July 19th, 2016

My 7 golden rules for an ordered (and happier) workspace

7 golden rules for an organised home office | Growing SpacesGetting my desk organised last week after the arrival of my new super-compact HP DeskJet 3720 printer prompted a massive sort out of the rest of my home office. I went through old files, binned bags of obsolete paperwork, moved furniture and generally tackled my problem areas – paperwork, reference material and office stationery – so that I could enjoy the benefits of a more ordered workspace. Just moving furniture gave the room an instant refresh – it’s almost like hitting a reset button. Other things I did:

  • Finally let go of a load of magazines. They were all titles I’ve worked on, but I really don’t need 15 years’ worth of magazines so I went through them and got rid of ones I couldn’t see a use for anymore
  • Cleared my magnetic memo wall (previously just being used to display pictures) to make it more practical and help keep me organised
  • Cleared the large cupboard that was so crammed full of folders, files and books that we’d given up even opening the doors. I pulled everything out, streamlined it, and relocated the files to my open shelving unit so that I could use the cupboard to store stationery supplies
  • Sorted a stack of books to go to the charity shop
  • Consolidated the numerous stacks of printer paper from around the room (I counted five) into a single pile
  • Packed a couple of small boxes of sentimental paperwork and put them in the loft
  • Went through my mountain of paperwork and filed everything away

7 golden rules for an organised home office | Growing Spaces

7 golden rules for an organised workspace | Growing Spaces

7 golden rules for an organised home office | Growing Spaces

There was definitely one of those moments mid-clear-out when you wonder what on earth you’ve done – I managed to trap myself in a corner of the room, blocked in by a half-moved shelving unit and piles of stuff. But once I’d got everything in place, I felt lighter and calmer and knew it had been worth the effort. I’m in deadline hell at the moment, with a million pieces of work due at one time, and I questioned the wisdom of spending time on an office makeover, but it has had such a positive effect on my productivity that any lingering doubts about whether it was just one of my crazy procrastination tactics have been swept away.

7 golden rules for an organised home office | Growing Spaces

7 golden rules for an organised workspace | Growing Spaces

I want to form better habits in order to keep on top of the clutter and maintain an ordered workspace. I work from home, and I spend a good portion of time in this room, so it’s important that it’s somewhere that feels uplifting and energising.  I’m mindful of how successful my touch it once principle for housekeeping has been elsewhere at home, so I kept that in mind when I thought about how I could stay organised in my office (and hopefully increase my productivity and reduce stress). These are my seven golden rules to keep me on track:

  1. DECLUTTER EVERY WEEK Look at my office with fresh eyes at the end of every working work, identify any areas where clutter is starting to form and clear it away.
  2. FILE PAPERWORK IMMEDIATELY Put paperwork where it lives, not start a ‘to be filed’ pile, whether it’s post’s just come through the door or the paperwork relating to a task or project that I’ve just finished.
  3. CLEAR UP EVERYDAY Allocate time to tidy my desk and the surrounding area as soon as I finish a work session so that it’s clear and ready for me to start work the next time.
  4. KEEP MEMO BOARD UP-TO-DATE Use the allocated areas on my newly cleared memo wall – projects, need to do, dates – to store current paperwork (so it’s not in a pile on my desk), and to help shape my to-do list for that week.
  5. STORE STATIONERY SUPPLIES TOGETHER Keep things like printer paper, file dividers, pens, plastic wallets in one place so that it’s easy to see when they need topping up. Printer cartridges are one less thing to worry about, as I’ve signed up to HP Instant Ink – when ink levels in the printer run low, HP will automatically send out new ink cartridges. Genius.
  6. FILE & LOG RECEIPTS WEEKLY Save time and stress when doing my tax return by logging my receipts each week, including printing off receipts for online orders I’ve placed.
  7. CLEAN ONCE A WEEK There’s nothing worse than trying to work in a dirty space, so take time out at least once a week to give the office a quick blitz – vacuum floor, dust surfaces and clean monitor screen.

When I write it down like this it doesn’t seem too hard – doing smaller tasks regularly should hopefully avoid clutter and chaos building up and save time in the long run. If I start to fall off the wagon, I’ll head back to this post to remind myself of my golden rules, and how much happier I feel working in a tidy, organised space. Do you have any golden rules for staying organised? I’d love to hear them if you do!

Oh, and don’t forget that you can win the world’s smallest all-in-one printer for yourself. Share your own desk or shelf space on social media using the hashtag #HPShelfie, and I’ll select a winner each month during the course of July and August to receive a new DeskJet 3720 printer, plus a year’s supply of HP Instant Ink (HP’s ink replacement service monitors the ink levels in your printer wirelessly and sends new ink cartridges out to you when you’re running low). I can’t wait to see your shelfies!

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with HP, but all views and content are my own

July 13th, 2016

Butterfly conservation with B&Q

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We’ve had some exciting guests staying with us for the last few weeks as part of B&Q‘s new partnership with wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation. The aim of this collaboration is to encourage people to plan butterfly and pollinator-friendly plants in their garden to help create a better home for insects. I thought this was a great project for the kids to get involved with, and we’ll be looking out for butterflies throughout the  year as part of the Garden Butterfly Survey – we’ll enter any sightings of butterflies in our garden online. And our guests? Five Painted Lady caterpillars…

IMG_3863 600We were sent a Gribblybugs pot of five Painted Lady caterpillars in a pot with their food and a care sheet. The caterpillars were tiny when they arrived but quickly grew – the pot sat on our kitchen table where we could watch their progress. After a couple of weeks of feeding, the caterpillars made their way up to the lid of the pot, where they hung in a ‘J’ shape before shedding their skin to reveal their golden crysalis. After a few more days we could carefully peel the papery inner lid off the pot (with the crysalis attached) and fix it to the inside of the butterfly cage, ready for emergence.
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While we waited, we got on with planting our butterfly-friendly garden so it would be ready when our butterflies arrived. The ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ labels on the plants at B&Q were really helpful when we went shopping, especially for a garden novice like me. We planted what we’d bought in a big planter using peat-free compost (again from B&Q) and we were only just in time, because a day or so later we got to meet our first butterfly!

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All our butterflies emerged within about a five-day period – we spotted the crysalis change colour just prior to emergence, but we missed the butterly crawling from the case every single time. It happens so quickly, I’d go back to check on progress and suddenly there’d be a butterfly hanging from the top of the cage, resting until its wings had set hard. We’d observe each one for a while, before releasing it onto our butterfly garden outside.

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Butterflies with B&Q | Growing Spaces

This project really captured the twins’ interest – both of them took the empty crysalis and some photographs of our butterflies in for Show & Tell at school, and I would love to repeat the exercise again next year. All of our Painted Lady butterflies have gone now, but the butterfly-friendly plants are still thriving, so we’ll keep our eyes open in the hope that we can spot some more butterflies and log them on the Butterfly Garden Survey.

July 10th, 2016

Organised desk, organised mind: Maximising space in my home office

 

Maximising space in a home office | Growing Spaces

Space always seems to be an issue in my home office. The room isn’t tiny, but it’s not huge either, and I really struggle to fit in everything I need, despite being acutely aware that I’m lucky to even have a room at home that I can use as a workspace. I work from home, and it’s a constant battle to keep on top of the clutter. I’m one of those people who needs the space around me to be in order for me to be able to work productively. That well-known phrase ‘organised desk, organised mind’ totally applies to me, and I’m often found wasting valuable time when I should be working, tidying up instead.

Rather than frittering away my working time moving piles of clutter from one spot to another, I decided I needed to tackle the root cause and find ways to better maximise the space, starting with my desk area. Since investing in my much-loved set of String shelves for the wall above my desk, I’ve tried to keep them decorative, but I’ve finally come to accept that that’s a luxury I just can’t afford – they have to serve a practical purpose too. I needed to use them to store more practical office gear, but it was also really important to me that they also looked good. The HP DeskJet 3720, a new, compact, all-in-one printer that’s small enough to sit on a shelf was a good starting point. The DeskJet 3720 lets me print, scan and copy like my old inkjet printer, but it’s half the size – it makes my old one look like enormous and replacing it has freed up some valuable surface space elsewhere in the office.

#HPShelfie - a compact all-in-one printer from HP | Growing Spaces

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

I also moved my notebooks and planners over to the shelves so that I don’t have to keep getting up from my chair to retrieve them when I need them. Otherwise they were always stacked in a pile on my desk, adding to the overall mess and clutter. Other practical things that have been given a new home on my shelves are a pot of pens, other stationery supplies (in the wooden cigar box), and SD cards (stored in one of the apothecary jars that only served a decorative purpose before). Obviously I needed to allow space for some green friends – not only do plants add colour and life to the shelves, but their presence in an office space has been shown to increase happiness and productivity (two things that are always high on my wish-list).

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

I linked the DeskJet 3720 with my mobile and downloaded the HP Social Media Snapshots app so that I could print out some of my favourite Instagram pics on the special 4x5inch sticky photo paper to put up around my desk. They don’t actually need the washi tape to keep them up, but otherwise they get a bit lost on my white wall. I am now completely addicted to this app, and have already had to order more paper to feed my addiction.

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

The lighting garland strung over a DIY hook on the wall next to the shelves isn’t new, but it is a great way of keep the desktop a bit clearer, as it means I don’t need to find on my desk for a lamp.

Maximising office space with the HP DeskJet 3720 | Growing Spaces

I’m already feeling the benefits of a clearer, more organised desk area – changing up the shelves has given the room a welcome refresh that’s had an positive impact on my mood and productivity levels. The next challenge is to maximise space in the rest of the room – a task I’ve been saving for this weekend. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the results of my efforts with you very soon!

Fancy nabbing the world’s smallest all-in-one printer for yourself? Share your own desk or shelf space on social media using the hashtag #HPShelfie, and I’ll select a winner each month during the course of July and August to receive a new DeskJet 3720 printer, plus a year’s supply of HP Instant Ink (HP’s ink replacement service monitors the ink levels in your printer wirelessly and sends new ink cartridges out to you when you’re running low). I can’t wait to see your shelfies!

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with HP, but all views and content are my own

July 8th, 2016

A better night’s sleep with a Leesa mattress

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

I felt like a proper grown-up when Ben and I bought our first decent mattress together over a decade ago – going into the store, trying to find the perfect firmness, having it delivered. Fast forward 11 years, and that mattress wasn’t quite as perfect anymore. I could feel the springs, and we were both starting to wake up feeling achey rather than well-rested. Even before having kids, my sleep was important to me, and I love my bed – I need a good eight hours a night or I am an emotional wreck. Then we had the twins, and a good night’s sleep because even more precious – there’s nothing like young children to make you value your sleep. So when we were offered the chance to replace our old mattress with a Leesa luxury mattress, we jumped at the chance – especially as we could do it all from home, with no time-consuming visit to a showroom required.

What’s totally different about the Leesa mattress is that it has a ‘universal’ feel rather than the traditional soft, medium and firm feel offered by mattresses. A ‘one mattress suits all’ approach? I’ll admit I was skeptical, as it goes against all the mattress-buying advice I’ve ever known. And the second big difference? I couldn’t believe it when the mattress was delivered IN A BOX. One delivery guy, one regular-size van and a king-size mattress in a box (albeit a very heavy box). When it arrived, all we had to do was take it up to the bed, slide it out of the box (it’s all compressed and rolled up at this point), remove the wrapping and watch it unfurl itself.  In a couple of hours the mattress recovers its full thickness and firmness and is ready to sleep on. It was like a magic trick!

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

So, the hundred dollar question. Is it comfortable? Absolutely. I have never slept on a memory foam mattress before, but I was a convert after just one night. The Leesa feels really supportive and there’s a 5cm top layer of foam that’s designed to allow constant air flow throughout the night for a cooler night’s sleep, so it didn’t feel too hot, as I was worried memory foam might. It’s hypo-allergenic which is another bonus, as hopefully it’ll help to reduce Ben’s snoring (I can only hope).

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

The secret to a good night's sleep | Growing Spaces

I’ll admit I was really nervous about switching our mattress, and the relief that I haven’t made a huge mistake is immense to say the least. We are both really happy with how it feels, but even if we weren’t,  Leesa offers a 100-night free trial, allowing you to return the mattress and receive a refund if you don’t like it. So you’re not taking nearly as big a gamble as you think by buying a mattress online without having tried it out first. Not that I’ll be returning mine, but if I was, any mattresses returned to Leesa are donated to charity.

Is it time you upgraded your mattress? If you reckon a good night’s sleep is worth the investment (and I absolutely do), the lovely guys at Leesa are offering you £50 off any mattress order. Just click here to head over to the website to order yours.

Now I’m off for a snooze, as my bed is calling me…

 

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Leesa, but as always my views are totally my own

July 6th, 2016

DIY fish face paint and the Just So Festival 2016

Fish face paint tutorial | Growing Spaces

Fish face paint tutorial | Growing Spaces

It’s about this time of year that we make our tribal announcement for our pilgrimage to the Just So Festival (read all about the Tribal Tournament that includes owls, foxes, stags, lions, fish and frogs), and I’m giving you a mega sneak peek of our costumes. This will be our fourth visit to Just So, and Ez and I have been owls every single time. Until now. Because this year we are all going to be FISH! Well, some kind of fish/mermaid/sea creature/pirate mash up to please all four members of the family. We’re so excited! The great thing about fish is the scope it offers in terms of costumes, so I’ve been busy dreaming up our face paint options, and have come up with this design, which is way easier than it looks, honest. Scroll down for the full tutorial…

Fish face paint tutorial | Growing Spaces

Apart from the glitter, I’ve used a standard Snazaroo face paint kit. You’ll also need a pair of fish net tights (!). Here are the steps:

  1. Use a sponge to cover the eye area with white, reaching right up to the hairline at the temples. Make sure you leave the paint to dry thoroughly.
  2. Put the tights over the head (taking care not to scuff the white underneath) and use one hand to stretch the fabric over the forehead and cheekbone area.
  3. Load a sponge with a contrasting colour (we used blue), and dab onto the the forehead, down the side of the eyes and onto the cheekbones through the tights (repeat on both sides of the face). Carefully remove the tights.
  4. Use a third colour (we chose green) and go round the eyes and the top of the forehead (try to blur the edges so you don’t end up with really hard lines). You can also use a brush to add some spots of this colour to the ‘scales’ you created in step 3.
  5. Apply the glitter (I bought glitter hexagons that are designed for use on nails, but can also be used on the body). I used the pots of glitter gel in the Snazaroo kit as glue, but you can also buy cosmetic glue or gel. I applied the glitter around the hairline, over the eyebrows and on the cheekbones. Finish with some fishy lips painted on with a brush (these won’t last long on a six-year-old but are fun while they last).

The rest of our costumes are a work-in-progress, but they will definitely feature dried moss (got mine on eBay) and seaweed that we gathered and dried on our recent trip to North Norfolk.

Fish face paint tutorial | Growing Spaces

Fish face paint tutorial | Growing Spaces

You can see more fishy inspiration on my ‘for Just So Costumes 2016’ Pinterest board, or more general fancy dress ideas on my ‘for dressing up’ board.

Are you going to Just So this year? There are still tickets available and I can’t rave about the festival enough. If you love the outdoors and all things creative and imaginative then it’s the place for you, and the magic stays with you for the whole year. You can all read about our previous visits to the Just So Festival here, and if you do go, please come and say hi if you spot me (it’s a small enough festival that I’m sure we’ll cross paths).

July 2nd, 2016

Create an eye-catching wall display with Eco Deer

Eco-Deer | Growing Spaces

It’s been a while since the display on my black living room wall had a bit of a shake up, so when the team at Eco Deer got in touch about their quirky wall planters, I jumped at the chance to add a new element to the arrangement. The Eco Deer is a tongue-in-cheek take on a traditional mounted stag’s head – the backing board (made by hand from solid eco wood in a small workshop in Ukraine) has two tube vases mounted on it for you to fill with foliage, flowers or branches.

I like the black board because it matches the wall colour, but there are other finishes, including white, natural wood, gold, mint and pink, all available on the Eco Deer Etsy shop. The board comes beautifully packaged with a few fun postcards included, along with a spare glass tube (just in case!). I love the sense of cheekiness the Eco Deer adds to the wall display, and that it can be so easily tweaked to give it a new look for different seasons, or when the mood takes me. Grasses, feathers, twiggy branches, eucalyptus, pussy willow – there are so many things I want to try!

Eco Deer | Growing Spaces

Eco Deer | Growing Spaces

Eco-Deer | Growing Spaces

Eco-Deer | Growing Spaces

Eco-Deer | Growing Spaces

 

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Eco Deer, who sent me one of their planters for the purposes of this review

July 1st, 2016

How I’d style my dream conservatory

Conservatory style with Thomas Sanderson | Growing SpacesImage: Thomas Sanderson

When we first moved to our house we looked into adding a conservatory, and although the project had to go on the back burner, I do often find myself imagining that room, and how nice it would be to create a brand new space that I could enjoy all year round. The use of ‘I’ is important here, because in my dreams the conservatory is my personal space – somewhere peaceful and full of light that would be my own haven to retreat to. A garden room where I could surround myself with plants, curl up on a comfy chair and enjoy time away from the craziness of daily life. Here’s what I’d do to create my perfect conservatory space…

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Apartment Therapy

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Nordic Design

FILL IT WITH PLANTS
The conservatory of my dreams is half snug, half potting shed. And yes, of course it’s full of plants. The other day, my six-year-old son counted 42 houseplants just on the ground floor of our house, so I could definitely do with a dedicated plant room! Duette® conservatory blinds from Thomas Sanderson help keep conservatories at a constant temperature throughout the year – reflecting the suns’ heat in the summer, and retaining the heat in the winter – ideal for plants (and people!). I’m lusting after some large plants and miniature trees as we don’t have the space for these in our home at the moment. The Duette® blinds also block out up to 45% noise from outside, which is rather handy as we have a busy road behind our house.

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: The Everygirl

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Stylejuicer

MIX STYLES FOR AN ECLECTIC LOOK
Combining furniture and furnishings from different eras and styles creates an eclectic feel that’s ideal for informal and relaxed interiors. I like mixing up textures too, putting rustic wood finishes and industrial-style metals next to tactile soft furnishings in linen, wool or even velvet. I can’t resist festoon lights at the moment, so my conservatory would have these strung up in abundance to create a cosy, magical glow at night-time, and add a decorative element during the day.

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Thomas Sanderson

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Lilaliv

KEEP IT NEUTRAL
I prefer a neutral backdrop when it comes to decorating so I’d opt for blinds in white, with walls and large pieces of furniture such as the sofa in muted neutral shades such as white, off-white or soft greys. This means I can always add an accent shade should the mood take me – whether it’s a bright colour pop in summer, or something richer in winter. On my flooring bucket list would be geometric tiles (in neutral tones of course), or painted floorboards.

Conservatory style | Growing SpacesImage: Thomas Sanderson

CONTROL THE LIGHT
As well as conservatory blinds as an option, there are also roof blinds, and even shutters. I’m a huge fan of the smart look that shutters give to a space, but they offer a practical benefits too such as protection from excessive heat and glare, noise reduction and insulation during the colder months. Being able to adjust the light levels in the room means I’d be able to switch the mood, whether I was after a softer, more diffused light, or I wanted the light to flood in.

 

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Thomas Sanderson, but the ideas and content are my own

 

June 30th, 2016

9 family-friendly things to do in a weekend in North Norfolk

Norfolk Country Cottages | Growing Spaces

Norfolk Country Cottages | Growing Spaces

We have just enjoyed a weekend in North Norfolk, staying in the most picturesque flint cottage – one of Norfolk Country Cottage’s 400 independent holiday cottages dotted across the county. We chose the gorgeous Blacksmith’s Cottage in Great Bircham as our base – it was full of character with its beamed ceilings and woodburner, and was so comfortable, immaculate and well-appointed that we wanted to move in for good! It was just a short stroll to the local pub and village shop/deli, and there was a fantastic view out over farmland at the back. Having never visited North Norfolk before, we were keen to pack as much into our weekend as we could, and luckily the weather cooperated and we could hunt out the best kid-friendly activities on offer.

Norfolk Country Cottages | Growing Spaces

Here’s our pick of our nine favourite family-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in just one weekend…

9 famiy-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

9 famiy-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

1 SEAL WATCHING
This was recommended to us by friends who know Norfolk well, and we booked our seal trip with Beans Boat Trips ahead of our holiday. The trips set off from Morston, and after a short boat ride you arrive off the coast of Blakeney Point where you can see the seals basking on the sandbanks. The crew gave us a great commentary throughout the trip – pointing out things of interest, such as the birds we could see, and an insight into the seals’ behaviour. We were taken past the seals a good few times (the crew reassured us that they’re not disturbed by the boats, rather they’re inquisitive and come out to say hello) and it was incredible to see them so close. All of us loved it – I think I was just as excited and delighted as the twins, age six.
9 things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

9 things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

2 BLAKENEY POINT
Our seal trip included an optional stop off at Blakeney Point, a 3 mile sand and shingle spit right at the top of the North Norfolk coast. We only had half an hour there – just enough time for a picnic lunch – before our boat picked us up, but we’d love to go back and explore it more as it’s breathtakingly beautiful. You can walk across from the mainland, or grab a ferry boat to take you. The National Trust has a number of walking routes you can do while you’re there, and the striking lifeboat station is open to visit during the summer months.

3 CRABBING
The twins are big fans of crabbing (or ‘gillying’ as it’s known in Norfolk) and North Norfolk has a whole host of places to do it, including off the quay at Blakeney or Wells-Next-The-Sea (where we went), at Stiffkey Marshes and at Cromer. We had our crabbing gear (reel, bait and bucket) with us, but there are plenty of places you can pick up what you need. It’s a great way to fill a half hour or so, and we found it’s especially popular when followed by an ice cream.

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

4 BIRCHAM WINDMILL
This working mill was just down the road from where we were staying, so we couldn’t miss it. It’s been kept as it would have been around 100 years ago, and you can climb the (very steep!) ladders up all five floors to the fans at the top. Not only is there the windmill itself to explore, we also got to watch the sheep being milked (I can highly recommend the sheep’s milk cheese available from the shop), and there’s delicious baked goods to enjoy from the bakery adjoining the mill (where you can pay extra to bake bread yourself). Entry to the bakery, tearoom and gift shop is free, admission charges apply to see the mill, farm animals and play area.

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

5 BURNHAM MARKET
We didn’t time our trip to Burnham Market brilliantly, and many of the shops and cafes were closed when we got there on Sunday morning, but it was still a lovely place to wander around (plenty of gorgeous front doors to take pics of if you’re as door-obsessed as I am), plus it was great to boggle at the house prices in the estate agent’s window. The kids found a shop with a good selection of pocket-money toys for sale, and we enjoyed a decent Italian coffee at the Tuscan Farm Shop (the only cafe open when we visited). The twins are desperate to go back when the traditional sweet shop (a short walk out of the centre) is open.

6 BTOI SHOP AT HOLKHAM
Ok, this might be more one for me than the kids, but we happened upon the BTOI (Bringing the Outside In) shop in Holkham by chance, and it was full of such a wonderful selection of gorgeous things, from coastal artefacts to handmade pottery, that I can’t resist including it in my list. And actually the twins did quite enjoy looking around, too (honest).

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

7 HOLKHAM BEACH
It’s got to be one of the most stunning beaches I’ve visited, and it had it all for the kids – sand perfect for sand castles, a shallow river they could play in, the sea itself, sand dunes to run down and explore, and horses to watch galloping up and down the beach. It’s a bit of a trek from the car park, but the walk is flat and easy.

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

8 FLY A KITE
The wide expanse of sand on Holkham Beach is perfect for kite flying, as there’s so much open space (and less danger of injuring innocent passersby when the kite takes a sudden nose-dive), and we had plenty of breeze to get the kite up. I’ve heard that Brancaster Beach is another great spot for flying a kite.

9 FISH & CHIPS
We went to French’s, on the seafront in Wells-Next-The-Sea and the twins declared it the best fish and chips they’d ever tasted. The rest of us agreed. Even eaten in drizzly rain (ok, heavy rain, then drizzle) they tasted all kinds of awesome.

9 kid-friendly things to do in North Norfolk in a weekend | Growing Spaces

Fancy your own trip to North Norfolk? The lovely folk at Norfolk Country Cottages have a special offer for Growing Spaces readers…

Stay with Norfolk Country Cottages in September or October and pay no booking fee – saving you £30.  Quote GS2016 on booking.
Terms and conditions: Offer valid for holidays of 3 nights or more with a start date between 2 September and 29 October 2016. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer.  No cash alternative. We reserve the right to withdraw or amend this offer at any time, without prior notice.
Disclosure: We stayed at Blacksmith’s Cottage courtesy of Norfolk Country Cottages, but all content and views expressed in this post are my own.
June 28th, 2016

Styling the Seasons: June

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

Oh, June. More time spent indoors than expected, getting caught in showers, soggy feet, reaching for a blanket in the evening. So what’s a girl to do, but to attempt to bring a little summer inside with a jug of blooms? I cheered myself up yesterday with a trip to my favourite florist and some Styling the Seasons faffing.

I’m not normally drawn to pink, but I think Katy’s kitchen makeover might have swayed me, and I love how it looks next to the black wall. Could this be a new accent shade throughout the house?  I’m definitely tempted.

It feels like I’ve spent a large part of June drinking water, having challenged myself to down at least two litres a day in my latest health drive. So I had to include my water jug and glass, as it’s been my constant companion this month.

And that’s it. Sweet and simple for June. July promises fun and holidays – I can’t wait.

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

 

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

Styling the Seasons: June | Growing Spaces

: Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

June 26th, 2016

The Everyday Spruce: Keep on top of housework using the ‘touch it once’ principle

Yes, I know, I know – this sounds like it’s going to be rude, but there’s nothing x-rated here, I promise. This post is about the principle of ‘touch it once’, much celebrated as a way to improve productivity and time management. It’s the idea that when you pick up a piece of paperwork, you deal with it there and then, instead of adding it to a pile that grows into a mountain and ultimately swallows loads more of your time to sort through. However, I want to talk about applying the ‘touch it once’ rule to housekeeping, rather than paperwork and email. It was Emily who first told me she was trying to use it at home, and if I’m completely honest, I was a pretty sceptical, and rather dismissive. My kneejerk reaction was that I was too busy to deal with things immediately, so I wrote it off as something that wouldn’t work for me. It sounded impractical, and I just couldn’t see how it would help me be more tidy and organised at home.

But the idea kept knocking around in my head, and I began to spot countless ways that I actually could incorporate the ‘touch it once’ principle into my daily life. I realised that it could actually make a positive impact on our home, and help us keep on top of clutter and save stress and frustration in the long term.

How to beat clutter using the 'touch it once' principle | Growing Spaces

How to beat clutter using the 'touch it once' principle | Growing Spaces

There are areas of our house that seem to collect clutter – the two main places being our kitchen island (piles of post, stuff the kids have made and brought home from school, etc etc), and the other is our stairs. I’ll have a good tidy downstairs, and dump everything that need to go upstairs at the bottom of the stairs, where it sits there totally ignored, sometimes for weeks. And our list of bad habits continues. When I make a cup of tea, I put the tea bag in the sink instead of taking one extra step to the bin. Dirty mugs and plates get dumped on the worksurface just above the dishwasher, instead of taking the 10 seconds to open the dishwasher door and put them inside. If a toilet roll gets finished, the new one is popped on the window sill next to the toilet, instead of being put onto the toilet roll holder (for the record I personally am not guilty of this one). Dirty washing ends up  on the floor next to the laundry basket, rather than inside it. Clean clothes get sorted, and then the pile goes on the floor by the chest of drawers, not put away.

How to beat clutter using the 'touch it once' principle | Growing Spaces

How to beat clutter using the 'touch it once' principle | Growing Spaces

This is where the ‘touch it once’ principle starts to make sense. If I pick up the dirty mug and put it by to the dishwasher, then I’m only giving myself an extra task to do later on when I’ll have to open the door and put it in. Why not do it all at once, and then it’s done and the worksurface stays clear? None of the individual tasks I seem to so fastidiously avoid would take a long time if I did them immediately, but if I don’t then suddenly the house is a mess and requires loads more effort to clear up.

How to beat clutter using the 'touch it once' principle | Growing Spaces

So here are my new ‘touch it once’-improved habits:

POST: Sort as soon as pick it up
STUFF TIDIED DOWNSTAIRS: Take things upstairs straight away (going up and down stairs is good exercise after all), or put everything in a basket which I then take up immediately after I’ve finished tidying and return everything in it to its home
TEA BAGS: Take the extra step and put them in the bin
DIRTY CROCKERY: Wash up or put in the dishwasher straight away
DIRTY CLOTHES: Do the one extra action to lift the lid and put the clothes inside the laundry basket
CLEAN CLOTHES: Return to their drawers/the wardrobe as soon as the washing’s sorted
BOOK BAGS: When I walk through the door I will not just dump them, I will carry them straight through to the kitchen and go through them immediately

This is such a simple concept and once you get into the ‘touch it once’ mindset, you find yourself applying the principle to all sorts of things. I discussed it with Ben, and he totally got onboard too, and we very quickly noticed a real difference around the house. Instead of the mad, panicked tidying I’d end up doing before a guest arrived (or that feeling of shame when a friend turns up without warning and your house is a tip), I suddenly found that I was pretty much clear most of the time.

I have to admit that there have been periods when we’ve both been frantically busy and have let our ‘touch it once’ dedication slip, but when we stick to it, it works, and I’m utterly convinced that it’s the secret to keeping our home organised.


The Everyday Spruce

‘To spruce’ in its most basic definition means to make neat… by association, it can also be used to describe the acts of fixing up, organising and beautifying.

Through this collaborative project between Lapin Blu and I – The Everyday Spruce – we use the term to describe a more general idea of shaking things out and hitting refresh. We share easy and useful tips, projects and ideas that we hope will inspire and encourage you to revitalise things a little, both around your home and in your daily routines. This isn’t about making things perfect (who needs THAT pressure?!), but is about focusing on simple things that can help to make the everyday just a little bit easier, and, perhaps, more beautiful for you, too.

We’d love for you to join us and share your own everyday spruce ideas, tips or journeys by using the hashtag #theeverydayspruce.

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