My wanderlust is knawing away at me at the minute – that familiar restless feeling. This time last year the twins and I were in NZ for a trip that was awesome and ultimately totally empowering for me. I gained a confidence that I didn’t know I possessed. Taken out of my comfort zone I discovered I surprised myself with my resilience and strength. And then we were wowed by the scenery and the sudden warmth of the sun in the middle of the British winter was more than a little welcome! That for me is what travelling is all about. Pushing your boundaries, widening your experience, learning and discovering new things about yourself and the world around you.
After the shock of the return to the UK, we had our European road trip to look forward to, and we immersed ourselves in the planning and anticipation – and then our five weeks away more than met our expectations. It really was incredible.
This year is different. No trip to New Zealand – instead we bade my parents farewell as they headed out there to visit my brother, and we can only experience the gorgeous sunshine on a laptop screen on Skype rather than in real life. There will be no extended trip across Europe this summer. Our holiday this year will be UK-based, and whilst I know we’ll have a brilliant time (and I try to appreciate how lucky we are to be able to have a holiday fullstop), I can’t stop myself from daydreaming about the places I really wish we were journeying to.
But until we can fulfill those dreams, at least I have the memories of last year’s adventures to fall back on…
As a general rule, I’m not one for self-help books. I do, however, seem to be obsessed with the idea of happiness and what I can do to make myself happier, and one of my biggest loves is pottering around at home, so any book that combines these two things holds a strong attraction.
I began with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I’ll just come out with it and declare now that I’m a hoarder, just like my mother before me, and her mother before that. Our house is full of stuff because I find it so hard to part with things (I see future uses for almost everything). So the main premise of this book – discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy” – terrifies and fascinates me in equal measure. Marie’s approach is simple. Systematically work through your possessions, keeping only the things that “spark joy” and discarding everything else. Once you’ve finished discarding, you can decide where to store it all.
‘After all, what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the
things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all.
Therefore the best criterion for choosing what to keep and what to discard is
whether keeping it will make you happy, whether it will bring you joy.’
Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying
Unfortunately I think that I’m wired differently to Marie Kondo. She seems to have a significant lack of sentimental attachment to her belongings, whereas I steep almost everything I own in a sense of memory and emotion. Marie advises tackling the job of discarding your belongings starting with easier categories like clothes and books, before you’re ready to face dealing with the sentimental objects, but I know that I would have sentimental objects in every single category, including the so-called easy ones.
I also think she must have a much better memory than me, as she believes that the memory itself is enough – you don’t need to keep an object to hold onto a memory. But for me, objects play a strong part in sparking memories. My memories are generally sketchy – like rough outlines – and objects (or music, smell, photographs) are what fill the sketch in – rounding it out and giving it colour and life.
So I have reservations, but – and it’s a big BUT – I know that my clutter does make me unhappy. When I need to focus or I’m feeling anxious I have to sort and clear my immediate surroundings. I get rid of a few things, but mostly I just move stuff around and come up with new storage solutions. I’m intrigued by this book’s challenge to live in the moment, rather than hold onto things that remind me of the past, or belong to some still-to-be-determined moment in the future, and I think that letting go of a lot of ‘stuff’ would ultimately feel very freeing. I’ll need to find a point of compromise between Marie’s rigorous guidelines and my own comfort zone, but the book has definitely got me thinking and I would recommend it.
I had mixed reactions to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project when I read it – some things struck a chord, sometimes I wanted to hurl the book across the room in frustration, other times I was just left with my WTF face. But it made fascinating reading and so I was interested to see what direction her project focusing on the home would take. Her relationship with her possessions is actually pretty similar to mine (‘I wanted to love my possessions, and yet not be mastered by them’, she says) – and she tries to find a good balance between tackling the clutter and valuing the possessions she has. Both her and Marie share similar pieces of advice when deciding what to keep and what to discard – is it useful or do you love it?
‘I undertook two complementary tasks: first, to identify, arrange, and
spotlight meaningful possessions; second, to get rid of meaningless stuff’
Gretchen Rubin, Happier At Home
Gretchen’s book also looks at many other aspects of home, such as marriage, parenthood, interior design and neighbourhood – tackling a different theme each month to explore the factors that for her matter for sense of home.
Now I’m only a few chapters into Helen Russell’s The Year Of Living Danishly, but I am absolutely hooked. I challenge anyone to read this book and not want to up sticks and move to Denmark immediately. Just the promise of the amazing pastries and great coffee was enough for me – I was sold halfway through the prologue. When it comes to home, I’ve always loved Danish design and interiors and there’s a common theme with the other books when it comes to clutter – less clutter makes for a calmer, happier space.
‘When we surround ourselves with quality design, it influences our mood. If our
surroundings are nice, we feel cosy and safe. It makes us happier.’
Charlotte Ravnholt, quoted by Helen Russell in The Year Of Living Danishly
I’ve enjoyed all three of these books, and they’ve all given me that spark you need to make some changes around the home. And all of the writers agree that sorting out your home-life will have a positive impact on the rest of your life, too. I definitely feel that tackling some of the clutter in our home will free up space in my mind to make me feel more in control of my life, and to allow me to focus on what I want to do going forwards.
Have you read any of these books and if so, what are your thoughts? Do you have any other reading recommendations to share – I’d love to hear them!
When I picked up my grape hyacinths last weekend from Homebase, I also treated myself to a few new houseplants and pots from the garden section – (from left) Peperomia Schumi Red, Peperomia Angulata and Peperomia Rotundifolia . Pottering around the kitchen planting up the pots was the perfect Sunday afternoon activity and the new additions already look very at home – two on the kitchen windowsill and the third on our living room shelving unit.
This time last year our house was pretty much devoid of houseplants, except for one lonely pilea, but now my newfound love of indoor plants is gathering pace and I love the greenery that’s spreading around our home. I’ve been largely successful in keeping things alive (something I had previously doubted I could ever manage), and the nurturing instinct that I feel for my plants has rather taken me by surprise. I’m constantly inspired by images of plant-filled homes on Pinterest (via my ‘for indoor plants and blooms board’), and I have a wish-list of plants that I want to add to our home. I think it marks a change in my decorating style and I’m really enjoying the journey.
A trip to Welford Park in Newbury with friends gave us our snowdrop fix this week. The woods are covered withe the most stunning carpet of snowdrops, and they’re at their best for only about two weeks of the year so half term came at the perfect time. The sun shone for us and we had a wonderful few hours wandering and watching the children play – I hope we can make it an annual pilgrimage.
I’ve seen the Shard from a distance, gazed up at it from the surrounding streets, and stood right underneath it, but I’d never actually been in until a couple of weeks ago when I headed into London for a morning with the Rooms Made For You team to find out about some exciting new launches. We were up on the 34th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel (only halfway up the tower!), and the view over London was spectacular.
We were introduced to three new solutions – Lifestyle Wall, Thistle Magnetic Plaster and Silent Floor – and it was Lifestyle Wall that really grabbed my attention. It’s a new type of plasterboard that allows you to fix literally anything, anywhere. There’s no need for specialist fixings – you can just screw directly into the wall surface, and each screw/fixing can hold up to 15kg weight. Now, we’re lucky in our current home to have walls that are pretty good when it comes to putting anything up, but we’ve lived in plenty of places where trying to put up the most simple thing is a headache from start to finish, especially where plasterboard is involved.
We marvelled at the heavy weights we saw hung just from a couple of screws in the wall surface, we had a go at screwing into the wall ourselves (you don’t even need a drill), and our brains raced with the design possibilities that Lifestyle Wall offers.
From open kitchen shelving laden with tableware, to a huge (and heavy) statement mirror, to something as bonkers as an indoor climbing wall in a bedroom – Lifestyle Wall makes these things achievable in any home.
To allow you to easily personalise your home, Rooms Made For You have developed Thistle Magnetic Plaster – a clever plaster that attracts magnets to create a display area that can be endlessly changed and updated. Having tried magnetic paint myself (five coats and the surface still barely holds a single sheet of paper), this is a great innovation. All that’s required is thin layer of the plaster applied to the wall (like a standard plaster skim).
And finally, Silent Floor. The sound-insulating plasterboard linings applied to the ceiling allows for acoustic separation between the room above and below.
Then it was back on the train armed with a box of the most amazing macaroons from LÁNG at the Shangri-La that I’ve ever tasted. Thanks Rooms Made For You!
Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Rooms Made For You, but all opinions expressed are my own.
Sarah-Lou has fallen hard for the Danish concept of Hygge.
“Originating from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being’, the definition of Hygge issomewhat open to interpretation – at it’s simplest, it means a sense of cosiness, but this is only a fraction of it’s entirety. In practice, Hygge is a far more holistic approach to creating a sense of community, connection, and warmth; inviting closeness, and caring for ourselves & each other – it’s a feeling of balance cultivated in the spirit of ‘being’ not ‘having’, and an ethos that life should be savoured not survived…” [Sarah-Lou at lapinblu]
For her post this week, she’s suggested how creating Hygge at home can help to banish the winter blues. Out of her list of five, the one that struck a chord with me was ‘Find Your Sanctuary’, to practice ‘Hyggelig,’ meaning to comfort oneself, or to be reflective. Making time to just think is something I find particularly challenging. One thing that I know works for me is getting out of the house go for a walk. I find that I get some of my best ideas when I’m out and about, so I’m looking forward to incorporating it into my daily routine again.
Head over to lapinblu now to read Sarah-Lou’s other thoughts to find out how you can lift your spirits using the Hygge concept.
I’m definitely starting to feel like I can see Spring finally approaching, and as I notice the bulbs start to push up through the earth in the garden, I’ve also noticed how neglected our garden is. We’re itching to get back out there to tidy up after Winter and start planning what changes we might make this year.
For now, I’m going to enjoy watching Spring arrive and celebrate when the blossom starts to appear. I planted up some grape hyacinths (a favourite of mine) in a terracotta bowl planter from Homebase last weekend, and they now greet me by our front door as I come and go. I love their soft blue flowers and they remind me of my parents’ garden, which is always full of colour in Spring.
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Homebase
Last Sunday was one of those days that come along every so often to remind you how awesome life really is. A trip to the seaside to meet up with Kat and Kelly had been in the diary for a while, but I don’t think any of us had dared to hope for a day of pure, uninterrupted sun after the seemingly endless winter with its grey skies and coldness. I love the British beach in winter and West Wittering was pretty near perfect, with its gorgeous sand and stunning parade of brightly painted beach huts. We settled on the sand dunes to chat, play, take photographs and drink Kat’s epic hot chocolate. And a lastminute visit from Sarah-Lou just topped it all off.
It was just what we all needed. The kids were in their element and I can’t tell you how good it felt to close my eyes and feel the warm sun on my face. I soaked up every last ray before we had to head home, able to start the week feeling restored and rejuvenated. When your heart swells just remembering a day like that, you know it was a good one.
I love seeing classic outdoor-style festoon lights used in interiors. Originally when I spotted the outdoor lighting garland from Out There Interiors I’d imagined using it in our living room when we gave it a mini-makeover, but the mini-makeover is still waiting to happen as we ponder making more major changes (more on that soon).
I knew I wanted to use the lights inside somewhere rather than use them in the garden, so when I relocated my home office downstairs to provide space for Ez to have her own bedroom, I thought the garland would be the perfect lighting choice. Instead of hanging it across the ceiling, I wanted to make it more of a focal point, so we made a triangle hook out of plywood and screwed it to the wall and I’ve draped the lights over it.
I’m totally crediting Katy at Apartment Apothecary for making me fall in love with the String shelving system by Nils Strinning. I think they’re a real design classic – totally timeless and a perfect blank canvas for styling. In my new office I’ve tried to keep these shelves decorative, rather than using them to store lots of practical office gear. The more practical stuff is tucked away elsewhere. If only I had the space for one of the the gorgeous storage pieces from Out There Interiors – that would definitely help my storage situation no end.
I love the contrast of the garland’s black flex against the brilliant white of the wall.
The light the lighting garland gives out is soft and gentle, and makes me feel really calm when I’m working in my office on a dull day or in the dark evenings. I spend so much time sat at my desk that anything that makes me feel happier while I’m there gets a big tick from me.
Disclosure: Out There Interiors gave me the lighting garland for the purposes of this review.
#TheEverydaySpruce isn’t just about things to do around the house. Last week, Sarah-Lou focused on making little improvements to your bedtime routine – life always feels so much better when you’ve had a decent night’s sleep – and this week I’ve been looking at my relationships.
Obviously romance is a hot topic this month. Valentines is pretty low key in our house, but it did get me thinking about my relationship, and how easy it is to fall into a pattern where you actually don’t make a lot of time for your other half. I’m definitely guilty of this – we spend far too many evenings zoned out in front of the TV, and not enough time actually talking or doing something different together.
Now the twins are at school, we actually have more free time on our hands because my husband doesn’t work a standard 9-5 job and I’m freelance. So far we’ve directed our energy towards all those DIY jobs that we never got round to before, but I think we need to be more mindful of our time together. With this in mind, I’ve created a box of 12 things we can do together this year. There’s a card for each month, with a simple idea written on the back. Some people might call them ‘date nights’ I suppose but I have a irrationally strong aversion to the term! I can’t really put my finger on what it is exactly that drives me batshit crazy about it – maybe the pressure it implies or the overt sentimentality? Either way, there will no ‘date nights’ in my house, but I do think we could do with a gentle push each month to break out of our everyday routine and reconnect.
For us, I’ve actually identified a specific day each month for us to do something. I have my husband’s shift pattern a year in advance so this is possible, and I think we’re more likely to stick to it if the dates are written onto our calendar. The activities are fairly ordinary – for example every time we drive through a local village we talk about how we should park up and go for coffee one day, but we’ve never actually done it. We’ve got into the habit of eating our dinner on our laps in front of the TV – I’d like to cook and eat together more often. We’re lucky in that we have some daytime free together, but I have also included a few evening adventures, even if it’s just a couple of drinks in our local pub, or a walk on a summer evening.
Of course you could give the box as a gift for a special occasion, but I don’t reckon it has to be a big deal, presented with a flourish. It would work just as well introduced quietly into your daily life without a lot of fuss – you could both put ideas in for things you’d like to do so that it’s a joint effort.
I think it would also be a great idea to do for a good friend that you wish you saw more often, or for your mum or dad. Or if you’re stuck in a rut with the things you do with your children, then use it to help identify some different things you can do together. There are so many possibilities!