.

If you had to write a similar list, what would be on yours? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Weekend I Turned 30

On Saturday I turned 30. 30 feels so old! We had a lovely peaceful weekend which included trips into the peak district, meals out, a party and a morning pottering round the botanical gardens near our home followed by our increasingly too often habit of taking Taco Bell home for lunch (I'm addicted!). Saturday afternoon I even managed to squeeze in a nap whilst Emilia slept, a complete luxury for me nowadays!

Our morning dog walks round local parks when Ben has the day off are something I really enjoy at the moment. I love our little chats about things we want to do, places we want to go, being grateful for what we have and enjoying time together as a family. Now i'm 30, it's time to make things happen enjoy life fully!

You can't just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. 
You've got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.
Diana Ross

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Happy 16 Months!

My goodness, here we are at 16 months already! I've pretty much written January off, it was a tough month plagued by flu bugs and Emilia's first sickness bug which have completely wiped us out. Let's hope the coming month brings sunshine, good health, more sleep and a happier days again!

Here's a little 'Emlia update' on some main things during the last few weeks....

Sleep - All is can say is naps? What naps! Emilia is currently going through a phase of refusing naps/sleep/rest wherever possible. It's lead to more grumpy days than I care to count and me counting down the seconds until daddy gets home from work each day! It's exhausting..... please tell me that it's a phase and it will pass soon!
On a plus note, she's taken really well to her new pillow and duvet. I was worried about using a duvet because she's really super active in her sleep but I think she likes how cosy she can get, especially as it is so cold at the moment!

Doing - Emilia no longer crawls and walks everywhere now. Walking is her absolute favourite thing and when we go out she insists on walking until she gets tired.... only then will she consider going in the pram for a rest!
She's a very, very active little girl and is constantly exploring her surroundings. She doesn't like to stay put anywhere for more than a few seconds so car journeys and cafe highchairs are becoming seemingly impossible for the moment!
Another favourite this month is music and dancing. She very visibly has her favourite songs and gets straight up for a dance whenever she hears them, whether it's Mister Maker's shape dance or Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass"!

Saying - Emilia seems to have one word (phrase?) this month and that is 'UH OH!'. She's pretty much obsessed with saying it at the moment, even when we say good morning to her she replies with an 'uh oh!'. No other new words though she is constantly vocal, keen to tell us everything that is going on around her in her own special language! 

Eating - Emilia's favourite foods this month are simple things like tinned spaghetti, toast, crumpets, peas, sweetcorn, bananas and strawberries. With her being poorly we've leaned towards sticking to her favourites rather than trying new things to keep it simple and stress free!  

Likes - reading books with us (she LOVES Mr Men and anything with textured pages or flaps!), organising her toys, watching Sofia the First every evening, cuddles, stroking the dog, emptying cupboards, making music with her xylophone, sticker books, slides, soft play, going to the park, watching birds and cats in our garden, throwing/kicking balls and playing in the snow!

Dislikes - Emilia currently hates us trying to assist her in any way, she's incredibly independent and loves trying to do everything herself! As with previous months, this is a bit of a nightmare when we go out. If we try and direct her or try to hold her hand in public to show her the way then she's very much in favour of throwing herself on the floor and screaming! Other than that though, she has been very good!

Happy 16 months, my princess!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Less But Better: Our Minimalist Adventure

I'm currently on a journey that I never thought i'd see myself take. It's exciting and i'm not quite sure where it is leading but I sure am having fun along the way! 

Roughly two years ago I decided that things needed to change. I was permanently exhausted. I was tired of clutter, tired of mess, completely overwhelmed and shocked that after just a couple of years of buying our first home (a 3 double bedroom property) the two of us had completely filled it with STUFF. A combination of a love of shopping and being depressed by my job situation meant that I found myself buying more and more stuff to keep me happy. 

I'll save you the full story but I'll admit it was so bad that sometimes i'd sit at home in tears because there was always so much to do around the home. Bigger jobs and our to-do list always were constantly left 'on hold' because we weren't saving anything, spending almost every last penny from two great monthly wages on STUFF, meals out, holidays and takeaways. Our new bathroom? Nope, never got it done. Damp proofing and repairing that massive hole in the wall behind the fridge? Pfft.
By the time we acknowledged that things had to change, I was a few months pregnant and wasn't in a suitable position to pursue a huge lifestyle change just yet. Besides, we didn't know where to start!

So as 2014 began and as things started to settle down with Emilia, I began a little mission to remove some of the clutter from our lives. 

We decided to tackle the house from top to bottom, mainly because our attic room is currently unused and is the 'dumping ground' in our home. From there, we removed bags and bags of items. We filled the car repeatedly and dropped everything off at various donation centres and charity shops across Sheffield. I took up selling on eBay again and delighted in seeing our savings slowly starting to grow again.

In April 2014, we took a holiday and it was then that I realised that the things we packed for our trip were pretty much the 'essentials' in our life. That feeling of 'freedom' when you're away from home? Yeah, maybe that wasn't entirely down to being on holiday. Maybe it's also because we left the stress at home, enjoying a calmer and more peaceful way of life without all the extra STUFF
This really inspired me and with every item that went from our house, I genuinely felt bit more freedom.

Over the next few months we'll be tackling every last item in our house, from removing multiples of things (bedding, kitchenware, etc), to dealing with those huge boxes of paperwork and letters. I'm really quite keen on sharing the process on this blog, if only for the sake of documenting it so I never let it get like this again! 

Slowly but surely, i'm starting to appreciate and look after everything that remains..... and it's really quite lovely.  

I'm really not sure where this is all heading. It's a new chapter for us and a new way of life. I really quite love it. I'll not deny that we are at the very start of this adventure and taking it slowly is the only way we can feasibly do it. We still have a lot to clear, it's going to take a long, long time.

Slowly but surely though, things are changing for us as a family. One thing i'm sure of is I don't want Emilia growing up thinking that possessions matter. They don't. I want her to grow up valuing people and experiences, not things. What a better way to do it than to lead by example, yep?

If you're in a similar position and want to know where to start then I can't recommend the following blogs highly enough....

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Happy 15 Months!

I almost forgot to write this update as we all seem to be a bit poorly at the moment! Emilia and I have a terrible flu bug and Elsie had an operation at the beginning of the week so she's currently recovering too.... Ben seems to be the only one to have escaped any illness so far!

Emilia turns 15 months old today. She's had a super fun month which has included Christmas celebrations, plenty of birthday parties, lots of cake and heaps of new toys to play with! We've had a very cuddly month, I love that she's so very affectionate with everyone she meets. Her cuddles and kisses are just the best!

Here's a little update on some of the main things during the past few weeks....

Sleep - Still good! We're still aiming for a 7:30pm bedtime though most nights she won't actually drop off until after 8pm and then *fingers crossed* she'll usually sleep until around 6am. 
We've always read her a story just before she goes to sleep and recently she's started showing interest in the books we're reading her. She's now taken to standing up in her cot and pointing at the pictures on the pages. It's very cute although I think she might be sneakily trying to make our bedtime routine just that little bit longer! 
This month we have also introduced a pillow to her cot bed as we were finding she was resting her head most nights on a teddy or a blanket. We opted for the Ikea Len as it has pretty good reviews and is quite flat so it's the perfect starter pillow! So far she really loves it and she moves around the cot a lot less now during the night. We also purchased the matching duvet though she's yet to use that as she still likes her sleeping bag.

Doing - Walking like a pro! Walking seems to be her favourite thing at the moment and she's keen to practice constantly. At home she'll carry her toys from one room to another and when we are out she's off as soon as her feet touch the floor. She's very active, I'm looking forwards to the weather being a bit better so we can spend more time outside!
She received many toys for Christmas and she loves anything that involves posting, stacking or sorting. Her new play tent is also a firm favourite and she'll often take a pile of toys in there and hide from us haha!

Saying - Cat, pudding (or "'DING!"), hi, bye. She's also starting to visibly understand us such as if we ask "shall we go upstairs and fill the bath?" she'll go and climb up the stairs to the bathroom..... it's pretty awesome!

Eating - Emilia has been teething a lot this month which has really affected her appetite. Some days she'll just want milk and other days she'll eat like crazy! The good news is she'll try almost anything, even if she doesn't then like it. This month she has really enjoyed sweetcorn, peas, porridge, crumpets with nutella, couscous, chips, bolognese, bananas and blueberries.

Likes - tummy tickles, hiding in her play tent, walking, going to cafes, exploring in the garden and being outside, trying to dress herself, cuddling and kissing everyone (including the dog!), pressing buttons, watching Sofia the First, bath time, emptying all the toys from her toy basket and empyting drawers/cupboards. 

Dislikes - Again, Emilia has been very good this month.... nappy changing, teeth brushing and being dressed are a lot better! We're still having problems with going to shops or being told 'no'. She's mastered the art of throwing herself on the floor and screaming if we tell her not to feed the dog mince pies or not to step into the road. I guess she's developing that little personality and trying to work out where the boundaries are!

Happy 15 months, my princess!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas in Finland

If I had to draw up a list of countries that i'd like to visit soon then Finland would be pretty much at the top of that list. Finland is the land of seemingly endless forests and lakes, vibrant cities, home of Moomin World (yes, this does exist!) and one of the best places to see the northern lights. It’s also home to some of my all time favourite bands (think HIM, Apocalyptica, The 69 Eyes.... and many, many more!).

As we’re well and truly in the run up to Christmas now, ICE International Currency Exchange recently tasked me to put together a Christmas bundle to highlight the difference in other cultures when it comes to Christmas celebration. 
Everyone knows that Santa Claus comes from Finland and I’d absolutely love to visit this at this time of year so I think that it is the perfect country to write about!

There's no denying it, Finland during the festive season sounds just wonderful! Putting together this bundle was a real blast and I've enjoyed learning about some of the wonderful traditions in Finland at this time of year. I'll share some of these interspersed with some snaps of the things I gathered for my 'Christmas bundle'. Here goes....

I chose to host a mini 'Finnish feast' for my family using snacks, drinks and decorations that evoke a sense of Finland at Christmas time. Details of where I purchased everything can be found at the bottom of this post!

During the festive period, people in Finland like to take things slow and enjoy the company of their loved ones. The family home is important at Christmas time, as is nature and the surrounding natural atmosphere. Nobody is left out, including animals who are invited to join in with the festivities with farmers hanging out a sheaf of wheat to be eaten by birds as well as nuts and suet hung on tree branches.

I made sure that our garden birds had plenty of yummy treats too, stocking up on everything from seed to suet balls and feeders!

During the run up to Christmas, you'll find the festival of St Lucia which takes place every December 13th. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season and is meant to bring hope and light to all during the darkest time of the year.
The festival is celebrated mostly by the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland and involves a young girl wearing a crown of candles followed by a procession of girls who each carry a single candle. Here's a video of the celebration I found on youtube (it looks magical!)....

I bought this beautiful red horse candle ring from Chalet in Bakewell. The ring of candles reminded me of the festival of St Lucia and made a stunning little centerpiece on our dining table during our feast. The winter decorations and candles are interchangeable and so can easily be changed when spring comes around!

As with many countries including here in the UK, food plays a central role in the Christmas celebrations. The favoured dish for most is ham or a pork roast which is usually served with a variety of fish, casseroles and salads. Sweet pastries, cakes, biscuits and chocolates are enjoyed and rice pudding is also highlighted as a traditional and authentic Christmas food in Finland. There is a really cute tradition for a single almond to be hidden in the pudding and whoever finds it will have good luck for the year ahead!

Baked rice pudding with a sprinkle of cinnamon and golden stars, yum!

In terms of drinks, traditional glögi (spiced wine sprinkled with almonds, raisins and a dash of vodka!) is served to welcome visitors across homes, parties and markets.

Of course, Santa Claus comes from the north part of Finland (Korvatunturi, Lapland!) so he doesn't have to travel far with his reindeer to deliver his presents. In fact, he's so close by, people get their gifts a day early!
For some, Santa Claus is still known as Joulupukki which literally translates as 'Christmas goat' and this refers to the tale of a naughty goat who liked to ask for presents but never gave any out! Throughout time the goat eventually became the gift giver and Santa then took over the gift giving duties.

This reindeer decoration came in a do-it-yourself kit which was 100% made in Finland. I love how the kit is flat, super light and easy to send..... they would be an amazing gift to send through the post! For me, reindeer and Santa Claus are synonymous with Finland at this time of year.

Christmas eve seems to be the 'main event' in Finland and this is when families spend time together, decorating their trees, drinking glögi, relaxing and (this is my favourite!) bathing in a Christmas sauna. How lovely! I think we could do with a bit of sauna action here in the UK too!

As the sun sets so early in Finland, you'll see lots of magical ice lanterns lit up outside which i'm sure must be amazing to see in the cold wintry darkness. There is also a tradition for people to journey to cemeteries to leave candles on the graves of loved ones to remember them by at this time of year.

I adore this little decoration, the trees and reindeer remind me of Finland and I love the use of natural materials.

Here's a list of everything I gathered for my Finland Christmas bundle (apart from the food which disappeared very quickly before I had chance to photograph it!) and the shops I got them from....

Black and white Moomin plates - Artbox
Lovi do-it-yourself wooden reindeer figure decoration - Lovi
Wooden reindeer/forest Christmas decoration - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Christmas Moomin tin mug - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Red Horse candle ring and decorations - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Moomin tea towel - Ekelund Weavers via Chalet Home in Bakewell
/Assorted wild bird food and feeders - Bakewell Pet Supplies
Sheaf of wheat - scologic on eBay
Santa Claus tree/table decoration - Wilkinsons
Food and mulled wine - Aldi

Have you ever spent Christmas in another country? Or if not, where would you choose if you did?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Christmas fit for a Pug

You may remember that Elsie was super prepared for Christmas and wrote her letter to Santa way back in October. She must have been on his list of well behaved doggies because recently she received this wonderful parcel of goodies courtesy of Pets at Home....

Elsie was overjoyed with everything (there was an awful lot of sniffing of the box it all came in!) though I think her favourite item is the Christmas pudding costume as it is made from super soft fleece which keeps her nice and warm at home. 
She's not worn the outfit out yet but we are anticipating that she'll get loads of fuss from everyone she meets..... it is just so ridiculously cute!

We've bundled up everything else ready for the big day but until then, she's enjoying having an advent calendar 'chocolate' every morning with her breakfast! 

Thanks Pets at Home!