Things I’m loving at the moment

Lama Cushion
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Padded Cloud Wall Art
Juno Scandi Dresser & Changer – Natural Oak & White
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
Iron Window Mirror
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed

My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

This may sound ridiculous, but living in the caravan has been up there with one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seriously. But I have also learn’t so much about myself that I don’t think I would have otherwise. It was small, oppressive, cramped, depressing, boiling hot or freezing cold, uncomfortable, stuffy and no matter how much I cleaned it, it was never to my standards! We had to be super organised, tidy and mindful of keeping anything we didn’t use or need. Otherwise it’d be in the way. But in the last 12 months or so I feel like I have had an epiphany and I feel quite liberated!

I would never in my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares), imagine living in a caravan with our children. It’s not how I would have ever planned or pictured family life. I imagined us all sat round a big kitchen table, in a nice country kitchen surrounded by lots of nice things. Not Luke’s makeshift table (made out of up cycled scaffolding), our food stored in plastic boxes, just one plate and bowl each and several blow heaters or fans.

I remember being pregnant with Wilf and trying to explain to the midwife that we lived in a caravan and that it was only temporary. I was so worried she’d think we’d be incapable of looking after our baby properly in such a small space. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what she thought at all, and seemed more concerned about me and my health and where my permanent residence was! I guess you could live in the most incredible house in the world but be the worst parent ever. Both my children are well loved, healthy and happy, and the caravan is nothing to do with this. That’s because of us.

If I ask Arthur now ‘did you like living in the caravan?’ his answer is yes! So for me, that says it all. We’ve had some fun times in there, including his 2nd birthday when we successfully fitted most of the family in the lounge and even Father Christmas managed to visit! Arthur’s had all he’s ever wanted and needed in there, (including lots of love), so whether we lived in a house or a caravan. It doesn’t matter. As long as your children are safe, happy and loved. That’s all that’s important.

It’s not ‘things’ that make us happy. Okay. Obvious isn’t it?! But it’s so easy to get caught up and carried away buying things we don’t need that give you that temporary high. That excitement when you press ‘add to basket’ and ‘checkout.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m every marketers dream, I’m the first in the queue, the sucker buying something I don’t really need but must have because of the nice packaging. But you’ll soon forget that new jumper, put it to the back of the wardrobe and then buy another one. And if you’re anything like me it’ll be the same one in a slightly different colour that only you’d know is ever so slightly different because of the way the sleeve is cut or the detail on the hem!

When we packed up our old house I knew how many clothes and ‘stuff’ I had, but I didn’t really think much of it. I never once thought ‘do I really need all of these things?’ But living in the caravan I wasn’t able to have even a quarter of my possessions with me. I had to seriously downsize my wardrobe, my toiletries, handbags, scarfs… you get the gist. I was so worried how I’d cope, how could I possibly survive without all these things? But I had no choice! I guess I also had other priorities. I had to ensure Arthur had everything he needed. Space was limited, so I wanted to make sure any space we did have was for the essentials that we really couldn’t live without. Then I got pregnant and we’d need to make even more room for baby paraphernalia.

So what about all the clothes and ‘stuff’ that’s been stored away? Well it’s just been sat there, unused, and the majority of it I’ve completely forgotten about and I haven’t missed it at all. Moving into the house I’ve now started to unpack a lot of these boxes and realised I just don’t need it. I can’t possibly wear all the clothes I have. So I have packed up all of the unwanted, duplicates (sometimes quadruples) and taken them to a local shop, Exchange and Smart, that sells your clothes on your behalf. They get 50% from the sale which I thought was quite a lot, but it takes out the hassle doing it yourself. It also prevents me from changing my mind about things! I’m terrible for making excuses to keep things and holding onto things because of an emotional attachment like the top I wore on my first date with Luke (15 years ago) or a jumper my mum gave me (that never fit) but it reminds me of that day she gave it to me. Neither of which I will probably ever wear, but just keep, because. If I take it somewhere, its not so easy to take it back! I did start to photograph a lot myself and sell it, but I just haven’t got the time, and there’s so much! Anything the shop doesn’t want I’m going to take to a car boot next spring alongside all the other things I’ve cleared out that we don’t need or use. Then this can go towards something we do need.

At the moment we’ve got two temporary enormous freestanding rails. My clothes still over spill both these rails. So I set myself a challenge that I could only have one rail for all my clothes. I still have a lot to get rid of, but I’m pretty proud of myself so far. I’m trying to completely change my mindset. If I buy something new, something existing has to go.

I have so much storage, baskets and nice boxes which I’ve bought over time (to store all the things I don’t need). Ridiculous isn’t it?!

Whilst we’ve been living in the house and using the caravan to cook and eat we’ve left a lot of toys in there so that Arthur and Wilf can play whilst we cook. So, packing up the caravan to completely move out this week (ready for it to go once and for all). I’ve also realised how many toys we have. And I didn’t think we had that much as we’ve not had the room… I limited the toys to two large storage bags and a large storage chest. But over time the toys just kept creeping their way in. Arthur plays with the same toys over and over, and gets bored very quickly. He forgets what he has unless I pull it out and put it in front of him, so I am going to start periodically rotating his toys, making sure he plays with everything he’s got.

According to the British Toy and Hobby Association and NPD Group, the average UK child aged nine or under received £350 worth of toys last year (2016). And major toy buying doesn’t just happen at Christmas apparently. The UK trend of year-round toy buying is said to be ‘relatively unique’ in comparison to the continent. I feel a bit embarrassed about this. Why are we buying our children so many toys for no real reason? Is it necessary? Arthur is perfectly happy with a cardboard box, and Wilf loves hair bobbles and coat hangers!

One thing that is really important to me, that I feel my parents instilled into me and my sisters, was to ensure we understood the value of money and we weren’t spoilt. We had a comfortable childhood, nice holidays and never really wanted for much. Something I feel very fortunate for. But, we certainly weren’t spoilt and never had pocket money. We had to go out and earn our own money if we wanted things and I had a Saturday job by the age of 12. I want to pass this approach and mindset on to my children. And one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do is ensure my children don’t just get toys or treats whenever they want. Arthur has already started to say ‘I want that mummy’ when he sees something on the television. He’s only 3! So, from now on, anymore toys he has he’s got to choose a toy he already has to replace it with, and we will give the old one to a charity for children less fortunate than him. I want him to understand he is fortunate, but there are others that aren’t.

This epiphany has got me thinking, and reading! I came across this article about Minimalist Living, which is all about living with less. The benefits of minimalist living includes less financial burdens, such as debt and unnecessary expenses, and most importantly happiness. I really like this approach. I feel like we’ve all started to lose our way with buying unnecessary things and cluttering up our homes, cupboards or sheds, and we’re passing this way of living – frivolous spending and ‘treating’ our children to the new ‘in’ toy to the next generation. This over consumption is contributing to damaging our planet too. I think it’s also costing us our happiness. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the next big thing, often the ‘thing’ we can’t afford, don’t need or even have anywhere to put it.

I am not ashamed to say that I have got myself into unnecessary debt when I was younger (and had little or no responsibilities), to buy clothes, shoes and handbags and other things, that I didn’t really need. And looking back I feel really stupid. ‘That dress’ I had to have, well I probably wore it once for a few hours, it’s been put in a dust bag and never seen the light of day again. How awful is that?! Then I struggle to part with it because it’s so expensive and I might need it again one day.

Don’t get me wrong, getting rid of stuff isn’t easy. That’s probably why I have so much stuff! But the caravan has really helped me as I’ve had no other choice than to try and live with minimal items. Without really trying too hard, I’ve had to change my mindset. Having lived in the caravan now I know I can live without these unnecessary things, and forget about it if it’s not important. It’s almost been forced on me with no choice, but it’s made me so grateful of what I do have and appreciate things more. I don’t think you can possibly enjoy something if you have lots of it.

I still haven’t got the answer to how many pairs of jeans, bras or fluffy jumpers I need, but I do know there are only 7 days in a week, so unless I wear 20 pairs of knickers and 32 bras all at once… then when will I wear them all?

There are professionals who can do the leg work and deciding for you, one of those is actually a friend of mine, Rachel, aka the Declutter Darling, who specialises in decluttering your life! She’s got some impressive A list clients who she’s helped organise and declutter homes for. She is also a strong advocate for the Marie Kondo way, a Japanese art of decluttering. This will honestly revolutionise the way you tidy!

Advice from the Minamilist article is ‘look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.’

I know I’m not saying anything radical here, but I can honestly say that since shifting my way of thinking. Making myself get rid of stuff I don’t need or use has almost lifted a weight off my shoulders. I feel like it’s also cleared not just my bedroom drawers, but almost my mind. It’s quite liberating. It also makes your house a lot easier to keep clean and tidy!

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Designing the nursery

When we bought the cottage it was a two bed house. The upstairs layout was bizarre, so we had a complete re-jig. What is now Arthur’s bedroom was originally bigger, but we decided to split it and make an office. This would create the third bedroom, but we always planned to extend to make a further, much bigger fourth bedroom (if) our family grew. Little did we know at that point, that our family was going to grow a bit quicker than we thought, with our wonderful Wilfred.

So the office has become a nursery. It’s more than big enough for a single bed, but I do wish it was a bit bigger. So it was a bit of a challenge to design Wilfs nursery ensuring it looks good, it’s functional and it can grow with him too. One thing I have spared is the wardrobe. I may well regret this, but, I didn’t want the room to feel too crammed.

Furniture wise, the nursery is pretty minimal with a cot, a changing table, chest of drawers and some wall shelves. I think cots can take up a lot of the space, and we are using Arthurs old cot (which does have a large under drawer storage), but I have seen some very cool oval shaped cots which look great and I think would give a feeling of more space, but for now, Arthur’s old cot works. We haven’t moved in yet, so I expect the room will also evolve and I’ll add to it when we’re living in it. Clever storage will be key, and I’m going to look out for some baskets to store things like his dribble bibs. I seem to have a serious collection of dribble bibs for Wilf! In fact, I’m quite obsessed with them!

I wanted Wilfs nursery to be pretty neutral with just a splash of colour. Mamas and Papas do colour really well, they have a few different ranges that you can mix and match, and that’s exactly what I did, as it gives you a bit of flexibility to add in your own personality. Their colours are bright, but subtle.

This changing mat is a great way to add a splash of colour and I really like mustard yellow, which works well with white, cream and grey. They don’t sell this mat anymore, but its available on Amazon. 

The felt horse door stop is Fiona Walker from Homesense. I had to try and get a horse in somewhere, plus I love a door stop.

This Mamas and Papas Pom Pom Garland is a really clever way to add some personality and fun to the nursery. I wasn’t sure where to hang it though, and might try hanging it up on the wall at the top end of the cot, but it brightens up the cot weaved over the side.

This Mamas and Papas coverlet also matched the garland, and it’s now in the sale! It’s really good quality, and has a plain grey underside. This will last Wilf for years, Arthur my eldest loves to snuggle on the sofa and loves his blankets. I didn’t ever think boys would be like this, and I hope it’s not just an age thing and he stay like this, snuggling his mummy on the sofa till he’s at least 18!

I also put it with this Cam Cam grey wave playmat, which can be a blanket or play mat. Cam Cam is a scandi brand and I absolutely love their stuff. The quality is amazing, and well worth spending a little bit extra.

I adore all of these cushions, but my favourite is Mr Lama!

Cushions are a great way to add a bit of personality and brighten up, what could be otherwise a pretty stark, plain and boring cot. Wilf certainly had lots of fun trying to eat them all!

I am a complete sucker for cuddly toys, so Wilfs room inevitably will have lots of cuddly toys, so I wanted to be able to put them up somewhere to enjoy. In particular Sebastian the Lamb from Cuddle and Kind. They sell unique cute hand knitted dolls, and each doll that’s sold feeds 10 children. So on that basis I might have to buy the entire collection!

These Mamas and Papas mobile birds are a bit nostalgic for me. My parents have some hanging birds similar to these (but probably antiques now) as I remember them when I was a child, and their still hanging up in their kitchen. I saw these and had to have them. Because everything has just been decorated Luke wasn’t keen about hanging things from the ceiling or walls, so for now they are going to live here on the door, but to be honest I think they look quite at home here.

The animal heads add a bit of fun to the nursery, and to be honest I was pleased to put something up on the walls. Every room in the house is painted white at the moment t and although it looks really clean, it can feel a bit bland, and for me these are a great way to brighten up the room. The Fox is from Mamas and Papas and the rabbit is from ReRoom. Lewis, the hare is a lot larger and I think it’s Wilfs favourite as every time he looks at it he has a fit of giggles. Its pretty realistic and even the ears bend (they have wire inside them) so you can change the rabbits expressions with the ears up or down.

This rabbit head is part of a Hedgehugs Nursery with woodland themed furniture and accessories that ReRoom provide as a complete room. Alternatively you can pick and choose from their complete collection. Their concept is really clever, and if designing a nursery fills you with dread, they can do it all for you. They kindly gifted this rabbit head, which I thought would go really well with what I had planned for Wilfs room, and the fox (even though it’s smaller) still goes. So it shows you don’t always have to opt for the matchy, matchy sets.

These shelves are from the Great Little Trading Company. They come in two different widths, and I chose the narrow ones for Wilfs room, but I also bought them for Arthur’s room. Not only do they look good, they’ll be useful, not just for books but for cuddly toys too. I’m really keen for both boys to read lots of books, so having somewhere to showcase their books is really important to me. I plan to rotate their books, and keep refreshing the shelves too. I would also like to add a little chair or a bean bag cushion in this corner for Wilf for when he’s a bit older and can sit and enjoy looking through his books or somewhere for mummy and daddy to sit and read to him. Arthur’s always been a real bookworm, so I’m hoping Wilf will be the same.

The grey knitted lampshade is from Mamas and Papas, and is a great neutral colour that will go with anything.

This origami play mat from Mamas and Papas, (now sold out), is great and I love the colours, it stores really easily as it folds up quite small. It also has a cushion on one side so he can lie on it or use it for tummy time. It works well with this Mamas and Papas wooden play arch, the hanging toys are velcro so can easily be removed and you can add other toys too. Its taller than most wooden arches I’ve seen before, so I think it’ll last Wilf quite a while, it also looks good! Which helps! I do prefer wooden toys over plastic, but I know they don’t always stay looking as good for that long, from little teethers, and just getting bashed about.

Wilf loves this little chime toy – fawn from Mamas and Papas and it has an actual removable fur gilet! How adorable!

SHOP THIS ROOM:

*This post is a collaboration with Mamas and Papas and Reroom and all items listed have been gifted, but chosen by me.

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Why I’ve decided to do this blog

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to find the time to keep up this blog but I really wanted to keep a record of our journey doing up the cottage. Why? Because alongside having my babies, it’s the next biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This is going to be our first family home, so it will be a pretty special place for all of us. It will also be good to look back, see where we started and all of the work we’ve done. I also think there’s something very therapeutic about penning (rather typing!) your thoughts down.

This entire experience will be an emotional rollercoaster, and I can imagine stress will be one of the main emotions, but I thought having somewhere to put down all my thoughts might help to clear my mind or rationalise some of those negative feelings and times, I am sure we will end up going through.

I also hope to build up a bit of an online community through this blog, helping anyone else who might be thinking of taking on a similar project, going through a renovation or completed one. I hope it will be a useful and interesting resource for others and me too!

Luke, my husband, has always said he wanted to buy a property and do it up, but it’s not something I’ve ever really been keen to undertake. Having watched all of these renovation programmes where something always goes wrong and they nearly always go over budget it’s put me off a little, but there’s no turning back now.

We had been looking to move from our first home for a long time, but had just never made the leap as we had started our search off looking at properties we couldn’t afford so ended up setting our standards a bit high! Every property we could afford was either too small, wrong location or just not our style. I know you have to compromise, but even when we thought we’d compromise on a smaller garden or bedroom, the house still wasn’t what we both wanted.

Luke had bought our first home just before I had met him, so it was pretty much a man pad. I didn’t like anything in it to be honest. Poor Luke! But I was keen to put my stamp on it, so I did. Obviously. We started with the bathroom. Then converted the kitchen to a second bedroom and the garage to a kitchen. It took us a long time to do, partly because we were too busy having a good time, going on holiday and spending our money on lots of things we didn’t need. But when we finally got round to doing things, I started to actually like our home. We chose a lot of things with the fact we were going to sell the house imminently, so we didn’t have a big budget, but what we did, I think, looked and worked really well. It was a relatively new build, contemporary property, which I think are often easier to ‘do up’.

I was much happier once the old house was completed. It never really felt like ‘ours’ as we didn’t buy it together. But doing it up the way I wanted it, made it feel much more comfortable, and adding the second bedroom made a real difference, as not long after, A came along!

Once the house was completed. We put it up for sale and it sold a lot quicker than we thought. But we just went with it and ‘thought’ we’d find something else pretty quickly. Oh how naive we were!

We went to our first auction together during our search, this was for an 8 bed student property we’d renovate and convert to a family home. Looking back I’m so thankful we didn’t get this property! Luke ended up bidding way more than we said we would (I think he got a bit carried away waving his card in the air) but luckily it ended up going way over our budget and beyond. We took A along with us and he was only a few months old, so it was also a bit stressful keeping him entertained at an auction with lots of waiting around.

We offered on several properties, all of which ended up having something wrong with them. One was in the same village the cottage is in now. Luke wasn’t 100% about it from the start but I think we were both just desperate to find something at this point as we had moved in with my parents. Something we thought would just be for a few months, with our first son who was around 2 months old in tow. But we ended up still living at my parents 7 months later! It wasn’t a good time, our own space was really my old bedroom and living with my parents again after fleeing the nest many years ago wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. I get on with my parents, we’re very close. When I didn’t live there I saw them everyday as I keep my horses and pig at theirs, but when you get older I think you change, develop your own habits and opinions on things which can get on your nerves when you’re living together. So rather than divorce them, we started renting.

This was an expensive exercise. We were paying rent alongside our mortgage for the cottage, plus all the renovation costs. Not sensible! But living in the rental property gave us the space I’d been missing at my parents (which isn’t a small house) but we had nowhere really for our own things, and just being able to do our own thing and watch what we wanted on tv was just what the dr ordered. I love my parents, but like I said before, it’s not the same living at home once you’ve left, particularly when you have a baby!

The house we’d offered on in the same village as the cottage was cute (in the sense that it was pretty small) it was also a cottage but didn’t have a huge amount of potential and we would be buying it on the basis it would need extending in order for it to work for us.

It was on the main road too with parking but not to Luke’s standards. He’s always had a thing about parking. He seems to think every house should be able to facilitate a double decker bus and 3 vans! So you can imagine how difficult this made our search!

Anyway, this other house in the same village, well it wasn’t meant to be. Turns out the mortgage company wouldn’t lend on it due to all of its problems, including insect infected beams! But, just like a twist of fate this cottage (which we had previously offered on but got turned down), the estate agent phoned to say the previous buyer had fallen through, and would we still be interested.

And the rest is history!

We bought the cottage knowing it would need some serious renovation work, and we knew we didn’t actually have a budget to do it. I can hear you asking how we plan to complete the project and if we’ll manage to afford all of the works, well, we plan to pretty much pay for things as we go along. I don’t want us to cut corners or do anything we’ll later regret so we plan to make the house liveable to move in and then we will finish the non essential works once we’re in. I know this isn’t ideal as it’ll also take us a lot longer and if we come across problems, which with an old property is almost inevitable, we might then end up being stuck in the middle of one project and having to divert our focus of being unable to afford something that really needs doing, but I’m confident we’ll be ok. We don’t really have much choice.

We’ve tried to put by some reserves for any thing that we haven’t planned for by selling some of our valuables. My husband has sold his chopper. This was something he found particularly difficult! I wouldn’t ever tell him this, but it was pretty cool and I know he loved it. But needs must.

I have also just sold my dressage saddle, again a difficult thing to do as this was the saddle I bought for my horse, Valou (Looby), she is an incredible horse, and was also a wedding present, (yes very extravagant), so she really does mean the world to me, but unfortunately she was diagnosed with kissing spines a few years ago. It’s a severe case, so not treatable. I therefore decided to retire her early and she now lives out her days in the field. Meaning her saddle is no use to me anymore, so I thought it would help go towards something in the house. I hope to get another horse I can ride again soon, but this horse would need a whole new wardrobe and new tack anyway.

So, here we are at the start of, what looks like a pretty mammoth project. I suppose with gritted teeth we could move in as it is, but there are a few things that we must do such as rewriting the whole house (not a small job), and re-plumb. A new boiler, oh and the chimney fell down too. So, we’d better get started.

I look forward to sharing our journey with you. The good and the bad.

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